Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Abuse, media and fame

A controversial issue was raised by the Norwegian artist Marianne Aulie, when she, on the air, named two well known Norwegian males who attempted to drug and rape her 14 years ago.

The men in question can not be charged with anything today, it's too long ago. Marianne Aulie still felt she needed to name them in public. This has met some very aggressive reactions, but the men in question do not wish to press charges.

One of the interesting side issues of this was how the newspapers made a big deal out of the fact that some feminists do not choose to support Aulie's claim that she as a feminist needed to come forwards with her experience. What does that have to do with it? Is being a feminist being part of a club where I have accepted that some people have the right to speak for me? And I mean both sides of the issue in this case: I want to speak for myself, both when it's about sexual abuse, and when it's about what other people should say about sexual abuse. Neither Aulie or "certain feminist editors" have that right.

When that's said - this is a complicated issue. Should she speak or should she not? A Norwegian editor who initially supported Aulie's openness had her name blown up all over Norwegian media to the point that it became too problematic for her to maintain the support. Martine Aurdal had to publically recall her support of the act, and say she regretted saying it was "tøft" or "cool" to speak out.

Marianne Aulie is a hypersexualised artist. She knows her very good looks sells, so she uses it for all it's worth. More power to her. I am sure she can deal with her fan letters admirably, no matter what they contain. But we all have a limit, and too many have a story that was never told.

Aulie's story is about a party where she was too drunk or too drugged. Suddenly she was alone with two men. When she tried to leave by jumping from the fourth floor balcony, they stopped her and got a taxi. The taxi didn't take her home, but to the apartment of one of the men. When he left her alone there for a while, she managed to escape. She was just past 20 years old at the time.

Who wouldn't be troubled after an experience like that, no matter if she was drunk or drugged? Why shouldn't she talk about it now? OK, so she might have chosen the wrong moment, slander is illegal, but so was what she perceived had happened to her. And this kind of thing festers. It may appear to be unproblematic, but suddenly something happens, and everything you think you had supressed blow up in your face. It's a classic pattern.

Marianne Aulie might manipulate the media heavily with her good looks and her dramatic appearance. She might count on the shock value of revealing what happened to her, and she might expect the news to make her work sell better with the publicity. But I don't think these things make her stupid. I think she knew what she did when she named names, I think she knows what she experienced that night, and I don't think it's my (or anyone else's) job to take the decision of pointing fingers away from her.

Perhaps she'll get in worse trouble for it. Perhaps she'll find herself shut out of the artist communities and denied access to the media for having used her fame and access in order to spread slander. Perhaps she'll find that she is now old enough and strong enough to tell, and live with the consequences of what she has experienced and what she has done. I think Marianne Aulie may not be a brilliant tactician, but she has the right to commit her own errors. She is a grown woman, and has the right of her voice.

1 comment:

Martine Votvik said...

Hello, fellow Norwegian here, but I'll stick to the language you're using.

Just wanted to say (bit overdue) that I very much agree with what you wrote about this issue, it conveys pretty much what I wanted to write myself but couldn't.

Just wanted to add, what Aulie did and the way she did it might, even if not intended (and certainly not perceived that way by the public), give new validation to the many women out there with tales untold, showing them that it is never too late to be brave. Even if they don’t support the way she did it.

Somebody close to me found courage in this story and was able to come forth with her own rape story, a story she had kept quiet for over 20 years. She had gone around feeling like it was no point to ripping old wounds open, feeling like it was something trifle and unimportant. But when she heard about Aulie something broke inside her and she knew that it was never too share the burden.

What those stories have in common is that neither women have any chance to ever get any legal justice at this point, the cases are simply too old. But these burdens grow heavier each year you keep them shut up inside you and the reason you keep it is because society and growing up has thought you that this shame is yours to hold.

Heavy secrets grow lighter for each person you let know, and they evaporate when you confront them.

Showing people how brutally it can be done.

I hope it helped a lot of others to be brave at last.