Monday, March 18, 2013


Hilary Clinton was the Secretary of State in the United States of America.

Sonia Sotomayor sits on bench in the highest court in the land.

Oprah Winfrey ruledaytime television for 25 years and remains a powerful entrepreneur.

Dilma Rousseff is president of Brazil.

Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberian democracy campaigner Leyman Gbowee, and Yemeni's women's rights activist Tawakkul Karman were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011,  for their exemplary  nonviolent struggle  for women's  rights and the safety of women.

Yahoo, Facebook and Xerox all boast women in powerful positions at the helm


A inebriated 16- year-old woman in Steubenville, Ohio was carried from party to party and raped repeatedly by athletes.  No bystanders came to her aid.  Images and mocking videos quickly appeared on social media. (See/hear related NPR story.)   

Her voice was silenced.

In New Delhi, India a 23-year woman riding a bus on the way to the movies was gang-raped by 6 men and subsequently died.

Her voice was silenced.

A similar rape of a 29 year -old woman occurred as she road the bus to her northern Punjab village just a month later.

Another silenced voice.

We hear numerous stories of university and high  school women being drugged and raped.  They are not always encouraged by friends and family to speak out, not often urged  to confront, report and prosecute.

                                                     You will face embarrassment. 
                                                    You will embarrass the family. 
No one will believe you. 
It is his word against yours
What did you have on?
Well, you had sex with him before.
He isn't that kind of person.
You were not a virgin.
                                                     We don't believe you. 
These were the responses faced by women I knew personally when I was younger.   
These responses have changed little in 2014. 

The responses are not always meant to be malicious--more often they stem from ignorance and belief in long standing myths about rape and rape victims.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, is the story of a young woman silenced by rape. She finds her voice through art and ultimately, in confronting her rapist and speaking out.

On the tenth anniversary of Speak, Laure Halse Anderson wrote a powerful poem composed completely (except for the first and last stanza)  of words from the many letters she received from women whose stories echoed... and mirrored the responses and feelings of Speak's protagonist.  
Click  to listen to Anderson read her poem.
Click to read her poem.

Telling her story, raising her voice, using her unspoken power is what ultimately saves a rape or abuse victim.  

Ellen Johnson -Sirleaf's reconciliation and peace-building efforts in Liberia, in addition to providing jobs for poor and other social reforms, are also creating a space for women to tell  their stories of rape and abuse.

Do you know someone who had been raped, sexually assaulted, or abused?

There are a multitude of resources available online that may be helpful to her, and to you as you encourage her.  Along with the local resources in your own community, the two websites below may be good places to start:

RAINN: Rape Abuse& Incest National Network

How can we provide spaces for telling our stories and the stories of other women?
How can we raise our own voices? 

How can we use our unspoken power?

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

Think about time you or someone you know was silenced.

Write a personal narrative recounting the story.

Now think about a way to raise your voice in this situation.  How can you make a change? Who can help?  You  may want  to write a speech to address the issue or a letter to someone involved.

You may want to create a dialogue or scene rewriting the events or circumstances so that this time you do speak up.

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