Talking about Rape: I Think I’m Ready

Published December 18, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

**Please note that this post may be highly triggering and gives descriptions of sexual assault, abuse and rape scenarios**

Yesterday, I saw just one too many comments in my Facebook news feed from one of my friends making excuses for rape.  Until that moment, I think I was still, in some small way, blaming myself for the things that had happened to me.  I was still making excuses for the men who sexually assaulted and raped me.  But that latest statement that popped up in front of me on Facebook just broke something in me and out of fury and frustration and simply being fed up, I posted the following statement to everyone on my Facebook status:

I am declaring zero tolerance on rape jokes, rape apologism and slut shaming. I hear that shit from anyone and they are not welcome in my life. 1 in 3 women are sexually assaulted. Look around at the women in your life. One third of them have been sexually assaulted. Is it your daughter? Your sister? Your mother? Your friend?

You think it’s nobody in your life? You’re wrong. I am one of the 1 in 3. And this is the first time I’ve ever admitted it to anyone. I was sexually assaulted.

Still think that rape joke is funny now?

I am still a little bit shocked at myself for coming out as a sexual assault survivor to everyone I know.  I am still struggling with using the word rape in reference to what happened to me, though I know that rape is exactly what happened to me.  But I also know that I have had enough, that I want to walk away from all of the things that those experience put on my shoulders, that I have been carrying for all of these years.

I’m tired of suffering through my supposed friends and other people in my life making rape jokes and excuses for rape.  I’m tired of hearing people say unbelievably ignorant and insensitive things about “other” women*, that they suggest are lying, drunk, regretful, asking for it, all of which could apply to ME, their friend, relative, colleague.  I’m tired of people thinking that it’s acceptable to use the word rape to describe damaging something out of spite or anger ie “This stupid computer is a piece of shit, it needs to be raped!”  I’m tired of the jokes about “surprise sex”.  I’m tired of people suggesting that someone they like or admire could not possibly be a rapist.

I want to put a face and a name and a person to the picture when the people in my life make these jokes and excuses.  And I want to tell the people in my life that I will have zero tolerance for that kind of attitude, ignorance and behaviour.

So often, people try to blur the lines or make excuses for rape.  Usually because they don’t know the victim, or they don’t like her.  I want people to realise that they know so many rape survivors, that it’s their loved ones they’re talking about.  Their daughters, sisters, mothers, wives, girlfriends, friends, aunts, cousins, grandmothers, neighbours, friends, colleagues.  If you’re reading this, and you think you don’t know someone who has been raped, think again.  One in three women are survivors of sexual assault.  Now, make a list of all the women you know.  Divide that list by three.  It’s highly likely that the number you come to is indicative of how many of those women you know are survivors of sexual assault.  Maybe even more.  But it is likely that you won’t know just how many or which ones because there is SO much shame around rape that most women can’t even admit it to themselves, let alone anyone else.

When someone suggests (without evidence) that a rape victim is lying, that she regrets having sex, that she shouldn’t have been drinking, that she shouldn’t have been alone after dark, that she shouldn’t have gone back to that guys place at 3am, that she shouldn’t have dressed like that and so on, they are being heard by every woman who has ever been sexually assaulted, particularly those closest to them.  I know when I heard my friends, family and colleagues say those things, I felt so much shame about what happened to me (I still do, but I’m working through that) I blamed myself.  I believed all of these things about myself, and thought that I should have stopped what happened to me.

Not to mention that so many people think that if they like or admire someone, there is no way he could be a rapist, that he could sexually assault someone.  Here’s the thing.  Rapists are people you know.  They’re not some faceless random druggie maniac hiding in an alleyway waiting for some woman in a skimpy outfit and half drunk to walk by.  Rapists are people you know.  Most women are raped by people they know, AND TRUST.  Many women have to live with their rapist in their lives after he has raped her, with her friends and family all talking about what a great bloke he is.

