This zine deals with sexual abuse and recovery, and as such I’ll be touching on these topics in my review. If there’s a possibility this will trigger you, please be careful.
“You know how there are supposedly two instinctual responses – fight or flight? Well, there’s also freeze. You can see it everywhere in nature, especially in animals that are under constant attack.
Like deer. If a cougar is trying to get a deer, right before it catches it the deer will lay down and freeze. Its heart beats slow, its breath quiets, its muscles rigid. It won’t move an inch. A friend tells me about this. She says, ‘Frozen, the soul can go somewhere it won’t be touched. Frozen, maybe the cougar will just pass it by. Frozen, if it does get killed, maybe it doesn’t hurt as much.'”
Support, a compilation edited by Cindy Crabb of the venerable Doris zine and press, is a necessary zine about a difficult topic. It seems in the past ten years or so the mainstream has groggily come to a belated awareness of the prevalence of sexual abuse and violence; the statistics are a damning indictment of our culture. As many have responded by turning a blind eye to rape culture and continuing to blame its victims, the approach taken by Support (originally published in 2002) is more necessary than ever.
The word Support in this instance has a double meaning. The zine supports survivors by sharing personal stories and coping strategies; simultaneously, it aims to educate their friends and partners on how best to support loved ones. Intimacy with survivors can have its challenges, and no two stories or reactions are alike. Some of the narratives and comics in the zine are difficult, unflinching reads, and understandably there isn’t a lot of humour, though many of the writers do come off as personable/approachable people. What one does find, in fits and starts, are quiet acknowledgements of their tremendous and justifiable pride in continuing to live with and in spite of their trauma.
Another important topic throughout Support is the matter of consent. The zine opens with an 83 question consent questionnaire, which has both practical value in that it forces the engaged reader to consider their/her/his opinions about consent, and rhetorical value in that its very length illustrates the complexity of the topic. The questions range from “Do you think consent can be erotic?” to “Do you think if a person has a body that can get pregnant, and they don’t want to, that it is their responsibility to provide birth control?” Educating people of all genders and sexualities on consent is crucial, perhaps particularly for young cis men, who have generally been ill-served how society frames their attitudes towards sex. Speaking personally, I feel fortunate in some ways that none of my sexual encounters as a teen went very far, because I made mistakes and it’s possible they could’ve been worse. Even today I feel like I’m learning and zines like Support help.
Crabb and her colleagues argue convincingly that preventing abuse and supporting survivors is a collective responsibility, and its an important read even if you are not aware of any survivors in your personal circles (believe me, you know some). The zine can be ordered from Crabb’s Doris Distro, and there is also a free .pdf version online accessible here.
JM’s JaM: Waxahatchee – You’re Damaged