To celebrate International Women’s Day, Sophie Turner shared her experiences in Rwanda with The Huffington Post UK as a guest editor in their “All Women Everywhere” edition. She recounts Sansa’s sexual assault in Season 5 and its profound impact on her sense of activism which led her to join The Global Sisterhood and Sponsor a Sister.
The infamous sixth episode of Game of Thrones fifth season ends with the horrific sexual assault of the underage Sansa Stark by her captor Ramsay Bolton. Audience members and critics alike were enraged by such a depiction and even threatened to boycott the series. Turner reflects on her own experiences after the episode airing:
My active interest in women’s rights and the fight against domestic violence only really became acute after one of my scenes from season five of Game of Thrones aired. There was a huge response and not a particularly positive one: People were boycotting the show, multiple articles were being produced online and it was a trending topic on Twitter.
To be completely honest, my initial reaction was satisfaction: That rape, domestic violence and systemic sexual inequality is something we are capable of talking about; that we are capable of creating and sustaining a visible public dialogue. I don’t think it’s easy to overstate the importance of that dialog; if, by seeing us tell that part of Sansa’s story, 10 survivors of sexual violence felt empowered to talk about their experience, I’ll happily put up with the Twitter storm in a teacup.
Her initial response led to a frustration over the taboo of such a topic and the devastating statistics of assault of women:
But this initial satisfaction gave way to frustration and, eventually, anger. Frustration that there continues to be such a taboo surrounding rape, given that the WHO estimates that more than one in three (35%) women, globally, experience physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. Anger that it being depicted onscreen was seen as vulgar; whilst the brute fact that, by dint of having two x-chromosomes, because of a set of genitalia determined long before I was born, there was a 35% probability at the point of birth that I would be victim of domestic and/or sexual violence.
She also defended the show’s responsibility to portray such a horrifying scene:
I found it vulgar that talking heads online had decided that Game of Thrones – known for its unflinching depictions of incest, slavery (sexual and otherwise) and a brother’s reproductive coercion of his sister – ought not depict rape. It would be a vulgar failure on our part as storytellers, to be happily silent on a matter that affects our sisters, mothers, daughters, nieces, cousins every day, all over the world. I’m proud to be part of a show that won’t be content to give unproblematic accounts of being a woman in a patriarchal society; if it falls to a fantasy show to portray the reality of domestic and sexual violence, so be it.
After the scene, Turner sought to become more involved and began in Rwanda by hearing these stories personally and see firsthand the work that is being done to bring change for women.
To read more of Sophie’s incredible journey, be sure to head over to The Huffington Post UK for the full experience!
Then continue celebrating Women’s Day checking out another GOT-centric guest post by the dragon queen herself: Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen)!