**Deep breath**

I believed my father’s golf buddy would never hurt me.  My parents left me and my younger brother in his care.  I was too young (12) and too ashamed and too scared to tell my parents outright that he was molesting me, but I did say I didn’t like staying with him and his wife when they went away, but they told my brother and I to be grateful that such nice people were willing to look after us.  Even as a young adult when it came to light that this man had molested other children, I was still too ashamed to tell anyone.  I was ashamed because I didn’t fight back, I didn’t say no, I didn’t speak up when it was happening.  Because that’s what other people said when they were talking about other rape victims.  How was I different to those other rape victims?

Then when I was a young woman, I had been drinking and all dressed up sexy for a night out on the town with friends, the night my boyfriend asked me to do something while we were having sex, and when I said no, I didn’t want to, he held me down forcefully and did it anyway as I cried in pain and shame.  I didn’t tell anyone because he made fun of me in front of his mates for being an “uptight bitch”.  I continued to sleep with him despite what he did to me, because people said that what he did wasn’t rape, that he was a lovely guy, that women who dress sexy or have sex while they are drunk are sluts, that if you consent to having sex with a guy, you can’t “cry rape” because you “regret it later”.  Even when his older brother, who was a good man, gently asked me if everything was ok one night at a family barbecue, I lied and said that it was.  Even after that brother said “I don’t care if he’s my brother, if he’s hurting you, I want you to tell me ok?”, I still lied and said it was ok, because I was so ashamed, so embarrassed by everything because I had heard other people say things about rape and sexual assault that made me feel like it was my fault.  Years later when I encountered this old boyfriend again in my life, people told me what a nice guy he was, yet all that time he was telling his friends what he did to me, and they laughed, and never thought it was rape.

I also excused the man who was supposed to be one of my closest friends when he would publicly grab my crotch, or try to put his hand in my pants/skirt, or push me up against walls and rub his penis through his pants on me, all in public, like it was some hilarious joke.   I made excuses for what he did, because everyone thought it was funny, and because people said that wasn’t sexual assault.  I would squeal and run away and let people laugh like it was so hilarious, but 10 minutes later be in the bathroom crying because I felt so violated and dirty.  I blamed myself because even though I told him I hated when he did that, he just told me to “get a sense of humour” and said “Oh you love it.”  I blamed myself because everyone thought he was SO funny, because my family liked him (still do), because I was an “uptight bitch”.

I still have to tolerate my family and some old friends mentioning this man to me, as though I’m interested in what happens in his life, because they like him.  They think I’m unreasonable for cutting him out of my life because they think I did so for trivial reasons.

For all of these events in my life, I didn’t talk about it, I blamed myself.  I couldn’t even tell the people who loved me the most.  Even when I broached it with a later boyfriend, he only suggested that “You can’t carry these things around with you forever.”  Except I do.  They have affected me, they colour my relationships with other people, and the very culture we live in tells me every day I am to blame for what happened to me, with rape apologism and excuses.

And I believe, that it’s because of this rape culture, that it didn’t stop with that first case when I was 12.  It’s because of this rape culture that I wasn’t able to report the subsequent events, or tell my family and friends, or even confide in that good man who offered to help me in dealing with his own brother, because I was being told from so many sources that it was MY fault, that I was the one who did something wrong and would have to live with the consequences.  If I hadn’t been shamed by other people’s attitudes and ignorance towards rape and sexual assault, maybe I wouldn’t have suffered again and again.

I am not talking about this stuff because I want attention, or anyone to feel sorry for me.  I’m talking about it because I want to give a face and a name and humanity to the women who survive rape and sexual assault only to be told it was their fault, that they should have behaved or responded in a different way to the way they did.  I want people to know that their behaviour, their words, their attitudes do harm to rape survivors.  I want people to know that when they speak this ignorance, these excuses, they are hurting the women in their lives, and opening the culture up for rape and sexual assault to happen again, and again, and again.

If you make apologies or excuses for rape, if you dismiss accusations of rape without proper and thorough investigation and evidence, if you make rape jokes, if you use the word rape to describe anything other than sexual violence, you are not only contributing to a rape culture, but you are hurting the women in your life.  ALL of them, survivors of rape/sexual assault or not.  You are hurting your daughters, your wives, your girlfriends, your sisters, your mothers, your aunts, your cousins, your colleagues and your friends.

