Holly Testerman—Staff Writer
Brad Weber, thank you for your previous article (see Women: Don’t be passive victims from October 17, 2017). I would like to preface this reply by saying that I also strongly believe that we should train women to be dangerous. I myself am a pretty good shot with a handgun and am continuing to practice martial arts in order to defend myself. But before labelling the Weinstein sexual assault victims as “passive,” I think it is important to talk about the pressure they were under.
Sexual abuse isn’t just on the rise in government; it’s becoming more common on campuses nationwide, too. As a college student, many women I know have been involved in physically and sexually abusive relationships and situations. And every woman I have ever talked to about their experiences has said that in the moment, they were afraid to say “no.”
Our abusers weren’t a random man on the street; they were boyfriends, best friends or family members we knew and loved. We often feared that our abuser would be displeased or become more aggressive. Our abuser often became so physically controlling and so isolating that they took away our psychological ability to say “no.” And so, though each of these women never said yes, we couldn’t say “no.” We never had a choice in the first place.
We are not passive. We are trapped. We are trapped in relationships where it is less terrifying to be violated than to say “no.” We are trapped in a reporting system that doesn’t believe us, thereby tightening the chains of our psychological prisons. And we live in a society where women are only just being taught that they have control over their bodies.
All these forces say that we can’t take a joke, that we had it coming, that we shouldn’t have shown that skin if we didn’t want it to be touched, that we should have fought back. But the cold hard truth is that you will never understand the paralysis-inducing terror of looking into the eyes of a man who only sees you as an object to be beaten and broken until it’s happened to you.
What I’m saying is that saying “no” is not clear-cut. It’s not just a matter of a well-placed punch (as much as I wish it were). Defending oneself from sexual assault is a complicated issue, and I don’t claim to have covered the extent of it. But before we can defend ourselves, we have to break the abusive psychological chains that say that we are less than a person and that we don’t have the right to stand up for ourselves and our bodies.
Ladies, by all means, learn a martial art or carry a gun or carry pepper spray. Be aware in social situations and make sure no woman is left behind. Watch your drink, stick together, and don’t go to the bathroom alone. And if you are trapped in a place where you psychologically can’t verbalize your discomfort, your opinion matters. I believe in your ability to stand up for yourself.
Holly Testerman—Staff Writer