02 May 2011

To Tell Or Not To Tell?

Last night, while in a coffee shop, I saw the 60 Minutes segment in which correspondent Lara Logan recounted being sexually attacked and nearly killed while she covered the uprising in Egypt.

Having survived molestation during my childhood, I could empathize with her, at least somewhat.  Actually, more than somewhat, and not only because of my experience with a family friend (who was, by the way, straight and married with children of his own).

Hot tears rolled streamed down my face when she talked about her decision to publicly tell her story.  On one hand, she said, she wanted others who have been sexually assaulted to know they "aren't alone" and to help educate the public about sexual violence.  On the other, she wrestled with that "voice" that told her not to talk about it because some people, upon hearing about it, would take it as proof that women are not fit to do the sort of work she's doing. 

I might've added that every time one of us speaks up, some people brand us as "complainers" or imply--or say outright--that we brought the violence on ourselves or, worse yet, "had it coming" to us.

I speak from experience. During my second year of living as Justine, I was sexually harassed by a campus security officer.  I was new to the job--the main job I have now--and had no idea of where to turn.  So I went to the administrative offices and talked to someone--I don't recall his name; he was gone only a few months later and  hasn't been heard from since--who told me not to report it.  "This campus can't help you," he said. "And the police won't," he said.

Later, I realized this college administrator was simply trying to prevent negative publicity for the college, which had seen a nearly complete  administrative turnover, and three different Presidents, during the previous five years.

The interesting thing was that I didn't get pressure from other trans, or even L, G or B, people to keep quiet about my experience, as sexually assaulted women get form other women.  If anything, all of the LGBT people I know wanted me to speak about it publicly, and even to write about it.  All of the pressure I experienced to keep quiet came from the college's administration and my supervisor.  

Any such pressure is bad for the morale of the person receiving it, as if he or she weren't having a tough enough time.  Lara Logan seems like a tough woman, but even she needs support when she's been violated.  And, too often, that's what we don't get.  

At least I didn't have Ms. Logan's many injuries or fear of disapproval from my own community.  

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