*Yes, I am well aware that it isn’t only women who are raped, but it is women who are shamed, ridiculed, silenced and bullied about rape on a daily basis.

Please note that any examples of rape jokes, apologism/excuses and shaming will be deleted and blocked from this blog.  The zero tolerance I have for these things from my friends extends to anyone who visits this space, which is MINE and I have full control over.  Thank you.

35 comments on “Talking about Rape: I Think I’m Ready

  • My love and respect to you. Rape apology (whether jokes, not believing survivors or making excuses for rapists who are “nice”) is unacceptable. Thank you for saying it again so powerfully.

  • It takes a a strong & courageous woman to write such a post in a culture of rape-apologism & blame – i think you are just wonderful & am so proud to see you taking such a strong stance & saying “I WILL NOT tolerate this behaviour in my life anymore.” Well done you fabulous woman! 🙂

    I was raped by a family member as a very vulnerable teen, & over the 9 years since then, have had to tolerate people defending him with the same excuses you write about here “But he was a good man” – he did good things. “You must have led him on.” “If it was rape, you would have kicked & screamed.” etc, etc. For 9 years i felt completely unsupported by society, & entirely to blame. And the shame that i felt very nearly killed me.
    But this year, i started using my voice. I started speaking out about my experiences in the most public way, starting with a guest post on a blog by Melinda Tankard Reist, which i link to in this post. I now frequently refer to my experience (where relevant – not randomly!) in an effort to break down some of the stigma & shaming that happens around sexual assault & abuse. When i hear someone talking in a way that shames victims, or makes excuses for abusers & rapists, i share my experience with them, & explain how their comments make me feel. Too long i have remained silent about my experience, because it was something that made others uncomfortable. And it still makes people feel uncomfortable. It’s a challenge for them to think that sexual assault is as common as 1 in 3 for women. It’s a challenge for them to find out that one of those women is me. And it is an even greater challenge for them to realise that they are contributing to a culture that shames women like myself into suffering silently behind a wall of rape apologism. But, the more i speak, the less shame i feel, & the more understanding there is among the people i meet. After having my power taken from me those 9 years ago, i am taking it back by refusing to accept rape apologism in my life, & sharing my experience. And never have i felt so strong 🙂

    Great post my lovely – thanks so much for sharing it.

  • TY for sharing this it was very powerful. You are right, the victims are all sisters, mothers, cousins & friends. I work with surviours (medical) & I work hard when treating them to restore their sense of power & self on some small level.

    I walk away from these damaged women thinking there goes another woman who has been physically and emotionally brutalized back into our fast & judgmental society. They carry their scars forever.

    Thank you again for sharing 🙂

  • You were super brave to let it all come out. Although I haven’t been raped, I’ve been touched in sexual ways by strangers when I was a child in a play ground, on a amusement park (both by boys a little older than me) and by a older man when I was a teenager with my fahter next to me in a fair, it was so fast he didn’t see it.
    So, this touching events made me feel dirty and confused, I still feel ashamed and I didn’t tell anyone back then.
    Im my case there were strangers and it was really traumatic, but in my family I have an uncle that used to like mentioning things about my body (and other relatives as well), specially younger ones like (see, you look like a woman now) and inappropriate touching like slaps in the butt.
    But we kinda naturalize this things but they are rape, even if there’s not allowed touching or sexual harassment. There are different levels of rape, I believe.
    And if we dig deep, sometimes not sooo deep, we will find many examples of sexual assault or rape in our lives. I started reading your post thinking to myself that I’ ve haven’t been raped, but I did, not with sex but with being touched against my will. If these things are still making me feel sick I can relate and understand how you feel.
    I think that we need to talk about it and show that in any level it might happen, rape (in its different manifestationsl) is never ok.
    Thanks for sharing your story, it’s going to be beneficial to many women.

