EDITED 4/24/14: This article from Policy Mic talks about this directly: just because we don’t have the language, or there’s breakfast involved afterward, doesn’t mean that it’s not rape. Sexual assault is more than just a bad night, even if we can’t find the words for it, and it’s never ok.
People have been storytellers since the beginning. Stories explain the unexplainable, shine a light into the darkness of the unknown, and bring communities together. The process of storytelling also creates listeners, people who will receive the stories and internalize them. The impact of telling our stories is thus twofold: the power of using voice and language and written or spoken word to share an experience, and being on the receiving end to provide a listening ear, a sound board, and a community.
This definition is taken from Story Pirates:
Storytelling is perhaps the oldest human method of passing on nuanced information, and indeed it is still one of the most vital ways we begin learning about the world from the very youngest ages. We believe that nothing matches the power of a story to make even difficult material comprehensible and memorable.
That’s what Speak About It aims to accomplish: creating a space for people to share their stories, and an opportunity for people to listen and learn from these experiences. And this is why we continue to perform Speak About It: because everyone has a story and we have all been affected by sexual assault. Maybe we are survivors, or our partners, our siblings, our parents, our best friends are survivors. Through being close to a survivor and knowing their story, we are all affected. And part of what makes the performance great is that we can give language and validation to survivors and their various experiences. Sexual assault isn’t always, and actually is almost never, a stranger in a dark alley. It’s a friend, a classmate, a partner, someone we know. And because we know these people, we are hesitant to call it sexual assault, to say that we were raped by someone that we loved. Speak About It helps give language to situations and to survivors where we didn’t know what to call something, how to label something. By sharing stories and situations where people have been assaulted, we give language to other survivors, we help provide solidarity, we create community. That night that didn’t feel right, where boundaries were crossed and consent wasn’t given. That weird, uncomfortable feeling: you aren’t alone. It wasn’t your fault, and you didn’t do anything wrong. By sharing our stories, we help other people find theirs.
And there’s so much strength and healing in being able to share our collective stories. By raising our pens and our voices to tell our stories, we give them strength. We strengthen ourselves, and we strengthen those around us. Because we are all affected by sexual assault, and by sharing our stories we learn that we are not alone as survivors, our stories are not the exception to the rule. Sharing our stories creates empathy, and that’s a huge piece of sexual assault prevention. Knowing that a survivor might be able to find their own language for an experience they had through seeing the performance, or that someone will feel empowered to ask for consent, or to be an active bystander, makes the show about each individual audience-member, not about us as actors or storytellers.
This performance wouldn’t be so powerful without the true and powerful stories that people have shared with us. Survivors of sexual assault, partners of survivors, people sharing their healing stories. But we also have great stories about sex: people who are in longterm monogamous relationships, people who are experimenting with their sexuality, people who abstain from sex, people trying to find their sexual voice in a sea of language. To keep this program growing and evolving, we need your stories. As much as the writing process is therapeutic for the healing process, your words can help others through their experiences, and will help promote consent education and sexual assault prevention with thousands of students. All stories are submitted completely anonymously.
Here are some samples of existing monologues in the performance to help spur the writing process.
“I’m you’re average red-blooded American male. I enjoy baseball, football, violent action movies, and a lady with a nice set of shells and legs that go all the way up to her ass. I eat red meat, drink dark beer, and I have a huge crush… on Jude Law.”
“Sometimes it’s hard to say no to developing intimacy, even when you understand where your boundaries lie. I struggled with that. I really had to start listening to my body and my instincts, sense the tension in my muscles when I wasn’t comfortable. I think we all recognize that resistance within us, we just don’t always listen to it. I found that when I communicated my insecurities and boundaries to my boyfriend, asking him not to go there, our relationship actually grew stronger.”
“When I told him I didn’t want to have sex, I meant it.But there, in that moment, it was so hard to keep saying no. I was confused and conflicted. He was hot. I felt hot. And I felt drunk. On that night I didn’t think I wanted to have sex and I told him that. But instead of accepting my wishes, he started to try to talk me around to it. Again, I told him that I really didn’t want to have sex. Then he stopped the sweet-talking and let his body speak for him instead.”
We’d be honored to share your stories. You can fill out a form online, or email us directly at SpeakAboutItOnline [at] gmail [dot] com.
Want to support the organization without submitting a story? Donate here. #30daysofSpeakAboutIt #30daysofgiving