Big. Honking. Trigger. Warning. I’m going to talk explicitly about rape and rape culture. And I’m really fucking pissed off. I’ve gone through tired to exhausted and I’m back to flat out angry. So.
It’s no secret that I speak pretty publicly about my life.
This week has been a rough one in Emmieland.
It took me several days and I don’t know how many conversations and discussions and articles read and think pieces absorbed and hearing the word rape over and over and over and over again to finally put my finger on why I’ve spent this whole week feeling like the background music has stopped and something’s about to jump out from behind a wall and hit me in the face with a cat ‘o nine tails.
I’ve been talking about this for ages. So many other survivors have too. When you live daily with PTSD and have sexual violence as part of your past, you find a new normal. You move through your world, and you do your thing, and if you talk about what happened, you’re always prepared for people not to listen. (Or to get aggressive. Whee.)
Because some will listen. Some will show compassion and empathy. Some will listen without judgement or asking those terrible questions like what were you wearing and why were you drinking so much and hasn’t it been seven years now and are you sure it was rape?
But a lot of people just don’t give a shit. They have Opinions about women’s bodies and their perceived failure to I dunno, build an appropriate naptha-filled moat. Most of those people would never tell a war vet to just get over it, or tell them that their past trauma doesn’t matter. But women and men who survive sexual assault and rape? Fair game. I believe strongly this is because women’s bodies are treated (still) as open to public discourse, if not outright property. And men who are raped are treated with disbelief, disgust, and disdain because rape is seen as something that only can happen to women, and as we all know, the greatest insults to give any human on this planet is to imply association with “femininity.” And then there are people outside that binary, genderqueer people or transpeople, who are at the highest levels of risk and the lowest level of volume in any discussion about it. And then there are people of colour and people with disabilities and this thing called intersectionalism where if you happen to be for instance, a poor transwoman of colour with a disability, probably you’re at the highest risk and your voice gets lost in the din.
With me so far? People who get raped don’t get listened to. We get written off by friends, family, the legal system, prosecutors, society, the media, pop culture, “it’s just a joke,” “it’s just a fictional character,” “it’s just it’s just it’s just GET OVER IT ALREADY.” We stay in the shadows because when we poke our heads out, people want to line up and tell us that it was somehow our fault. That we should have reported it, that we should have fought harder, that not having bruises means it didn’t really happen. Or they flat don’t believe you. At all. Meanwhile, we get to walk through a different world, a colder world, a hostile world that doesn’t care to hear what we have to say because oh, they Know Better and false rape accusations ruin the lives of Good Men and Not ALL Men and you’re just overreacting you’re oversensitive and he doesn’t look like a rapist.
Newsflash: look around your world next time you walk out the door. You’re going to pass a rapist. That rapist won’t be wearing a neon fucking sign and won’t be creeping through a dark alley clothed in shadows and screams.
They’ll look like any other commuter. Scary? Yeah. It’d be a lot easier if they wore signs.
The Ramsay Boltons of the world? Yeah, they’re out there. The sociopathic sadistic fucks exist. But more often, it’s someone you know. Probably even someone well liked. Charming. Affable. A regular everyday Huxtable.
When I finally allowed myself to accept the word, the r-word, as mine, when I finally put together the facts that:
-I said no multiple times
-I pushed his hands away multiple times
-Freezing up was a legitimate response
-Fighting would have endangered my life because
-He had a concealed carry permit and
-He had a veritable arsenal of weaponry at home and
-He had over 100 pounds on me and
-When I said I hadn’t wanted him to touch me he said
-“You should have stopped me”
…when I finally put all those things together and said to myself that he raped me, that that word rape was now my own and that it was part of me and that I would have to rebuild around it, it shattered me again. Because that was only the beginning. He stalked me for almost a year afterward, until I moved out of state. It’s been seven years now. Almost to the day. Still every time I hear that word, it reminds me that it’s mine. I survived, yes. But part of surviving is reliving. Rebuilding. Recentering yourself in the body that’s yours.
I started talking to friends. You know, they say the stats are something like 1 in 5 women will be raped in her lifetime. V-Day* says 1 in 3 women will be raped or beaten. But when I talked to my friends about what had happened to me?
Every. Single. One. Had. Her. Own. Story.
One was raped by a friend who came over to her house. Another was drugged at a party and raped. One (at first — as years went on, I heard this several more times from others) was raped while unconscious at a party. Another was raped by her husband and choked. Another two were anally raped. Another had been repeatedly raped for years by a friend of the family from age 9-14. Molestation. Abuse. Constant sexual assault. Rape by friends and acquaintances, exes and current significant others.
Out of them only one had gone to the police. They had her rapist’s DNA and evidence of the drug he’d used in her blood panel. They still wouldn’t prosecute.
Here’s a happy thought: out of all the rapists who have raped me and my friends, they’re all but one still out there, and most rapists are serial rapists. An average of something like six victims. All but one of my friends’ rapists are still out there; the guy who didn’t get prosecuted OD’d a couple years later and died. (By the way, the survivor’s friends asked why she wouldn’t go to his funeral, because that’s what happens when someone rapes you. They get to keep their friends and get the pity vote, and you get treated like you’re somehow unreasonable for not wanting to ever be face to face — dead or alive — with the person who violated your bodily autonomy and evicted you from the one place on this earth that is truly yours. FUN.)
So if I had to just hazard a guess at the truth of those statistics? I’d say 1 in 5 is probably a goddamn conservative estimate.
