I believe you: an open letter on sexual assault

Writer’s note: This piece contains a discussion of sexual assault and related issues which may be distressing and triggering. Though this piece is very important to me, I don’t wish to expose anyone to more trauma with its content. If you feel you can’t read this, just know that I believe you.

Christine Blasey Ford testifying in the U.S. Senate (c. Bloomberg)

No matter how many times I kept telling myself that it wasn’t my fault, that the only person who did anything wrong was him, I felt guilty. I felt so dirty that just by being in the same skin, I couldn’t leave what had happened behind. I was furious — at him for taking advantage of someone 20 years younger, and at myself, for always assuming the best in people.

Only after a few weeks of repeating “it wasn’t your fault” did I begin to believe myself. Only recently have I come to forgive myself for something I was not, am not, and never will be responsible for. This healing was long-awaited and arduous, though it came eventually.

On Saturday night, that same feeling of powerlessness returned as I watched Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the US Supreme Court by a Senate simple majority of 50-48. This vote not only confirmed Kavanaugh, someone against abortion rights and further gun control, to the country’s highest court; it also confirmed that history, society, and even our own elected representatives continue to dismiss and ignore sexual assault. Let me state clearly that I believe her.

Even if Dr. Ford’s testimony was inaccurate, this doesn’t justify Republicans and President Trump as they mocked Dr. Ford and attempted to smear her credibility and humanity, nor the numerous people who have sent her death threats. These actions should be disgusting and intolerable to anyone, but to sexual assault survivors, they are silencing, painful, and terrifying.

For the country, this confirmation will have a lasting impact as Kavanaugh has cemented a conservative majority in the Supreme Court for the next generation. For survivors, Kavanaugh is yet another reminder that our struggles, that we, are not believed — that we don’t matter.

Demonstrators protest against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on October 4, 2018, in Washington. (c. AP Photo / Jose Luis Magana)

I still don’t know what I can do for other survivors that are experiencing the same resurfacing of trauma. However I know this: I believe survivors. I believe us. I acknowledge the truth in our experiences and recognise our unbelievable strength to persist. This shouldn’t have happened to us, nor to the countless other survivors of sexual assault. I understand your pain as it feels like our own experience is being scrutinised and invalidated by politicians and the media. Know that in this moment, there are thousands, if not millions, of us beside you.

This is not a moment, but a movement. Our voices, long silenced by victim-blaming and pathetic excuses for perpetrators, are growing louder and more united. #NoMeansNo, #MeToo, #BelieveSurvivors — the list goes on as this movement relentlessly demands to be heard, even when doing so is painful. While we shouldn’t have to fight for our basic safety and recognition, there is so much power in our truths. There is power in us, including in those survivors who cannot speak out.

Outraged by this injustice and tired of its perpetuation, I write this open letter to remind my fellow survivors of our individual and collective strength, and to be kind and mindful to yourselves during this especially distressing time. I write this to implore everyone to never tolerate, enable, or trivialise sexual assault. I write this to my fellow Americans to urge you to vote next month. I write this in hopes that one day, they will believe us.

If you need support:

The campus psychologist (available on request – email Madame Gravier at alexandra.gravier@sciencespo.fr)

The Student Outreach and Support team (contact us through our Facebook page)

If you are sexually assaulted:

Sciences Po’s sexual harassment monitoring unit: +33 01 45 49 54 00

Police and Gendarmerie: 17

European emergency number (available in English and other European languages): 112

SOS Emergency Team for additional guidance:

If you are eligible to vote in the upcoming US midterm elections and haven’t registered already:

vote.org

Edited by Philippe Bédos & Maya Shenoy

“You Don’t Understand”: Reflections on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooti

On February 14th, 2018 in Parkland, Florida Nikolas Cruz brought an AR-15 assault rifle to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and killed seventeen people. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who has accepted $3.3 million dollars in donations from the National Rifle Association (NRA), offered his constituents “thoughts and prayers” in wake of the shooting.

As an American student, this copy-paste response to tragedy struck me as insensitive, because our representatives truly do not understand.

None of our representatives know what it’s like to be in first grade in Orlando: You’re turning in your homework packets you did while watching Arthur on TV and you hear the announcement: “Lockdown in effect”. Your teacher stays composed as she tells you to shuffle into the corners and away from the windows – under the desks where they can’t see you. She closes the curtains, locks the doors, and turns off the lights. You’re still a little afraid of the dark. Sometimes, at home, when the hallways are dark and the light switch is far away, you call out to your mom until you reach it; a periodic reassurance that you’re safe, you’re safe, you’re safe. With your younger sibling, who can only count to seventeen: you do it in your head while they speak aloud. You shush them – it’ll be fine. But mom is forty five minutes away working. So when the custodian comes to check whether the door is locked or not and shakes the handle so hard you can hear the door hit the metal frame, you struggle to keep quiet. You’re an obedient child; you love to follow rules. You like pleasing the teacher and your peers and your parents. Now, when you have to pretend not to exist as the looming figure’s shadow covers the curtain on the door window, you can’t count to seventeen until it’s over, you can’t call your mom. You can’t make a sound. They will find you.

