An introduction by Jessica Felicity Kasiama
The collective body is a cocoon and inside the cocoon is an egg, waiting to become a butterfly. There is a plurality to this egg in that it is the manifestation of the bodies and souls that have been betrayed by a culture of naturalized misogyny and reinforced sexual violence. How do we take care of our butterfly so that it may heal and truly become itself?
The imprint of trauma rooted in sexual violence stretches past time and space. Its history is not contained by a single generation. In the midst of the current #MeToo movement, stories penned by victims of sexual harassment and assault are increasingly emerging into our consciousness. This act of producing visibility is powerful and a call for tangible action. Through the telling of nuanced and individual stories, we may find a way to hold ourselves accountable and negotiate the way that we participate in the silencing of these accounts.
I think that we grow by carving space for the stories that show us what we, as a dominant culture, refuse to see. By acknowledging that there is so much work to be done in the process of implementing actionable and preventative strategies for vulnerable individuals in our communities. By seeing and accepting our privileges and proximity to power, resources and space.
We must protect these stories, care for them as they inch into the world so that they may write themselves at their own pace. As readers, we must take a moment to honour those who are able to come forward to urge us towards collective healing and awareness. The words in this anthology have drawn a map for readers that lead us, implicitly and explicitly, to the deep-rooted causes of sexual violence.
The consequences of taking the life and voice away from the stories that matter are continuous, diffuse and culturally felt. We should approach their contributions with a sensitivity and a desire to read with an open mind. Individual realities do not define the universal reality. The art we make, through our vulnerabilities, is a connective tissue that brings us closer to one another.
We must listen deeply to those who have fought for their stories to be heard. Through them, find the courage to listen to the rhythm of your own voice. And in nurturing these stories, remember that we nurture the collective body that has been infected by cultures of ignorance and oppression. Let us all give birth to this butterfly so it may find its way to heal.