Re: The New York Daily News's Editorial

Content warning: sexual/police violence

Today, the New York Daily News ran an editorial supporting incarceration as a means of addressing sexual violence. I am the girl whose rapes the New York Daily News perverted to justify incarceration and policing as the appropriate way to address sexual violence. I am not okay with that.

Title IX is lifesaving. Among the many facets of Title IX that set it apart from the criminal justice system are the burden of proof being attainable ("preponderance of the evidence"), its provisions that dictate students should receive accommodations (counseling, housing accommodations, academic assistance, etc.), and its focus on the victim (versus the criminal justice system, which is centered around state retribution). Simply put, when implemented properly, Title IX addresses gender-based violence in a way that is friendlier to survivors of violence than the criminal justice system and has consequences which do not endanger the lives of perpetrators (prevention education, suspension, expulsion).

In contrast, the criminal justice system is notoriously racially and socioeconomically biased. It is particularly ill-equipped to address the needs of Black, trans, and undocumented individuals, who experience violence at alarmingly high rates. Incarceration itself is a violent act, and prisons are often places where people are most vulnerable to experiencing sexual violence themselves. (And no, someone raping someone does not mean they deserve to be raped; no one deserves to experience sexual violence no matter how terrible of a person they are.) Perhaps most notable, incarceration is not even a deterrent from committing violent crime — the criminal justice system does nothing to address rape culture and the discrimination that intersects with gender-based violence — so we are subjecting people to the violence of the prison system without doing anything that could actually prevent future violence from occurring. Finally, we all know the criminal justice system rarely addresses sexual violence when it is reported. The burden of proof and trauma of a trial are too high for most survivors.

I did ultimately report to the police and Manhattan DA, as I have stated repeatedly. While I was fortunate, likely by virtue of my identity (white, cisgender woman) and socioeconomic status, to not face the same horrific commentary and disbelief many survivors face, the criminal justice system was not able to provide me with the actual relief I required: academic, medical, and housing accommodations. In contrast, Columbia is actually supposed to provide those accommodations.

Justice for me is not inflicting violence upon another person, even my perpetrator. Justice for me is actually preventing future violence from occurring and providing support to survivors who have experienced violence. Columbia is failing on both fronts, and that is why they are being sued.

I never consented to anyone using my violations to justify state violence. Doing so is absolutely "an insult to [my] ordeal," and an insult to me as a human. If New York Daily News purports to care about ending sexual violence, maybe they should actually listen to survivors before they write.

2016 Year in Review

We made it to 2017! Yay! 2016 left me with little energy, so I don't have any bigger reflection on the last year.  Too many yucky things and tiring things and downright strange things. Here's to a (hopefully) more restful year.

Since 2016 was very surreal, I think it's fitting to make my year end photo album this time around a combination of photos and images I drew/painted (terribly) for a zine assignment in one of my classes. Enjoy!

2015-2016 School Year in Review

Looking Back at 2015

Last year, I wrote an end of the year blog post in which I talked enthusiastically about seven happy things about to happen in 2015. At the time, I assumed 2015 would be filled with reading, running, and writing. Well, then 2015 wound up being more like this:

  1. Watch everyone in my high school tear each other apart (and spend an afternoon wondering if we'd get torn apart).
  2. Write an awkwardly personal op/ed (multiple, actually), revealing to everyone I'm a survivor, and deal with the resulting chaos.
  3. Part with Jon Stewart, leaving us to deal with this dude alone.
  4. Watch the 49ers and the Oakland A's combust.
  5. Spend hours fighting against a seemingly bulletproof administration.
  6. Give awkwardly personal quotes for articles and deal with that resulting chaos.
  7. Watch everyone shoot each other, including shooting 12-year-olds, and get away with it.

Of course, there were many positives mixed in (see photo gallery at the end of this post for a more varied version), but overall, 2015 was less than ideal. To summarize how my year went with one story, it began positively with Jameis Winston (you know, this guy) getting deservedly humiliated by the Oregon Ducks, and concluded with him being the #1 overall pick in the NFL draft and almost leading his team to the playoffs as if nothing ever happened.

So what is there to say about 2016? Will things be any better? Maybe. I hope so.

