Lena Dunham’s Sexual Abuse is Being Taken Seriously and Now, I Can Finally Speak Out About My Own Abuse

I’ve talked about being a survivor of sexual assault before, but what I haven’t talked about are the specifics.

When I was 12 years old, my stepsister touched me in sexually inappropriate ways. I was not only the older sister, but was then left with confusion, shame, anxiety, and guilt. It led to us having a mutually incestuous relationship for about 6 months, that I used to try to heal, which only created more pain.

7 years later, I still feel an incredible amount of shame every time I even think about it. It gets worse when I’m in circles and spaces dealing with sexual violence, as I always question the validity of my experience. It somehow doesn’t feel ‘real’ or ‘normal’ enough; I know that others would question if this were actually assault. That’s what’s kept me so quiet, knowing that I probably wouldn’t have the support that survivors with more ‘acceptable’ scenarios would. After having been rejected and not believed by my family, it was hard for me to even believe myself.

The recent scandal around Lena Dunham’s account of her and her own sister’s sexual experiences in her book Not That Kind of Girl has many calling her a sexual abuser. Basically, she recounts an eye-raising incident of spreading open her one-year-old sister’s vagina, and describes the incident as “within the spectrum of things that I did.” She then talks about how she would manipulate her sister into kissing her and “relaxing on her (insinuating touching through clothing).” As Dunham herself says, “anything a sexual predator might do to woo a small suburban girl I was trying.”

When I first heard about this scandal, (ironically, the same day I got my copy of the book) I felt anger, but then a strange sense of relief. Knowing that others saw issue with incest that I had so many times been told was just ‘experimenting’ or ‘innocent childhood antics,’ made me feel not alone, for once. Knowing that I wasn’t the only one who was outraged and wanted Lena to have accountability made me feel like it was okay to speak out and shed the stigma. That’s why I am telling my story.

The fact is that sexual abuse and violence can take many forms and yes, women and children can be perpetrators. It’s not always the scary man in the alleyway or even the college frat boy perpetrating the violence; in fact, in most cases, it isn’t.

That’s why I decided to apply to join the RAINN Speakers Bureau; sexual assault has many faces and stories like mine deserve to be told. As I was writing out the details of my story for the application, I felt shame and guilt washing over me. It was so bad that for months, I didn’t send it. I figured they’d probably silently question my credibility and my story, like so many others, and it wasn’t worth the risk.

Fortunately, I gathered the courage a few weeks ago to go to the post office and mail it off to the RAINN offices in Washington D.C. About a week later, I received an email from them, letting me know I was accepted into the bureau.

I was in shock. I couldn’t help but smile, knowing that RAINN had taken my story seriously and understood the importance of those like me, with atypical stories of sexual violence, being able to have our voices heard. I’m so grateful to them for allowing me to use their platform to speak out.

Now, I urge you to look for the stories of sexual violence and abuse that aren’t being told. Know that there are many who question weather their assault was really assault and feel that if they do tell their story, they won’t be believed, or will be judged. Know that they likely have told someone who has done just that.

Thank You!

I wanted to write a quick thank you to all of you who have reached out, commented, or given me support as my article “5 Things You Should Know About Interacting With Me, A Fat Girl Who Wears Revealing Clothes,” has gone viral. I didn’t not expect it to happen AT ALL and I am very grateful for all of your love and support. This has been an exciting week!

As always, you can contact me here through my website, or on Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram.

Thank YOU so much for everything. Y’all are the reason why I do this work.

How to Practice Self-Care for Free!

Of course, here on Tumblr and in the feminist blogosphere in general, there is a lot of talk about the importance of self care- and I couldn’t agree more! You have to put your own needs first and there’s no way to be an effective activist if your own needs are not being met. You deserve to have time for yourself and recharge!

But, a lot of the suggestions I’ve come across can be expensive, like going out to dinner or with friends, shopping, going on a trip, or even going to a yoga class (which you often need a gym membership for or have to pay anywhere from $10-30 dollars for an individual class).

Self-care shouldn’t be costly though and there are many things you can do to take care of yourself on the cheap.