Originally this post was going to be something different. I shared a very personal post earlier this week, and I was going to discuss why I talk about such personal things.
The short answer? It’s about connection, because whenever I do, people come out of the woodwork with quiet “me too’s,” and there is nothing like that reassurance that you are not alone. That this fight is not one you have to wage by yourself. That there are others, that we are here, and that we hear you. That I always keep fighting, and they always keep fighting, and together we can maybe always keep fighting a little stronger and more steadily.
Here’s the part where I get really fucking angry. (Rather, angrier.)
I haven’t stopped hearing about rape all week. Because a bunch of showrunners have decided for several years that the best formula for their show is just add some rape. Consensual in the source material?** Nah, make it rape. (See Dany and Drogo [in books, Dany says yes and guides Drogo’s hand to her], Cersei and Jaime [in the books, she says do me now]) Got a guy you want really pissed off? Threaten to rape a woman he loves. Never talk about it again. Over and over and over and over. Reinforcing that this is the inevitability of a woman’s existence, that those of us who identify as women — this is our lot in life. And even so, it doesn’t get to be about us. Instead it’s about pushing a male character to breaking point, upsetting him or angering him. It’s about his arc. She’ll be over it by the next episode, because sure, that’s what happens. *** This is a show that has purposely exploited sexual violence for shock value, and this week it has won them more publicity and buzz than anything else they’ve ever done.
Think about that for a second. They are profiting and raking in dollars upon dollars by exploiting the lived experience and trauma of millions of people.
Yes, they show despicable violence against men, like the infamous scene of Theon’s genitals being cut off.
That happened exactly once.
I stopped watching last season because they couldn’t go two episodes without at least threatening a woman (or child) with rape, and rape was pretty much just background noise. If they were sadistically and tortuously cutting off dicks every other episode, you bet your ass people’d be upset about that. But also? There ain’t too many people who go around surviving the aftershocks of trauma of that in our world. Women who have their genitals mutilated by the thousands, well, you know, that actually is still a thing.
I read something today that was basically saying that because GoT has inspired such a worldwide conversation, the rape of Sansa Stark couldn’t have been gratuitous.
Sorry. It’s that and more. Intention matters. They didn’t set out to shine light on an issue that affects millions of people. This wasn’t a revolutionary or subversive choice of theirs; it was a pattern of behaviour of appropriating and exploiting trauma for financial gain. They know that by doing this they blow up in the media. Everyone’s fucking talking about it. And again, rape survivors are legion in a way say, torture survivors are not. And nobody’s around dealing with the trauma of beheading. (Except maybe Nearly Headless Nick.) They are taking this worldwide conversation straight to the bank, and even though people are talking talking talking talking talking about rape…
I see very few instances of people listening to survivors. It’s not like none of us speak up. We’re here. You know us. You look us in the eye every day. We are your friends, your family, your colleagues. We’re the people next to you on your commute. We’re in the cubicle next to you. In the lunch line. Waiting for Starbucks. Doing your taxes. Fixing your cars. Teaching your kids. Serving your country and risking our lives. We’re HERE, GODDAMN IT.
Sometimes I think if we each wore a red band on our heads for just one day, maybe something would change.
But you know what? It’s more likely that the sheer numbers would freak people out so much they’d think it was just a stunt. Just more victimmartyrcrybaby behaviour from whinging feminists who have the audacity to think their experience matters.
But our experience does matter.
I haven’t spoken about a certain gaming shitsplosion from last fall. Because I know what happens to women who do, and because I just didn’t have the mental bandwidth for it. There have been several things that brought me close to saying, “Fuck it” and just letting loose, but until now, nothing’s really broken that camel’s back. Weirdly, something about the cacophony of this week made something snap. So you know what? Fuck being silent. And you know what? I know the probable next chapter in this as soon as I hit publish on this post. I might even set a stopwatch.
A couple good things came out of this week. There was Pitch Perfect 2, which was a fun, empowering little romp of music and friendship.
And then there was Mad Max: Fury Road. Which was exciting in that it caused massive diarrhea explosions in MRA britches, since they don’t like women and prefer Blow Me Betty dolls. And it was exciting because it was a fucking amazing action movie, gorgeously shot, acted, written, and edited. It didn’t exploit trauma for dollars. It recognised it for what it is and allowed for anger, fury, fire, and survival.
Charlize Theron was asked a rather silly question and responded in a distinctly un-silly way:
“You’ve got this rage within you. Where does it come from?” pic.twitter.com/ejMQ9DAloZ
— Christine Love (@christinelove) May 19, 2015
A lot of us do have this rage. And Furiosa gave it voice, and in her voice for once I heard my own voice and the voices of countless others who don’t get heard. A voice for all of us who live daily on the Fury Road, trying to simultaneously escape and survive our pasts while they come after us sometimes like a maelstrom of abrasive sand.
Comments closed for blazingly obvious reasons.
*Yes, I know Eve Ensler’s movement is an imperfect thing. Criticisms of it are valid. I also know that it helped me heal when I was broken. YMMV.
**Yes, I also know that said source material also is steeped in this. But when even that gives voice to explicit consent and the show decides it’s better to throw in some rape, well.
***See Veronica Mars for a much more realistic depiction of what PTSD does and an example of a show that doesn’t punch down, where the survivors get to be the ones who own the focus and where their stories matter. It’s not perfect, but thus far it’s the best I’ve seen.
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