Kelly Tall’s SlutWalkHobart 2012 Speech
Saturday 13th October 2012
Hello, and thank you for joining us here today at the SlutWalkHobart Rally against Rape Culture, Victim Blaming & Slut Shaming.
You’ll have to excuse me if I seem a bit nervous up here, as I have never done anything like this before and public speaking is a huge personal fear of mine, but a fear that I’m prepared to feel, face, and undertake in order to challenge Rape Culture and Victim Blaming and all that it brings with it.
I’m going to speak to you about several different aspects of these issues here today along with sharing in quite a bit of detail of a rather horrific personal account, and I must warn people right up front that much of what I’ll be talking about does have the potential to bring up emotional triggers for people, and I would like to remind everyone that if that occurs for you, we’ve provided the Chill-out & Safety Zone Tent personed by a qualified Trauma Counsellor. Please do seek support, either from friends, or from our qualified Trauma Counsellor if you feel that you need to do so. We want everyone here today to feel safe, and fully supported. From here on in what I have to share is loaded with Trauma Triggers.
I was born Intersex, and also identify transgender, but primarily Intersex [as this is a quantifiable congenital birth condition – which although I’m personally quite sure the state of a person being Transgender, is also, however our modern medicine is still in the process of proving that, although there is already overwhelming evidence from medical brain scans etc to validate this, it is not as yet accepted as medical fact]. I have identified internally as female my whole life, but due to many difficult circumstances, I’ve had to “mix it up” a bit at times. Most of my adult life has been spent living as solely female, however there have been a few thankfully brief periods where for the sake of employment I had to “masquerade” as male so as I could support my family and I. This has given me a rare insight in to the dynamics of both sexes, and I must admit to having felt like a “fly on the wall” when I was having to live as male. It also opened up my eyes as to the views and attitudes of a great many men towards women, our sexuality, etc.
As an Intersex person, I’m aware of some pretty horrifying statistics. First of all though let me explain what I mean by “intersex”. Intersex is an umbrella term that covers over 125+ different medical conditions, which are present at birth, ranging from hormonal abnormalities, chromosomal abnormalities, genetic abnormalities and congenital birth abnormalities. If a person is born Intersex it means that they have sexual characteristics of both Male and Female, to varying different degrees, dependent upon that persons particular condition and circumstances. It has been conservatively estimated that as many as 1 in a 1000 babies are born with some kind of intersex condtion, and more realistically estimated as being as many as 1 in 200. The range and severity of these conditions is enormous. You might be asking yourselves “How is this relevant to SlutWalk?”
It is relevant because as many as 8 out of 10 Intersex people fall prey to sexual predators, paedophiles, and other abusers. More than half, have been in some way sexually abused as children or adolescents. Why? Sexual Predators seem to “sense our differentness, ……our vulnerability”, and they prey upon it.
This is in no small part due to the way the medical community have treated us for a very long time. Intersex people are, frequently from the moment of birth, treated as though we “don’t fit in, and don’t belong. Doctors and Surgeons still today continue with the practice of attempting to “chose a sex” for the child, and the practice of performing all manner of “surgical normalisation practices”. There is also the issue of doctors not even being taught about Intersex conditions at all, and I personally have found the level of ignorance about us amongst the medical community, even now, to be nothing short of astounding. I have had doctors as recently as last year, tell me that we don’t even exist. I asserted to the most recent offending doctor that “either I exist, or I’m a figment of your over-active imagination.” I’ll let you decide which is true? There is a LOT of work that needs to be done in this area also, to create greater awareness, both in the medical community, and in the greater community if we are to make our Intersex adults and child members of our communities safer, supported, included, and loved for who they are. I’m going to leave this topic here at this point, and move on to the next.
The next part of my address to you today is in relation to the long term affects of Rape Culture, Victim Blaming and Slut Shaming on the survivors, their families, partners and friends.
I have lost track of how many sexual assaults and rapes I’ve endured. Suffice to say, it’s a lot! One of the many horrifying statistics about rape and sexual abuse is that a person who has been raped or sexually assaulted, male or female, but especially females, are statistically highly likely to be re-victimised. For many of us, that re-victimisation can occur many times over. There is something about the damage that rape and sexual abuse causes to a person on such an intrinsically deep internalised level, that predators sense it.
