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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Spoiler-filled Discussion: I Stop Somewhere by T.E. Carter and rape culture

FAIR WARNING: there are lots of spoilers (and feels) in this video. You can avoid most of that by only watching to the 4:08 mark, but after that, all bets are off.
Further discussion of the book and elements related follows the video, and is likely to be updated from time to time.

about I STOP SOMEWHERE by TE Carter
Ellie Frias disappeared long before she vanished.

Tormented throughout middle school, Ellie begins her freshman year with a new look: she doesn't need to be popular; she just needs to blend in with the wallpaper.

But when the unthinkable happens, Ellie finds herself trapped after a brutal assault. She wasn't the first victim, and now she watches it happen again and again. She tries to hold on to her happier memories in order to get past the cold days, waiting for someone to find her.

The problem is, no one searches for a girl they never noticed in the first place.

TE Carter's stirring and visceral debut not only discusses and dismantles rape culture, but it also reminds us what it is to be human.


I don't even know where to begin in writing this post. I've put it off for the better part of a month, and even debated removing the section of video where I said there would be an accompanying post. It's just. . . so much, and seeing it all laid out at once is on the soul-crushing side. 
But it's easy to not confront things, and not confronting things is part of what allows them to keep happening, so.
Here goes.

Reading this book in the middle of the #MeToo movement (which has its own wikipedia page, .org website, and has since been named "Person of the Year"), and on the tail of the Harvey Weinstein (and and and and. . . ) scandal(s), heightened basically every aspect of it. It felt immediate in a way that it may not have otherwise, but the thing is, it should. It always should.

But though we all know -- we all know, no matter how much we may want to deny it, dismiss it, or brush it under the rug -- that these things, these horrible things, are happening all the time, all around us. Statistics tell us that we all know someone, or are someone, who has been or will be sexually assaulted. Many of us watched our Facebook feeds fill -- first a trickle, then a deluge -- with personal accounts from friends and family, work acquaintances and people we haven't talked to since high school, of the things they've experienced first hand, that have stuck with them, have changed them. We tsked and gasped and cried and nodded solemnly as they shed light on the things that happened to them in the dark and have been kept there (metaphorically, as assault can happen anytime/place, as too many of us know).

We watched SNL release a parody pop music video welcoming men to the "club" of having to worry and wonder and second guess; we nodded sagely and sob-laughed where appropriate, and weren't at all surprised that the reason men were being welcomed to this club (the one where we use keys as a weapon and know not to wear our hair in pony tails) wasn't because so many were coming forward with their own assaults (some were, and many have been), but because they were afraid that all of the accusations and repercussions of decades of villainy were going to cause them to be caught in the crosshairs of a witch hunt. They wanted the unburdening -- and the resultant consequences -- to stop, because maybe it just might blow back on them? and anyway, it was certainly going to create an atmosphere in which women wouldn't be hired, and men would be afraid to be alone in rooms with women, 'just in case'.

Women -- finally finding their voice and their tribe, and their particular flavor of fed the fuck up -- began to fear the backlash.

(All this, while people wondered just what it was going to take for sexual assault and rape allegations to finally move from Hollywood-powerful to world-stage-powerful. Answer: no one knows, some people may just be untouchable -- no matter who they touch.)

But this, of course, was a momentary blip; the floodgates once opened may not close all the way again, but the deluge is reduced once more to a trickle, as people fear being told they're just "jumping on a bandwagon," or seeking fame and a payout -- that old chestnut, used to discredit every woman who ever accuses a rich and powerful man of anything. Ever.

The old excuses have started rearing their heads again, and the temporarily-cowed harassers have started making new inroads.

Days before I recorded this video, Brock Turner asked for an appeal on his sexual assault conviction (remember, it was just "20 minutes of action," not something a "promising swimmer" should have to pay the rest of his life for). To even feel comfortable enough to ask for your life to get to go back to normal, please and thanks, after you're literally caught on top of an unconscious person behind a dumpster, speaks volumes of the confidence abusers have in their ability and right to do as they please.

