Let’s talk about rape culture. Ugh, I know. We hate talking about that. We hate it because “NOT ALL MEN RAPE!” Yeah, we understand that. But that does not change the fact that 1 in 6 women will be raped in her lifetime. And 1 in 16 men will attempt or commit sexually violent acts against women in their lifetime. So, can you really blame us for being concerned? Can you really blame us for wanting to address it? And listen to me, I’m not claiming that men don’t get raped, so please don't pull that card. But let’s focus on women for a minute. Alright? Alright.
Now, let me give you a few examples of rape culture in America- and don’t worry, I’ll give sources:
- In 31 states, if a woman has a child as a result of rape, her rapist can sue for custody and visitation rights.
- Rape jokes are common among all ages and situations. I’ve heard them from middle school boys and all the way up to the president of the United States of America. When rapists hear people laughing about the things they do, we are giving them permission to keep doing them.
- Speaking of our president, America literally elected a man who has been accused of sexual assault on at least 16 different occasions. He has also been caught on camera. Bragging about grabbing women’s “pussies” without their consent and 2. Saying he would date a ten-year-old girl in about ten years (implying he was sexually attracted to her.) Anyways, enough about him.
- What men fear about going to jail is what women fear while walking down the sidewalk.
- Only 3% of rapists will spend even 1 day in jail.
- Only 2% of reported rapes are false, but polls say that people think up to 50% are false.
- Judges give leniency to athletes who rape so their career doesn’t suffer. *cough* Brock Turner *cough*
- Women know that it’s safer to give a guy a fake phone number than to turn him down and that saying “I have a boyfriend” means more to men than a woman simply saying “no thank you.”
- In all 50 states, a rape victim cannot sue her rapist for child support if he impregnates her.
- When men are raped, no one asks them what they were wearing or if they were drunk.
I could go on for days, but I feel too sick to my stomach to continue. I feel so repulsed because it happened to me. I am one of the 1 in 5 women who are sexually assaulted in her lifetime. This is my story:
Between the ages of about 5-11 years old I was molested by a relative that I saw on a regular basis. Since it started when I was too young to know that it was wrong, I never told. I realized at around 8 years old that what was happening to me wasn’t normal, that it wasn’t right. But by that time, I’d allowed it to go on for so long, that I thought I would get in trouble for not telling sooner. I thought it was too late. I thought, “The damage is already done, I’m already ruined, already impure and dirty and damaged. There’s no point in telling.” So it continued for a couple more years until a tragic blessing occurred. It was a blessing because the abuse stopped and I didn’t have to see my abuser anymore. It was tragic because of why it stopped. My sister shared that she had been raped by someone on that side of our family too. Then there was a court case and it got messy. When my sister told, I knew for sure that I could NEVER tell. Because of how everyone in our lives (except our lovely, supportive parents) reacted to the truth. They blamed her. She was told that she should just forgive him, that it was her that was tearing our family apart. They told her that it must have been “God’s will” so she should just let it go. Then, when she wouldn’t “let it go,” they let her go. They chose the abuser over the abused.
So I went into hiding. I vowed to never talk about what happened to me. But, being the ultra-sensitive truth teller I am, I couldn’t just ignore it. And since I couldn’t tell people I was hurting, I showed them. I decided I needed to look as broken, fragile, and empty on the outside as I felt on the inside. So I stopped eating. Well, it’s a lot more complicated than that. First, I obsessively dieted and restricted. Counting calories as if my life depended on it and doing sit ups in my room at midnight. Then, when that wasn’t satisfying enough, I tried eating nothing. But I wasn’t “strong” enough to do that. So I would starve myself as long as I could. Then, when I couldn’t take it anymore or when someone got suspicious, I’d eat a little bit or even a normal sized meal. But then I would become so overwhelmed with shame and anxiety that I just couldn’t keep it inside of me any longer. I had to get it out of me. Food felt like poison. When I was hungry, I could focus on THAT pain instead of the pain of my trauma. I loved feeling dizzy and lightheaded, weak and cold. I loved wearing a size X and weighing X pounds. It made me feel untouchable and so far removed from the rest of humanity that no one could ever hurt me again. And it helped, for a little while. I was distracted and numb.