  • ty for this….since i was 18 i have apoligized for my rapist. he was a co-worker and we used to joke about sex and such on our shifts together. I was newly broken up with since my long term relationship moved to college and then cheated on me. I dressed up and we went out for drinks at a freinds house then back to his place for more beer. It was my first experince with alchol making me dizzy and lightheaded. we went back into his room and i was totally ok with playing around and oral sex and such. but then he asked to have sex and i told him no…and he said if you want a ride home you will f@*& me. and held me down and did so…i never told anyone for 5 years. NO ONE. my mom is pretty intuitive and i think she guess but i couldnt bring myself to tell her. I after all had been telling dirty jokes with the guy…he wasnt a stranger….i shouldnt have worn that dress…or drank…..

    to this day i cnat drink without shuddering and thinking about that.

  • Thank you and thanks to lifeinfullcolor and erylin for sharing your experiences. I never really understood the scope of the problem with rape culture until I discovered Feminism through FA. By sharing your experience you enable us to raise and educate our husbands and our sons, It helps make a clear concept a lot more powerfull and teach it as such:
    It is not okay to put your penis in someone who did not consent, no matter what .
    You are all amazingly brave and I salute you.

  • Excellent post…It’s funny, the memories that pop back into my head & while I hesitate to label some of my experiences rape, there was certainly plenty of coercion & sexual harassment involved.
    It’s therapeutic to write about it, thanks for giving me that impetus.

  • *hugs* I understand where you’re coming from with feeling like you had to keep silent. When I was molested by a family member at the age of 10 I wasn’t even aware I was molested until I was far older– also wasn’t aware that this relative was abusive until I was far older either.

    In my freshman year of college I didn’t talk to my father for six months after I was assaulted by a male acquaintance and my father told me I was asking for it based on the way I dress and my open distaste for monogamous relationships. He didn’t come to his senses until he talked to his female co-workers with college-age daughters and they told him how unreasonable that school of thought is. I refused to visit him until he could apologize to me face-to-face and on his own terms.

    For those who haven’t lived through the hell of rape or molestation, it’s easy to make excuses and create rape apologisms when it just looks like another statistic, no name or face you’re familiar with. And I’m fucking sick of it. I swear, if I have to hear “Some women just ask for it” one more time, I think that person will get acquainted with my fists.

    While men can get raped too, notice that no apologism is aimed at rapists who target men…only female victims get blamed. Male victims also never have their sexual proclivities brought into light if the incident gets reported; if you’re a woman who dresses suggestively and/or flaunts her sexuality, oh my, you’re just asking for it! (As I was told before.) That attitude pisses me off to no end.

    NO ONE DESERVES TO BE RAPED. No one deserves to have their bodies and autonomies violated. This is true no matter what your sexuality, gender identity, orientation, and whatever else is.

  • The sad thing is two of the biggest rape apologists I have ever known were a rape victim and the cousin of a rape victim.

    I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve never been raped. But these two women who had painfully intimate experience of rape both told me straight up that any woman who is raped deserves it because of how she’s dressed or how she acts.

    Of course the one who was raped was wearing a prom dress at the time (and in the seventies, those weren’t exactly pole dancing costumes) and the cousin who had been raped was a twelve year old taking a shower when a man broke into her house… and then into her.

    No, they didn’t deserve it. They didn’t bring it on themselves. Neither does a woman who is wearing a see-through blouse and a micro mini skirt and drunk off her ass. Girlfriends and wives can be raped. Sex workers can be raped. They didn’t bring it on themselves, either.

    I once had a male co-worker who asked me – as an intelligent, thoughtful woman – if I thought rape was about violence more than sex. I told him I absolutely believe that, and gave him a laundry list of reasons why I believe it to be true. He just said ‘No’ and walked away, In his mind, he’d won the debate (which I didn’t even completely realize we were having) because he disagreed with me. He didn’t even have to tell me why he disagreed to win.

    Up to that point, I had really liked the guy. After that, I gave him as wide a berth as I could while we worked side by side.

