Why are we Surviving the Mic?

Surviving the Mic shifts the cultural beliefs about survivors of sexual harm who are rarely centered in both culture and legislation. Surviving the Mic is a space where survivors who are rarely acknowledged, respected, or protected are witnessed, held, affirmed and amplified. We want to shift the narrative that Black survivors, especially, who tell their lived experiences of sexual harm are producing trauma porn because what they’re actually doing is engaging the bravest and most vulnerable parts of their humanity. 

These lived experiences point out glaring gaps between legislation and implementation, illuminating how systems and institutions have failed many survivors. This telling, this speaking out loud of survivor experiences, dismantle stereotypes and assumptions that fester at the intersections of gender and race, as well as sexuality, gender expression, class, and many other identities. 

Surviving the Mic shifts the narrative that the artistic expressions of survivorhood are not compelling or worth engaging. For ten years in Chicago, survivors living at a multitude of intersections held space together via writing workshops and performances, allowing people to say, out loud, what they’ve survived and how they feel about it. 

For many writers and performers who are survivors, Surviving the Mic is the first space where they felt safe enough, brave enough, to acknowledge that they’ve experienced sexual harm. That’s important because many of our participants attempted to bring their work exploring these experiences to other artistic spaces, whether writing workshops or stages, and found themselves silenced and isolated. 

Many people who teach the craft of writing and performance have no idea how to hold space for work that explores the impact of sexual harm. That leaves survivors out of the cultural conversation, with little access to publications, stage productions, and even academic programs. Survivors and their work are typically relegated to April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, or to fundraisers for rape crisis organizations, rather than integrated as an essential part of arts and culture. Sexual harm impacts more people in more places than almost any other kind of harm, especially Black women and girls. Normalizing the telling and hearing about that impact is key to offsetting that impact, and, ultimately, eliminating sexual harm.

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