From the conversations that I have had with many hundreds of women over the past several decades about being survivors of rape and sexual assault, it became apparent to me very early on in the piece that my own sense of feeling like I have been left “damaged” is a common theme among the vast majority of survivors.
The scars that we are left to bear, physically, psychologically, emotionally, and sexually, leave many of us struggling to attain anything resembling normalcy in our lives. Many of us suffer all manner of emotional, psychological, sexual and physical dysfunction, mental health problems, and addiction issues as a direct and immediate result of what we have been subjected to. This can, and often Does affect our ability to form and sustain intimate relationships, to function as contributing members of society in the way that we would like to, affects our ability to function at our best as parents, and affects our family relationships and friendships. It also leaves many of us with an overwhelming sense of social-injustice, and a feeling of a lack of social-inclusion. Those of us who dare to speak up and tell anyone of our assaults are all too frequently treated with disbelief, or have our abuse minimised to us by others, and downplayed and not taken seriously, or are just flat-out Victim Blamed for our own assaults, leaving us feeling like we somehow “just don’t matter”.
On May 3rd last year, I became the victim yet again, in my own home, and my own bed….of an very violent and terrifying sexual, physical, emotional and psychological assault, by a man whom it turns out is very well known to Tasmania Police for his threatening and violent behaviour. I’d met this person 5 days earlier. He was infact also Intersex like myself. That was how we met. I was out with some girl-friends – first time in years that I’d been out for a few drinks and a game of 8-ball, when this man approached me and asked me straight out if I was “Excuse me, but are you hermaphrodite?”. At first I was pretty spun out by his directness, but then seeing as he was the first person in 40 something years that had actually gotten it right and not just palmed me off as being “a tranny”, which is what I normally get…..I felt almost compelled to talk to him.
Long story short, four days after meeting this man, I found myself feeling like a hostage in my own home. You see, on that 4th night, I did have consensual sex with this person. However, later that night while I was asleep, he digitally raped me while I was sleeping, very aggressively. I think I must have “left my body” at that point, because I was in so much physical pain already from chronic illness and injuries, that although I remember having been semi-consciously aware of what was happening to me, I think I was just too terrified to try and stop him. The following day I felt like crap all day, but didn’t know why. My subconscious had done a wonderful job of blocking it all out for me – a survival mechanism. However, later that day in the early evening, he made a comment about having woken up horny around 2:30am…..and suddenly I found myself sitting there next to him, frozen stiff from head to toe. For the first few moments as the memories of what he’d done earlier that day as I slept all came flooding back to me……I couldn’t even breath.
I felt terror. I felt powerless, and I felt incredibly vulnerable and frightened as to what fate awaited me. Suddenly I had realised how dangerous a person I was sitting next to. He started pressuring me for sex again. I didn’t want him anywhere near me, but a pretty long line of sad and shitty life experiences, especially when it came to the men who had blown through my life, told me that my best bet of getting this guy to leave my home of his own accord, was to just give him what he wanted again, and then he’d go.
So I gave him his sex. I really couldn’t call this “consensual sex” at all. In fact I would call it “self-preservation sex”. I was doing what I had to do to survive a very dangerous situation involving a very dangerous person. Almost immediately after the sex, I felt ill and started to get an instant migraine. I put my hand to my head and said “Ouch! My head hurts so bad”. For whatever reason, that was the trigger for him to switch in to fully psychotic mode. He started by angrily stating “I’m fucken sick of hearing about all your fucking pain and problems you fucking #so and so#” I replied with a slightly “telling off” “Oi!” in a firm assertive manner. A second or so later I saw his huge fist coming from my right hand side where he was laying, straight for my face.
At the last second for some reason he veered the punch slightly away from my face and instead hit my left shoulder with such an impact that he cracked 2 of the timber slats beneath the my mattress on my bed. The pain was blinding. The excruciating pain left me completely helpless to defend myself from him. He then promptly sat on top of me, pinning me to the bed. This man weighed about 180 kgs. I weigh barely 60. He was as solid and strong as an ox.
