I am not your daughter
Content Warning: This piece discusses sexual violence and may not be appropriate for some readers.
Every woman has used themselves as a point of relativity when explaining the impacts of sexual violence.
The first time I played this particular card, I was eleven years old.
I sat side-by-side with my father watching 60 Minutes. I watched my dad criticise a survivor, accusing her of 'asking for it' because of what she was wearing at the time of the assault.
'But what if that was me? Would your feelings change?'
I am guilty of invoking this perspective to get my dad, my brother or my mate's onside, too often.
It's the easiest angle, the most accessible, the most convincing.
It's part of the handbook for pre-pubescent girls. In order to enforce empathy, to obstruct the male gaze you have a single, unencumbered option: to hurtle yourself in front of it, to victimise yourself in order to make this survivor tangible, believable.
Yesterday, news.com.au reported that a former Liberal Party staffer, Brittany Higgins, was raped at Parliament House in Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ office, by a colleague.
Higgins stated she felt forced to choose between reporting the rape or retaining her job, after being called in for a formal employment meeting in the room where the rape occurred. Higgins described the experience, saying it felt like a 'crisis to be managed' for the senior staff.
This morning, the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, offered a statement:
"Jenny and I spoke last night, and she said to me, ‘You have to think about this as a father first. What would you want to happen if it were our girls?’ Jenny has a way of clarifying things, always has, and so, as I’ve reflected on that overnight, and listened to Brittany, and what she had to say… it shatters me that still, in this day and age, that a young woman can find herself in the vulnerable situation that she was in. Not her doing.”
When the Prime Minister of Australia needs to think of his school-aged daughters to understand the trauma of rape, something is wrong.
When the Prime Minister of Australia can only consider the impacts of an experience when it directly impacts his life, something is wrong.
When this same Prime Minister is likely to be re-elected next election, something is fucking wrong.
Survivors of trauma are all around you, they determine their comfortability and capacity to share their story through the lens of how you treat others who come forward. If we can only perceive pain when it relates to those we love, how can we possibly represent the values we claim to hold so dearly? If the leader of our nation can only comprehend the pain of an individual when reminded of his children, how can we entrust him with our future?
Brittany, we will not let him off the hook.