The Word 'Victim' Dehumanizes Survivors Of Sexual Violence
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Politics and Activism

The Word 'Victim' Dehumanizes Those Who Have Experienced Sexual Violence

People who have been raped are seen as no more alive than someone who was shot dead at war.

The Word 'Victim' Dehumanizes Those Who Have Experienced Sexual Violence

I am not disillusioned about my own perfection. However, I am perfect. Clinically, at least. I don't have diabetes or an extra toe or carry any weight that makes it harmful for me to live. I have the same height as Cindy Crawford and a face that is not unsightly despite its light topple into non-symmetry. My hips aren't abhorrently wide and I don't have cancer or snakes for arms or a gummy bear body and I rarely wear my glasses so I appear to have 20/20 vision. I am, clinically, I feel upon dissociative idealization and out-of-body-self-contextualizing-into-blatant critique, perfect. The sole mark on my silver bullet of a basket case body and mind, that leaps where it should linger, anxiety a killer, is an unflattering, penis-sized scuff.

When I talk about the scuff, I like to think that I can do with it away like a shoe shiner does to worn black leather Oxfords. I maintain that the use of coping mechanisms is not always the best road to recovery, but then, I am also sincerely devout to hold that I don't like recovery and its linkage to becoming a victim over an experiencer; perhaps not coping then, is my own unwise choice. Women, men, gender benders and gender-non-conformers, whoever it is that has had their body broken into, are not the victims of circumstance. Recipients of unaccounted for pains, owner of something they didn't ask for, sure, but not in the same way one receives a gift on their birthday or Christmas morning. But when everyone wears black in New York, I do suppose the singular magenta-laden body is given special attention, a mix of awe and discomfort that makes onlookers wish they knew what it is like to wear magenta and make them pity the life of one who probably can't ever wear black again.

Someone who has looked a rapist dead in the eye and known their tender and loving touch explaining the experience to someone who only knows rape from NCIS and from scary stories from mommy and daddy about wearing short skirts, creates a dubious and sickening thought cycle of want versus not-want in those who listen to the story. How did it happen? When? How old were you? What were you wearing? Are you sure it was rape? Did you report it? What did he look like? Listeners pose questions that give them an air of sympathy to mask the interest of empathy, wanting to feel the rape themselves. They, listeners, want to know rape like a mother but never get scolded by it, never feel its solicitous-killer breath against their skins.

Humanhood allows for rest in unkeen waters, a kind of wading period to get feet stuck, maybe forget how to swim, but all the while maintaining enough of a sense of buoyancy that no one asks if they can help, no one apologizes. Someone who floats in the marvelous sensation of humanhood is adjunct to a simplistic ideal about untainted women and the hold on physical anti-intimacy through the experiences of women that lie so separate from the people they dictate as "victim."

Then there is victimhood.

Within the idea of victimhood, rape victims are not in the center of the Venn diagram of humanhood and dead people. Rape victims are dead people, every apology for an experience equates to an apology for life having been lived. Listeners rally their sorries and whisper their tears, wave a white flag in the air like the word "victim" is theirs to own through hearing a story, when truly, the word belongs to no one. People who have been raped are seen as no more alive than someone who was shot dead at war. And they are handled with care, wrapped tightly in humanhood's imposed bubblewrap against words like "sex," "penis," "man."

Rape, like many attacks on one's pneuma, is not seeable on a person's body. It isn't peach fuzz or a tattoo, it is not a scar dimpled on the forehead of Humandhood's "victims." As we veer away from, as a public, the silencing of people into their own scuffs through shaming, sharing experiences of rape is slowly becoming an open topic of conversation. But let's not call this progress, as it's from that moment, where yes I was raped escapes the owner's mouth and releases into the ether, that the listener sucks it in wholly and dehumanizes their victim, again.

In our last few weeks together, I found myself wanting to touch my girlfriend less and less. Maybe it was because depression causes low sex drive or maybe because we should have broken up in February but it was already June. Maybe it's because love is blood cold and isolating when romance finally wears away. Maybe it was because she wanted me to strip for men on camera to feel good about herself. Because it turned her on.

