I was born a feminist into a conservative Republican household. Just the luck of the draw I guess. I remember in the 3rd grade standing up and questioning our resident Playground Lady why only the boys were asked to help move tables and chairs for school assemblies. And in college I would make sure to ask questions of guest speakers in my engineering department if I noticed that no female voices were being heard. I've referred to myself as a feminist at least since high school, and I would often argue with my dad growing up on why my brother was allowed to do certain things while I wasn't.
Despite the shocked exclamations of some friends, I refuse to not go out just because I can't find a friend or date to go with me. I've never accepted that there were things I couldn't do because I had a vagina instead of a penis. In fact, I was downright ecstatic when I found that, with a little practice, I could even pee standing up.
So what did I, the Great Red-Blooded American Feminist, do when in the middle of the day, in the middle of a bike ride, a man stopped me under the pretense of car trouble and tried to rape me? I did everything I had been taught to do in this situation since I was old enough to start being taught. I screamed "no" and fought and kicked and held him off long enough for other people to show up and scare him off. I followed through with the police, identified the man, and testified against him in court.
And I blamed myself.
It was what I did the most, and I started to do it just seconds after my attack was over. All the years of natural feminism and "girl power" and I couldn't stop from wondering how much I was to blame. I knew it wasn't my fault, but I still felt it was.
I was the "perfect victim" according to the District Attorney handling my case. I was well-educated, sober, and not provocatively dressed (unless of course Lycra shorts make you all hot and bothered, rawr). No one was supposed to be able to find fault with me, but I still found a way.
This is our culture. A person can do everything "right" and still find a way to blame herself. How ingrained is the misogyny; how subversive is the idea that only women are responsible for the violence perpetuated against them? How can there even be such a thing as the "perfect victim"?
Women have to defend themselves. Women can't drink too much, or at all. Women have to be careful what they wear. Women can't go anywhere without a chaperone or else they are fair game. If women don't want sex (or just don't want sex with a particular man or men in general) they are frigid and just need a good screw. If women do want sex they are sluts who are just asking for it, and they shouldn't lead men on by telling them no. If a woman is attractive she's a stuck up bitch if she refuses a man's advances. If she is less than attractive, she should thank her lucky start that any man would look twice at her. Women have to do this. Women can't do that. Our culture has failed all of us, and my privilege blinded me to this it until it failed me.
In my home state, a man raped at least 4 men and boys and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. In another state, a man raped at least 4 women and girls and was sentenced to 8 years and was out on parole in 5. A few weeks after his release, he found me. These cases don't share many details, and as noted aren't even in the same state, but why was there a 90+ year disparity between the sentences? Of course the 1st man deserved every year of his 99 year sentence, but why didn't my attacker deserve the same? Why was his sentence no longer than 8 years to begin with?
I spent 5 months blaming myself and falling deep into depression. I couldn't even talk to anyone about it because I was sure they would see just as plain as I did what I did wrong. It took me 5 months before I realized that I wouldn't change a damn thing about that day. Someone asked me for help and I stopped to help, and I would do it again. It is not my fault that someone turned out to be a rapist. It is not my fault if there is a rapist around when I am drinking. It is not my fault if there is a rapist around while I am wearing a low cut shirt. It is not my fault if the man I go on a date with is a rapist. It is not my fault if a man decided my "I do" means an everlasting "yes." It is not my fault. IT IS NOT THE VICTIM'S FAULT.
I just wish society would back me up on this.