In first grade you’re scared. In fifth grade you’re a little scared too, because last summer your school had a little break-in. Nothing to worry about, they tell you. But suddenly you become more aware of the metal detectors at the entrance and the teachers standing by the front door making rapid eye contact and greeting you good morning as you come in, checking if you belong here; if you’re armed, if we’re safe. You remember, in third grade, when you of all people – who would rather do reading corner than play during recess, who spent free time drafting a first novel (it was awful) – went to the principal’s office for having your fingers shaped like guns and pointing them at the lunch table. “Were you serious?,” they ask, “Did you want to hurt people?” No, of course not. The teacher who found you – she never knew, let alone taught you – would struggle to make eye contact for a long time. You always felt uncomfortable around the principal. Did she still think about it? How hard did I have to work to prove that I was not a school shooter?

You remember wanting to bring your cool Swiss Army knife to school. You and your neighbors used it when you made arrows and bows and wands that summer when trying to film a Lord of the Rings knock off. You were the only girl, so you played all of the girl roles in your ruffled skirt and magenta blouse set – the coolest outfit in your closet after your fuzzy purple hoodie. Your dad says you shouldn’t take it. He hesitates when he says, “Maybe this won’t be the most appropriate thing for show-and-tell.” It is an entire toolkit smaller than your palm. Without him making the link you realize – it is also a weapon. You’re brown already, you can’t be dangerous on top of that. You can’t remember what you brought to show-and-tell.

It’s scary in ninth grade, when after three years of being away from the States you forget what the sound of a door hitting the metal frame sounds like. It’s just Kevin. It’s just Kevin. He and Mr. Cross were joking together yesterday at lunch. It might be Kevin. You can’t see through the frosted glass. It’s over soon enough.

You remember Sandy Hook, almost two years ago. You weren’t home – in America – for it but you remember Obama crying, and kids your baby cousin’s age, being murdered. You’ve grown up in a post-Columbine world, where it feels like there is a shooting every month – if not more. We’ve had eight this year. It’s not scary in tenth grade or eleventh grade nor in senior year.

By the time you’re nineteen and in college a continent away, you’ve heard about more shootings than you can count or remember off the top of your head. You’re eating breakfast and drinking coffee in your monkey-patterned pajamas while listening to National Public Radio on your phone. You’re giving unfair commentary to Steve Inskeep when he relays that the insensitive “thoughts and prayers” is being spewed at survivors by politicians instead of the promise of change and solutions. And then they talk about how old the shooter was and how old the victims were and you think for the first time since Sandy Hook: a man has killed children; babies. This is the first time since Sandy Hook that you remember so distinctly being older than these victims.

You snap back into frustration soon enough – they play a sound clip where the President talks about mental health and fortifying mental health services to prevent these tragedies. Suddenly you’re mad. NPR, being the best, ends their segment with the fact that those with mental health issues are far more likely to be the victims rather than perpetrators of violence. This is why you and so many like you were afraid to reach out when you really needed it. Would they see you as unhinged? Or, even worse, threatening? A depressed brown girl is always more concerning than a precocious student. You cannot go back to being that little kid in the principal’s office. You have it together.

Though, now you’re an ocean away and safe and not judged, all you can think of is what that kid told Rubio. You want to shake your phone and scream it at Congress. You don’t understand.

You don’t understand that I grew up in a world where gun violence is an ever-present reality. Where we always thought, ”this could be us- this could have been us.” I don’t, and hope I never will, understand what it is like to survive a shooting. However, unlike Senator Rubio, I have grown up terrified of them.

This was my status quo: fear. Not the unfounded fear of monsters under my bed. No, the fear of being shot and killed in some fatalistic gamble.

These kids and adults were killed before they could before they could do any of the things they wanted to – lead the lives they were entitled to. And they were killed by guns. Guns are killing people. Mental illness is not the weapon – guns are. You are helping neither those suffering with mental illness nor gun violence by blaming it on this false and unfounded cause.

You are killing children by absolving guns.

This is how I grew up. This was an indelible part of my childhood – and I refuse to let my children live in fear.

Maya and her brother on the way to school

Maya Shenoy as a child

Maya Shenoy is a first year student in the Sciences Po and Columbia University dual degree based in Le Havre. She was born in Florida and raised in Delaware.

Edited by Paxia Ksatryo and Alex Kloß

(Not) in the Mood for Love?

Valentine’s Day: a taste of “la vie en rose” for some, a day full of cringe for others.

