3.8
June 22, 2011

Raped by a rapist. No sex involved.

Photo: John Fisher

When I saw an article about the first SlutWalk, in Toronto, it spoke to me on a deep level.

As a lifelong feminist who constantly rebuffed the term because of the anger and separatism I felt it implied, I had been “looking” for a feminist movement that celebrated the strength of women in a way that was uniquely feminine. I know that’s a controversial statement, but I came of age in the era in which being a feminist felt like a call to be more like men. And I am a girlie girl, through and through.

At the same time, I am a rape survivor who now focuses all of my energy advocating for women to get involved in their own sexuality. I just launched a business focused entirely on helping women discover their own unique sexuality and live it in an empowered and playful way.

When I first heard about SlutWalk, it tickled me in a very powerful way, and I wrote a couple pieces about why. When I heard it was coming to Seattle, I contacted them immediately and asked what I could do. When it was suggested that I’d be a great speaker, I said, “of course I would.”

Except for one thing. I am terrified of public speaking. I am terrified, in many ways, of just speaking, even in small groups. I am painfully shy. That’s what makes me a brilliant writer. With the safety of words on a screen and the gigantic separation of the entire Internet between my readers and I, I feel safe. I am the most socially awkward person I know.

But this matters. I was given an opportunity to illuminate some ideas that I think will change the world, I was not going to blow it. Armed with good friends, and a shot of tequila, I stood before thousands and bared both my body and my soul to discuss my own violent rape, and why I know it was not my fault. More than that, what we as a society can do to stop rape, stop blaming victims and stop shaming victims.

Most importantly, why creating a society of sexually empowered women might be the most important thing we can do to end violent crimes in which sexual organs are used as a weapon.

If you’d prefer to skip the intro, fast forward to 02:04.

It’s worth watching the speech, to see what can happen when passion and conviction overtake fear. Even I was blown away when I watched it. It was totally different than what I had rehearsed, but I was impressed with my own courage, and the clarity of the message:

  1. The only person responsible for rape is the rapist.
  2. Society needs to remove the shame of surviving rape from the victims and turn it into shame for committing rape, for the rapists.
  3. There is no sex in rape. Sex involves consent. Rape is a violent crime that has nothing to do with consent, or sex.
  4. By becoming empowered in our sexuality we can make the point that rape and sex are not the same thing.

I was so honored to be part of this movement. But it is now more clear to me than ever before that we have a long ways to go. We need to speak out and speak up. We need to be proud and loud. We can be as sexy as we want, but we cannot condone violence in any form. Especially not violence that uses our own bodies as weapons against us.

It starts with us.

With my parents + daughter after the speech was over. Photo by Sarah Anne Lloyd:

About the author.

Alyssa Royse is a founder of NotSoSecret.com, a site dedicated to empowering women to discover their own sexuality. A writer by both passion and profession, she has worked in marketing, PR, education, theater and in the non-profit world. She was the founder of JUST CAUSE Magazine, an all-digital magazine dedicated to social change – before people knew what digital magazines were, making it an altruistic and unintentionally non-profit venture. Fast Company named her one of the top 50 entrepreneurs in the world, and PR News said she was one of the best PR professionals under 35. She is constantly writing, about all sorts of things, most of which you can read about on her personal blog, AlyssaRoyse.com. You can follow her on twitter @alyssaroyse.

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