SPOILERS FOR STAR TREK: DISCOVERY
TRIGGER WARNING: Rape, Sexual Assault, PTSD
Season 1, Episode 9 sees the fictional world of Star Trek Discovery give a visceral view of a real-world issue of male sexual assault and rape, as well as the after effects including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. When I watched the episode, I was affected by flashbacks of my own past incidents of child sexual abuse, incest, and sexual assault as an adult. I knew what direction the storyline of the character Ash Tyler (pictured above) would take, but wondered if Star Trek would fully explore the subject. There have been mentions of sexual assault of major characters in the televised series, most noteably the Next Generation Enterprise’s Head of Security Tasha Yar, in Naked Now (http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/The_Naked_Now_(episode)) but we don’t (thankfully) see details or flashbacks in such a vivid way.
In Star Trek: Discovery’s ‘Into the Forest I go’ we see the flashbacks of torture and sexual violence that Ash Tyler has survivied for 7 months. The images are dark and upsetting, but for me the most upsetting thing was hearing him talking to another character, as he explains what happened to him, and what he did to survive.
“I encouraged it.”
As an adult survivor of decades of sexual abuse, the things I learned as a 3-year old stayed with me for years. I learned how to survive in a physically, sexually and emotionally violent family. I learned that people were more amenable and less likely to beat me if I offered sex. I could get food or alcohol when I was strung out or starving if I offered sex. I could be kept away from even more brutal ‘family friends’ if I offered sex. No child or adult should ever have to make those decisions to avoid physical pain, yet I learned those lessons so well that it became an automatic response, taking many years to even realise what I was doing.
Star Trek: Discovery is a fictional television show, but the responses and memories it stirred up in me were very real. It speaks to excellent writing, photography and acting. I hope that showing a male victim of sexual violence will show others that it can happen to anyone, regardless of gender. Whether Ash Tyler is human or Klingon in disguise, his reactions and feelings are laid bare during this episode. I hope it can help bring some understanding on what victims of sexual violence have to do in order to survive, and that there is no shame in these coping mechanisms. I may have encouraged it, but no rational adult would agree just because a child wanted sex with them. Consent is an ongoing thing, where all parties involved have to be informed about what’s involved. A slave can’t truly consent to sex with their master; neither can a prisoner consent to the same. This goes double for children, especially when the alternative is, as it was for me, a beating, a burning, starvation or being handed off to ‘friend’ instead.
I hope that the character of Ash Tyler is handled in a positive way in the rest of Season One, regardless of who he might really be. I also hope that this episode and others will get people talking and thinking about a subject that very few even acknowledge.
Online support from a very good forum https://forums.psychcentral.com
A few resources if you’re in the U.K
The Havens (for survivors of all genders) https://www.thehavens.org.uk
Survivors UK (for male survivors) https://www.survivorsuk.org
A few resources if you’re in the U.S
One in Six (for male survivors) https://1in6.org
RAINN (for survivors of all genders) https://www.rainn.org