In the last few years, the stage on which women and men were always expected to prance and perform has changed. Windows are being installed in the wings. The heavy, velvet curtains are being pulled down and the ropes are being severed. The gauze on the lights is being torn or removed so they shine brighter and the ornamental ceiling has wide cracks in the stucco and tears in the paint. All that has been built around us for centuries – patriarchy, gender stereotypes, heterosexuality being the only sexuality, expectations of femininity, toxic masculinity and silence – is crumbling. It is crumbling because of people like the editors of We Will Not Be Silenced.
This anthology, which showcases powerful poetry, prose, essays and art, is the lived experience of sexual harassment and sexual assault. I was given the wonderful opportunity to interview the women who, in response to current events such as Christine Blasey Ford’s courageous stand against Brett Kavanaugh, decided to do more than just support those who share their stories. Christine Ray, Kindra Austin, Rachel Finch and Candice Daquin chose to create a monumental anthology which empowered an array of men and women from around the globe, to shatter the bonds of silence they were told they had to keep. It will no doubt propel the momentum we already feel with movements like #TimesUp and #MeToo and continue to shift power from the guilty many to the innocent many; who never asked for what happened to them.
I asked the editors four questions and below I have edited together their responses. I hope you enjoy reading about their own personal strength as well as their unconditional desire to help others.
We Will Not Be Silenced’ – What does this phrase mean to you?
Rachel: ‘It means Courage, Strength, the Reclaiming of Personal Power & Healing. It means we are not victims but survivors.’
Christine: ‘Breaking the silence and writing about my experiences became critical to my survival. The public backlash from the Kavanaugh hearings also reminded all of us how easy it can be to dismiss a single survivor. We wanted to make a strong statement that we would not continue to maintain a silence that only benefits our abusers and the rape culture that surrounds us.’
Kindra: ‘We Will Not Be Silenced means we have found our voices, and we are going to use them—we will not wait to be asked.’
Candice: ‘By having a movement first with #metoo and now with We Will Not Be Silenced, this has felt like a reclamation or growth, the silence into a unified voice. That voice is saying no, you don’t have the power to silence me anymore. I am going to speak my truth.’
What do you envision or hope the legacy of this anthology will be?
Candice: ‘To be one way by which survivors and their loved ones, as well as anyone affected by sexual assault, can gain acceptance, healing, conversation, openness, through a pure art form.’
Rachel: ‘I hope the stigma concerning this type of abuse will change and that the anthology will help raise both awareness and understanding of how such an experience can affect a person. I hope that those that do know this pain are able to see that they are not alone in their experiences or feelings related to this and know that their voice matters and they need not be silenced as we were. I hope my daughters and sons read every page and see clearly that a person can carry strength even in their quiet but that we do not have to be.’
Kindra: ‘I hope that survivors of assault find strength, validation, and camaraderie within the pages. I would love to see We Will Not Be Silenced nationally recognized for what it is: a call to action.’
Christine: ‘We want to see the Anthology in public libraries, and rape crisis centers, and being read on public transportation. We want to hear non-survivors say, “I didn’t understand until now.” We want this to lessen the isolation of survivors who have not shared their story and help them realize that whatever they are feeling is normal and that we don’t have to stay victims.’
Why is the publication of this anthology important to you?
Christine: ‘The week of the Kavanaugh Hearings was incredibly triggering for me as a survivor. There were times that I felt afraid and literally heartsick at what I read on social media, what I saw on the news. But what I increasingly felt was outrage and anger. I needed to do something creative and productive with those feelings. I needed to connect with others who were feeling the same way and create something bigger than ourselves.’
Rachel: ‘When you have carried a story with no words inside of you for so many years, the telling of it becomes much more than just that. Many of these poems stir deep and painful emotions, at the same time, the collection is both empowering and liberating.’
Kindra: ‘We have to fight way too hard for respect, and compassion, and equality. Survivors of sexual assault live with a stigma projected upon us by the people who should be working toward justice, and making sure we have the support we need to get back to living and not just existing. This publication is important because we want victims to become survivors.’
Candice: ‘For the four of us, this was a necessary response to the climate politically in America and world-wide. Publication of these voices is a validation of their existence and their survival and I truly believe in the power of the printed word.’
You thanked people for trusting you with their pain, their stories and their survival. Can you share the moment when you realized how significant and powerful this project would be for you and many others?
Christine: ‘We only opened submissions for a two-week period and received hundreds of pieces of writing and art in those two weeks. We are still hearing from people who just learned about the project and wanted to submit. It has been incredibly humbling and inspiring to hear from the contributors why it was important for them to participate.’
Candice: ‘This has slowly evolved into something far bigger than any of us could have expected, it speaks for all of us, it contains all of our momentum, frustrations and rage as well as our need for more than we presently have. I truly believe it’s taken on a life of its own and this is exactly what you would wish for as far as any collaborative project goes, although the fierce beauty and courage of these survivors never fails to take my breath away. I am so honored and humbled by the response it just makes me want to do more.’
Rachel: ‘Whilst reading through each piece I found myself with tears rolling down my cheeks for both myself and every survivor that had come forward with their truth and it was during the submission process that I realized this project was significant to many hundreds of people and that together the poetry creates both a powerful depiction of what it is to experience sexual violence and the importance of why we must untangle our vocal chords.’
Kindra: ‘All I know that is that all four of us are awestruck by the strength—the sheer will—and honesty of these beautiful contributors. I’ve collaborated on a lot of projects, but We Will Not Be Silenced is by far the most important and powerful to me.’ – Kindra Austin
The editors want to ensure free copies of this anthology make it into to the hands of the people and organisations who need it most. Visit their Go Fund Me page to learn more about how you can help this movement be one which saves lives and changes history.
Image courtesy of April Yvette