Silencing someone is so often the first strategy of injustice. To make somebody voiceless is to deny them their testimony and their ability to speak their first demands; that we know the truth of what happened, and the truth of what they deserve.
For survivors, being silenced takes so many forms. It is the university that ignores and obfuscates any attempts at discipline, dragging survivors through months of procedure only to dismiss their complaints for the sake of its own reputation. It is the legal system that forces survivors to relive trauma over and over for the sake of a fraction of a chance at justice. It is the friends who ignore rumours and stories because they can’t believe that someone they know would do something like that.
It is ‘men don’t get raped’, it is ‘stop being so sensitive’, it is ‘he’s a nice guy – he’d never do something like that’, it is giving the benefit of the doubt, it is #Don’tGetSpiked. It is the questions of how much were you drinking, why did you stay, why were you out alone, why didn’t you do anything sooner, why didn’t you tell someone – without ever the expectation of an answer. It means being spoken to, being spoken over and being spoken for. It is the denial of the truth of their own experience, of the reality they now have to live with.
Letters from Survivors is one attempt to speak out against that silence. It is a platform for survivors to share their stories, art, opinions and testimony and to be, in a space that is entirely their own, truly listened to.
Everywhere I look, survivors are talking back. They’re shouting demands for safety into the night sky, or chalking up sidewalks with the same words that have been snarled at them on the side of the street. They’re fighting for justice from the legal system, their workplaces, their schools and universities, from every institution that protects predators before it cares about the safety of those harmed by them, from structures that have existed to exhaust and subdue survivors for centuries. They’re talking to friends, speaking with journalists and writing, vividly, gracefully, about their own stories. In the face of silence, survivors and their allies are speaking up. It’s our hope that these letters can in some way be a part of that noise.