There are so many things I want to say about this, but they almost all come down to one thing. One thing that is so obvious and glaring and disturbing in our society, one thing that is dismissed by far too many people. Rape culture.
Victim blaming and shaming.
Often it all hides behind some kind of religious justification, some requirement of purity and modesty to ensure that there is nothing about a girl or a woman that might incite arousal in a boy or man, as though they are wholly incapable of controlling those primal urges.
It is something so wildly pervasive in our world today, something we condemn when it happens in other places around the world, but something that far too many people here justify and perpetuate.
Rape Culture is a Thing. I know.
Why do I know?
I know because when I was a 15 year old girl, a friend of mine...at the time a good friend of mine...tried to rape me.
I managed to fight him off and get away. Not everyone is so lucky.
I wrote about it for the first time last year in the wake of the Steubenville case.
Even though I have been writing for years, even though I am outspoken about so many things that have happened in my past, even though I willingly reveal all kinds of things about myself and who I am, I didn't write about this until last year.
I didn't even tell anyone it happened for years afterward.
Not my friends, not my family, not anyone.
I never reported it.
I never pressed charges.
All the same reasons this girl was kicked out of the prom.
I was a 15 year old girl. I was wearing shorts that someone would say were too short. Someone would say I led him on. Someone would tell me I encouraged it. Someone would tell me I deserved it. Someone would absolve him of responsibility because he just couldn't control himself. He was a boy and boys will be boys. I should have known better. I shouldn't have been alone with my friend, the one that I trusted right up until this all happened.
I didn't tell anyone because I knew it wouldn't do any good.
I didn't tell anyone because I would be shamed and blamed for what happened.
I didn't tell anyone because I knew there would be no consequences for him.
I didn't tell anyone because I didn't want to relive it all for nothing.
I didn't tell anyone because I didn't want my past being dissected.
I didn't tell anyone because I couldn't deal with the assumptions people would make about me.
I didn't tell anyone.
I didn't tell anyone.
I know that rape culture is a thing because it kept me quiet.
We live in a world now where 55 universities are being investigated for their handling of sexual assault cases.
We live in a world now where the media is more concerned about the GPA, the college scholarships, the athletic abilities of rapists and what these accusations will do to hinder their futures than the harm done to their victims.
We live in a world where girls are being routinely kicked out of proms because adults are deciding they are too sexy, as though that is an appropriate thing for an adult to say about a child.
We live in a world where far too many people believe that boys and men simply cannot control their urges and it is up to women to prevent rape.
We live in a world where our elected representatives muse about legitimate rape and claim that there are biological defenses to impregnation in cases of rape.
We live in a world where rapists are slapped on the wrist even when they plead guilty because the victim wasn't a virgin.
We live in a world where we refuse to believe that all children, male and female, can be raised to respect others.
In the piece I wrote last year, I wrote the following statement.
Does that make you uncomfortable???
Rape isn't about sex. It isn't about what the victim is wearing. It isn't about what her past reveals. It isn't about who else she has slept with. It isn't about whether she has birthed a child. It isn't about whether she is sober or drunk.
It is about what happens in that moment.
It is about a victim being forced into a sexual act without their consent.
Rape is about power. Rape is about control.
Rape isn't about dissecting the past of the victim to determine if they are worthy enough as a victim. It isn't about weighing the harm to the perpetrator. It isn't about what other skills or abilities the rapist possesses. How we ever got to a point in this society where any of that mattered is mind numbing. None of it should matter.
A criminal is a criminal.
A rapist is a rapist.
Rape is rape.
Rape can happen to anyone, male or female, young or old. It can happen between strangers, between acquaintances, between family members, between friends, even between spouses, and it is never ever okay.
It is never ever okay.