I don’t usually do this but I’m starting this piece with a warning: if you find the subject of rape to be a trigger, this is your warning to stop reading now.
About a year ago, the time and the place unimportant, I was invited to a party. Since I was being accompanied by friends, I thought it would be nice to hang out and meet people in a new setting. I was sober and aware of the setting and believed I was in control. Before I knew it, though, the situation changed and bad things started happening in quick succession. On that cold night, a man decided it would be a good idea to rape me. When I was in danger and in need of immediate help, there was no one to call to. By the time someone came around, it was too late. I ran away and found a place to cry where I wouldn’t be seen or heard and just cried for hours.
There is no way to verbalize everything I felt during that horrific experience. I always thought I was a strong person capable of fighting the world and everyone in it, I had been fighting demons off my back for years and thought there was no situation I wasn’t ready for. I was always told what to look out for, what to do, but nothing could have prepared me for it. When things first started, I was paralyzed with fear – listening to this man say threatening things in a sinister whisper – and things just kept getting worse.
The whole next day was the worst day of my life on every level possible. I was told by my best friend of many years that if I ever said anything, I would be beaten. I spent the entire day in a daze, traumatized and shocked. Rarely could I talk to anyone without almost breaking down into a weeping mess and falling on the floor. I passed a letter to my father explaining what had happened and asking for advice on what to do – being the misogynist Fox News watcher that he is, he simply shrugged it off as my fault for being at a party where I assumed friends would keep me safe. “That’s just what happens.” Rape.
After that day, things slowly started to return to some kind of normalcy, only nothing has really been normal since.
Over the years, I’ve written a lot and used to pride myself on rarely taking breaks from my favored craft. After that day, it seemed like there were no longer words in my head, no longer things to say, no longer points to make – everything was gone. The voice that had developed when I wrote turned monotonous. Creativity was completely shot. The ability to make even the most cursory paragraphs seemed like some far out thing. In light of these things, the writing – once my most cherished ability – stopped on that day.
A sinister type of depression appeared in which I desired to isolate myself from the outside world. As I would later find out, this isolation probably saved me further harm, because I had been setup by those who called themselves my ‘friends’. Over what? I will never know. These are people I always been good to, people who could have been viewed as an extension of my family. Finding out mid-depression that your ‘friends’ set you up to be raped breeds a type of distrust inside of you that is totally pervasive.
Later, even members of my family decided to leave me, as the queer girl who was raped became too well-known in the community for their conservative hearts to take the stress – doubtless the result of the self-congratulatory stories from the man who did this to me. I was trying my best to move on and recover with minimal (or no) support, and people would point at me in public, sometimes whispering amongst themselves.
Welcome to small town America, where victim blaming isn’t just commonplace, it’s the expected norm.
Some people out there laugh at the idea of teaching men not to rape, or claim that’s a sexist thing, but somewhere down the line someone should have taught this man to respect women and their feelings. Someone should have told this man to respect the rights that others have to be safe and free of harm. No one did, and I am the consequence of this horrible form of inaction.
In all likelihood, this man and his friends talked about women in their spare time as meat. They probably objectified us in speech and in thought in ways that made this crime that much more likely. How many women have to be raped before society moves forward enough to know and be able to firmly declare at all stages of life, rape is wrong?
Sadly, my experience isn’t just my experience. It’s an experience shared by men and women alike all over the country, and far too many of them will go entirely unheard. Many of those who make public their assaults will be blamed for ruining the life of some eloquent rapist. A lot of us will be bullied, many of us will be called sluts for not being able to prevent our own assault. Some of us will take the unfortunate step of self-harm or outright suicide.
Rape took a lot from me and a lot out of my life, in ways I could have never expected even if told. I experienced the worst sides of assault and the victim blaming that inevitably follows it. Some have said I was drunk, others declared I was being flirty, some simply shouted “slut!” – but I wasn’t. I was terrified. And I was raped.