**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.
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.