Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Vague, Subtle Reality.

When we think of rape, we think of the scenes in movies that are designed to shock us. Brief, violent encounters. Women screaming. Clothes ripping.

We think of all of the "Self Defense" classes that are given for women; What to do if some huge, burly guy tries to grab us in a bar or dark alley.

We think of domestic abuse; drunken, angry husbands and sobbing wives.

We don't think of the literally millions of women who blame themselves for being raped because it doesn't fit into what the world says it should.

We don't think of the women who got too drunk at a party and woke up the next day having no idea what happened, or woke up to someone doing things to them that they had no idea were happening until then.

We don't think of the women who are in relationships with narcissistic men who never stop to think that maybe she doesn't want it. Who never realize that they don't have a right to her body just because she's given it before.

We don't think of the many, many ways in which a woman can be subtly raped. The ways that leave her feeling confused and dirty, that leave her having no idea if anyone would believe her if she used "The R Word" or if they'd just wave their hands and tell her that she "asked for it."

The ways that leave her calling her lover saying that she "cheated."

In some cases, this is called "being taken advantage of." It's not usually considered rape by the general populace.

Well. That's male chauvinist bullshit. Not necessarily men thinking that, but people with a blind bias towards the male perspective. Women have it, too. If a woman dresses provocatively, if a woman drinks, if a woman finds herself alone in a man's apartment, in his car, in a park, if a woman freely takes lovers as she pleases. Men and women alike will say "she was asking for it" about this type of women.

So let me make this perfectly clear:

No one EVER has a right to your body. It doesn't matter where you are or what you're doing. If doesn't matter how many lovers you have, or have had. It doesn't matter what you're wearing. Nothing gives anyone the right to your body. No one has any claim. Not strangers, not friends, not family, not spouses. Being drunk doesn't make it okay. I don't care if you're a prostitute! No one has a right to your body.

http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/rape defines Rape as "forcible sexual relations with a person against that person's will."

It also says the following, and I want you all to read this carefully.

"Lack of consent is a necessary element in every rape. But this qualifier does not mean that a person may make sexual contact with a minor or incapacitated person who actually consented. Lack of consent may result from either forcible compulsion by the perpetrator or an incapacity to consent on the part of the victim."

Lack. Of. Consent.

This isn't the turn of the twentieth century, anymore. No one is property. It's no longer only considered rape if a woman screams and cries. It counts if she doesn't want it and she doesn't say yes.

This doesn't mean that she has to say "no" specifically. Against her will means that if she doesn't want it, it's rape.

Now that doesn't make the perpetrator a "rapist" per se. I believe that there is such a thing as accidental rape. I'm not saying that that's acceptable or any more mentally damaging than violent rape, but it is MUCH more confusing.

However I do not believe that all who commit this grey act of rape are evil people. I do not believe that one of my rapists is evil. He's not a malicious man, he didn't mean to hurt me.

But that doesn't mean that he didn't. It doesn't make it okay. It doesn't make me feel any better.

The point I'm trying to reach is as follows: Rape is not black and white. It's not cinnematic. It's not dramatic. It's not the violent, clear-cut thing that the world would have us believe. Rape can be very, very grey. It can leave the victim confused and disgusted, uncertain whether the word they want to use is appropriate or if they'll be "The girl who cried 'rape."

I'm going to go past the legal definitions here, and offer my own perspective as a victim.

If you feel raped, you probably were. It may not hold up in a court of law in all cases, but it IS the first step in getting the emotional and mental support and help that you need.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Unnecessary Repercussions.

Last night I received a phone call from my father.

Now I first want to say that I have the best father in the world. Truly and completely amazing. Fun, loving, laid back, patient, kind, wise. Especially wise. He's lived a lot of life, and has seen a lot go down, and has a pretty good idea of how to deal with a lot of things.

My father deals with one of my rapists on a fairly regular basis. He didn't know until just a few days ago that this man had raped me, however. In fact, a goodly number of my friends deal with this man on a regular basis. Have been friends with him for years, having no idea what happened.