He sat there on top of me calling me every c word under the sun incessantly for the next 40 minutes or more, with his fists constantly clenched and in my face, telling me all about how it was all my fault because I’d said “Oi” at him in a raised voice after his initial verbal assault. That was his justification for having just shattered my left shoulder, leaving me with permanent pathologies and nerve damage. That was his justification for sitting there on top of me and terrifying the life out of me, and telling me all about how well he knew the units I live in, and how he could get in to any of them at any time with great ease, and how his intention was that if he decided to let me live that night and not just murder me and my child straight away, that he could come back and get us any time he liked.
It took 5 ½ hours and every skill of psychology that I’ve ever learned, to get him to the point where he finally calmed down from his psychotic rants, before then confessing his life story to me……then finally leaving of his own accord. The moment he left I raced in to my child’s bedroom to make sure he was okay. He awoke as I walked in to his room and must have sensed something was wrong because he instantly said to me “What’s happened Mummy are you okay?” I lied of course, and told him “yes honey I’m fine,…..do you want to come and watch Scooby Doo and have a snuggle with mum?” I then fell almost immediately into what I can probably best describe as being a catatonic heap. Later that day, my young god daughter came to visit, and found me a dribbling rocking crying incoherent mess, and managed to get just enough out of me to realise that something very awful and clearly terrifying had just occurred. She got us out of there quick smart to safety.
It would be almost a full week before I finally managed to get myself along to Sexual Assault Services and then, with their support and accompaniment, off to Hobart Police Station to make a full report about this vicious, violent and terrifying crime. I’m sure you can imagine my complete sense of dismay at having one of the two female officers who interviewed me telling me how “Oh yes I know [this person], I’ve always found him to be pretty compliant”. Even more dismay at having my SASS Case Worker look at me and say “Oh, well that’s got to be of some comfort to you hey Kelly?”
There was so much I wanted to say….but at that point I was already realising the utter futility of it. Call me strange [many do], but I found nothing what so ever compliant about a man who had over the space of 36 hours, raped me in my sleep, made me feel like a hostage in my own home, before then violently shattering my shoulder, and terrorising me for hours, having completely convinced me that he was in no uncertain terms going to murder not just me, but my beautiful precious son as well!
This, was yet another rather incidious form of Victim Blaming and Victim Minimising. My son and I were run out of our home completely. We were on the run and couch surfing for over a month, too terrified to go home. Why did we end up going back home? Because Every where we went and almost every service we dealt with except for the Hobart Women’s Health Centre and one young social worker from one of the local Women’s Shelters, subjected us to a continual stream of more victim blaming and minimisation of what had happened to us, of what had been done to me. Several of the case workers at the women’s shelter that we eventually ended up in, every member of Tasmania Police that I dealt directly with, and even the doctor I saw. The General Practitioner that the women’s shelter sent me to in fact completely ignored me having told him that I’d been raped and violently assaulted, and instead focused on a sore I had on the inside of my left leg and asked me if I had been shooting up in to me femoral artery. He also saw me struggling to get my layers of warm clothing off so that he could examine my shoulder, and rather than offering me any assistance what so ever, instead bitched and moaned at me about the length of time it was taking me to get partially undressed – something that at this point I was incredibly uncomfortable with doing anyway, especially being he was a male doctor, and the fucked attitude he’d already begun, and continued to show me.
I had procured an urgently granted restrain order, that was ordered police service. I handed the paper work for those orders myself to Tasmania Police – Hobart Station at 4:40pm Friday the 13th of May. They had this guy in the Hobart Watch-house on the night of Monday 16th of May on an unrelated issue, and failed completely to serve him with these orders before letting him go. The admitted that they’d had him in the lock-up to one of my case workers, but then when I challenged them about it, they apparently no longer had any record of this occurring at all. Consequently, this man was never even so much as questioned about this incident, and I’m sure you’ll all be very thrilled to know that he’s still wandering the streets of Hobart, completely unquestioned, uncharged, unconvicted, un-incarcerated, like nothing ever happened.
It’s been 17 months now since this crime took place. Everyone else has forgotten all about it by now. I haven’t. There isn’t a single day however that I don’t struggle with anxiety, depressive symptoms, constant pain in my shoulder, or the huge amount of unprocessed anger I feel coarsing through my veins at a system, a community, and a culture that has left me feeling like I just didn’t matter. I barely even made a blip on their radar.
