How to Offer Support for Loved Ones Who Have Been Sexually Harassed or Assaulted

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From SFU.ca

Sexual harassment and assault happen more often than you think. It’s just that survivors stay silent for fear of not being believed.

Whether you’re reeling from the outpouring of sexual predation accusations in Ateneo or the Brett Kavanaugh trial re-triggered awful memories for you/the people you love, I’ve put together a little primer for the friends and loved ones who would like to help and support someone who underwent such a terrible experience (sometimes more than once).

DOs

  1. Assess your own emotions and state of mind first. So you’ve heard the news that someone you care about was harassed or assaulted. Is it perhaps making you go through the stages of grief? Are you perhaps a survivor too, re-experiencing your own traumatic event after hearing about what someone you know went through? All these feelings are normal. They serve as your gauge as to whether or not you can be of any help at this moment in time. And if you can’t be? That’s perfectly all right. There’s a reason why airplane emergency procedures tell you to put your oxygen mask over yourself before helping anyone else–take care of yourself first.
  2. Always ask them what they need first. This one particularly applies to assault survivors. If you can be there for them physically and you happen to be affectionate, ask them if it’s okay for you to touch them. The assaulted often feel disempowered from make their own choices; you’ll be doing them a kindness by letting them decide your interactions. After this, ask them how you can help: do they need someone to drive them to the doctor? A listening ear? Someone to research a specialist? Someone to help them write down and file a complaint? Would they rather not do any of the above and just need the company of someone they trust? Or are they simply too drained to perform normal activities under circumstances, such as eating, drinking water, calling to pay the bills, and so on? Help them with whatever they need to the best of your abilities.
  3. If you don’t know what to say to them the first time you hear of their story, you can use any of these phrases. If you’ve decided to reach out to them, know that it is terribly easy to say the wrong thing. These phrases will not only deepen their trust in you. Some are keys to helping them release their emotions. They are: “You’re not alone.” “It’s not your fault.” “I believe you.” “I’m sorry that happened to you.” “That should never have happened to you.” “I’m here to help in any way I can.”
  4. Figure out what kind of help you’re willing and able to offer. This is especially great once you’re reassured that your loved one has people in their support network who are already helping them do the heavy lifting, but you’d still like to be of some help. Not someone who’s good at holding or listening to difficult conversations? Do you not have the time or mobility to be physically there for your friend? Pictures and videos of cute animals, as well as care packages, are always welcome. Even if it’s just a link to a funny meme, your loved one will be heartened to know that you’re thinking of them. As an example, batchmate of mine whom I’d never really spoken to in person recently reached out to me, admitting that they are not good at the above mentioned things, and yet she sent me a link to a philosophy video. And though I honestly have yet to watch it, I was really moved by her wanting to help me.
  5. Remember that your loved one will need support for the long-term and not just for the next few weeks and months. Don’t forget to check up on them from time to time. If they still don’t want to talk about what happened, spend time with them anyway. Help them around the house or arrange for a hangout or vacation somewhere new.

DON’Ts

  1. Don’t make their experience about you. This is why it’s important to check your own emotions and state of mind, first. You may feel tempted to deny that this ever happened to your loved one, because your anger and guilt at having been unable to protect them overwhelms you. You may feel a reflexive impulse to doubt their experience and defend their attacker/harasser because that person treated you very well in the past, and it is difficult for you to reconcile the attacker/harasser’s two sides–or that you may have never really known that person at all. You may even want your loved one to keep quiet because you either can’t stand the idea that you may have been complicit in a system of abuse OR you feel that their speaking up will ruin your reputation or the reputation of the group you both belong to. If you experienced something similar yourself, their own experience may even make your identity feel threatened because you brushed off your own experience the first time and don’t like thinking of yourself as a victim. You’re not to be blamed if these feelings are your first impulse–the important thing is that you do not act on them. Focus on your loved one, their experience, and the fact that you pledged to support them no matter what.
  2. Don’t assume you know what’s best for them–and order them to do it. Let’s say you’re in their corner all the way. You set a meeting with them in a cozy cafe, pay for their order, and tell them to tell you their story–or if they don’t want to talk about it, you start telling them to go see a therapist, start filing a report, and so on. Recognize that these are all what you think you would do in such a situation. Though these are all good deeds in and of themselves, you haven’t asked them how they would like to be treated and what they would like to do moving forward. As a result, you’re putting unnecessary pressure for them to move on and therefore indirectly invalidating their experience. Let them decide how, when, and where they would like to manage their own pain.
  3. Don’t put a deadline on their healing process. You don’t ask a cancer patient when they will be healed. Similarly, you don’t ask a survivor when they’re going to get over what happened to them. If you do, you’ll put unnecessary pressure on them–and they’ll start to think they’re broken or abnormal if they don’t meet the “deadline.” As mentioned above, supporting the sexually harassed/assaulted means being in it for the long haul. Understand and accept that their experience will have changed them, but you don’t have to alter your relationship with each other for the worse with this kind of reaction.

Sources:

RAINN.org

PsyCom.net

– Me, a sexual assault survivor

Documentary Review: ‘The Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin’

When established actors, musicians, writers, and other people of note die, many people get on social media and write so many words to elaborate on their broken hearts and flowing tears.