Well, not even a week ago a lot of them found out. This man, whom I will refer to as X, also found out. Now he had never considered himself a rapist, and he was surprised to learn that I consider myself to be raped by him. I wasn't surprised that he thought that way--He is not an evil man, just a thoughtless narcissist. (As our own L so succinctly put it.)

Anyway. One of the reasons why I never told anyone about this is because X runs a business in an area where a lot of my friends and family spend a good amount of time, which is why they deal with him fairly often. And when X heard about what happened, he of course was worried about it costing him his business. He went to talk to my father (Who, being patient and wise, listened.) to recount his version of the story. He then expressed his concern for the future state of his business, and was quoted by my father as having said, "Do I need to sue her to get her to stop?"

Wait.

WHAT?!

I mentioned his name exactly once. Only his first name. Not his middle name, not his last name, not his age, nor description, nor did I mention anything about his business or even how I knew him. Just his first name and what he did to me, in a friends-locked blog entry on facebook.

And now he's talking about suing me.

This, my friends, is my fear come true.

Now. I don't think it would really hold up in a court of law. And either way, the statute of limitations for sexual assault in the applicable state is 7 years, and it's only been four. So if he DOES decide to sue me, I will defend myself with a counter-suit. I may not win, but he probably won't either.

So, while I'm not truly academically worried about that right now, it is a thing that I should never have to deal with. Unfortunately I may have to deal with it.

And this leads me into the other part of this topic that I wanted to discuss--The responses of friends and loved ones.

After finding out that a friend or loved one has been assaulted, often one of the reactions is a strong, violent desire to revenge or retroactively protect the abused party.

Listen. Anyone out there who has this desire, listen. It doesn't work that way.

I'll say that again.

It doesn't work that way.

You can't change something that happened. You can't protect someone from something that's already happened. You can't defend them. Unless you're superman, and run backwards around the planet in a rage until you go back in time. Then maybe you can. But then we're all subject to paradox and alternate timelines and GREAT SCOTT! Who knows WHERE it could lead us?

Mixing metaphors. Sorry.

The point is, what's done is done. You can't change that by lashing out. If you try to hurt the person who hurt your friend, child, sibling, lover, whatever, you'll only hurt yourself and your loved one. If you REALLY want to hurt the person, try to convince the victim to press charges. The further it gets from the time of assault, the more difficult this is, of course. But that's the only way to do it that will help.

Anything else, any other form of lashing out, will only hurt the situation and make your side less plausible if you do decide to press charges.

If any of my friends are reading this, then don't go bother X. I don't want any drama. This is in no way about him at all. It's about me. About my moving on. Causing him problems will only cause me more problems. Going public does not make it public business. It makes it my business which I have chosen to divulge for reasons of my own choosing.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Family History

Family History

She was 12
in her uncles house
and in those days
what was done was done
and was nobody's business
in a man's house.
She grew up and she raised daughters
and never told them
that in those days
what was done had been done
and it's done now
and he died and it was done.
But she never told them,
not directly,
and that was the lesson.
So when the daughter was 14
what was done was done
and it was not the same
but it was the same
and it was nobody's business.
And she never told her mother,
not directly,
because that was the lesson.
And she grew up.
And had daughters. 







My eternal thanks to K, for her courage, for her love, and for her strength, without which I could not have had the courage to reopen old wounds and begin to truly heal. 

...you can call me L.

Coming Out.

So yesterday, I told my backstory. Today, I think I'll tell you all what I did about it.

Not. A. Damn. Thing.

For years.

I hid myself. I didn't tell anyone. I barely admitted it to myself. I buried myself in a relationship that was safe, if not right for me. I drank too much (Though I did it socially, and I don't feel that I ever got to the point of using it as an escape or substance abuse.), I smoked too much. I surrounded myself mostly with people who never really cared about me to begin with, but were at least there.

I had a few friends who I loved very deeply, but most of them lived (And indeed, still live) in a city a couple of hours away. I managed to see them sometimes, but not as often as I wanted.

