by Kat Kelley
I’ve heard all the stats. In America, one in four college women will be sexually assaulted. One in six women will be raped. Every two minutes a woman is sexually assaulted. And globally- one in three women will be raped or beaten.
One billion women.
This is why we rise.
In celebration of their fifteenth anniversary, the V-DAY Campaign is inviting one billion to rise. One billion women, and the people who love them, to say “this shit stops here.” To “Strike. Dance. Rise.”
I rise for every survivor of sexual assault who has disclosed to me. For the faceless women on the SARP Center hotline, for the roommate, the teammate, the neighbor, the relative, the friend, the other friend, the other friend, friends on friends on friends and for the acquaintance who came to me because her friends didn’t take her seriously. Because her friends told her “boys will be boys,” “you were totally flirting with him,” “you should have been more assertive.”
I rise for the ignorance, the denial, and the consequent invalidation of survivors’ stories. I rise, because “John Wayne” stated that “your assertion that rape happens here at Georgetown University is patently false.” I rise for everyone in this anonymous John Wayne’s life, because in any class he takes, in any building he resides or works, at any party he attends, chances are- there is a survivor. I rise because Georgetown’s rates match national average, and 20-25% of my female peers experience sexual assault. I rise because John Wayne’s sistermotherfriendgirlfriendclassmatecousinneighbor knows they cannot tell him their story, because he will refuse to believe them, blame them, judgecondemnchastise them.
I rise because we are not so different. Because Delhi might as well be our backyard, and Steubenville is literally our backyard. One is too many. And one in four, one in three, one in six, is unfathomable. I rise because the survivor does not need to fight back, or to be a virgin for rape to be inherently forcible or legitimate. Because the rape thing is not a gift from god or merely a method of conception, and because no girls rape easy.
I rise because I have been called a slutwhorecunt because I enjoy sex. Because I am an empowered-as-fuck sexually-liberated woman. And there are men who still fear a woman’s power, men with such great fear that the word VAGINA has become it-that-must-not-be-named.
I rise because I have never once had a man take “no” for an answer the first time. Because “no” apparently means keep trying, convince me, force me. Because of the man who told me to “give [him] six reasons for not having sex with [him]” that night, or asked “what’s the big deal,” or insisted “but we’ve done it before.”
I rise because I am over it. I am angryexhaustedheartbroken.
But more importantly, I rise because of my community, my support network. I rise because of the women and men who get it. Who validate my anger, exhaustion, broken heart. Who don’t try to justify or explain or twist the facts, but who just agree that it is fucked up. The army of feminists who inspire me, reinforce me, support me, lean on me and let me lean on them. I rise because I am energized, and endlessly revitalized and recharged by them.
I rise because one billion women have taught me resilience.
If you find this article triggering, please be aware that there are diverse resources available.