"Epidemic" By Lauren Bramwell

#BreakTheSilence

 

Legs

When I was in grade school, I was pulled aside and told that my shorts were too short for school dress code.

My mom was at work and unable to bring me a different, “more appropriate” pair of shorts. The teacher allowed me to finish the day at school on the condition that I would never wear the shorts on school grounds again.

I walked away from the lecture, pulling awkwardly at the levi, trying to gain the few centimeters needed to reach finger tip length.

My mom had bought these shorts for me.

I looked down at my prepubescent legs, they were awkward and long for my age. My knees were scraped from last week’s bike crash, but all in all my legs were healthy and strong and I wore my wounds proudly. Not once had I identified my peach-fuzzed, knee-scraped legs as being sexual or alluring.

I was confused and ashamed—I rarely got in trouble.

In a desperate attempt to hide those few centimeters of skin, I awkwardly tied my jacket around my waist. It stayed there for the rest of the day.

I was ten years old.

I never meant to be a distraction.

 

But it was a Compliment

My sophomore year of high school, I bent down to pick up books from my locker and a student passing by slapped me on the ass.

It wasn’t the first time it had happened. I just wanted to go to class.

I gathered my teenage courage and asked the boy not to do it again. I was then assured by him and his boy posse that I was overreacting—that I should take the gesture as a compliment.

Why was I being such a bitch?

I looked at the floor—vulnerable, exposed, and unheard.

Defeated, I walked to class.

 

Responsibility

At Sunday school, they told us girls that we have to be modest, strong, and responsible, because well, those boys are so quick to fall victim to temptation.

 

He was Nice Enough

My junior year, the bus pulled into the school parking lot late after an away volleyball game.

One of my close friends had introduced me to one of his friends earlier that week.

He seemed nice enough.

He met me at my car that night and I agreed to go get soda from the gas station with him before heading home.

We bought soda but then he kept driving.  

I asked him to take me back to my car but he kept driving.

 

The next day, my close friend asked me how my night was.

I said it was fine.   


 

The Age-Old Question

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?


 

Unwanted Hands

My freshman year of college I continued to learn that “no” is never taken seriously.

It’s understood to be synonymous to a sick invitation, a bid for coercion.

Silly girl doesn’t know what’s best for her.

 

Touch still makes me apprehensive.


 

1 in 5

My junior year of college I realized just how real this statistic is.

-All the times "A" almost told me, but was gagged by fear of blame and disbelief.

-The rawness in "B’s" voice on the topic of sexual violence. She didn't have to say a word because her voice, her fear, her rage, her fire speaks volumes.

-"C" who still holds her breath and stares at the floor with every mention of one in five because she can’t bear to look up and see just how many people remain apathetic, unmoved-- unapologetic.


 

Trigger Warning

My senior year of college a family member and I talk about trigger warnings on movies with rape scenes. He asks why they wouldn’t have trigger warnings on other violent scenes as well.

I don’t have a great answer.

 

“You think rape is more egregious than murder?” he asks.

 

And a part of me wanted to say yes.

 

I cried the whole drive home that night.


 

 

We Comply

 

This fall I was asked to take a Title IX course online before teaching at the university.

 

At the end of the 30-minute course, it took me to a short multiple-choice exam.

The home page was titled “We Comply.”

 

But addressing rape culture has to be about more than just compliance.

It means having conversations with young boys and girls about the meaning and value of consent.

It means knocking down cultural norms that glorify violent masculinity.

It means confronting harmful rhetoric and policies that have excused and shifted blame of sexual violence for years.

It’s about listening to survivors rather than blaming them.

It’s about spitting in the face of harmful rape scripts and schemas that we know are far from the truth.

It’s about reshaping our perceived and accepted reality.

And mere compliance doesn’t quite do the job.

 

Addressing rape culture means banding together to tear down hegemonic ideals that bathe in a world of objectification and false entitlement.

The fight against rape culture means one day being able to look at ourselves in the mirror knowing that we are not to blame for our perpetrator’s violence. It means not just saying it out loud, but breathing it, knowing it to our very core.

 

So it has to be about more than just compliance. It means rewinding, unstitching, unlearning all the experiences that told us, taught us, that our body and our voice are things to be controlled and trampled.


 

Rewind

 

When I was in grade school, I was pulled aside and told that my shorts were too short for school dress code.

 

I never meant to be a distraction.

 

Submit your original photography, writing, art, etc. to GirlSense & NonSense Magazine by Sunday, December 6th to be considered for publication in the Winter 2015 Issue.