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UPDATE-The diarist in question has been banned. Not my aim in writing this-I wanted to address an issue that extends beyond one poster. As I said in the comments, he was not the first person here to indulge in rape speech, nor will he be the last.

For those who are attacking the group Tree Climbers over this and suggesting that our intent is to stifle free speech, a little reminder of what we are all about:

Tree Climbers at Daily Kos is a community composed of survivors of childhood sexual, physical, and emotional abuse and those who support them.

Tree Climbers tell our stories, recover, sustain each other, learn about childhood abuse, and discover and create ways to protect children.

Trigger Warning - The next paragraph holds brutal words. Feel free to scroll past it.

In a typical Tree Climbers diary, you might read of someone who survived the grooming (this does not mean hair brushing), the fondlings, the rapings, the beatings, the mutilations or the death threats perpetrated by a sadistic egocentric molester of an innocent. Criminals abuse their victims. For years. Families refuse to believe the victims. For years. Victims report being dead inside. For years. Families and society have stifled the voices of victims and magnified and perpetuated the abuse. For years. We weep. We rage. We heal. We inspire.

We invite you to climb or be lifted up in our safe tree with us. We have broad branches, sunshine, hammocks, cushions, and plenty of tissues. Comment on the diary, ask questions, and share your perspective or even your story. If you are too overwhelmed to speak, you can just witness. That's okay. A few of the Tree Climbers are as silent as a jury.

Tree Climbers Rule: Be kind.

No  T r o l l s. When we were children, we had no power. But we are no longer children. Climbing trees is not healthy for trolls - everybody knows that. If you act like a troll in our tree, we will calmly watch while you become invisible.

On Friday, someone wrote a diary that contained a bit of rape-humor. More specifically it had a very explicit description of a husband anally raping his wife. I was triggered by it, as were several other posters.

Numerous Kossacks came to his defense, telling us that the objections were unjustified, and that the language was  entirely appropriate. We were told that our objections were the result of lacking a sense of humor. This poster (who is actually a journalist, and often on the rec-list) posted a diary today  in which he mocked those of us who were triggered, and characterized us as breaking into "fits of weeping when someone writes a bit of satire", among other things. He mocked Tree Climbers-a group for survivors of sexual violence here on Daily Kos. No apologies for us, he said. Suck it up Francis. As of right now, 10 people have recommended this diary.

TRIGGER WARNING for everything that falls below the squiggle-do.

Here is the paragraph in question:

How many heterosexual men reading this diary right now have never asked their wife or girlfriend to just take a deep breath, relax, "I'll just put in the tip and we'll see how it goes," and then you ram it home like Captain Kidd jamming his sword back into his scabbard while she hollers "takeitouttakeitouttakeitout" and you tell her to just relax and it won't hurt so bad and she starts kicking and screaming "takeitOUTtakeitOUTtakeitOUT youfuckingbastardpieceofshit" and you finally do (because the walls are thin and your neighbors just LOVE calling the cops) and you tell her she should have at least given herself a chance to relax and enjoy it and she (if she's your wife) doesn't let you anywhere near her with "that thing" for weeks and if she's your girlfriend she stops returning your calls?
First, a brief rundown on what a "trigger" is, since not everyone knows. From the National Institute for Mental Health:
What are the symptoms of PTSD?

PTSD can cause many symptoms. These symptoms can be grouped into three categories:
1. Re-experiencing symptoms:
Flashbacks—reliving the trauma over and over, including physical symptoms like a racing heart or sweating
Bad dreams
Frightening thoughts.

Re-experiencing symptoms may cause problems in a person’s everyday routine. They can start from the person’s own thoughts and feelings. Words, objects, or situations that are reminders of the event can also trigger re-experiencing.

So yes, words can be triggers. Contrary to what some have said here, they are not "harmless". And this is what a flashback feels like:

A flashback for me is a feeling like being punched in the gut and having the wind knocked out of you. It is a pervasive sense of impending doom. And you relive a part of the trauma-it feels as real and as scary as the day it happened (note-it does for me at least, I cannot speak for everyone)

I usually see a sequence of 2 images now when I get triggered. I see the chain link fence, overrun by weeds, in the abandoned parking lot where he took me. The cement embankment painted over with graffiti, the trash stuck between the grass and the fence. An empty milk carton. A naked baby doll covered with magic marker. A dirty flip flop. A plastic bag. I focus in on those images-it's a form of meditation. I don't think about what was happening to me while I saw those images anymore-although for a while, it was all I could think about. It's been almost 10 years now. Time does heal.

Yesterday was an exception. Maybe because I'm fast approaching the ghoulish 10 year anniversary of this I'm more senstitive to it than usual. Calendar dates are triggers. Warm weather is a trigger. I have learned to deal with them over time, and am usually good at protecting myself psychologically.

But violent, explicit rape language-especially when it's sprung on me completely out of nowhere (like in a diary that is supposed to be about Marriage Equality) can overwhelm those defenses. In particular, the description of forced sodomy-by far the most traumatic part of being raped for me, and for most others who have experienced it, because it causes you to lose control of bodily functions in a very degrading way-made for a very visceral and unpleasant flashback. And given the work I do, it is very difficult to trigger me like that.

I see a rape reference here at least once a week. Sometimes it's a joke, sometimes it's a metaphor, sometimes it is a colloquialism. Up until recently, I always said nothing. I said nothing because my experience has shown me that it usually leads to nothing good. The person who used the metaphor is almost always either defensive or dismissive, claims I am being over sensitive, lack a sense of humor asserts their right to free speech, or some combination of the above. I'm not sure if this is a byproduct of gender culture- the offending person is usually male and therefore sensitive to any suggestion that he condones sexual violence- or if we have just become so desensitized to rape that the idea that one could be offended by it's usage in that context is seen as histrionic.

This goes beyond Daily Kos. Rape is used to describe a garden variety bad experiences. It is used to describe everything from the trivial ("man, that test really raped me") to the serious ("We are being raped by the big banks") And it is often joked about. In fact, if you google the word "Rape", these are among the first images to pop up:

Another case in point-the movie "That's My Boy", set for release next month, is a comedy romp with statutory rape of a 13 year old boy as the punchline. Here is the trailer:

A friend of mine has a son who was repeatedly sexually assaulted around this age-by a male and a female. She is absolutely distraught about this movie, and the affect it is having on her son who is still very traumatized and confused about what happened to him-in particular the uncontrollable phsyiological responses he had to being abused which fill him with guilt and shame. And she happens to be one of the funniest people I know. She just doesn't find rape to be a particularly funny subject.

Next time you feel like making a joke about something like this, remember one thing-Rape may be an abstract concept for YOU, but for many of us it is a lived reality. Using it as your punch line, your metaphor, or your rhetorical flourish trivializes and obsfucates the meaning of sexual assault, while exploiting the trauma we have experienced. And in the process, it has a high probability of triggering flashbacks and other uncomfortable feelings for someone who has experienced the non-metaphorical form of sexual violence.

And if someone thinks your "jokes" aren't funny, consider the fact that maybe that's because they really, truly aren't.

Cross-posted at The Girl Who Climbed Trees

Originally posted to The Girl Who Climbed Trees on Sun May 20, 2012 at 01:35 PM PDT.

Also republished by House of LIGHTS, Sexism and Patriarchy, Courtesy Kos, and Rape and Domestic Violence.

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