Dear Christina Hoff Sommers,
I’m Ana, one of your 123K followers on Twitter. I have a favour to ask, and, since I’m a strong intelligent woman who speaks up for herself, I’d better get on with it. Would you please consider refraining from comments regarding sexual assault and rape in your equity feministic tweets? It’s not that I’m afraid to be triggered; I can handle triggers very well. Nor do I need a safe space, where I can hide from your words and have someone caress me and tell me I’m brave; I’d rather not, really. I’m strong and I can take care of myself. In fact, I very much like your refreshing views on contemporary womanhood, the gender gap, children’s toys, equal wages and engineering. Sexual violence, however, is quite a different matter.
Women earning less compared to their male colleagues is a perfect example of how women fail to take matters into their own hands. If only they would stop complaining and start speaking up… By contrast, sexual assault, abuse and rape just happen. There’s absolutely no element of choice here. True, some women are able to defend themselves or even brush off their perpetrator. However, the difference between those who do and those who don’t has very little to do with bravery or feminism: the body decides to either freeze or fight. Those who freeze don’t do so because they ‘prefer victimhood’. Their bodies simply don’t obey. Hell I wish I had fought, back then, but I didn’t. Does that make me weak?
There’s another essential difference: sexual assault is a crime. It’s not a societal phenomenon that we could each interpret differently, like gender-neutral toys can be seen as a positive or a negative development. Sexual violence is never a choice and always a crime, regardless of which genders are involved. Moreover, it inevitably causes damage, in both male and female victims. Any number (one in four, or five, or two?) that’s not zero is to be taken seriously. Stating that the numbers presented in the media are exaggerated is probably correct, but there’s no purpose in that argument. Moreover, both the correct and the incorrect numbers show that women are victimised much more frequently compared to men.
Finally, there’s the burden of secrecy and shame that almost all victims of sexual violence struggle with. Disclosing sexual abuse means no longer living with lies. It’s not about receiving care or pity or getting attention. It’s about relief. Therefore, descriptions like “dwelling on it”, “victimhood”, and “making excuses for failure” are simply not appropriate.
Victims of sexual assault are actually victims, while women choosing to accept a lower salary are not. Referring to sexual assault and rape doesn’t help the campaign against victim feminism, but it does harm victims of sexual violence like myself. Sexual abuse happened to me; I couldn’t change it then and I can’t change it now. I try not to dwell on it, but the memories exist and are a part of me. Ignoring those memories doesn’t help. I’m certainly not planning to feel like a victim or even a survivor for the rest of my life. I’m working through this and I’m getting better. At this moment, however, I am a victim of sexual abuse, whether I like it or not. I can’t and won’t deny it. That doesn’t make me less of a strong woman.
All my best,