Content Warning: This blog post concerns rape and subsequent trauma. Descriptions are non-graphic, but subject matter is heavy.
When I was 13 years old, I was raped.
I am older now. I sit in debate rounds and listen to aloof debaters rattle off statistics about sexual assault. That’s me. That might be you too, but that’s me. In a moment, I glaze over, then panic, then relive. I wasn’t ready. Lots of thoughts, and also somehow none, are in my head. The worst day of my life doesn’t belong in this round.
I write and read cases about sexual assault. Sometimes they suck, but sometimes they’re really good. I think I can handle it, I can’t. They never get broken. They sit in my google drive, abandoned.
I sit in online debates, some of them livestreamed, frozen. Is it more obvious, I wonder, to pick up my phone and text to opt out or to turn off my camera? I choose between my safety and showing people my worst day. Maybe people think that I’ll do anything to win a round, because I have to explain in detail what I am and am not comfortable with, and rationalize whether or not I can say that based on other rounds I’ve had. “I am not comfortable with any descriptions of sexual assault. I will not be able to effectively debate it.” My hand is shown. More people know.
I do prep. There are words blacked out of some cards in my blockfile. I don’t check, but I know what they are. People tiptoe around things with me. I am seen differently, perceived differently. I require accommodations to exist in this space because of something I can’t talk about.
In my lowest moments, I open up. Trauma that I haven’t shared with my parents, my siblings, or my closest friends gets poured into the lap of my debate coach. I adjust the way I expect the world to perceive me. I cannot be myself anymore. The state of this space takes that luxury from me.
I hear rumors, allegations, and names. Too many people treat these issues like gossip - they’re triggers. A pairing puts me in a haze. I know too much.
I beg of you, find kindness and critical thinking. You may not think we are here, but we are. Read these advocacies, sure, but find it in your heart to read a content warning. I understand your skepticism, but find it in your heart to not press people who opt out.
I understand and even empathize with the idea of standing for people in my shoes by repeating names and allegations, but proceed with caution. Unless there is a genuine safety concern, the last thing I want to hear is that the judge I’m about to have is a rapist. I won’t go.
I am more than my high school debate career, and so are you. So are all of us. Unfortunately, so is this. When I was 13 years old, I got raped — and no debate success will ever be a bigger part of my life than that. I guess that’s the point; this is so much more than norm setting or the future of this activity. Don’t get me wrong, norms matter! Breaking at x or y tournament matters! This matters more. You don’t have to radically change anything; I’m only asking you to be kind. Approach conversations and concerns about this topic with kindness, not skepticism.
You will make people safer. People like me will notice your kindness, and we will appreciate you. If nothing else, you’ll develop a healthier relationship with debate.
The author is anonymous, but competes in PF on the national circuit.
Note: The Beyond Resolved blog reflects the ideas of individual authors and not necessarily of the organization as a whole.