Throughout my last two years of being a rape survivor, I have been asked a few outrageous things along the way. Sadly, I feel as though some members of our society lack the basic understanding as to how to speak to rape and sexual assault survivors, and that is a skill we need to start teaching. And recently, with all the Kavanaugh proceedings, rape is discussed and mentioned more and more with a growing frequency. So, here is my two cents on an EXTREMELY important topic, and hopefully, you can carry this information with you so that if someone you love is unfortunately ever a victim, you will know exactly what NOT to say.
1. "Why didn't you press charges?"
After something this traumatic happens, it is a lot easier to keep moving forward than trying to delve into the past. When this happened to me, I was in the midst of applying to 13 universities and I felt it was a far better use of my time to focus on the one thing I could control: my future. I didn't want to spend the rest of my senior year dealing with law enforcement, telling my story over and over again, and being judged by probably more than a few old white men.
2. "You agreed to meet this person, so wouldn't you say you are somewhat to blame?"
This is especially applicable for date rape survivors like myself. Yes, I agreed to go on a date with this man, but obviously I did not expect the night to end the way it did. According to RAINN, three out of four rapes are committed by someone known to the victim, not a random stranger in an alleyway. So we should bear no blame in the fact that this person, that we thought was trustworthy, did this to us. It is their fault and no one else's.
3. "Are you sure what happened was actually rape? Or did things just go too far?"
There is a huge fucking difference between rape and things "going too far," and it is truly baffling to me that some people have the gall to ask this question. When someone is forcing you down or holding you as you are trying to move, that is rape. When someone is continuing to do what they please despite you screaming "no" more times than you can count, that is rape. When you feel, in that moment, that your body no longer belongs to you, that is rape. Survivors know what rape is better than anyone, so stop making us feel like we don't.
4. "Why didn't you tell someone right away?"
When something this traumatic happens, our minds will do literally whatever it can to protect us from knowing it. In this situation, your mind blocks you from remembering details and it is almost like you "blacked out" in that moment. It took my Mom listening to me, as I recounted as much as I could remember, for about a minute for her to tell me that it was rape, because I didn't even realize it. And after that, it took months of therapy to remember important details. And to be perfectly honest, even if I could remember what happened right away, I would have felt so ashamed that I probably would have buried it deep down where no one could ever find it.
5. "Did you agree to do some stuff with him?"
In terms of things not mattering, I think this rings in at number 1. I don't care if you were just kissing or if you were already having sex, you changed your mind and they didn't respect that. Period. End of story.
6. "Have you thought about the other girls he could have also raped?"
Fuck you. Clearly I have thought about that. I think about that almost every day of my life and I question whether or not I made the right decision in not reporting it. It terrifies me to think that I maybe could have prevented this from happening to someone else and that I didn't take any action towards ensuring that it didn't. I made my decision about not reporting it and I stand by it. Additionally, I pray every night that there is not some girl crying herself to sleep because this asshole did it again.
7. "What were you wearing?"
This one is pretty simple. If it didn't matter what I was wearing then, and he still did it anyway, then why the hell should it matter now? I don't care if you were wearing nipple tassels and a g-string, it never matters. Perpetrators don't care if you are dressed in sweatpants, they have an objective and nothing will stop them from achieving it.
8. "Why didn't you fight back?"
Well, first of all, I did. I squirmed and I screamed with all my might, but it wasn't enough. Second of all, in that moment, when a victim realizes what is about to happen, we shut down and we decide that it is not even worth fighting anymore; the damage is already done.
9. "Was it really that bad? I mean, some people have it a lot worse."
Sadly, this is also another thing that someone said to me. Kind of relating to one of my points above, rape is rape. There are no such things as "degrees of rape." Don't try to compare what I went through to what another person went through because everybody's experience is different and they are all equally horrible.
10. "Do you hate men now?"
Someone literally asked me this about two weeks ago and it took all my might not to let my jaw drop. In this situation, the part does not at all represent the whole. This one horrible person, who happens to be a man, does not represent all men. I grew up with two wonderful older brothers, they would never do this. I grew up with an incredible Dad, he would never do this. I have an amazing boyfriend, he would never do this. Men don't commit rape. RAPISTS COMMIT RAPE.