TSA sexually assaults me: When power enforces compliance

Is this an inflammatory statement? Yes.

Is it true? Yes.

At the Transportation Security Administration check points, my thighs are stroked and patted. My breast are fondled. It is violating.

Sometimes, I am asked, “do I have your permission [by TSA agent]?” Coercion is when the “no” is fallacious; it’s a demand. A request has an option for “no.” Choosing “no” means I am very likely to be detained and most definitely I won’t be able to fly to my destination. The accusations and interrogations come with cost. The skepticism formed in questions, such as, HOW one said no and did you say it CLEARLY; so it cannot be confused with your body saying “yes.” Unfortunately, this question seems to be the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd question asked to the person who accuses someone of sexual abuse and violent sexual assault. In my humble opinion, proving an unwanted touch, fondle, or penetration is a very difficult task for the traumatized individual. To show consent was not given is very difficult. Consent is simply defined as giving permission for someone to do something. We practice it daily, mostly without protest, honoring entrance or exit signs of doors. Traffic signs, such as stop, yield, or go, are easily recognizable and mostly followed. For some, the world has shown them that recognizing and honoring others’ human rights and civil liberties is not applicable to them. The social, economic, and status power has insulated them from recourse of their behavior. This is not an individual is issue. This is an institutional malady that this great country is built upon. Here is a recent example of how social, economic, and status power tip the scales of justice.

<strong>Visual representation of the power imbalance</strong>
Visual representation of the power imbalance

Coercion is when the “no” is fallacious; it’s a demand.

Bypassing repercussions with Teflon slickness is Brock Turner. In 2016, Turner was found guilty of three felonies: assault with intent to rape an intoxicated woman; sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object; and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object. Judge Aaron Perskey handed down a 6 month sentence because he is a first time offender. To add insult to injury, Turner’s father wrote a letter with the audacity to publicize, “His [Brock Turner] life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve;” “This is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”

Think about it. Ponder the severity of Brock’s sentence, the commentary of the presiding judge, and the response from Brock’s father. Let’s ponder these events.

Is this unfathomable? Ridiculous? Irrational? Soulless?

Who could think like this? What creates unconscionable treatment of another human being without fear of reprisal? Where and how does this exist? Is this the thinking of the haves stepping on the neck of the have nots? Is there a history of rape, exploitation, confiscating the existence of others? Defining sexual assault as “20 minutes of action” is a result of the systemic injustices that inflates and embellishes character based upon the wealth and diminishes responsibility and accountability based upon what social power one’s status affords them.

Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump, R. Kelly, and Bill Cosby have nearly 200 allegations between them of sexual assault, sexual harassment, child pornography, and sexual assault of a minor. November 3, 2017, the New York Police Department proclaims merely that they have a “credible” accusation of sexual assault.

Language is a reflection of mindset.

Infrastructure of Power

In the last week, Kevin Spacy, Dustin Hoffman, Brett Ratner, and other Hollywood power players have had many allegations of sexual assault and abuse leveled against them. It’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. The issue is that some folks to don’t understand permission and don’t believe there is any harm to forgive. Where is the leverage and incentive to ask for permission? Proof comes in the form of accepted indicating that “she really didn’t want it.” Typically, the presence of bruises, torn clothes, etc. shows more credibility to an accusation. And yet, the most recent report from the National Crime Victim’s Survey [NCVS] shows 39.6 % respondents indicate no resistance and 29% report yelling, running, and arguing. Possibly, this explains the reason that a little over 50% respondents do not seek medical attention. Most respondents of the survey report they were at work (37%) compared to at home (33%). The public shows limited compassionate for those who are not “legitimately” in danger at the time of victimization. Respondents report that repeated victimizations happen with the same attacker more than once 70% of the time, in the same place 66% of the time, doing the same act 78% of the time. Astoundingly, the survey shows 43% of respondents report that abuse still happening.

Compliance is not consent. Compliance is a product of coercion. Coercion is the leverage of power of social, economic, and status to manipulate, exploit, and deny another of the civil liberties and human rights. Acquiescing is not a sign of “asking for it.”

Scarlett, an executive, recollects an incident with a client that her firm was hosting. “I am at dinner with a client. Under the table, he rubs his hand up my thigh. I push his hand away and I laugh it off with a ‘no, no, no.’ I do not want to upset the client or cause a scene. Now, he thinks he can do it again the next time.” Some may ask, why didn’t she tell someone? Why did she not call him out in front of her colleagues or her employer? It’s her fault if it happens again, they say. We all wish the world was that simple, but unfortunately it is not.

Acquiescing is not a sign of “asking for it.”

<strong>Visual representation of the coercion of power</strong>
Visual representation of the coercion of power

Isolation by Stigmatization

Jackie proclaims, “If you tell someone, you are not believed and your work environment becomes unbearable. If you go to H.R., you are labeled a trouble maker and you are blackballed in the industry. If you do decide to file a complaint and attempt to file a lawsuit, an attorney only takes your case if there is a huge settlement on the back end.” Stigmatization is a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. The onus is placed on the individual not the culture of the society to prevent their violation from reoccurring. This is not an environment that supports consent and fertilizes compliance. It is how the system insulates the powerful and influential. This is what power, money, and position offer you. This happens when our systems rewards bad actors for continued perpetration by punishing the person who is attempting to protect themselves.

One says they hurt me. We respond #metoo.

“Disclosure begets disclosure” This is from a white paper that identifies some of the theories of disclosure. There are several ways that the system oppresses voice and uplifts the oppressor. There is another system that is just as powerful when used. This is the power of a community that has shared purpose to ameliorate injustices. A white paper, authored by Sharon G Smith, defines the dyadic effect as an expectation of a vulnerable disclosure is reciprocated with a mutual vulnerable disclosure. This could be one explanation of the phenomenon that has occurred with several people coming forth to share their story. The fear of the shame and blame from others is debilitating if one feels alone with their disclosure. Public scrutiny can intrude into your personal life on several levels and ways. The public at large feels entitled to a public figure’s (regardless of celebrity status) home, work, and personhood. So the comfort to discover that there are others who have the shared experience with the same person empowers a person to advocate for themselves and others. There are several reasons identified for the reason to disclose by victims of sexual assault. Another reason to disclose is to heal. To hold a secret of abuse is burdensome. The relief from disclosing the abuse can be very freeing. Here are some other motivators for disclosure:

1. Support

2. Sharing with others who have had the same experience

3. Disclosure is therapeutic

4. Disclose their experience to be supportive of someone else

5. Protect others from possibility of possible assault

In conclusion, where do we go from here? What is the solution?

Those institutions and systems that are for sale to the highest bidder need to be checked. Those predatory actor need not to profit at the expense of others. This happens through continued revolt and holding these folks responsible. Are you ready? I am.

#consent #consentisimportant #coercion #coercionisnotconsent #sexualviolence #sexualabuse #autonomy #metoo #unite #fightback #blacksexgeek #PDM2018

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