By Nick Cooper
Photo by Duke Hunter
Luana Da Silva is a 26-year-old Brazilian immigrant living in the US since 2004 (Houston since august 2010). While getting her Master’s in social work at UH, she is a performing singer, dancer and capoeirista.
What was your reaction to the Dylan Farrow revelations and the reaction to them?
My reaction to Dylan Farrow’s revelations was and still is one of solidarity. It sure took a lot of strength and courage on her part to so openly and frankly talk about something that has caused a lot of pain in her life throughout the years. Our society is usually very unfriendly to survivors of sexual (and domestic/intimate) violence. She was probably aware of the likely influx of criticisms by media, and entertainment community about the validity of her experience, and still chose to put herself out there, on her own terms. That is brave. The reactions that I’ve been reading about on the mainstream media are also, unsurprisingly and sadly, reflective of our victim-blaming culture. It seems that many critics are very quick to look for ways to question her accounts and throw several other factors into the mix, as a way to derail or detract from the validity of her statements. There is nothing new about this type of response, because it is not the first time we’ve seen people ask what “benefits” a victim/survivor may get in making such claims. But my question is, why so many questions towards the validity and motives she may have to speak so openly about these “claims”? Why do we, as a society, choose to focus on her, the victim, who certainly suffers the most from the validity of such an experience than on the alleged perpetrator? Wouldn’t Woody Allen also have obvious motives to deny them and attack her experiences as “invalid” or “untrue”? Why is that question not being asked more often? Ask yourself.
Are there differences between how issues of child molestation and rape are handled socially and criminally between the US and Brazil?
I think that when it comes to the culture of rape and sexual assault/abuse, there is not a lot of difference between the US and Brazil. Of course, there are cultural factors at play that entail different social and legal contexts that may sometimes look very different in relation to here, but the mechanisms are still the exact same: a culture of victim-blaming and a “justice” system that fails to protect and bring true justice to survivors and their families. Whenever there are allegations of rape/assault, especially towards famous people, even in the light of obvious evidence (i.e. semen, injury), victims, often women and girls, are attacked as if they were to blame. They were “asking for it”, or they “shouldn’t have” done this or that. Just like in the US, in the end the focus is on the victim and not on the alleged perpetrators. It’s so skewed; we protect the aggressors and attack the victims. This is a global problem with many faces.
What would you say to Dylan in terms of advice or solidarity based on your experience?
“I stand in solidarity with you, sis. And I admire your strength and courage in breaking the silence and not only resisting, but also confronting this oppressive culture of shaming and blaming victims/survivors of abuse. All our stories resonate in one another. I know you speak for yourself, yet I’d like you to know that there is a massive, often invisible segment of society that cheers you on: fellow survivors.” Navigating family and social relationships when the rapist/attacker is within the same circles can be tricky. I am not quite sure how it is even possible without causing severe distress to the survivor.
How do women navigate family and social relationships when the rapist or molester is within the same circles as the victim?
I, personally, have a very hard time every time I go back to my hometown, Brasília, as I am always afraid of bumping into my aggressor at a party or on the street. We have many friends in common, and it has been very hard for me to feel supported by many of them, at times, after disclosing what he’d done to me, responses ranged from disgust and support to asking me if I was “sure”, or if I couldn’t “just let it go?” Needless to say, these people are not friends, and the best scenario is to cut them off from your life…but then again, that is not always possible for many survivors. To fellow survivors, I would say, build a fortress of support around you, with people who validate and affirm you, and turn to them for help in difficult times. Support makes all the difference – it doesn’t “fix” anything, but it gives you a safe place to be.
What advice would you have for people who have not been victims of attacks to consider when interacting and listening to victims of abuse?
Listen without judging; validate their experience and do not interrogate them about details or other curiosities you may have about the circumstances of their situation. If someone is sharing this with you, chances are that they may not have ever shared it with anyone else, and that means they probably felt safe around you to disclose this information. Show them respect and compassion; it is ok to not say anything.