Rape. It’s been in the news a lot lately as the Republicans are trying to redefine it to chip away at abortion laws. It’s also in the news because Lara Logan, a journalist from CBS, was separated from her crew in Cairo and endured a sustained sexual assault. My fellow blogger over at ABL’s place, Emily Hauser, wrote an excellent piece about it at her place (also cross-posted at ABL’s place and BJ). Emily taps into the rage she feels at the prevalence of rape and how women are often burdened with the knowledge that whether one is raped or not often comes down to luck.
This is the opening to her post:
I’ve never been raped.
Why? Because I’m lucky.
Nothing more. Nothing less.
Go read the rest of her piece right now because I’m going to be riffing on it in my own post. Go on, read it. I’ll wait. Let me know when you’re done.
Unlike Emily, I am not a lucky one. I have been in two situations in which I endured recurring rape. Those of you who read my blog regularly know about it because I post about it from time to time. The first time, it started when I was seven. The second, I was 21 and in a foreign country. Both seemed like they happened a life time ago, and yet, I still deal with the aftermaths and the ramifications to this day.
I started this post a few days ago, and I abandoned it. Why? Because I saw what happened in ee’s threads about rape, both at BJ and at ABL’s place. I saw how the excuses started pouring in, the rationale, the apologia. “Yeah, it’s terrible that she experienced that, but…”
No. There is no fucking but at the end of that sentence. No one deserves to be raped. No one. Not even if she* was in the wrong part of town late at night. Not even if she accepted a drink from a guy and he slipped her a Roofie. Not even if she was dressed in tight clothing. Not even if she went home with a guy she didn’t know and then changed her mind.
No one deserves to be raped. Ever.**
The second reason I abandoned this post is because I’m tired of talking about it even though both experiences have deeply affected me, and I still deal with the ramifications to this day.
When I sleep, I have to have a white noise machine on to block out the sounds. I also wear earplugs, a mouth guard (because I grind my teeth), and an eye mask. I sleep with a pillow over my eyes, and I pull the covers up to my nose. When I am anywhere that is not my home or some place trusted, I have to be in a seat facing the door, and I cannot stand to have someone touch me without my permission or without me knowing the person is going to do it. In a movie theatre, I have to be near the aisle. I hate being hemmed in in any way. I have a fucked-up sleep schedule in part because I prefer being awake in the night–when the bad shit happens. When things get really bad, I sleep on the couch rather than my bed. My cats love that because they aren’t allowed in my bedroom (I’m allergic).
If I see a rape scene in a movie and did not know it was coming, I immediately flash back to my own experiences. It’s the same when I read about rape. And, since I have an eidetic memory, I get all the sounds, sights, smells, feelings, bodily sensations, and tastes of what happened at the time. When I read about the assault on Lara Logan, my body immediately tensed up, and I felt as if I were under attack. My heart started racing, and my face flushed. I can’t listen to rape jokes without flashing back on my experiences. I may not experience the full memories each time, but with every joke, every account of rape, every depiction I see, my body immediately reacts as if I’m under attack. Hell, when Representative Gifford was shot, I immediately went into a deep depression. I could barely move for two days, and I couldn’t figure out why. I felt stupid because I didn’t know her, and I didn’t want to appropriate her tragedy. It was partly the PTSD, yes, but it was more. When my therapist helped me realize why it affected me so, it was a relief, but it also made me realize just how much further I have to go in dealing with the ramifications of my rapes. I have posted about it before, and you can look through my archives for more in-depth musings about how I have dealt (badly) with the rapes.
Do you know what being raped does to you? Or rather, did to me? It smashed my soul. I’m talking about the second experience as I still can’t really talk about the first very easily. And, as I am cross-posting this at ABL’s place, I am even more careful in choosing my words. In my case, it was a mixture of sex, cultural differences, and power. This guy was a predator, and he knew that I was easy prey. What I said didn’t matter. What I wanted didn’t matter. Who I was didn’t matter. I was simply a receptacle for his sperm, and in that way, he mirrored my first abuser as well.
And, I believed him that I didn’t matter and that I was nothing more than a sperm-receptacle in part because of my first experience, so I stayed with him for as long as I was in the country. I endured him threatening to kill himself if I left him, sex without condoms even though he visited prostitutes, and him telling me how many babies we would make together. I was lucky in that I had gone to Thailand for a semester abroad, and I had a coming-home date. Otherwise, who knows what would have become of me? This was 19 years ago, and I can still remember it as if it happened yesterday. No amount of stuffing it back stops the symptoms of PTSD from sprouting up all the goddamn fucking time.
The third reason I’ve put off finishing this post is because of something I touched upon earlier–all the blame and judging people do about victims of rape. Within hours of reports of Lara Logan’s assault, people were opining that women weren’t fit to do the job, that she was pretty and blond in a savage country, so what could she expect, that she was a homewrecker who got what she deserved, and other ugly shit. It’s a variant of,“She dresses like a slut. She deserves it.” “She’s in a man’s job. What does she expect?” “She said yes to him once, so it’s not really rape.” “Men can’t help it. They have needs.”
