In a recent article titled “How ‘Take Back the Night’ Keeps Some Victims Silent”, Good Magazine contributor and survivor Megan Greenwell writes that Take Back the Night events tend to present narratives of "uncomplicated rape". Although this hasn’t been my experience at the Take Back the Night events I have attended (I have heard voices from survivors of incest, friends, intimate partners, and even women who have come forward about rapes that were attempted, but which they were fortunate to have fought off), I think that Greenwell raises a good point: when any single narrative dominates, others are silenced. We need more voices, not fewer rallies.
As she astutely points out, “putting the onus on victims is backwards and dangerous.” Part of relieving this burden entails having others -- non-survivors and allies -- hear the calls of survivors who bravely share their stories, and respond to what they have heard by working to end the systems that perpetuate this violence in our communities. Trauma stories can be healing for survivors, both for those who tell them and for those who hear them, but it’s time that we, as allies, realize that trauma narratives are for us, too.
The trauma story isn’t just about the storyteller, but the listeners as well. You needn’t be a survivor to get involved in the movement to end sexual violence.
From the perspective of a victims’ advocate, it has also not been my experience that survivors are pressured to report to police by advocates. Our role is to be that one voice in the survivor’s life that doesn’t pressure them, that only does what they want. I think that most advocates are 100% in support of the survivor doing what he or she feels is best. I have always felt that even the collection of forensic evidence during a medical rape kit is a secondary concern to getting one’s health and body looked over, attended to, and cared for.
Furthermore, as advocates, I think we all know how traumatizing the process of reporting to police and going through the justice system can be. Even when everyone is doing their best, it can be traumatizing to tell ones’ story over and over again, yet another reason why allies need to heed the brave calls of survivors when they hear them. As an advocate, I know we want the best for survivors: we want a reformed system that is less traumatizing, with more options; but, most importantly, we want empowerment for trauma survivors, which begins with validating their voice, their story, and their choice.
WRITTEN BY: Nicole, a MedAd volunteer