Also concurrent with the video, US Olympics gymnasts began speaking out on abuse by a team doctor, and were promptly modesty-shamed by Gabby Douglas -- who then also came out as a victim of the team doctor. She drank the Kool Aid, but she couldn't help it; it's in the water in this country. It's imbibed with the mother's milk, passed down from generation to generation of women who've been assaulted, told they were to blame, internalized it, and started to believe the lie. Women (and men) who punished themselves when they couldn't punish who hurt them, because someone had to pay.

Sometimes, it seems we crave that more than anything. We want the sensationalism, we want to hear the litany of horrors, all the sordid details, please. We want there to be horrors, as seen in the public's absolute desperation for something horrible to have happened to Kenneka Jenkins, and for them to be the ones to know about it first. Rape and violence makes for great water cooler chat, apparently. The modern-day equivalent of ghost stories and gory fairy tales around the fire after the caravan has stopped for the night. Frisson-inducing cautionary tales that, despite how much we cluck and tsk, still boil down to an admonishment to be in the right place at the right time, wearing the right things, and doing only things that good girls and boys do.
Lest it be your name on everyone's lips and hashtags next.

And though we've just come through one of the biggest and most protracted assault scandals of possibly ever, it feels like it, too, will pass from memory.  It will recede into the distance, take its place in the annals of unburdening and accusations, another hole in the graveyard of Big News Stories whose details have become muddy and forgotten, moss crept over the names on the stones, like Steubenville. Something to be dredged up again years later, for clicks and ad money and maybe a to make a point while garnering clicks and making ad money. A shame to be stored on a shelf, completely forgotten until someone makes us remember --  until it's forgotten again.

I have so much more to say. I have a pages-long list of things I wanted to mention and include in this, but I don't even know if I'm making sense anymore, and it's honestly just too much. It doesn't matter how much I add, there will always be more, and new, and worse.
We all know that.

But we can start by remembering. We can start in ourselves, by refusing to fall into the same patterns, make the same bad 'prison rape' jokes, by calling out the shitty comments asking what she was wearing, and what was she doing there?

It has to start somewhere, right?

I sincerely look forward to your thoughts and contributions to the discussion in the comments.
I also sincerely understand if you just can't.

This will be updated as I feel the need and energy to do so.
Thanks for sticking with me so long, and sorry for any errors.

Hotline: 800.656.HOPE
Many, many more resources, tailored to specific scenarios and needs, can be found at the link above.

WORLDWIDE: http://headington-institute.org/files/international_centers_for_survivors_of_sexual_assault_45553.pdf

Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored video, though this book was sent to me for review consideration purposes.


  1. Frankly, although I (like 99.5% of every female I have ever known and I *wish* I was exaggerating there) have been sexually assaulted, I didn't jump on the #MeToo movement for exactly this reason- it feels like the patriarchy dominance of our politics and media will sweep this under the rug yet again. Even the concept of rape wasn't something anyone in health classes or anywhere else made sure we understood. Every media depiction of it was a violent act by a stranger (which is, statistically, the less likely type of rape to occur). It was too taboo to acknowledge in public forum, and so it was easier to internalize blame and feel like the only one (and therefore being punished somehow). So I suppose, even if/when this becomes like Stuebenville, the bright side is that it's in the public consciousness. Maybe some people will have changed their behavior, maybe not. But no one will get to hide in ignorance of the existence of rape, and hopefully kids will learn about the facts from now on (and not from direct experience). Also, I hope this means cops and first responders are getting the correct training in rape sensitivity now, and (hopefully) are less likely to make a bad situation worse through any uninformed biases.

    1. I feel like gathering all these links put me in a negative space, so this ended on a very pessimistic note, BUT I do feel like there is going to be some sustained positive change from all of this. And not just starting with HW and MeToo, but stretching back to watching a known scumbag run for Pres and have his vile behavior be constantly excused and even praised. I think that set the ball rolling in a big way, that made so many people refuse to sit down and shut up, and I feel (hope) that it's a ball that's going to keep on rolling.


Tell me all your thoughts.
Let's be best friends.


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