Here are 20 self-care practices that you can try for free:

1. Take a long walk

2. Meditate. Here are some free guided meditations.

3. Masturbate.

4. Take a long bath or shower

5. Spend the afternoon at the library

6. Relax at the park

7. Go for a run

8. Clean your house or apartment.

9. Have a dance party in your living room

10. Go to a farmers market and try some free samples

11. Take a nap

12. Spend a day at the beach

13. Go to bed early

14. Cook something using whatever you already have in your kitchen

15. Explore a new part of town

16. Download some free apps

17. Call a friend or relative you haven’t spoken to in a while

18. Give yourself a compliment

19. Organize something

20. Create something

What kind of self-care practices do you do that cost nothing?

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out

When I first saw this book in the Young Adult section of my local library (yes I still go to the YA section) when I went back home last week, I was delighted. Not only were teens (and pretty much all middle-class white ones, since that’s who lives in my area) seeing this book and probably having their consciousness raised, but teens who are trans are having their stories told; not something that happens very often.
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As I started this book today on the beach, I was pretty impressed. This book not only included stories from teens who are genderqueer and non-binary, but those stories were actually the majority of the stories being told. That’s pretty incredible and not something you see very often. Trans people whose stories are told are usually MTF or FTM, and those who are not either gender are usually ignored.

One of the trans stories that was included was of someone who was also intersex; my mind was blown again! Intersex people are usually, again, completely ignored and I don’t think most people have even ever heard the term in their life. It was pretty cool to see a story like this being told in a mainstream publication.

The stories were riveting and beautifully told. The author chose a great group to feature, as the identities were varied, there was racial diversity,and each teen was incredibly brave and well-spoken. The one thing I noticed though was that most if not all of them seemed to have class privilege or have access to wealth and it would have been nice to see more stories being told of those who didn’t have the same amount of resources.

The only negative thing I have to say about this book was that there was a “I’m not racist but” comment made by one of the teens that the author should have not included, as well as a few statements made by another that were rooted in misogyny that again, should have not made it into the book.

I would give this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars; you should race out and get a copy!Here is a link to the book on Amazon.

Science is Privileged

While I was in San Francisco at the YTH (Youth Tech Health) Live conference, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel on online libraries. The panelists had all been a part of organizations that created resources for either the underprivileged that have little access to scientific data or for those conducting scientific research who doesn’t have the resources nor the expensive tools often necessary to do this.

 

One of the things I thought about while at the conference and at this panel is how often data and access to information is so political and how rooted it is in privilege. There’s a reason that science is made up of mostly white men and Western folk in general and that most science that is seen as ‘real’ comes from wealthy, Western countries. Only recently have we started to view other culture’s forms of knowledge as legitimate (things like acupuncture, reiki, yoga) and as we have, we have appropriated them. On that same trip, I found a quaint bookstore that had an interesting book on acupuncture that I decided to buy. When I got back to my hotel room and examined it more closely, I noticed the cover featured the back of a naked woman. Not a naked woman with needles in her flesh or doing anything related to acupuncture; simply a naked woman. Clearly this is objectification being used to sell the book.

 

Also, the author, Peter Mole, was a scholar from Oxford and I can safely assume is a white man (probably cisgender and heterosexual too). The fact that a white man is writing a book about acupuncture (and being called a leading expert in this field), and that institutions like Oxford are considering themselves to be owner’s of this knowledge is extremely problematic. Books like these show how knowledge is rooted in privilege and power and how whatever is considered to be science is in and of itself rooted in these things.

 

I also thought about how all of this relates to feminist standpoint theory. Since it discusses how the construction of knowledge is informed by an androcentric point of view, those in positions of power have determined knowledge. All of the experiences and knowledge-creation done by women, people of color, LGBT folks, etc. historically (and presently) aren’t considered to be factual and are devalued.

 

I want to see science and empiricism be questioned and thought of in critical contexts a lot more than I do now. For many, science is held as the gold standard and is viewed as non-biased; it’s something that is usually blindly trusted. The system of science though, is rooted in patriarchy, kyriarchy, and capitalism; it is not a way of knowing that is natural. I believe that when we start to question science’s validity and force those in science to be accountable for their privilege, that a lot more equity and progress will be made in academia and knowledge in general.