activist spaces, “good” survivorship

“Much has been written in popular feminism about the silencing of survivor/victim narratives of sexual assault. Less attention has been paid to the opposite dynamic, which is the compulsion to speak: In order to receive validation and protection, the survivor is required to tell her story–over and over again, for the education and titillation of an audience of so-called supporters (and, of course, detractors)…She must give of herself endlessly, must be an impeccable ally to all other survivors, no matter how different their experiences may be. Above all, she must get better. She must rise above.” (Kai Cheng Thom “The Salvation of My Sickness”)

How does the model-minority ethos lead Asian American survivors of sexual violence to internalize pressures to be the “good” survivor? How does performing “good” survivorhood prevent silences that are healing? How do we listen to, cultivate space for, and protect these healing silences? 


In organizing spaces, how are Asian Americans conditioned to be model-minority activists and, under the impulse to demonstrate allyship or “wokeness,” how are survivors pressured to follow only narratives that align with larger structures of oppression or domination? Does sexual violence matter if it does not intersect, or even worse, complicate or contradict racial, class, or colonial violence? Do we jettison the personal for the political? When does restorative justice fail us, especially if what is restored is the self-sacrificing Asian American?

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