Tuesday, October 6, 2015

This Needs To STOP

Today, I was struck by an exhibit at the National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian entitled

The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists

The introduction asked visitors:

What do your fears look like? Are they located in the dark or in a blinding light? Do they feel hot or hopelessly cold? And what or who is it that scares you or deserves your condemnation? People and places fracturing and splitting apart? Forces of nature spun out of control? A senseless war in which men blow off one another’s heads? The artists in this section explore these questions and others, for hell can be found in a passion for land or religion if it leads to war; it can even be embodied by a beached whale. This is a hell in which we never see ourselves and others fully but always in bits and pieces. What would your hell look like?

That last question?  I thought about it and very quickly something popped into mind.

For much of my adult life I have had the same nightmare.

It usually involves me in some dire situation, often being chased or threatened by a man, desperately trying to get someone's, anyone's attention and yet, when I open my mouth to scream for help — nothing comes out.


No scream. No yell.  No screech.  No sound.

It often ends with me waking — in a complete sweat, shaking and feeling horrible.

Occasionally, very small, hoarsely whispered cries of " Help ! "  " Help !! do escape and rouse my husband who then gently awakens me to say, "You're having a bad dream."

It IS a bad dream, a hellish dream in fact, that always rattles me to my core and leaves me feeling vulnerable and shaken.

And what really disturbs me is that whenever I mention this, I've heard several women (even my friend's mother) share that they too have this same sort of nightmare.  A nightmare where mouth open, no sound emerges and horrifyingly they are unable to call for help.


Do men ever experience this dilemma in a dream?  Or is it only women?

Recently, I was profoundly disturbed by a documentary I watched on Netflix — 


... a compelling new documentary from director Lisa F. Jackson and producer Marjorie Schwartz Nielsen, explores sexual assault on campuses through the personal testimonials of five survivors who transform their experiences into a springboard for change.

In raw and intimate interviews, the students describe surviving sexual assault only to be met with apathy, disbelief, blame and retaliation from the authorities when they tried to report the crime. When they tried to get justice, they were ignored, belittled and shamed, while their attackers remained on campus with impunity. But instead of hiding away in shame, they chose to speak out, and found a way to force institutional change. 

[from the website http://www.ithappenedhere.org]

We live in a culture that accepts rape.  The rape of women during wars; the rape of women by abusive partners; the rape of women in the military; the rape of women on college campuses.

I can't imagine what their nightmares are like and the hell that each has gone through.  

In this film five young women summon the courage and resolve to speak up and yet their voices are ignored and while my nightmare, is not about rape, it IS about feeling completely and utterly powerless.

Feeling powerless is a hell.  

It's time for all of us to work to end the way women who have been raped are treated. There is NO justification for excusing rape.

If you are someone on a college campus, in a military institution, a police station, or in any way privy to helping a survivor of rape, just imagine the person opposite you is your sister, daughter, mother or friend, and STAND UP.

It's time for all our voices to rise up in a very loud crescendo and say,

What can we do to stop this?  What can YOU do to stop this nightmare ?

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