When I was 17, I was raped. In the house of the same friend who would later get me drunk to get her lips wherever on me she wanted. At the time, I'd still been in an open relationship with the same girlfriend of nearly a year who'd moved back to Brazil, and was ebbing more out than into the idea that I was a lesbian. I wanted to feel the skin of a man, a boy, against me and compare it to the smooth legs of a woman I wasn't sure I loved anymore. Unimpressed by his cadence and without any feelings of attraction, but drunk and convenienced by his admiration of the lingerie I'd worn for clothes, when he sat next to me on my friend's burnt orange couch and handed me some type of fruit juice and vodka, I nudged my legs over his knees with the elegance of a one-legged bitch and gave him the most disgusting, saliva soaked kiss I think I have ever given. I followed him into the bedroom where I, after volunteering to sit on his lap and suck his neck until I felt like I had accomplished something great in the absence of anything human, let him undress me. Eventually, on all fours, I lost the condom and found it again, but had no lube so I pretended that my nerve endings still worked in a drunken stupor and moaned into his attempts to compensate for a girl whose body wasn't equipped to handle sex with a man.

Girl-turned-sex-toy-with-a-scent, it only slightly sobered me to think I was satisfying him to taste and savagely lick another body, like eating ribs. At least I couldn't dissatisfy in having flesh, and I owed him this for failing.

The party would eventually die down. People went home smelling like cigarettes, marijuana and whatever scent of hangover they had bottoms-upped, save for the few that would spend the night. Of which I was one and the boy from the bedroom was another. We were left alone in the living room on the burnt orange couch to share a blanket, our body warmth lost to open windows in mid-June. And there we were again, kissing and demonizing the act in the process, smashing lips to feel lips smashing when we felt nothing for the other at all. Shirts and skirt, belt buckles and underwear flung under and around the burnt orange couch before he would run to the pharmacy around the corner and pick up a six-pack of condoms, returning to undress once more, and lay me under him.

I don't remember being able to think, the only traceable images that night being the color of the couch and the fact he had brown eyes, too much like my own. But no other coherent thought, but for that: I'd have sex with him only with a condom on. I may not remember much of the night, but I was clear on that, I was. It wasn't working again, disenchanting drunk girl's body no longer a pretty challenge, but a pretty waste of time. He was frustrated, opening three condoms at once, hoping one might work before, like magic, it was working. But it wasn't sex. It was a penis-sized, protection-less invader in a space that I hadn't given it permission to enter underdressed. Scuffing me.

I remember the only vivid moment of clarity, realizing what was happening. I asked him if he was wearing the condom. Eyes shut and body thrusting forward like it was entering a sex doll, breathing heavy, he didn't respond. And I asked him again. He did not respond. I flat handed his arm, frantic, thinking of growing warts or having children, finding out that perhaps I couldn't have children, what if my mother finds out, the prices of abortions, if I'd have to live diseased for the rest of my life Hey listen are you... Are you wearing it? Tell me. Hello? And, eventually, he shook his head no. I told him to stop, No don't worry. No, stop it, Don't worry I won't. Seriously stop it get off of me, I won't finish in you, don't worry. Get off of me, please, No. Now, Shhh. Malcolm get off, and I kicked him off of me in a cold sweat, heart racing and suddenly too sober to understand what was happening and who he was and where I was. I put on my clothes and laid with him for the night, apologized for not being a decent enough pleasure center. He put my hands on his chest and told me to keep them there. The next morning he kissed me goodbye by sucking on my neck and telling the other people in the house he had the rights to my breasts, the only one allowed to look at them or talk about them. He'd send me a message on Facebook messenger two months later asking if he took my virginity because the last girl he had sex with got an infection. I told him it was probably from some other girl he fucked without a condom on, without her knowing. Of the night in June, Yeah that was shitty of me, sorry.