    Keep talking. We need to speak up if rape apology is ever to cease to be acceptable.

  • As a survivor of molestation, rape and many years of physical violence within a relationship, I thank you! Telling your story helps heal us all, I believe. It’s hard as hell, but it lets other survivors know that they are not alone and shouldn’t stay silent or carry that shame/guilt with them. At 7 years old, I most certainly did not ask for nor deserve it. At 14 I did not ask for nor deserve it. I didn’t ask to have my life taken from me, but it happened. I didn’t tell anyone. I lived as a near-hostage for five years and didn’t tell a soul! I even denied it! This seems so strange to me now, but I also feel better every time I tell someone else. *hugs* thank you, Kath! Keep speaking up & out! I’m right there with ya! ❤

  • Kath when we meet some day I am going to give you so many big fat hugs, and definitely one for this post. Thank you so much for your bravery, your frankness, and sensitivity in talking about such a difficult topic and reliving horrendous experiences. I am so sorry that those things happened to you. I hope that the people in your life who have been minimising or apologising for rape learn something from this. Good on you for standing up for yourself, and for all of us. xx

  • Thank you all so much for your support and for trusting me enough to be able to share your stories here.

    Just now I need a little time to process, but I will return and respond to all of your comments when I’m able to.

    You can’t know how much your support and kindness means to me just now.

  • Thank for writing this and for being all of the things that you had to be to put this out in public. You continue to inspire me and I appreciate you 🙂

  • This is such a powerful post. I still struggle with what happened to me too, but this post made things a little better, a little easier. I thank you for that.

  • This is an amazing post, and Congrats on writing it. It must of have been hard to write, but be proud of yourself. You are amazing.

    I get frustrated with people, specially a lot of teens these days who throw the word ‘rape’ around. Not in the sence of actual rape, but as a play on words.

    I’ve ben extremely lucky & have not been sexually abused. My mother, sister & best friend have though. It’s something I have strong feelings about because I’ve seen the results. It’s not something to joke about.

  • Kath, I am so sorry all this happened to you, my heart is broken over it. You are so very strong and an amazig woman. Thank you for sharing this, I think there is a lot to be learnty from this post.

    Love xxx

  • Maybe because of my social circle (working class) and the fact my family fosters; I’m surprised that the 1/3 figure is so *low*. I suppose it depends on your definition of sexual assault. If it were broadened to ‘sexually threatened’ then I reckon the figure would rise to about 80%

  • Rape jokes are never funny. I am also a victim of sexual assault. I don’t think I can say “survivor” because I don’t think my life was in danger. But I was victimized. I never reported it either time that it happened because I was drunk both times and figured that I would just be told I deserved it.

    • I am sorry you have suffered as well.

      Personally I prefer survivor, because I’m still putting one foot in front of the other and getting on with life. It didn’t beat me. My life wasn’t in danger either, and I was victimised, but I personally choose not to continue being a victim.

  • Wow, what a post. Thanks for being so courageous and sharing your experiences. I’m one of the 1 in 3 as well. It’s so true that rapists are people who you know and trust, and well rape jokes are not jokes at all as far as I’m concerned. They are a disguised form of verbal aggression and disrespect.

  • I was recently sexually assaulted. My husband, his family,and my family all think I am making the whole thing up for my DH’s attention. We had a fight earlier that night that my husband took far more serious than I did. Everyone thinks because we had a fight that somehow this could never have happened to me. I feel like I have lost everyone and anyone I trusted. I blame myself too for putting myself in such a bad circumstance. I now wish I had not told anyone(the few I told even without any details told everyone else in the family). I have never felt so alone. On top of this I was just feeling better after having some serious health problems. I just got off my oxygen and was ready to celebrate and do so many things I had to forgo. It feels like my whole life has been ripped away again!

    • KAM I am sorry to hear you are going through this.

      I have found help in external sources – a therapist, a crisis hotline, my doctor. So often the people close to me cannot or will not understand or even listen, but at least there is an outlet for me with professionals.

      I wish you peace and the chance to be heard.

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