And while I didn't heal, I developed a numbness over the pain. I hadn't forgotten, but I could usually ignore it. I wasn't happy, and I wasn't living. But at least I could pretend to all who knew me, and that was good enough for the moment.

Two years later, I was raped again. And it ripped off the scar that had grown over the wound, rather than healing it. And the old issues compounded with the new ones increased my suffering exponentially. I lost it.

And by "lost it" I don't mean "went hysterical and cried for a month and had to get therapy." That would have been WAY better than what I actually did.

Not. A. Damn. Thing.

I hid myself. I didn't tell anyone. I barely admitted it to myself. And quietly, subtly, I went absolutely insane.

I don't mean lickin' the walls and talkin' to my boots. I mean I don't remember most of the summer of 2008. Just don't remember it. I vaguely remember some significant events, but I couldn't tell you when they happened. I had my first casual sexual relationship, which I don't remember at all. Previously, I had considered sex a sacred thing. Something that I should only do with someone who I loved.

That concept had been shattered in my mind forever. Sex wasn't about love, it was about sex. An end in itself. Feelings don't matter. I still have issues with thinking that way. Sex is what I'm good for. That's why people want me around. To have sex with me. If I have sex, then I'll be worth something to someone, even just for a few minutes.

I'm wrong. I am very wrong. But that's for later.

And that entire summer is a blur to me. I went home in August and it helped me get my head on straight a little. Things after that get a lot more clear.

But I still wasn't okay.

Thankfully, the next man I slept with I did fall in love with, and he with me. Very quickly and deeply. We dated for more than a year. This is important because he helped a lot with my recovery of any sense of self-worth, and he is the first person I told about my rapes more than academically. We'll call him A.

I won't get into too many details, but the truth is it came pouring out of me in a passionate rage during a fight that we were having.

And as soon as the words came out of my mouth, the fight was over. A held me close, told me how much he loved me, and let me cry as if my heart were breaking. Which it was. As if I'd never stop. Which, really, I haven't.

A was instrumental in the first steps of my recovery. He was the first person who had the opportunity to judge me, and he did not. He loved me truly. He understood when something was hard for me, but he made me talk about it when he thought I needed to. He never let me say "No, I'm fine, nevermind." It must have been like trying to pull barbed wire out of me; painful for him, but admittedly more painful for me. But it helped, because talking about it is important.

As a brief sidenote, I do have sexual side effects from the mental trauma of being raped. I have a tendency to completely break down if sex gets too intense. It shorts out my brain and I usually wind up curled up in a corner naked and sobbing while my poor lover is left completely baffled and uncertain of what to do.

Well A knew. He held me close and kissed my head and my face and told me that he loved me. That it wasn't my fault. That I was beautiful and wonderful and he understood. And if I needed it, he would just hold me until I cried myself out. And if I needed it, he would slowly and tenderly really -make love- to me, once I had calmed down.

A, if you're reading this, I want you to know that you are a truly amazing man. I am sorry it didn't work out between us, and whoever ends up with you will be an incredibly lucky woman.

But aside from that, A encouraged me to seek other outlets and other sources of healing. He encouraged me to get a journal and write in it whenever I felt alone or afraid. He encouraged me to go seek professional help for the first time.

I was extremely lucky to have someone like that to help me. A lot of us don't. Most of us have no one to force the truth out of us for our own good. I lived in silence with the knowledge of my rape for three years before I found A.

Many women I know live longer than that in silence. Some more than a decade. And this is not okay.

Now we skip forward two years after the point where I told A. Approximately. Enter B.

B has been my best friend for almost half of my life. I am 25 as I write this, and I have known B since I was about 13. We were friends mostly through this internet, but now we live in the same town through a lucky twist of fate.

I had told B about my rapes, mostly academically. I'd done some reacting, but since it was mostly two-dimensional, it never really hit home with both of us, I think. Until about five nights ago, when we were driving back to his place from hanging out with friends. We started a conversation on the way, and ended with us sitting in his car having a serious conversation about choices and burdens and why we are the way we are. It ended with me crying almost silently and talking about how I felt about being raped and why I had never told anyone.