When I was 17, I was raped, and I didn't tell anyone. Not for months, and a year and a half later the ones who I've told have either felt my hurt for themselves or blamed it on having had been drinking, like my therapist. They've hugged me and avoided me, questioned me, asked me to repeat back to them what the definition of rape is. They've asked me if I wanted the sex. But that was not sex. That was rape. Not a gift, and not something that I asked for.

When I was 17, I was raped. Do you see me differently? As an author, a person? Do my words take less authority on the tip of your brain's tongue as the echo of my wisdoms melt into a vapor in your mindspace? That's another thing they say about us, the ones who own rape: that we're overly emotional. We're disjointed from reality.

Eleven months and two weeks after the rape, I'd find myself holding the hand of a five-foot-six boy from my theatre class for four dates over two weeks. He was nice, not particularly handsome, certainly not my type, but he had muscles and told me I was pretty. I told myself I liked him, obsessed over him like a child over cartoons or mac and cheese, used my 11:11 wishes to ask the stars to make him like me. In hindsight, mine which is rarely 20/20 and that is in fact now, in respect to him, 25/20, I wanted to be with him because I knew I could be. I was taller and could dance and walked runways and was able to grow my ego big enough to latch onto the nearest, non-menacing boy who could impossibly break my heart because he would never really hold it.

On our second date, he looked at me with angels in his eyes on a park bench, put one hand on my knee and another through my hair, and kissed me. So, can I ask you a question? Sure, shoot. You're really hot. Oh, thanks. That's the question? No ha I mean, I think you're really hot, so. Do you think we'll ever be more... As his finger grazed my thigh upwards, Intimate? Maybe. Not now. Not soon. OK.

On the fourth and last date before he would call me to tell me he wanted to kill himself at midnight and we would break up, we sat on another park bench on the West Side of Central Park. He would ask me if I was sure I wasn't a lesbian, presumably because the last six girls he'd slept with didn't want to wait. They were also prostitutes, he tells me is decently normal for Kazakh boys, but I doubt heavy. I said I wasn't then kissed him to prove it, only sincerely proving my own desperation for a man to make me feel safer than the one who raped me.

After I kissed him he said I can tell you're getting impatient with waiting. How's that? The way you bite my lip, I know that you want it. It was Ramadan in two days so I said I did, but Ramadan was soon so we would have to wait regardless. I live right here, you know where I live. We can go. You wanna sleep… We can go right now. Come on, let's go.

And as he was getting up to whisk me romantically away to sneak into his bedroom to quietly fuck while his little brother slept in the next room, I said maybe not. OK, I should get home though. Nice seeing you again, girlfriend. I hope Ramadan goes by fast.

I sit in writing class, a year and a half later, and think of my boyfriend's body: the pinkness of his lips, and what it's like to undo his belt while he lifts the window blinds to let the moon in as I kiss him.

I think about how we're both gay, guilty how he makes love to a burgeoning statistic. Often times, when he touches me, I imagine his choke will kill me or he will get up and never come back.

I think about his favorite poem, one that I've grown to love too.

I think about him using poetry as a tool to pull me into him, make me fall in love, only to one day say he thinks writing is a dead art as much as I am overused and lamented to him.

I think about finally seeing him again, how softly and securely his forearms squeeze me into him when he misses me and I'm laying beside him.

I think about him hugging me so tightly because he's angry I am not someone else and perhaps wishing me into who he wants me to be will culminate with my transformation. When he calls me cute I wish he would call me beautiful and when he calls me hot I wish he would call me cute.

And I wonder if he sees us as strangers who have to go places together and make breakfast in the mornings just to pay tax to the sex. But I try to embrace my erotic for him, for myself. To be as much an unscuffed woman as I will allow myself.

I hunger for the day I can fully tell him I was raped without the veil of some guy did some stuff he shouldn't have done. But I refuse to be taken care of or apologized to. I refused to be his little girl or his damsel in distress, the woman he sexes with caution and overwhelming love and empathy laced through every moan.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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