Monday, 6 February 2012

Thank you, kind sirs

♫ Emilie Autumn – Gothic Lolita

I had hard time trying to decide whether I should ever write this blog post or not. After all, I'm not quite sure who I'm even writing to. I doubt my blog audience disagrees with me much on the issue...

However, certain incidents have made me ponder over the issue so much lately... And although my blog is not supposed to be for ranting let alone remarkably personal issues, I figured I could tie the topic to such things that are interesting in other ways... And more related to my blog. So well, now you'll get to read something very exceptional written by a person who is reluctant to comment on humane issues and who is not openly feminist.

"The kind of murder where nobody dies
But I don't suppose you'd understand"
– Emilie Autumn

Maybe a week or two ago I happened to come across a piece of news on an online news site; a 16-year-old girl had been raped in a bus. Not many details were available, but that's not relevant. Faceless pieces of news rarely stir up strong emotions in me after all, and I still wonder why I clicked the link in the first place.
However, I happened to read something else too. Readers' comments on the article. Only then did my blood begin to boil.
There were several, or let's say, a lot of similar comments, and I'm not citing any of them word for word, but the general style was:
"How is it possible to get raped in a bus?"
"That cannot possibly be true, not in a bus."
"Why didn't she scream or ask for help?"
"If she really didn't get her mouth open in a bus, she can only blame herself for what happened."

Little do they know.

Those people who have never experienced rape, abuse or sexual harassment should never give advice to those who have.

Those people whose sexuality has never been violated can barely imagine what such is like.

Those people who commented on the article were clearly thinking of violence in general, and typical reactions of a victim who's trying to run for their life, descriptively speaking. And well, although I'm not a psychologist, I guess protecting one's life is a very primitive reaction, driven by very primitive instincts. However, most cases of sexual violence are not threatening the victim's life. When people think of rape, they are often imagining a woman walking through a dark alley when a stranger violently attacks them and so on... But a minority of rapes are such.

Sexual violence can hardly be compared to physical violence in general. It rarely leaves victims as physically injured as a knife attack would. The worst injuries are mental.

Those who commented on the article kept wondering how come the girl did not fight back and indeed get alarmed enough to catch the attention of the other passengers or the bus driver. Again, they're trying to generalize sexual violence to be like any other type of violence. I wonder if they have ever heard the 'P' word, which is five letters long, has N in the middle and I following N. No, it's not what crossed your minds first. It's "panic".

"If I had been in that situation, I would have stood up immediately and screamed at the top of my lungs, telling the man to keep his dirty hands off me." A-ha, that would have been wise too. Good for you if you know how you would act in an unexpected situation. I mean, honestly, of course that would be a smart move. Of course no one should tolerate sexual harassment.

However, sexual violence can have the exactly opposite effect as well.
Have these people ever heard rape or abuse victims talking about their experience? Ever heard them saying things like "I was so ashamed", "I felt so dirty" etc?
I'm still no psychologist, haven't carried out research on the topic, but I still dare to claim that those are quite... common feelings. Shame, embarrassment, humiliation... Being dirty, being at fault.

Now, doesn't it make sense? If someone is violating your sexuality, humiliating you... Would you want to add to your humiliation by catching the attention of passers-by? We can say that in order to stop the criminal act, the shame should be ignored and the victim should at least try to get help at once. But do those people think it is easy?

I dare to say that very many cases of sexual violence could have been avoided, or their continuity halted, if the victim had spoken out, acted, defended themselves with violence etc... But the thing is, it is very difficult. Not just for children, but also for grown-ups. Anyone. Those experiences are potentially so humiliating to their victims that they would rather remain silent, hoping no one would ever find out. And even if the very crime happened in public... Well, panic doesn't always lead to fighting like a little animal. It affects people in different ways, totally freezing others, especially in situations which make them feel somehow exposed, vulnerable... "I wish he would stop, I wish this would be over soon, I wish those people wouldn't notice."

But, now, does sexual violence become less of a crime if the victim remains silent and refrains from actively defending themselves? Hell no. Sexual violence, no matter the type, is always solely up to the abuser. It's their choice whether to touch or not to touch. If the victim is drunk or dressed like a slut, it doesn't signify permission.

Never blame the victim. Not even for being unable to ask for help.
Lack of active opposition doesn't equal consent. However, a person with normal social skills should easily recognize reluctance. It means, "hands off".

I truly feel sorry for the girl. I can imagine how she keeps blaming herself for what happened, wondering what she did wrong and thinking how she's so very dirty now. And even though this one case could always have been a false denunciation, such things do happen for real. In private and in public.

