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Religion is not infallible, and it continually creates space for its leaders to abuse the power that religious interpretations unquestioningly afford them.

[TW/CW: This essay contains discussion of sexual violence, including molestation.] My mom once scolded me for swatting the pastor’s wife’s hand away from my head. She had been intrigued by my intricate braids and lifted her hand to touch them. As she began running her fingers along the length of my hair, I cringed. I don't like to be touched, and this has been true about me for as long as I can remember. I especially don't like to be touched without warning, without my consent, and this is reasonable. My body has an involuntary response to it, like a jolt shooting through me. My cheeks get hot and the skin on my neck begins to crawl. I did not want to be touched by the pastor's wife in that moment, so I used my body to push hers away. I didn't understand the look that came over my mom's face; or rather, I understood what it was, but not why it was there. She was horrified and I was confused. “Don't do that,” she whispered to me through tight lips after when we were no longer in earshot. “It's rude.” I couldn’t have been more than twelve or thirteen. A few years before that, one of my uncles made me stand in front of him in his house and repeat the words, “Jesus is my boyfriend.” This was his way of telling me that I was not allowed to have a boyfriend and he tried to use the name of Jesus and the weight that it carried to scare me into staying “pure.” God and Jesus were the only male figures I was allowed to be intimate with. Believe me, I know how fucking weird this sounds. Even hearing it as a child, I was put off by it. This was a conversation that he had initiated and engaged me in, even though I had expressed absolutely no desire to have a boyfriend, or girlfriend for that matter. When I graduated college, I moved back in with my mom for a while. At this point, I had already left the church and denounced religion, but I didn't have the confidence to tell her. And so, I went to church with her. One Sunday afternoon, she came to me speaking in a hushed tone. The pastor’s wife had told her that they had planned to give me a graduation gift in front of the congregation that day, but they simply could not bring themselves to honor me and my accomplishments because they disapproved of the shirt I was wearing, i.e. my breasts made them uncomfortable.
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The news is dominated by sexual assault, but what about the harassment that fuels rape culture?

By Ally Sabatina With the news cycle being what it is—and that being one with a presidential superpredator at its epicenter—it seems every day brings a new not-so-subtle reminder of the United States’ prioritization of cis men. The very least I can do in all of this is write one piece on this day that shifts the focus for cis men to everyone else and rather than talk about the safety of their social positioning, I strive to highlight at least one element of the human experience that allows one to glean that their privileged social position, and their presumed safety, rests squarely on the assumption that no one else can be as safe—or as protected—as them. So when we talk about the ways in which cis men get to swim through life seemingly unmarred by the bulk of their experiences, we have to talk about those they damage in the process. With a news cycle dominated by sexual assault and its resulting trauma, it pays to shift focus to the covert vehicles in which the patriarchy causes harm, including but not limited to targeted harassment, catcalling, gaslighting and their ilk. While I come from the camp that magnitude cannot prove prevalence, solidarity of shared experience is a powerful drug, so if nothing else, I asked a few friends of mine to document the instances in which they felt harassed and/or micro-aggressed outside of what they would usually discern as their trauma.
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