There have only been two such people for me–Terry Pratchett and Ursula Le Guin.

I’d always dreamed of meeting them, Ursula especially, and now I never will. So I had all the more reason to look forward to this documentary, which I backed on Kickstarter some time ago. Well, the backers-only link dropped last week and I got my chance to watch it earlier today.

https://youtu.be/AqH3nqXqlgs

The documentary is a thing of beauty, well worth the money I spent in order to help bring it into existence. You can tell that it was made with love: from the evocative music to the startling animation to the in-depth discussions of some of her best-known work (the four Earthsea books, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossed, and “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”) to the well-shot scenes of Ursula giving readings, discoursing with her husband, walking on the beach. It’s also a brief look into the fierce, clear, intelligent mind of Ursula Le Guin. Honestly, I didn’t want it to end. I’d recommend this documentary to those who’ve always loved her work and those who are just beginning to discover it.

There was just one rub.

The documentary was interspersed with interviews with not just her close family, but with other writers–some of whom were her contemporaries, such as Margaret Atwood and Vonda McIntyre, but most of whom were her younger colleagues. The latter included Neil Gaiman, David Mitchell, and China Mieville.

And I have to say, it irritated me that a documentary that gave so much focus to Ursula’s struggle–to write more heroic female characters and to identify with the feminist movement despite being a wife and mother in the 70s–interwove that section with comments from three male writers. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Gaiman, Mitchell, and Mieville had more screentime than any of the other interviewees, including Ursula’s husband and children. I’m pretty sure that Margaret Atwood, whose work is as thought-provoking and as genre-redefining as Ursula’s, had less than a minute of talk time altogether.

One particular scene that struck me was Neil Gaiman saying that he considered it an honor to present Ursula with the National Book Awards medal. I mean, I’d consider that an honor too, but there was something about the way that was presented that made me think, “Why do we need the affirmation of a famous male writer to underscore how important Ursula and her work is to science fiction and fantasy?”

All in all, it’s still a pretty damn good documentary, one that rightfully–and joyfully!–celebrates the life and work of a giant of literature. It’s also a fitting farewell.

Publication Day: ‘Call of the Rimefolk’ and ‘Blushing Blue’

Some good news at least 🙂

Philippine Speculative Fiction 11, which has my week 4 Clarion story and first-ever sci fi tale “Call of the Rimefolk,” is now available on Amazon, iTunes, and Kobo! If you like solarpunk Manilas, gay interplanetary romances, and psychic ice snakes from Pluto, you’ll like this story 🙂

And I’m a little late on this one, but Broad Knowledge: 35 Women Up to No Good funded on Kickstarter! This one has my week 5 story, “Blushing Blue”–a tragic tale of Category 5 storms and tattoo magic.

Episode 209 – Narcissism (with Tade Thompson)

Go have a listen to Tade’s story!

“When you write a story about aliens, you are actually writing about people who are not like you.” Author Tade Thompson joined me on the podcast this month to talk about comic books, cons, and unconscious bias. Tade is the author of the novella The Murders of Molly Southbourne, and the novels Making Wolf and Rosewater. 

In the episode we talk about the amount of sympathy a reader has, and whether you can truly know people. At the end of the episode, Tade reads a brand new short story set in the Rosewater universe, inspired by a prompt.

Tade Thompson on twitter

Unthology 10

Not so Stories

Note: The audio on the episode isn’t great, my apologies for that. Also, some of you may notice that episode 208 isn’t in your feeds. Due to scheduling it will be released a little later in the year.

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One Last Time: Support for Our Final Issue

I have a story in this final issue! Please donate to see it in print!

LONTAR

LONTAR needs your help one last time.

Just as with issue #9, the National Arts Council has declined to financially support issue #10 with a publication grant, meaning that we are on our own once more to raise the funds to even get the issue to print.

Y’all came through for us before, and I’ll need to ask for your generosity again.

L10 is our double-sized final issue, with around 80,000 words of original fiction and poetry, as well as a brand new comic story from Eisner-nominated artist Drewscape and a full-page illustration by internationally celebrated graphic novelist Sonny Liew.

Because of the increase in content, we will need to raise at least $2,500 USD to cover our costs for the issue (with $4,000 USD needed to use full-colour printing for the artwork).

The deadline is at midnight SGT on 27 March 2018. This gives us two weeks.

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Why So Many Men Hate the Last Jedi But Can’t Agree on Why

I still believe Rose and Finn were out of left field, but this article is spot-on anyway.

Bitter Gertrude

leia.connix.leibovitz Carrie Fisher and her daughter, Billie Lourd, as General Leia and Lieutenant Connix, in a PR shot for The Last Jedi taken by Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair

NOTE: Many spoilers.

My feed (and yours, I presume) has been filling with people, mostly men, denouncing The Last Jedi for all sorts of reasons. Here are a few I compiled out of my own feed over the past week:

It’s too draggy and long
It’s too fast-paced
It is magically both draggy and fast-paced
It’s too much about one family
It’s not about family
The plot is terrible
The plot is fine but the acting is terrible
The plot and acting are fine, but the pacing is terrible
The plot, acting, and pacing are fine but the characterizations are terrible
It needed more humor
It needed less humor
It needed a different kind of humor
Not enough character development
Too much…

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