"Thank you, kind sirs
You've made me what I am today
A bundle of broken nerves
A mouthful of words I'm still afraid to say"
– Emilie Autumn

Recovery processes after sexual violence are also individual. Maybe some can soon shrug it off, others are traumatized for years or lifetimes. However, common is the fact that they're all victims, not the ones to blame.

Inspired, I drew something the other day (or to be precise, I spent a few days on the drawing). I had wanted to practice digital drawing and especially coloring, and bare human skin was technically a good way to start. Yet I rarely draw anything – or make pictures of some other kind – without some kind of a background story or some emotions attached. Things going around in my head resulted in this drawing, made using Photoshop CS5:

Consequently, I named the drawing "Thank you kind sirs", with respect to Emilie Autumn's song "Gothic Lolita". The song itself is hardly my favorite EA song, not at all, but I truly like its lyrics – especially those lines I cited last. Emilie has sung about sexual violence with subtle hints here and there, having experienced it herself. I think she knows what she's talking about.

Honestly, I'm not sure why I'm writing about this in a blog which is supposed to be about creativity and lifestyle. Perhaps in order to give an introduction to my drawing? Well that's a lot of words when images are supposed to speak. I'm not sure if I said all the relevant points I had in mind... But like I said, I doubt my rant reaches the right audience here, but perhaps it doesn't matter. I'm not the type to speak out, really... Or indeed. Guess that's my fault.

"But ruffles and laces
And candy sweet faces
Directed your furtive hand
I perfectly understand
So it's my fault?"

Emilie Autumn's Fight Like a Girl tour is coming to my hometown in April. I already got a ticket, anyone else coming?

P.S: The drawing has a very subtle and unmentioned connection to Emilie Autumn. Can anyone guess what it is?
P.P.S: Although I spent several days working on this post, I finished and proof-read it at night, being tired, so please excuse me...


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. sorry had to delete some of my lines since after a few minutes thoughts they are nothing for public. sometimes i'm a little too sponatneous XD

    everyone who says things like the ones those readers did should just shut up and think if they really would help if someone asked them. come on, most people would be too much afraid to do the first step. and seriously i doubt she did nothing at all. i'm sure she said no, i'm sure she pushed him away so those people sitting next to her or in the bus should have noticed. if you don't notice the small things you wont notice a loud 'HELP' either.

    i hope this girl wont blame herself. as you've said, nothing, nothing you do or wear allows people to do this to you.

    1. Well, I received those lines in the email notification anyway, and I can say I'm sorry to hear that all. Anyway, it's also true that people are also quite ignorant these days and would rather not get involved at all. However, it is also possible that the girl was too scared to resist at all. It's that some people cannot understand how fear and shame can paralyze others. I think rape is often violent enough to make victims fight back, but many cases of less violent sexual abuse may leave the victims incapable of defending themselves. If one's teacher, boss etc. was abusing them, they might be afraid of their authority, for example... Or something similar, which results in silent sexual abuse.
      But thank you for taking time to read and comment, it was interesting to read your point of view too.

  3. Så otroligt fint ritat. jag har provat ritplatta lite grann och tyckte det var svårt. Jag håller fullkomligt med dig. Den som inte har varit utsatt har inget att säga om det här. Att bli misshandlad i det mest privata, känsligaste på din kropp och i din själ går inte att jämföra med att "få en smäll på käften". Man är så utlämnad och så sårbar och hjälplös i en sådan situation :(.
    Jag ska gå på Emilie Autumn konserten på Nalen i Stockholm, det ser jag fram emot!

    1. Tack, det är intressant att se att min skrift tydligen intresserade någon. Om människor bara kunde hålla tyst när de endast har någonting anstötlig att säga... Sådana ord gör återhämtning allt svårare när offer anklagar dem själv.
      Men den konserten ska bli någonting utmärkt igen!

  4. It is to my lasting shame to admit that I too would have a thought of 'how on a bus?', but people continue to be creative in the means to achieve their ends, so I suppose soon location will matter not.

    But by and far, you are absolutely right. No one ever deserves to be sexually or otherwise abused, and I am always disappointed to read/hear comments that say as much. 'She deserved it'. No. That doesn't even make human sense.

    Ehn, before I make too much of a rant back, let me say you do beautiful things with digital art, and have fun at Emilie's concert~ [Gothic Lolita is one of my favorites of hers, conversely, ahaha.]

    1. No, it's not a shame, I may have expressed my point of view in quite a pungent way. It's reasonable to wonder, but it's cruel to have that attitude like "it's her own fault if she cannot get her mouth open in public". And it's also possible that the definition of rape is sometimes a bit vague, and the first thing that crosses people's minds is something very violent, although the act can begin so subtly that not even the victim realizes what is about to happen. But thanks for expressing your thoughts!
      And thanks, and thanks I will. :D Really looking forward to it!