As a society, we are extremely unkind towards victims/survivors of rape. We judge them in ways we wouldn’t dream of judging any other crime victims. So, the woman is not only raped, she is taken apart yet again if she dares talk about being abused. It’s no wonder that victims often times stay silent–who the hell wants to deal with being judged on top of dealing with the aftermaths of being assaulted/raped?
The biggest reason I haven’t finished the post before this, however, is because I didn’t want to make other people uncomfortable. It’s hard to hear about someone being raped. It’s not nearly as hard as being raped, but it’s hard. What do you say to someone who recounts a horrific experience of abuse at the hands of her uncle, father, boyfriend, date, friend, stranger? I have seen how people shift and look away when I bring up the subject. And, to be fair, it’s not easy to work it into every day conversation.
All of this has kept me silent during the past week or so while my co-bloggers have been kicking butt on the issue of rape and taking names. I have other issues going on right now, so I let it go. I felt guilty, though, because I know that part of the problem of rape is that people don’t talk about it. I also had to grapple with an unwelcome realization I had about myself while reading about all the anti-women bills the GOP wanted to pass (and did, in some cases, in the House). They wanted to curb abortion funding (which only goes to rape in the first place and incest) only to women who’ve been ‘forcibly raped’*** along with a whole bunch of other batshitcrazy things. Forcibly, meaning visible bruises. My immediate response? I would kill any man who tried to rape me before he could penetrate. Me. Who once said I would let someone kill me before I killed someone else. But, you see, I cannot go through that again, and if I were to be raped and get pregnant and forced to have the child, that would be a living death, anyway. It was not a nice realization, but it helped me see that I DO think I matter and fuck the Republicans for trying to negate that with their misogynistic bullshit.
While I was musing all this over in my head, I read this post by TNC. In it, he talked about how victims/survivors of rape need to give up their privilege of privacy in order to make rape less shameful and secretive. Only, he said it much better than I just paraphrased. He was not advocating mandatory reporting (which I would not support), but he was saying that if we want to erase the stigma that surrounds rape, those of us who have gone through it must speak out about it.
I can’t recommend TNC enough. He strictly moderates his threads, so we’re able to have thoughtful discussions that get heated and passionate, but never nasty. Or, if they do, he cleans them up. It’s because of this that several TNC commenters, male and female, felt safe enough to share their own experiences of sexual abuse/rape. It was painful to read, but it was also powerful and empowering to know that so many cool people survived and even thrived from such horrific experiences. I was sorrowful that so many people had experience something similar to what I went through, though. I don’t want anyone to be a part of that club.
One of the worst things about being raped is feeling like you’re alone, broken, and worthless. I felt guilty and thought it was my fault, and I thought it permanently ruined me. I did many crazy things after being raped the second time, and I didn’t care if I died. Hell, my soul was already dead, so I might as well make my body match my soul. I was too chickenshit to kill myself, so I left it up to the fates. If I died in a fiery car crash (as long as no one else was hurt)–so be it. If I got run over by a bus–so be it.
I was dead inside, anyway. I can’t emphasize this enough. I was the walking undead after experience two ongoing rapes. I didn’t want to live.
In a way, I was lucky because I didn’t die, even though it didn’t feel like it at the time. I was also lucky because I have always enjoyed (consensual) sex. I love it, and I find it very life-affirming. It’s joyful, playful, and just a whole lotta damn fun. In addition, I know there are really damn good men out there. I haven’t written off the whole gender just because of my two really horrible experiences and the other incidences that every woman endures (groping, cat-calling, insinuations, insults). I have loved good men, and I have men as friends who are very dear to me. I am grateful that my negative experiences have not caused me to lose faith in all mankind.
After reading TNC’s post, I summoned up the nerve to finish this post. Yet, something was still holding me back. Then, I read this post by Emily (my co-blogger at ABL’s place) recounting the story of a woman’s rape. The woman had sent it to Emily and consented for it to be published. It was hard to read, but it made my decision for me. I had to write my post, come hell or high water (most likely the former).
Today, I am in the best place I’ve been in my life. That’s damning with faint praise because I was in a really shitty place even two years ago. However, I realize that I have to face the past, which means talking about it, and find new ways to cope with the old, old wounds. Tai chi is helping me tremendously with that, as are my friends who are fierce in their loyalty to me. My cats are of immeasurable comfort to me, and I have a brother upon whom I can count. I have my health, my writing and performing abilities, and I have my warped sense of humor. I will be relying on all these to help me continue to survive, hopefully, to thrive.
I write this post because I cannot stay silent–not now when the GOP is waging war against women (well, everyone who is not them, really, but especially women), trying to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood (donate! I did. And, stand with them, too. I did that as well), and being jackholes in general. I have a platform, two actually–my own place and ABL’s place–and I intend to use them to the best of my abilities. I am just one voice, but I know how to scream.
*For the sake of simplicity, I will be using the heterosexual norm of man as perp, woman as victim/survivor for the rest of this post. I am fully aware that men are victims and that women are perps as well.
**If we want to discuss things a woman might be better off not doing, that’s a different kettle of fish. It’s also one I am not going to tackle in this post.
***And some minors. The bill was poorly-written, so it was hard to tell exactly which minors they wanted to protect.