Saturday, September 18, 2010


When it comes to naming sexual violence, too many of us are like frogs in a pot of slowly heating water – by the time the violation rises to the level of rape, the victim-blame has been heating around us so slowly for so long that we don’t even notice we’re boiling. And so, when an interviewer asks us if we’ve been raped, we say no, even if we’ve just described to that interviewer the details of a rape that was perpetrated against us. -Jaclyn Friedman

People wonder why women don’t “fight back,” but they don’t wonder about it when women back down in arguments, are interrupted, purposefully lower and modulate their voices to express less emotion, make obvious signals that they are uninterested in conversation or being in closer physical proximity and are ignored. -Harriet Jacobs

Both quotes pulled from Thomas's post. Please read all three links.

I've mentioned before here, other places on the web, and in face-to-face interactions with people that I've been raped. But I've never given any more detail than, "I have experienced rape." I've also mentioned here and everywhere else that I've experienced attempted rape. That one I'm not hesitant at all to share all the details. The assault itself, the subsequent trial, the shame I felt, my distaste for a "justice" system that would parole a serial rapist after only 5 years of an already pitiful sentence and why there had to be another victim before he got the life sentence he deserved.

The attempted rape is easy for me to talk about. Fuck, change the line of trees he jumped out from behind to some bushes and I actually experienced a stranger jumping out of the bushes with a weapon. Give me back my virginity and my attempted rape is a goddamn trope people. But that one's easy, because that one was "acceptable". My actual rape... not so much. And it goes back to what Jaclyn and Harriet talk about.

Here’s a situation every woman is familiar with: some guy she knows, perhaps a casual acquaintance, perhaps just some dude at the bus stop, is obviously infatuated with her. He’s making conversation, he’s giving her the eye. She doesn’t like him. She doesn’t want to talk to him. She doesn’t want him near her. He is freaking her out. She could disobey the rules, and tell him to GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM HER, and continue screaming GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME every time he tries to step closer, or speak to her again. And then he will be all, “I was just talking to you! WTF!” and everybody else will be all, “Yeah, seriously, why’d you freak out at a guy just talking to you?” and refuse to offer the support she needs to be safe from dude. Or, the guy might become hostile, violent even. Ladies, you’ve seen that look, the “bitch can’t ignore me” look. It’s a source of constant confusion, as soon as you start budding breasts, that the man who just a moment ago told you how pretty you are is now calling you a stupid ugly whore, all because you didn’t get in his car.


You could follow the rules. You could flirt back a little, look meek, not talk, not move away. You might have to put up with a lot more talking, you might have to put up with him trying to ask you out to lunch every day, you might even have to go out to lunch with him. You might have to deal with him copping a feel. But he won’t turn violent on you, and neither will the spectators who have watched him browbeat you into a frightened and flirtatious corner. -Harriet Jacobs

I was taught to scream "No!" and fight back.... when a stranger popped out of the bushes at me. So I screamed no and fought back when a stranger popped out of the woods at me. But I was also taught to be deferential, to be "nice", to not interrupt other people but to not say anything when men interrupted me, that my opinions don't matter, that my boundaries don't matter, that I don't matter. And I learned those lessons just as well as I learned the scream-no-and-fight-back lesson. Better, actually, because that was was drilled into me every day of my life. So I followed these other rules, and a man was able to rape me because I followed those rules. My first PIV sexual experience was rape.

And I couldn't even see it as rape! It took me years of uneasy feelings about it to realize why it was those experiences never sat right with me. And like the women mentioned in Jacyln's piece, I thought I wasn't affected by what had happened to me either. Again, the attempted rape was "easy". There were the nightmares that were an obvious PTSD result that I still have from time to time. There was the immediate rage, and the depression that took a little longer to materialize, but all of that was obviously and justifiably tied to what happened to me. The actual rape? It's not like I went through years of self loathing and self destructive behavior when I first started having sex. Or like I flinch any time someone touches my arm or leg uninvited. Or that I get incredibly uncomfortable when a date or lover tries to kiss me repeatedly in public. Or that I still feel like I have to play nice with some guy who won't pick up on my obvious cues to leave me alone (or ignoring it when I flat out say, "I am not interested in you.") when what I really want to do is break his face on the fucking bar. Oh wait....

But the issue of boundaries is not an individual issue of what one rape survivor did or didn’t do. .... Rapists look for the spots where boundaries cannot or will not be enforced. They don’t really care why. They are opportunists. They do what works. They can’t be changed. And we sure can’t wait around for the people who can’t defend their boundaries to change it; they’re doing what they can with what they have where they are. More than that, the boundary violations tend to work by degrees, so that the little ones build the foundation for the big ones, and by the time the rape happens the rapist stands on a stepladder of disempowerment. -Thomas

It's a societal problem, yet somehow again and again the entire onus of responsibility is put onto the victim (usually women). Yeah, tell me one more "joke" about how women control sex and access to it. Tell that to my face when I've told you I've been raped. When I say I still can't enjoy sex as openly as I would like because that makes me "unrapeable" in some people's eyes.

The one thing that every rape has in common isn't the clothes the victim was wearing, or the height of the heels on the victim's feet, or the presence of violence, or alcohol or drugs, or the gender or orientation of the victim. The one thing that every rape has in common is the presence of a rapist.... and a society that will support the rapist more quickly and more often than the human being who was victimized.


  1. As of last Wednesday, I am a 17-year survivor. Thanks for speaking out.

  2. Aw fuck Cheryl. Next time I see you I'm attacking your ass with a bear hug.

    Just your ass ;)

  3. Just so you know, my ass has a miraculous ability to propel people across the room. Consider yourself warned...