  5. Good comments!
    I'd still like to point out that not only the victim has various reasons to keep quiet, but also the bystanders. I mean, if i saw something that horrible happen before my eyes, i might be shocked as well. Even if the right and best thing would be a cry of help, it still would be hard to take action and shout "Get your filthy hands of her!"
    And if there were many other people in the bus witnessing that incident, they all might have thought "What's going on? Why isn't anyone doing anything? Who will take the first step?"
    It is sad, but the human mind works that way. In psychology there's this one term that i don't know in english, but basically it means that "The more people around, the less likely one is to help, because nobody feels responsible". Everyone just waits someone else to take action first. (Hope i did express myself clearly enough, my head feels quite dizzy :D )

    PS. I'm coming! I've seen EA twice before, she is such a darling :)
    And i don't really get the thing with the picture, to me it just shouts EMILIE AUTUMN all over! Is it the hair or the pose or what?

    1. That's true too. I could imagine that bus being quite empty though, and if that was the case, I truly wouldn't wonder if no one paid much attention. If they heard something, they might not really register what's going on. Also, I guess it's quite common to be reluctant to get involved if people have even a tiny reason to be uncertain anything serious is going on in the first place. It's probably easy to recognize a threat when someone is holding a gun, but if one sees some "harassment", they could easily mistake those people for a couple with some disagreements.
      Thanks for your interesting comments anyway. It's fascinating that people actually want to participate in the discussion.

      Are you going to both gigs? :D Because if you are and happen to spot me, throw a muffin at me or something. And hehee, maybe the hairdo is something Emilie could probably wear, yet the connection is a bit different. ;3

    2. No, just the second one (i think). Unless someone is willing to give me a ride to Tampere :D
      So no muffin-throwings this time!

  6. Wow. Its is beautiful in a crass way for you too have posted about something like this. Your perspective was interesting and different from the usual reaction to a rape. I just read this post-y thing on facebook that was being "shared" around about- How daddys shouldn't let their daughters party in "slutty" clothes, so they dont get raped. And as a response to this, there is also this bit about how a daddy must raise his son to realize that touching a woman in a harassing manner is wrong and can be punishable, brutally. Or something to that affect. Perhaps it was triggered by this incident. Who knows..
    Back to things you mentioned, true sexual abuse is a very different kind of abuse/form or violence. Unlike other forms the affect is felt alone. Doesn't matter how many ppl "support" or fight for you or beat the man up or shrinks or anybody. Its still a violation, to the only thing that is yours to give and not give. (if you get what I am saying). Its still often taboo to discuss sex and body openly, its still a queasy topic.So how can she scream while getting raped, or gather attention while she does. Because it is less likely that someone in the crowd would push him away, or help. Its painfully embarrassing i guess to be discovered. Even worse to be reported in the news. Because all said and done it happened, she was violated! Period. No matter what is done, she couldn't save herself from the horror......
    Have fun at the concert, haven't heard of the band before. I will probably Youtube them. Interesting drawing, I didn't know you could "draw" on photoshop *sheepish grin* Its interesting, though the face proportions are a little warped.

    @Sautilin: I completely agree with the crowd mentality. Its like conformity, if no one is why should I! Either its too tragic to stop or control. Or its not my problem and Im going to deny the consequence, because thank god its not me. But I guess, blogging and discussing this issue is sign or progress. At least a few of us realize and perhaps will react better in a situation of this sort, either as an audience, passing-by crowd, victim, perpetuate-r and so on..Its on our mind now. (Am I making sense?)

    1. Have you heard of these Slut Walk events? I think they resulted from some police officer's (?) suggestion that women should dress more modestly in order not to get raped. I've also read some of these advice lists for potential rapists, not potential victims. They're obviously responses to that women-accusation attitude. And well, they're quite relevant indeed.
      Thanks for your comment though, interesting thoughts. It's nice to see this issue is of some interest to people.

      As for Emilie Autumn, I truly suggest you look her songs up on Youtube and try more than one since they can be very different from each other. All the quotes were hers, clever indeed. And yeah, Photoshop is an interesting tool for digital drawing as well. And although I'm always willing to hear criticism on my work, I can say that I kinda achieved the expression I had tried to, although the right eye stands out from the shadow. I'm such a perfectionist that I barely even finish the stuff if the face seems to be getting ruined the more I work on it. ;D

  7. excuse the length and the grammatical typo! :/
    I forgot to add, love the quotes! :)


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