A few months ago, Amelia and I were talking about rape threats against women who write online. It seems like it happens to feminist writers Zerlina Maxwell, Amanda Hess and Jessica Valenti every day. Amelia asked if any readers have threatened to rape or otherwise harm me. The honest truth is that it only happened once — on Twitter a few years ago. The man had zero followers and had only tweeted a handful of times, all of which were incendiary remarks or threats against other liberals. I didn’t suspect he posed a serious threat to my safety, so I just blocked him. Do I even have to say I’m grateful that this was the one and only time some stranger threatened me?
That one incident isn’t the complete picture, though. A better question to ask in order to illustrate the at-times unsavory experience of being a feminist writer online would be about the kinds of inquiries I get on social media or in my inbox. Nearly every single day, a man emails asking me personal information about my sexuality, for an invitation to a sex party, or straight-up propositions me for sex. Keep reading »
It can’t be easy to go through life with the last name “Sandusky” right now. But I have nothing but respect for Matthew Sandusky, the adopted son of Jerry Sandusky, convicted child molester/ex-assistant Penn State football coach. Matthew, who was one of six adopted kids, spoke with Oprah Winfrey on Thursday night about the sexually abuse he suffered by his adopted dad. But as can happen with victims of childhood sexual trauma, repressed many of these memories until he was an adult. When Matthew was interviewed years ago by investigators looking into his father’s past, he didn’t remember all the sexual abuse that he now recalls. Keep reading »
In October 2013, a group of current and former students accused the University of Connecticut of violating Title IX by mishandling their sexual assault cases which occurred at the school between 2010 and 2013. The Department of Education’s Office For Civil Rights launched an investigation into the school and whether it failed to follow the gender equality law that provides equal opportunity and access to education.
UCONN still refuses to broadly take responsibility for its failures. But today it was announced that the school is settling with five of the students it is accused of failing. Keep reading »
Here are two things I never expected to be told in the same breath: “You’re so skinny! This will look cute on you,” and “I’m pretty sure you’re lying about that time your dad molested you.”
Nine months ago, I confronted my father about sexually abusing me as a child. Since then, my communication with my family has been limited, and it caught me off-guard when, just two weeks ago, my aunt invited me to meet her for lunch. I impulsively agreed, and initially, we started on the right note. After a few minutes of polite pleasantries, she handed me a gift bag. Inside, I found a hand-me-down Ann Taylor blazer with the tags still on (“I love the pattern, but it just doesn’t fit me”) and a copy of Meredith Maran’s My Lie: A True Story of False Memory (“I learned so much from this book. It’s amazing how unreliable our memories are, don’t you think?”). Never before had I felt so flattered and insulted all at once. Keep reading »
I haven’t been following the Australian swimming community’s sexual abuse scandal. I only feel like I have been. That’s because these sorts of heartbreaking stories are so goddamned familiar: a coach is accused of sexually abusing the young charges under his tutelage and with whom he has shared lots of private time, often far from home.
In Australia’s case, several coaches were accused of sexual abuse of both male and female swimmers between the ages of 11 and 16. One coach is Scott Volkers, who is accused of child sexual abuse by three now-adult women. Volkers is accused, among other things, of rubbing the genitalia of a 13-year-old girl and groping the girls’ breasts; he has long claimed his innocence. Charges were dropped against Volkers in 2002 because accusations could not be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Two years later, in 2004, prosecutor Margaret Cunneen advised against recharging him.
Currently, Australia is holding an investigation (called a “royal commission”) focusing on the country’s institutional response, including whether Cunneen’s advice not to recharge him was appropriate. At the time, Cunneen showed skepticism that the abuse could be prosecuted. Which, as a lawyer, is her job to prove. However, what Cunneen said about it all was pretty offensive to these victims. Cunneen said it could all be seen as “trivial … almost fanciful” and it would be difficult to prosecute Volkers for molestation because his victim may not have developed breasts yet. “It is legitimate to consider whether 12-year-old swimmers even had breasts,” she said. Keep reading »
Last week, The Frisky published an essay by an anonymous writer about her rape. She wrote about the absurdity of columnist George Will’s allegation that being a victim of sexual assault confers certain privileges. Activists have responded to Will’s inane, offensive piece with the hashtag #SurvivorPrivilege, snarkily writing about all the ways that they’ve “benefitted” from their sexual assault. Our writer’s piece focused on losing her virginity at 16 through rape and the effect it has had on her life.
The writer chose to be anonymous. So, as I often do, I put a note at the end of the piece offering to forward emails along to the author if anyone wanted to be in touch. I didn’t necessarily expect any response. But in the ensuing week, I’ve been blown away by the amount of email that I’ve been forwarding (and will continue to forward as they come in). These emails have been showing me things, both good and bad, about sexual assault in America.
NOTE: I want to make clear that am not referring to any specific letter writing, or sharing details of anyone’s story without permission. These are observations that I’ve made in aggregate from all the emails. My hope is to convey how similar stories of sexual assault and how powerful they are in a way that slogans and statistics can’t contain. Keep reading »
New York* magazine’s feature on Terry Richardson is here and it paints an even more disturbing picture of the creepy photographer.
I knew about the numerous sexual abuse accusations against him, but nothing about the extent to which Richardson is a seriously disturbed person. New York recounts how Richardson used to hear voices in his head; he has attempted to commit suicide numerous times, starting when he was 14. He’s a former heroin addict who has relapsed throughout his life. He’s been violent since childhood, once getting arrested after throwing his own mother across the room. None of these are reasons to discount any talent people might see in his work, of course. (Personally, I think his work is overrated.) But they all seem like good reasons to me for Richardson not to have quite as much power and influence as he does, and particularly not to spend much time around barely-legal young women. Keep reading »
This weekend, Washington Post columnist George Will wrote an article about sexual assault on college campuses in which he called “victimhood … a coveted status that confers privileges.” In response, survivors of sexual assault having been sharing their stories with on Twitter with the hashtag #SurvivorPrivilege. Here, one survivor shares her story.
#SurvivorPrivilege is feeling anxious and afraid over revealing truths that could possibly impact your family, career, and friendships.
#SurvivorPrivilege is fudging details about your “first time” when chatting with friends, because even 18 years after the fact, you’re too ashamed to talk about what really happened. Keep reading »