so i was going to write a bit about that “violent sex” essay and it being found out now that the survivor discussed in the article had asked mcclelland to stop using her name/story in her writing.
but it’s been a really long day—just now finishing up. so instead I’ll…
you know, there are some things i have been wanting to say about that article as well.
but before i do, i should probably explain some things to folks about myself like:
—i was a journalist and human rights worker in conflict zones inc. the west bank and e. congo
—i have ptsd from that work
when i read that piece, it reminded me so much of how those of who have done that kind of work, that journalist in the midst of it all, it reminded me of how we talk about the work, the place, the people. esp how we talk about it once we have been traumatized and are working through the process of who are we now.
one of the things that seems to be common in war zone worker ptsd is that we become incredibly self centered. we draw lines between ourselves and everyone else as a way to psychologically protect the wounds from getting hurt again. we tell ourselves that our survival is paramount and whatever increases our chances for survival while still allowing us to do our job, is what we have a right to do.
im not saying this is ethical. i am saying this is what happens.
as a staff member for a human rts ngo, i advocated for pulling members who were traumatized out of the zone, and into some r n r and therapy, or whatever they thought they needed at the moment.
what it sounds like to me is that she hit secondary trauma and started tweeting. i almost know what she was thinking. because when that wave of 2ndary trauma hits, i so want to reach for my notepad and start taking notes. it is a way of disassociating from what is going on.
she had no right to do this. she had no right to tell a story that she didnt have permission to tell.
and her descriptions of haiti, the details that she includes, are give a stereotypical, racist, colonialist view of haiti.
and i have a lot of sympathy for why she wrote about haiti that way. because when i was in the congo, listening to rape survivors and their stories, it took a huge amount of effort to consciously NOT tell the story that way. to not tell the story of — these are the images that haunted and will haunt me forever, the violence, the fear, the chaos — without framing the story, the place, the women and men more accurately.
and some of the memorable nights of my life, are a few of us, survivors from working in war zones, sitting around swapping stories. telling the stories raw, from that place of self centered trauma. yeah its kind of like group therapy—with beer.
and if you read the tone of the piece, that is what it sounds like. like she is sitting around after a couple of drinks with a few war survivors and we are swapping stories. and we know we wont tell them to anyone else. and we know that if i say, fuck, after listening to a room full of rape survivors all day, i nearly spat at every congolese man i passed that night. you will know that congo is so so so much more than that. you will know that it is also beautiful, and green, and there was no single story about men or women. you will know this, because you’ve been there too. or you’ve been someplace enough like that. you will know it is complicated and amazing and very very human and tender.
but the problem is that mcclelland wrote those tweets and that story and then published it in a magazine. for public consumption. for people who dont know. and may never know. and she has shown the worst, but didnt bother in this piece to show the best, or the balance, or the humanity of any haitian.
and she violated another woman, another survivor, made her into an object rather than the subject of her own story. on more than one occasion. and put her in danger, all so a writer could exorcise her demons. or disassociate from them.
i dont think she is ‘healed’ from her ptsd. i think she is functional. yes. but if i were on staff, i would have told her to step out of the field until she can tell the difference between her story and k’s story.
listen, i have stories. we all do. stories that have changed my life. that i will never tell you.
stories that are not mine to tell.