I like so many other victim/survivors of rape, sexual assault and violence, feel constantly overwhelmed by it all. I feel that like that man, and the other’s before him, have stolen something from me. They have stolen my right to be all that I could have been, before they came along and left me just a damaged soul, a shadow of the person I could have been. I’m not half the parent I used to be, I’m not half the friend I used to be, I struggle daily with trust issues, and suffer terrible immobilising anxiety that leaves me struggling just to walk out the door to pick up my own child from school, the insomnia, sleeplessness often for days at a time (try 84 hours without sleep and see how sane you feel), and the terrible flashbacks that are like fully “reliving the moment” over and over when I do finally fall asleep – if I don’t just have them while I’m still wide awake!
Don’t tell me that we don’t have a HUGE PROBLEM with Rape Culture, Victim Blaming, and Slut Shaming, here, and everywhere else in our entire “global community” – because I’m here to Tell YOU, That we most certainly DO! This is a culture that is globally endemic in our society as a whole.
Do you know, in a poll done for Amnesty International, data revealed that in only 8% of rapes was the assailant a complete stranger to their victim?
Or that 54% of rapes are carried out by partners or former partners? Or that 34% of people polled said that a woman was partly to blame for being raped if she had previously flirted with a man?
How about the fact that 28% of people said that a woman was partially or totally responsible for being raped if she was drunk or otherwise intoxicated?
An unprecedentedly large-scale survey on the topic, conducted by the UK Website Group MumNetwork earlier this year, gave some incredibly disturbing results:
This survey, completed by over 1,600 women, showed that of the respondents:
- One in 10 (10%) had been raped
- Over one-third (35%) had been sexually assaulted
- One in four (23%) of those who reported being raped or sexually assaulted had been so four or more times
- In two-thirds (66%) of cases the women knew the person responsibleMany women felt unable to report rape or sexual assault:
- Over four-fifths (83%) of respondents who had been raped or sexually assaulted did not make a report to the police
- Over one-quarter (29%) didn’t tell anyone at all, including friends or family, about their sexual assault or rape
- Over two-thirds (68%) said they would hesitate reporting to the police due to low conviction rates
- And over half (53%) would not report due to embarrassment or shameThe results also reveal that most women feel that rape victims are treated poorly:
- Nearly three-quarters (70%) of respondents feel the media is unsympathetic to women who report rape
- Over half (53%) feel the legal system is unsympathetic
- And over half (55%) feel society at large is unsympathetic
This leads me into the last part of my speech today. I realise this has been a very long speech, but this is a Huge Issue we are trying to address here today, that affects from a ¼ to ½ of our female population, and not just women and girls. Did you know that globally 1 in 33 men will fall victim to being raped in their lifetime? This does not just happen to men who are perceived for whatever reason as being in some way weak, or small……it happens to the big, the tough, and the strong men as well.
[The following section of the speech I gave is mostly “borrowed” from another survivor’s writings/website, albiet slightly modified from, http://www.shakesville.com/2009/10/rape-culture-101.html and all credits for the “borrowed” italisised text belongs to the original author/s, and I do not mean to have mistakenly or otherwise taken any credit for the sections in italic text below. The rest of my speech, is My Words, My Experience, Expressed from My Point Of View.]
What is this thing that we are calling “Rape Culture”? Well, it’s a lot of things.
In a rape culture both men and women assume that sexual violence is a fact of life, as inevitable as death or taxes. This violence, however, is neither biologically nor divinely ordained. Much of what we accept as inevitable is in fact the expression of values and attitudes that can be changed.
Allow me to expand upon that in order to clarify just what that equates to:
Rape culture is encouraging male sexual aggression. Rape culture is regarding violence as sexy and sexuality as violent. Rape culture is treating rape as a compliment, as the unbridled passion stirred in a healthy man by a beautiful woman, making irresistible the urge to rip open her bodice or slam her against a wall, or a wrought-iron fence, or a car hood, or pull her by her hair, or shove her onto a bed, or any one of a million other images of fight-fucking in movies and television shows and on the covers of romance novels that convey violent urges that are inextricably linked with straight, heterosexuality.
