Rape. It's an uncomfortable word. No one likes to say it, no one likes to hear it. I, in fact, am one of many women and men who cringes at the sound of it. But we need to keep saying it, because it is so real for so many people. I know that I didn't have the courage to stand up for myself and press charges after I was raped because my best friends at the time tried to convince me nothing was wrong. My rapist, who I knew well from growing up, tried to deny that anything had happened. Again, another person turning my head the other direction. I had the bruises and cuts to prove it, but that still wouldn't be enough evidence. I was in shock, I was embarrassed, I felt ashamed and I knew deep down that so many times in our courtrooms, rapists run free because of victim blaming and lack of concrete evidence.
But we need to keep saying the word, "rape," because it doesn't just mean "sexual assault." It means violation, it means misuse of power, it means taking something away from another person that they'll never get back. I'll never get back that horrific night in the summer of 2010. I will never be able to forgive my two long lost "friends" who tried to cover it up. I will never forgive the 19-year-old boy, (and I say "boy" because he doesn't deserve the title of "man") for marking my body black and blue with bruises and red with cuts. I will never forgive him for the way he scoffed at me and told me I was being dramatic when I told him the next morning that what he had done was wrong. There are some things a rape victim will never get back. They might never get back that day, that moment, those hours, but they can regain their sense of self back.
I sometimes feel like my sense of self has been robbed from me, but then I remember that my story is not unique. A drunken hookup gone wrong at a college party: it's a story you hear every day. That is why my show is so important to me. It's important to me because I know it'll be important to other women (and men) who have gone through the same thing. My one woman show stands for victims who no longer want to identify as victims, but as survivors, warriors and fighters. My show stands for the long road to recovery that is so real for so many victims of sexual assault. It's not an easy road, it's a long and winding one, filled with bumps and holes. But it is possible to stop replaying that tape of the trauma in your head over and over again. It's possible to think of the day you were raped as a distant memory, one that you will always remember, but one that no longer cripples you on a day to day basis. Rape. Let's keep saying the word. Rape. It's a word we don't like, it's a thing we fear, but it's the word to say until justice is served.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-656-HOPE for the National Sexual Assault Hotline.