It has come to my attention that there will soon be a (and when there's one, there's often more) well-meaning exhibit at a Connecticut university where students will be showing creative works such as art and poetry that deal with sexual harassment and assault.
This is an opportunity for people to come together and share what they have gone through regarding all levels and types of sexual misconduct and what needs to change as a culture. This is great because people need to share in order for social-political movements to happen, to feel more connected, and to inspire others to become an ally and learn more about these issues.
However, there is a little hiccup I’d like to address. The students are being told their work cannot include any nudity or curse words. At first, reading these submission guidelines made me feel surprised, since college-aged people are adults. What would be the point in hiding words and body parts that they have seen many, many times? I realized this most likely has to do with the administration behind the scenes that is used to having these rules elsewhere on campus.
I don’t know if this article will reach anyone involved in events and exhibits like the one I described above, or if it will change anyone’s minds, but in case they didn’t consider another side to this rule: Even though there are good intentions, censorship can mess things up - both for the creator of the work and its audience - making it less impactful. Using swearing and/or nudity may actually play an important role in how people want to express themselves. Editing these horrible memories that survivors are often still struggling with is not helpful and can send a message that how they feel, view, and express their trauma is somewhat wrong.
Please, I know you are doing something good, but don't censor our pain and don't interrupt our voices and our healing process. It’s more complicated than you might know.