Wrap Around the Capitol, 2016

Attendees gathering together at the annual Wrap  Around The Capitol event at the Wisconsin Capitol building. The event is sponsored by Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Photo by Callen Harty.

Attendees gathering together at the annual Wrap Around The Capitol event at the Wisconsin Capitol building. The event is sponsored by Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Photo by Callen Harty.

I was invited to speak at Wrap Around the Capitol, an annual event sponsored by the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This is what I chose to say:

Thank you to WCASA for sponsoring this wonderful event and for inviting me to share a few words with you today.

We are here today and we are using denim as a symbol because several years ago a sexual assault conviction was overturned by a panel of judges in Italy. The judges believed that a rape victim must have consented to the encounter. They said her jeans were so tight that the man who assaulted her could not have gotten them off without her assistance. Let that sink in for a moment. The judges believed that a rape victim consented to and assisted in her own rape. This is the type of victim blaming that we see every day across this country and across this world. It is not acceptable.

The questions should not be why were you wearing that, why did you drink so much, why did you let him, but why do we live in a place in which those kinds of questions are even asked? Why do we live in a society in which the victim is all-too-often blamed and the perpetrator walks? Why do we live in a world in which there is tacit acceptance of the right to violate the bodies of others? Why do we question the person who was assaulted and never ask why anyone thinks it’s okay to do anything to someone else’s body without their consent?

This is my body; no one has a right to it without my okay. No one. Ever. Period.

I am here today as a survivor of nearly eight years of child sex abuse. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t want it. I didn’t enjoy it. And I am not to blame for the sickness of others. I am here today because I am working to ensure that what happened to me and to that woman in Italy doesn’t happen to anyone else. No one. Ever.

I am here to raise my voice so that those who work inside the Capitol will hear me roar, will hear you roar, and will do what they can to ensure that sexual violence ends. Recently they passed the victim accompaniment bill, which was a great step forward. But they failed to pass Erin’s Law. They failed again to pass the Child Victims’ Act. They failed to hear our voices in all their diversity and fullness. There is more work to be done and we need to let them know that we will not rest until they finally do hear our voices and act upon it. We will not rest until there are no more victims of sexual assault. No more. Ever.

Thank you again for coming. Wishing all of you the best, in peace and love.

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About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Both are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he has been an actor, writer, and director since 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events.
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