B basically told me how stupid I was being, how pointless it was for me to focus all this pain on myself and let my secrets rot me from the inside out because I didn't want the drama that coming out would cause.

Holy wow, was he right.

Somewhere on the way home I realized he was right. I started walking up to my building, and I stopped. I turned around and faced the warm, windy thursday night. I borrowed an illicit cigarette (I quit smoking a while back) from one of my friends who was coming home at the same time. I lit it and said "I need to make a bad decision before I can make a really good one." I smoked about half of it, pacing around, staring at the sky, and pulling at my own hair. Then I threw the remainder to the ground, squared my shoulders, and went inside.

I sat down at my computer and I did the hardest thing I've ever done.

I wrote a note on Facebook, tagged everyone I thought should read it, and came out. I went into detail about my rapes, even as I did in the first post I made here. I tagged my father, my mother, and my sisters. I tagged A and B. I tagged everyone I'd mentioned it to. I tagged my friends who I know had been raped or assaulted.

And then I tagged some other people almost at random, just to get the word out.

Then I posted it, and I posted a status telling people that they are allowed and encouraged to read it, even if they aren't tagged.

I stood naked before everyone I knew, including casual acquaintances and co-workers, and demanded their judgement.

And immediately the comments, messages, texts, and emails started. And my friend L called me moments later and told me that she had been raped twice when she was younger.

And we cried together, and we talked together, and we lent each other our strength and bolstered our own. And we love each other.

And then L came out publically, even as I did. And we are proud of each other. We have given each other courage, even as I hope this blog will give someone else courage. And now we each have one other person who knows what it's like to go through that we have, and what we are right now. And it gives me strength to do what I need to do, and I think it gives her strength to do what she needs to do.

And L's coming out, which she said was inspired by mine, makes what I've been through worth it. The more people I can encourage to come out and seek help and healing, the happier I will be with my own. We can all help each other.


We can all help each other.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

To make a decision.

Welcome, one and all.

When I started this blog, it wasn't actually for anything. I just wanted to use it to comment on friends' blogs. I made a decision today that I wanted to do something with it. So please forgive me if it's a little rough starting.

I'm K. And I am a woman who has been raped. Some people call me a "victim." Some people call me a "survivor." Some people call me a "statistic."

But I'm K.

I've been raped three times in my life. Once as a tiny thing of only 18 months old. Once anally by an abusive boyfriend, when I was 22. Once when I was 23 by a near stranger who drugged me.

The easiest one for me to talk about is the first one. It's easiest for me to believe that that one wasn't my fault. To feel no shame or guilt, because I made no decisions that put me in a bad situation. In that situation, I was truly a victim. Not even out of diapers. I had been left by my babysitter with her husband, who as it turns out was a drug addict with either a twisted sense of curiosity or a twisted sexual perversion.

The second time was by a boyfriend who I never should have been with. I was in a bad place in my life when the relationship started and put myself in one no better that ended more poorly.

But.

That.

Is.

Not.

My.

Fault.

I had no way of knowing how it would have ended. Hindsight is 20-20, as they say. I had no way of knowing at that time what would happen to me. I digress.

So this boyfriend was very subtly abusive. He used jealousy to guilt me into isolation from my friends, and he used guilt to convince me to have sex with him when I didn't want to. Of course this was a cycle, because the more he guilted me the less I wanted to have sex with him, the more irritated and sometims angry he would get with me.

Ladies, you never owe a man sex. Men, you never owe a woman sex. Never let anyone make you feel like you owe it to them. Being in a relationship does not assume consent. Spousal rape has been illegal in America since 1976. Just because I was in a relationship with this man did not give him the right to my body and he did not understand that.

So one night we were having sex, and he decided that he was going to have anal sex with me. Now he really liked talking about it, because he really liked doing it. But I never once consented to it, and said on numerous occasions that I did not want to do it. But he did it anyway. He didn't ask me if it was okay. He used no lubricant and in no way attempted to physically prepare me for this event. He just did it. And granted, he stopped when I told him to, but that does not make it any less rape. It does not make my feelings of guilt, or shame any less. It did not lessen the physical pain of the violation, or the emotional pain. Nothing could change that after it happened.