A little later, I got a boyfriend. And I loved him instantly and fiercely. I loved that he made me feel safe and pretty and tiny. I loved that I was his. But when we were 13 things started getting physical. At first, I tried to stop what was happening, but then I remembered: there was no point, I was already impure. Who was I to say no to anyone? Much less someone who loved me. So I let him. I let him do anything and everything he wanted to do to me. And I can’t even begin to describe the immense, incapacitating shame I felt after. I would go home and cry because I was a dirty, worthless whore. (And, just to be clear, this was consensual and he didn't abuse me in any way.)
During all this, my eating disorder got way worse. My parents started to notice and tried to get me help, but I didn’t want it. My eating disorder was helping me. It was my best friend. It was me. So I fought like hell to keep it, but it was hard with one bathroom and two parents constantly watching over you. So I started to cut. Because bleeding and throwing up were kind of similar. I was hurting myself physically to numb out my hurting heart. I was ridding my body of my shame and fear and anger. But, eventually that stopped working too. So I attempted suicide. I took a bunch of pills. But I got scared and told my mom. She rushed me to the hospital and they gave me a bunch of charcoal to drink. I was fine, physically, but they sent me to the psych ward. I’m not going to dive into that part right now. But when I fake smiled my way out of there, my boyfriend broke up with me. He couldn’t handle my craziness. Back then I felt so betrayed; now, I totally understand. But I was angry. I felt abandoned and dirty so I went into total rebel mode. Trying my hardest to punish myself for everything that ever happened to me and everything I'd ever done.
I gave away my body to any semi-attractive boy who wanted it. Even if I didn’t like them in the least bit, I wanted them to like me. So I let them have me. And I sent pictures to I don’t even know how many guys and received pictures I never even opened. They made me feel even dirtier. I was getting so much worse. But when I was hungry I was numb and when I was bleeding I was distracted and when I was sexy I was worthy.
Now, flash forward three and a half years, I’m completely clean from all self-destructive behaviors. I’m still hurting, but I’m healing and growing a little more every day. I’m using what I went through to help other girls.
I’m talking. I’m telling my story and I won’t shut up about it.
I won’t shut up because people thought my 13-year-old sister was intentionally trying to destroy our family instead of consider that a “good Christian man” may have actually hurt her. I won’t shut up because when I was 14 and said “no” to a guy, he said, “You’re not pretty enough to say no to me.” I won’t shut up because when I was 15, I sent private pictures to ONE guy and somehow FIVE of his friends had them and they all blackmailed me for months; threatening to post them on the internet unless I sent more. I won’t shut up because people still blame rape victims for something for a crime they didn't commit. I won’t shut up because the court system is far too lenient on rapists. I won’t shut up until my friends and I can walk down the sidewalk past sunset by ourselves without clutching our pepper spray and looking over our shoulder every 10 seconds. I won’t shut up until NO ONE laughs at rape jokes. Because they aren’t funny. I’m not laughing, are you?
You guys, we can be the ones who end this cycle of sexual violence against women. We were created with a voice for a reason. Speak up. Tell your story. FIGHT BACK. You are not alone in this, you have an ARMY of warriors fighting with you and for you. And know this: we believe you. We are broken hearted and mad as hell for what happened to you. This wasn’t your fault. No matter where you were or what you were wearing or what you were drinking, I want you to repeat after me: This wasn’t my fault. I am innocent. Come on, say it with me: this wasn’t my fault. I am innocent. I am innocent.
And keep telling yourself that as many times a day as you have to until that truth is so deeply ingrained into your soul that no judge, no internet troll, no loved one can make you doubt it.