In an effort to delude myself into thinking the U.S. will get its shit together despite our impending joke of a national election and that I'll cruise effortlessly through my year, I'm going to make another list of seven things I'm looking forward to:

  1. Finishing my novel. (If I say this twenty times, it'll happen.)
  2. Swimming.
  3. Watching the A's have a less-ugly season (please?).
  4. Reading Harry Potter in Spanish just because.
  5. Really, really learning how to use Twitter.
  6. Finishing House on Netflix.
  7. Actually running that 3.8 mile thing I mentioned last year but never got around to doing.

But listen, I can't make 2016 a better year alone. It's up to all of us to push ourselves to be better human beings, to go out of our way to be kinder, conscious, and compassionate. We can control the election (vote if you can, even if you don't love either of the candidates). We can control social media. We can control our behavior.

It's 2016. Screw Trump — it's up to us to make the world great again.


On Trigger Warnings (May 24, 2015)

As a sexual assault survivor, I feel compelled to respond to recent op-eds slamming sexual assault survivors who ask for trigger warnings in college classrooms. A "trigger warning" is a warning issued before material that has the potential to remind students of their assaults. (The most recently contested example is the request by some Columbia University undergraduates to be warned before being presented with Ovid's "Metamorphoses.")

There are multiple misconceptions about trigger warnings these op-eds perpetuate, the first of which is the idea that those who ask for trigger warnings are trying to avoid living in the “real world.” This is wildly inaccurate. I argue someone who has experienced something as horrific as sexual assault has experienced the darkest parts of the "real world." The insinuation that sexual assault survivors have spent their lives in a bubble — one May 13, 2015 Daily Banter article referred to the Columbia survivors who asked for trigger warnings as “special snowflakes” — is downright offensive.

The second misconception is that trigger warnings are present so students can avoid challenging ideas. However, they’re there so that survivors of sexual assault like me can ground themselves in order to engage more thoughtfully with challenging ideas. When I'm not given a trigger warning before being presented with graphic material, my body slips away and falls back to the day I was assaulted. The room morphs into the room I was assaulted in. I spend an hour reliving every sensation and sound from my assault — the physical pain, the muffled screams, the fear pounding in my chest. When I'm given a trigger warning, it doesn’t mean I won’t read or watch the material — it means I'll have time to ground myself so I can stay present. I'll observe my surroundings. (What color is the rug? What material is the table in front of me made of?) Then, when the material is presented, I'll have things that will remind me that I’m safe. (The rug is dark green. The table is tan and made of wood. I’m sitting in Spanish class.)

Third, trigger warnings are being misconstrued as censorship. Censorship would be if material was blocked from being shown at all. That's not what a trigger warning does. Trigger warnings go before material but do not prevent the material from being shown. It takes one second to give a trigger warning. Is it really so difficult to sacrifice one second in order to spare survivors many minutes, if not hours, of flashbacks?

Finally, many op-ed authors dismiss survivors who require trigger warnings as unstable. In a recent May 22, 2015 Wall Street Journal article titled "The Trigger-Happy Generation," the author insinuated that requesting a trigger warning is an indication that the survivor needs more therapy. However, sexual assault doesn’t disappear if you talk about it once a week. While some survivors overcome triggers, many survivors, myself included, don't completely. Healing is complicated and a lifetime process with no beautiful, definitive ending. Believe me, I wish therapy could remove all my triggers, but it doesn’t, and the fact that it doesn't is not an indication that I'm unstable.

I love creative writing and tend to write dark stories, so I've both written triggering material and, as a survivor, needed trigger warnings. As someone with both of those experiences, I'm blown away by the ignorance displayed in recent national conversations regarding trigger warnings in college. While it's possible some authors have experienced sexual violence, I'd wager the vast majority of trigger warnings' most outspoken opponents haven't. As with many conversations regarding sexual violence, here's one where the voices of the survivors themselves are being dismissed. I want to engage with challenging ideas and material. I love classic literature. However, in order to be able to engage with material like Ovid's "Metamorphoses," I need to be given the opportunity to remain present in the classroom and not spend the class fighting with flashbacks instead. I don't want trigger warnings so I can hide from challenging ideas — I want trigger warnings so I can grapple with them.