This Feb 14th – whether you’re ridin’ solo or cuffed – Le Dragon Déchaîné has you covered! Here are two playlists – one sweet and the other not-so-sweet – for both the lovestruck and those who bemoan your unnecessary PDA. Treat yourself (and perhaps your partner) to some holiday-appropriate jams. Hope you get up to some rom-antics!

01. valentine

For the unapologetic romantic, we present a collection of love-themed tracks. Ranging from the dreamy ballad to the heavy love confession, this playlist has got you covered – or not!

Open on spotify here

Cover by Marcus Cheah

02. enitnelav

Whether from its cliché or from an emotional sting, Feb 14 isn’t everyone’s box of chocolates. These songs will get you in the (anti-)mood: of heartbreak, apathy, or cautious optimism.

Open on Spotify here

Cover by Yilan Ling

Srivatsan Anand, Leesa Ko, and Maya Shenoy make up the music section of Le Dragon Déchaîné. Listen to their latest playlist on our music tab here

Time Away

Find the full playlist on spotify or listen to it on our website here to follow along aurally.

As much as I have been enjoying my life in Le Havre, some time away was in order.

Since college life hasn’t permitted me much time for introspective contemplation, I decided to travel alone for fall break. In fact I went 3 days without a conversation. To fill this silence and thereby prevent my absolute dissociation from the world, I listened to a handful of songs on repeat which I will include here so as to immerse you in my state of mind.

Day 1

“Don’t Come Home Today” by Good Morning

After barely making my train, most of my first day of travel was spent reading Murakami and trying to figure out what the hell I’d be doing for the next 4 days. Arriving in Brussels, I realised that this was my first time truly alone, a feeling that was just as much empowering as it was nerve-racking.

Exhausted from a day in transit, I only briefly walked around the city to get my bearings for the next day.

Day 2

“Hiding Tonight” by Alex Turner

This morning set my week-long habit of getting breakfast at quiet, cozy cafes and taking an hour or two to savor my coffee over a book, a real juxtaposition to my usual routine of scarfing down my morning oatmeal before 8 a.m. French.

After, I headed to the Musée Old Masters, and spent a while wandering through its ornate galleries before sitting down to gape at the Wes Anderson-esque grandeur of the building itself.

Then after sitting in a park to contemplate life’s questions over a cigarette, as one should, and visiting the Musical Instrument Museum, I ended up in a tearoom for my final moments in Brussels before getting on a train to Amsterdam.

“It’s Alright” by Horsebeach

Perhaps to assuage my anxiety over the fact that I was on my train without a ticket (damn you, non-mobile tickets), I listened to the song above in an attempt to convince myself that “it’s alright, you won’t get kicked off the train into the darkness of the Belgian countryside”. Thankfully, I made it to Amsterdam in one piece, tracked down my beloved falafel for dinner, and passed out on my hostel bed.

Day 3

“Lights Out, Words Gone” by Bombay Bicycle Club

On this day I was blessed by a free sinfonietta concert featuring works by Debussy and Satie at the Concertgebouw, followed by an incredible visit to the Stedelijk Museum of modern and contemporary art, just across the road. Though it was my first time in Amsterdam, I couldn’t help but feel at home strolling through the art museum, as I had often spent my weekends doing the same when I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area.

After an arts-filled morning, the rest of the day was spent getting lost in Amsterdam’s iconic canals, indulging in street food and paying visits to the city’s euphemistically-named “coffeeshops”.

Day 4

“The Noose of Jah City” by King Krule

Greeted by a foggy and slightly chilly morning, I made my way to Hortus Botanicus, one of the world’s oldest botanical gardens dating back to 1638. Though still in the city center, I felt refreshed being surrounded by such lush greenery, something that our beloved Le Havre could do with a bit more for my liking.

After a filling lunch over several chapters of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, I spent my final hours in Amsterdam going to, you guessed it, another museum. On this afternoon I went to Foam, a museum dedicated to photography, and after, grabbed a pint with someone from my hostel before my lovely 7 hour overnight bus ride back to Paris.

Back in Le Havre

“Home at Last” by Homeshake

In retrospect, my days away were just what I needed. Besides serving as a break from a hectic first semester of university, it was a time of reflection and self-examination, something I think we can all reap the benefits of in this developmental and ever-changing period of our young lives.

With that, I leave you with two reasons why you should solo-travel:

  1. it’s truly an experience of self-discovery and acknowledgement
  2. you are completely independent as you make every decision. In other words, I got to eat stroopwafel three times in one day without hearing anyone complain.

“Checkin’ Out” by Sales

L.K.

Find the full playlist on spotify or listen to it on our website here.

Leesa Ko is a first year American student enrolled in the Sciences Po Paris, Campus du Havre and Columbia dual degree.

Edited by Paxia Ksatryo and Pailey Wang.