Reshaping Life Narratives

Recently, our campus has been filled with talks of multiple sexual assaults especially as UBC was picked up earlier this semester on national news in the Frosh rape chant scandal of the Business School, and adding on to the fact that the assailant is still on the loose. Throughout the daily lives of us students, these stories and the reaction to the assaults have escalated to many different approaches including forms of a feminist rally, “TAKE BACK THE NIGHT UBC” to the responses of the RCMP and the campus security. But more recently, the victim of the second assault came out with her article in our school newspaper, The Ubyssey. In this issue, the victim reflects upon her change in perspective through the incident and raises concerns of our, the general public’s, incapability to fully estimate the influence we have in retelling her life narrative.

An attack like this one is personal. I feel violated as I walk around campus overhearing conversations about “that girl who was attacked,” or sitting in class within earshot of classmates discussing my attack.” -Second Assault Victim, The Ubyssey Oct. 20th 2013

As both the second victim and I have noticed, there is a high fluidity of this story due to the fact that we are so familiar (a key audience engaging point of a life narrative) to the issue, and the fact that the assault raises concerns for our own individual security. However, what I lack to realize was that by contributing and redistributing the story of the incident, I have been participating in the reshaping of the life narrative that we have at hand. And this form of remodeling is not necessarily of a desired pattern as we became more distant from the issue. In my daily conversations with peers, we talk about number of assaults, at which locations, and when they occurred and we fail to recognize even the existence of the people involved. Although it is true that initiatives have risen up in the forms of “TAKE BACK THE NIGHT UBC” and other social groups such as fraternities taking the initiative to walk people home, I still believe this is the direct results of the alteration of the values of the life narrative while enduring through multiple retelling of the story and the fact that the 4 incidents have become such a homogeneous occurrence to the general public. They have lost its value in identifying the possible trauma of the victims to what can the UBC community do to prevent this from happening.

The connotations surrounding the word “victim” make me feel weak, and suggest that somehow this man will stop me from being me.” -Second Assault Victim, The Ubyssey Oct. 20th 2013

Concurrently, the fluidity and high accessibility of the stories and how the general population perceive them have contributed to the victim’s re-consolidating her beliefs. The victim can react, rightfully so, angrily about her label as a “weak, Cinderella-esque character”(Victim). And by observing our indifferent transferring of her story, she is able to further investigate the root causes of the incident to the familiarity of “rape culture” in our daily lives whether through the use of the term “rape” in non-applicable contexts or the mass media depicting the inferiority of women.

The selfish reactions in which we take as citizens to life narratives of others have significant impact. The recurring process of labelling and familiarization can backfire in producing inanimate depictions of the people involved. In turn, the collective shift of her life narrative from a “horrible crime” to a “don’t walk alone at night” and finally to an “argument of sexist implication by the security forces” depicts the social values we possess to her story and concurrently, we have  completely neglected the victim’s well-being. As responsible citizens, we have the duty to be informed about the issues around us. But in the process of redistributing the stories as life narratives, should we not question all the possible assumptions and collective values that we might make as readers and redistributors?


3 thoughts on “Reshaping Life Narratives

  1. Makoto this is an extremely insightful and awesome post. As we reflect on feminist theory in Political Science, I find your point regarding the furthering of sexist culture spot-on: the second assault victim has not become a symbol of female strength and solidity, rather, the ensuing gossip has wrongly characterize young female students as intrinsically vulnerable and helpless. This debate is important as we discuss women’s rights as human rights; the victims should instead be represented as individual catalysts for asserting independence and combat against rape culture. The assumptions we make about the demographic of the victims only worsens the underlying causes of sexual assault.

  2. I read the article as well and I am glad that you addressed the word “victim” that the Second Assault Victim used as her new “label”. Ultimately, this word has become a part of her identity and for the other three victims. I think that, this labeling has the same kind of effect as people (students)who gets bullied (nicknames), and the lasting effects that it have on people can be forever. From now on, she and the other victims will have to face life positively in order to change the perception of the public; to show that victims are actually the strongest out of all of us and that their perspective is worth respecting. Through this statement, not only do we see her courage in facing such a traumatic incident but the point is that she doesn’t want to be perceived less competent than the rest of us. That is what I applaud to.

  3. Pingback: Transit of Life Narratives at UBC | How Scholarly!

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