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I Believe You | It's Not Your Fault

i_believe_you.jpg
(Graphic courtesy of Lindy West) | Zoom
I believe you | It's not your fault is a three week old blog created by Seattle writer Lindy West. Lindy writes about feminism and entertainment for Jezebel.com, and she created the Tumbler page after hearing a story from a woman in her writing group.

"Someone told a story about their 12-year-old daughter who has a friend who was being really, severely sexually harassed at school by some boys. She told on the boys and they got in trouble. Her parents are really sort of entrenched in this idea that women should be quiet and obedient. And so what this girl took away from this experience is that she deserved it and that she shouldn't have told. You know, someone told her she's an attention whore and that she dressed provocatively. All of these things that we tell girls."

So Lindy created a place where people can send in their stories about abuse, situations that brought them shame, stories that were not taken seriously or believed, and have them published, anonymously if the writer prefers.

"I'm hoping to make it a place where teenagers and young adults, and old adults, can go to find just a really solid rock of solidarity. You know, other people have been through these things. We're listening to you, we believe you, we're not questioning you and we're not making fun of you. This is just a place where people can share these stories and feel safe."

Lindy says she barely gave the blog any PR, just a couple of tweets from her personal account. But after only a few weeks she's received thousands of letters from all around the world. It seems to be a sign that "I Believe You | It's Not Your Fault" is just what people needed.

"People have waged a deliberate silencing campaign, I would say, to keep women from telling these stories. Not just women, but all victims. Because it's uncomfortable and it's messy and it's not like the movies, it's not like a stranger in an alley. You hear this from politicians, you hear it from media, that there's the real kind of rape and then there are women being hysterical or making stuff up. So I just feel really passionate about that, just as a human being."

Shoreline's Ijeoma Oluo helps Lindy with the blog, and wrote her own letter for the website.

"When I was a kid, I didn't think I could talk about what my uncle and my mom's boyfriend were doing to me. I didn't want to upset my family. I had tried once when I was 10 and it didn't go well. I tried to talk about it again when I was 16 and on the school paper. But my family found it and everyone was crying and asking me why I would say such awful things. I said I was sorry. I took it all back. I went to my room. I swore I would never go through that again. But the thing that kept me going was knowing that I'd be an adult someday. That I'd be on my own and I'd get some space. I hope you know that too."

The blog also has a published Q&A section, and Ijeoma helps respond to questions.

"I actually almost get relief with every submission we get because I know that is someone who's being heard, maybe for the first time in their life," says Ijeoma. "Every time I see this pain coming through in these words, I'm just like, thank goodness that you're reaching out, thank goodness you're here. And I just want to let them know that they're not alone and receive the love that we have to give them."

Lindy says some letters she receives are not ready to be posted on the blog.

"We're trying to be really careful because we're not mental health professionals and we're not legal professionals. If people come to us with really serious, immediate concerns, I don't want to put it up on the blog for public consumption. So I'm responding to those people privately. We also have a big resources page that has contact information for all kinds of different support lines."

The blog welcomes letters from people of all age groups and genders, it is not about women bashing men.

"I spend so much of my time writing about feminism and writing about women and women's experiences," Lindy says. "When you write about feminism thousands of men crawl out of the cracks of the Internet to tell you that none of this is real and that you're overreacting and that women are lying. So this is also kind of a reaction to that. No, we're not lying! Look how many of these stories there are. And look how bad they are. And look how intensely people feel silenced and feel like they can't tell their stories. There's no where safe for them to talk about these things. And then you're going to tell me that this isn't real?"

Rachel Belle, Ron and Don Show Reporter
Rachel Belle is a feature contributor and personality on The Ron & Don Show on KIRO Radio (weekdays 3-7pm), and host of Ring My Belle Weekends (Sundays at 3pm).
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