My therapist spent a good portion of today’s session helping me try to find a sense of safety in the world again, in an effort to deal with the memories and experiences I described in my last post. She wanted me to be able to reclaim that lost safety, to find a place in the world where I felt confident and safe and that I wouldn’t be hurt or violated again.
She basically tried to get me to believe that their are good people in the world, that I’m not destined for these kinds of things to keep happening to me, that this isn’t always just going to be my life. She basically went the ‘not all men’ route.
Now, she had good intentions; she was trying to help me rebuild my sense of safety and my confidence and ability to be out in the world. She’s not naive, she recognises the dangers, she knows that there are extremely dangerous men out there, she knows the risks for survivors when predators are around (part of the reason why she wants me to be able to build up my confidence – to get that ‘if you touch me, I’ll rip your balls off’ kinda attitude), she knows that my lack of confidence and timidity is going to make me vulnerable.
That might seem like a negative attitude to take, it might also sound vaguely like victim blaming, but it’s a reality we have to face. Survivors, of all kinds, are vulnerable to further abuse. CSA survivors are vulnerable to trafficking and domestic abuse as teenagers and adults. Rape survivors are vulnerable to other rapists. Predators have this unique talent of spotting potential victims and part of that is our lack of confidence in the world. That is not to say, of course, that our rapes and abuses and traumas are our own fault just because we weren’t confident enough, but it is a vulnerability we have and one that we have to recognise in ourselves and other survivors.
The slight problem with my therapists approach, however, is that I don’t see the world in the form of there just being a few dangerous men out there, I don’t take the ‘not all men’ approach. I’m a radical feminist, so yes, all men are a risk.
And this is where I’m going to struggle. I know I’m going to struggle. I’m not naive, I know that as a woman I am always going to be at risk. I know as a trafficking survivor I am always going to be vulnerable. I know that men are dangerous. I know that even if not all of them are traffickers or violent, hide in the bushes with a knife style rapists, that they are all potentially violent and potentially rapists. (There are more than enough studies that show that men have and will commit rape under certain circumstances; especially if you don’t use the word ‘rape’ in the question.)
I might have a relative degree of safety as a lesbian; I’m not going to be dating men or pursuing relationships with them. I generally live as much of a separatist lifestyle as possible, at least the majority of the time (barring the odd gay men or two who have spent years earning my trust) and my main contact with men is within public life, on the streets, in shops etc.
But this doesn’t give me a full level of protection (especially not taking into account lesbophobia) and it never will. I’ll never be able to have a full sense of safety as I know that all men are potentially a risk. This isn’t just a survivor’s attitude, a survivor’s misgivings and lack of trust; this is a realistic analysis of the world. I’ve been on the violent and abusive side of men, I was always going to have difficulties trusting men and regaining a sense of safety, but trying to do so whilst engaging with radical analysis? I’m not so sure how easy that is going to be.
I know that all men are a risk to my safety; how am I supposed to find any kind of sense of safety in a world where that’s true?