A Note on Savannah Dietrich

It’s been said before, but I need to say it here now: we’ve got to really start talking about rape.  We need to put rapists (criminals, assholes, assaulters, etcetera) on blast every possible time. 


And that’s because the public discussion about rape is far too delicate. So, when a woman speaks out against her attacker, she doesn’t fit the bill of what is deemed as an appropriate rape victim. And just what is a proper victim of rape in Patriarchyland? I’ll let South Dakota’s republican state senator Bill Napoli explain: 

A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.


I know, it sounds like disgusting Twilight erotica, right? I can show you extreme examples of purity-washing survivors of sexual assault and ignoring the “wrong” kind of women, but I’d be preaching to the choir. And furthermore, exclusively talking about crazy people like Napoli is an excuse not to confront the infrastructure that reinforces us in our daily life. So when Savannah Dietrich tweeted the names her attackers she

1.) got into legal trouble, oops

and 2.) subverted the patriarchy in a lasting way: by informing everybody in her community who her attackers were, thus providing more legitimate justice than the justice system was willing to allow her. And she did it a way that not only disempowered her attackers, but empowered herself. I applaud her for speaking out, I hope you do too. 

Because the stigma about rape produces the meekness surrounding our social attitudes towards rape. The silence about rape is why 97 percent of rapists won’t see a day behind bars for it. It’s why 43 percent of rapes will go unreported. It is why when my boss says he “totally raped” the work day, my fellow coworkers can laugh instead of being jarringly reminded of every time they have been fearful and consequently being really bummed out.  It is why the strongest, most clever, badasses I know will only talk about their experiences after a tremendous amount of whiskey. It is why I’m afraid to have similar discussions with any romantic pard’ners (in the past, talking about rape has made boyfriends want to see me as needing them to protect me from shadowy yet ubiquitous rapists, furthermore reinforcing this delicate rape victim narrative). We don’t put the burden on rapists, and we don’t allow victims of crime to be anything more than victims. 

I know that rape doesn’t exist in a bubble, it is a complex, ultimately personal issue. And I totally feel that if a person doesn’t wish to report their rape, they shouldn’t have to. But if somebody does wish to report it, there must be solid avenues to do so. And they only way we can increase that is by speaking up more, by removing the stigma. 

Savannah Dietrich is in the news because she understands how social media works – but she didn’t invent this. This happens every day, in real life. Surviviors of sexual assualt face an extreme amount of victim blaming, few actual resources, and the ultimate blocker to a happy life, The Motherfucking Patriarcy, which promises that speaking up about your assault is a losing fight. I’ll direct you to http://projectunbreakable.tumblr.com/ if you haven’t been, its a really great collection of people speaking out about the things their attacker told them during. 

The more recent trend, it seems, is to turning towards avenues that empower those who have experienced sexual assault. Project Unbreakable, and Savannah Dietrich, to the awesome woman who made a fuss about Daniel Tosh’s monologue (can’t call it a joke, jokes are funny) about rape. I think we have to really ramp up all of this honest talk about rape, because something that happens to one in five college women deserves a frank discussion in conjunction with the already existing “victim’s services.” We must be more than compassionate, we must be loud. 




~ by Hayley Cavataro on July 24, 2012.

3 Responses to “A Note on Savannah Dietrich”

  1. Absolutely! The more we speak out against rape, the more unacceptable rape culture becomes. Thanks for the post!
    -Liza Wolff-Francis, Matrifocal Point

  2. Hayley! You’re back!

  3. […]  To name what has happened, to name the perpetrators.  We saw an incredible example of this with Savannah Dietrich.  And she had everyone shout first their names and then the names of their perpetrators.  The […]

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