Rape culture is treating straight sexuality as the norm. Rape culture is lumping queer sexuality into non-consensual sexual practices like paedophilia and bestiality. Rape culture is privileging heterosexuality because the ubiquitous imagery of two adults of the same-sex engaging in egalitarian partnerships without gender-based dominance and submission undermines the erroneous biological rationales for the rape culture’s existence.
Rape culture is rape being used as a weapon, a tool of war and genocide and oppression. Rape culture is rape being used as a corrective to “cure” queer women, or “make a man out of” queer or perceived queer men. Rape culture is a militarized culture and “the natural product of all wars, everywhere, at all times, in all forms.”
Rape culture is 1 in 33 men being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Rape culture is encouraging men to use the language of rape to establish dominance over one another (“I’ll make you my bitch”). Rape culture is making rape a ubiquitous part of male-exclusive bonding. Rape culture is ignoring the cavernous need for men’s prison reform in part because the threat of being raped in prison is considered an acceptable deterrent to committing crime, and the threat only works if actual men are actually being raped.
Rape culture is 1 in 6 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Rape culture is not even talking about the reality that many women are sexually assaulted multiple times in their lives. Rape culture is the way in which the constant threat of sexual assault affects women’s daily movements. Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you’re alone, if you’re with a stranger, if you’re in a group, if you’re in a group of strangers, if it’s dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you’re carrying something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you’re wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what jewelry you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people you sleep with, what kind of people you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who’s around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who’s at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a room-mate, to take self-defense classes, to always be alert always pay attention always watch your back always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be sexually assaulted and if you are and didn’t follow all the rules it’s your fault.
Rape culture is victim-blaming. Rape culture is a judge blaming a child for her own rape. Rape culture is a minister blaming his child victims. Rape culture is accusing a child of enjoying being held hostage, raped, and tortured. Rape culture is spending enormous amounts of time finding any reason at all that a victim can be blamed for their own rape.
Rape culture is judges banning the use of the word rape in the courtroom. Rape culture is the media using euphemisms for sexual assault. Rape culture is stories about rape being featured in the Odd News.
Rape culture is tasking victims with the burden of rape prevention. Rape culture is encouraging women to take self-defense as though that is the only solution required to preventing rape. Rape culture is admonishing women to “learn common sense” or “be more responsible” or “be aware of bar-room risks” or “avoid these places” or “don’t dress this way,” and failing to admonish men to not rape.
Rape Culture is 14 year old boys raping women violently at knife point.
Rape Culture, is Everybody’s PROBLEM. There wouldn’t be a person alive on this planet today that doesn’t know, isn’t related to, or hasn’t personally experienced rape, sexual abuse, or victim blaming. This is an endemic disease spread throughout our entire global community.
It is the sexualisation of little girls, through sexualised toys, Playboy branded kids clothing, little girls growing up being led to believe whole heartedly through the brainwashing of media and advertising that their sexual attractiveness is of the most paramount importance, almost completely over-riding all other facets of their being.
Rape Culture and Victim Blaming are the incidious endemic disease of our society that is robbing us of our very humanity. Is this what YOU chose to live with? Is this what WE have become?
Well I’m here to say today that I’ve HAD ENOUGH, AND I WON’T STAND FOR IT ANY LONGER. I WON’T SIT BACK AND BE A VICTIM. I Struggle every day on every level, but I’ve survived. Many other’s haven’t. It is for all those who’s lives have been stolen away, and for all of those silent voices I stand here before you today, shaken, scared, vulnerable, but determined to do everything that I can to challenge these issues head-on. I do it for myself, I do it for my daughters and my son, and I do if for all of those who are too frightened to speak up and be heard, for all those souls burried under all the shame that’s been so indiscriminately and unfairly lumped on them….all those who have taken their own lives rather than live another moment with the pain, and all those who’s lives have been ended by their attackers. I stand here before you today to say Enough Is Enough, SAY NO TO RAPE CULTURE, SAY NO TO VICTIM BLAMING, and SAY NO TO SLUT SHAMING!
Thank you for taking the time to hear me here today.
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