Note: The contents of this post may be upsetting for readers.
Rape culture in our country is undeniably horrible. According to the CDC, one in five women will be raped in their lifetime. Very few people know that I, myself, am included in this unfortunate 20 percent.
Words cannot describe what going through something of that magnitude does to you. The feeling of crippling humiliation, the destroyed self-respect and self-confidence usurped by feelings of self-loathing, the feeling that your skin is crawling or itchy because you are no longer comfortable in your own skin, the feeling you are somehow broken inside, covered in this shell of a body that looks like you but doesn’t feel like you, complete and total loneliness, and unbearable shame. Shame beyond anything you thought could ever be felt. Shame for something that wasn't your fault.
People don’t take rape seriously. People laugh, poke fun, blame alcohol, throw around hateful words like "slut" or say phrases like "she was asking for it." The worst part is going through something so horrible, painful, degrading, insulting, terrifying, and coming out on the other side and still feel completely isolated.
To honor my story, I’m going to tell it as it happened, as I remember it so vividly, forever-engrained in my mind, and out of respect for the 18-year-old version of myself that didn’t have a voice then. So here it goes:
There was the guy, you know the one: acclaimed athlete, popular, everyone liked him, wealthy, sweet and nice guy. We met up one night, and quickly I realized he was intoxicated to the point of a blackout. We start kissing, and I want to have sex with him, I do, because I like him and he was giving me attention. We start to have sex. Very quickly, it turns rough. Out-of-character rough. I do not want to be doing it anymore. It’s too aggressive. It hurts. I start to cry. I ask him to stop. It feels like one of those dreams where you try to scream, but your voice doesn’t come out. I’m crying harder. He’s picking up the pace. I ask him to “please stop” but, again, my voice is unheard. I try to get out from under him, and he quickly grabs my arms and holds them over my head. Still crying, he puts a pillow over my face. He turns me over, and shoves his penis in my anus. I did not ask for that. I did not agree to that. I felt everything inside me rip. It was quickly over and he smiles, laughs, stumbles off me, and I sprint out of there faster than I could get my clothes on. I got dressed in my car and headed home. I got home and I saw my underwear – they were drenched with blood. I still have irregular bowel movements with occasional bleeding if one of my tears re-opens. Seven years later, and I’m still dealing with this.
Rape is everywhere. Eighty percent of rapes are by men who know the woman they attack. I guarantee someone you know has been a victim of a sexual assault.
I want to say this to the Stanford rape victim: thank you. I read your open letter a few days ago, crying the entire time, as it brought unwelcome feelings that I've spent years attempting to suppress. Thank you for opening a real dialogue about rape. Thank you for reminding us that all of us deserve respect. I'm so sorry you had to experience what you did. Your grace, dignity, and unrelenting bravery is a strength I didn't have. The trauma of reliving that one horrible night throughout a long judicial process was my greatest fear. You are a true inspiration and reminder that none of us are alone. You are not alone. I am not alone.
The concept of consent really isn't hard. It really isn't. If she can't speak, she can't consent. If she can't stand or walk, she can't consent. If she says she consents and changes her mind, guess what -- not consent.
I've overheard guys high-fiving each other for getting lucky with a girl who was "so easy" or those guys who honestly believe that taking a girl out to dinner or buying her drinks earns them the right to sex. Sorry guys, it doesn’t.
I’ve even overheard girls talk about a “bad hook up” that can really only be described as rape. There have been times I want to tap them on the shoulder and tell them they just described a rape, not a “wild night of partying.” But how dare I turn someone else into a victim?
Don’t discount your experience. I feel like, slowly, the fact that us victims staying silent out of fear or shame has only taught young men that this behavior is okay. It’s not. If you don’t want to have sex but feel like you “should” – don’t. You don’t owe anyone anything.
My point is rape affects all of us. If I ever have a daughter, I can only hope to raise her in a society that isn't an exacerbated version of today.
Just respect each other. It's that simple. Treat each other like you'd want to be treated.
To the good men out there, thank you. Do whatever you're doing to raise more respectful boys and men. Teach them the difference between "a night of drinking" or "20 minutes of action" and felony sexual assault (because there is a huge difference). Teach them about taking responsibility for their actions. Teach them that a passed out girl is not an open invitation to poke and prod her vagina like some science experiment. Teach them that being a privileged member of society does not excuse rape. Nothing excuses rape.
If anything, I hope this made you think, even for just a few seconds, about how serious of a problem this is. This is for all the other silent victims out there, and to the Stanford rape victim who has reminded us that we can’t stay silent about this.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.