“Birch Street, Higgins Drive, Cobalt Lane,” titular star of Marvel’s Jessica Jones repeats to herself in the first episode.
I connected immediately. I knew that Jessica was a survivor before the show chose to reveal this to us. She elbows a bus window during a flashback, and she downs booze straight from the bottle when the nightmares are too tough. I wasn’t entirely sure what she was a survivor of—rape, assault, abuse, attempted murder—but it didn’t matter. In those moments, Jessica Jones and I were one and the same.
Many television shows and movies attempt to use rape as a plotline, but most fail. In Jessica Jones, we are given a fresh story from the survivor’s perspective, but we are also smart enough that the show doesn’t give us her abuser as an always-deplorable villain with whom we can’t relate. Kilgrave, as the shown goes on, has his own nuances, and was victim to a very dehumanizing childhood despite his parents’ good intentions.
I’m a queer rape and abuse survivor. In many ways, Jessica Jones both as a series and as a character was cathartic and filled a need that few other shows have managed to fill. Early in the season, we learn that the series isn’t shy about including queer characters, either, with the selfish Jeri Hogarth as a prime example that being gay doesn’t always mean your partner will treat you with respect. (And thank goodness for that—I can’t stand another person telling me that I’m lucky to be with a woman because, unlike men, women are incapable of being cheaters, liars or assholes.)
My experience differs from Jessica’s, but at its core, still feels very much the same. My rapist and abuser was a woman, so when I say I’m a queer survivor, I mean not only that I identify as bisexual, but also that my experience as a survivor is already queer, already “othered.” I’m on the outskirts, even as a rape survivor when I admit that my rapist wasn’t a man.
My rapist also didn’t possess Kilgrave’s powers of direct mind manipulation, but Jessica puts it best when she says, “Not only did you physically rape me, you violated every cell in my body and every thought in my goddamn head.”