Similarly, a "crime-of-passion" murder does not become anything less because the murderer feels really really bad.

The third time I was out with a group of friends. We'd gone to see a movie and were just hanging out. Some of them I knew well, some I knew a little less well, but all of them seemed cool. Afterwards, one of them invited us all back to his place for some drinks. It was a group setting, so in theory it should have been fine.

But slowly people started trickling out. During the course of this I'd had three drinks, which is normally a fine number for me. Three will not get me drunk, but it will give me a pleasant buzz at the back of my head and make my laughter come a little easier.

However these three drinks made me ill. I was vomiting and dizzy, the room was spinning and I was -not- well. I lay down on this guy's bed to try to get the room to stop spinning. And he brought me water and asked me if I was okay, just like a friend.

And then he raped me. And it wasn't violent. I didn't struggle or scream or cry out or say no. I just lay there. I felt as though I was detached from the whole event, like a spirit watching the actions of the living, not really a part of them.

I still don't know how I got home that night.

There is a stigma that rape is always a violent crime. That a woman has to fight and scream and cry for help for it to really be rape. That if she's already in a relationship, it's not rape. If she doesn't specifically say "no," it's not rape. If she, in youth or fear, says the word "yes," it's not rape.

That. Is. Bullshit.

Don't get me wrong--Some rape is violent. Sometimes, a guy in a dark alley DOES just grab a woman off the street and have at. I haven't experienced this type, so I don't know what it's like. But some rape is slow, subtle, and confusing. So that afterwards, the woman isn't really sure if she was raped. She knows that she feels bad, she knows that she didn't want it, but she should have done something if that were the case. Does that make it her decision? To just "let it happen?"

That's what I thought. That letting it happen meant it wasn't rape. It took me a very long time to come to the conclusion that it was rape. Some people will argue me on this, but I don't care.

In the end, the only person who knows if it was rape or not is the one who has been raped. It's about how you respond, how you feel. If you climbed on top and started rocking away, yelling out "Oh god, yes!" it was probably not rape.

If you lay there passively, confused or frightened, while someone who never asked you what you thought did whatever they felt like, and afterwards you felt dirty or ashamed or violated, that was probably rape.

My goal in this blog is not to garner pity or sympathy. It is not to provoke rage. My goal is to heal, and to help others heal.

http://www.rainn.org states that 1 in 33 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.

In America, someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes. Since I started writing this blog entry, a dozen people have been sexually assaulted. And more than half, 60%, are never reported.

What this means to me is that I AM NOT ALONE. As alone as I feel, I am not. And no one should have to live with the feeling of being alone.

That's what I want this blog to help with.

Being sexually assaulted is a terrible, terrible experience that no one should ever have to go through. But our world is so twisted that being raped is distressingly common.

I want to bring that to light. To show other people who have lived through it that they don't have to be alone. I spent years suffering in silence when I didn't have to.

And if you're doing it like I was, you don't have to, either. Make a decision.

For L, and for myself, and for everyone.

I stand naked before you all,
arms spread wide,
feet planted firmly,
head up.
Everything about me
from my eyes
to my pose
to my voice
are screaming.

Judge me! Judge me! Judge me!

I'm still ashamed,
and I'm still afraid
I'm terrified of what you think.
But I can't live this way.
Not anymore.

So judge me! Judge me! Judge me!

I won't be ruled
by my fears
or my shame
I won't let my nightmares get the best of me.
I won't let the fear win,
I won't let the shame rule.
I will stand proudly
With my strong warrior body bared
With my scarred survivor's spirit aglow
With my indefatigable fighter's courage strong

And I will DEMAND that you judge me.
And then it will be on MY terms
MY choice
MY decision.
And you can hurt me
But you can never defeat me.

So go ahead and judge me.
Then I will win.