I want to get some things clear: A rapist does not have to drive a white van. A rapist does not have to be a bum. A rapist does not have to be strung out. A rapist does not have to be Hispanic, or Latino, or Black. A rapist does not have to wear a wife beater or have any gang paraphernalia.
Hell, a rapist does not have to be a guy…
A rapist can have a 401 K.
A rapist can have a trust fund.
A rapist can have a kid, who is cute as a button, and can have pictures of this kid framed all over his house.
A rapist can wear Vineyard Vines (or in my case, a blue button down), be from the suburbs, and look like the complete package.
Looks can be deceiving.
I learned that the hard way.
And now that our nation is finally willing to have that “hard conversation,” as they referred to it, in countless post-rape talk and group therapy support sessions, there are still some things that still need to be cleared up.
No, you did not rape him on the court.
You did not get raped by that test.
Your best friend did not “rape you” when you shriek, in jest, as he or she hugged or touched you in a way that you wholeheartedly welcomed and appreciated.
Rape is not funny. Even if you don’t intend to poke fun, you need to choose your words wisely, because so many people in our country, like myself, are secret survivors in a silent sisterhood (or gender-inclusive community). We are just struggling to get through each day without a reminder of what was taken from us.
The word “rape” is a trigger.
We do not want to be reminded of what we endured more than already necessary; on a near-daily basis (depending on the person), our brains provide us with waves of flashback to those heart-wrenching moments.
Being pulled into those flashbacks by inappropriate, ill-fitting comments, regardless of the intention, can be trying to any survivor, who already withstands uncontrollable memory-stimulated flashbacks as a means of coping and purging.
When I hear people use the word “rape” in an inappropriate, joking manner, I can’t help but flash back.
I see myself trusting a “friend” to sleep on his couch for the night due to roommate issues.
I see the texts I sent him, making him promise that he would respect me if I stayed over. That he would respect our friendship and just let me couch surf as he would any dude. Preventative measures, because as a girl in this patriarchal world, I knew I had to protect myself.
I see myself accepting a glass of some sort of alcohol from him, because I was too sober to deal with his drunkenness and just wanted to sleep.
I see the pixels of those texts, engorging then retracting, now fuzzy and obsolete, meaningless promises spinning down the drain with my dignity as I immediately black out.
I see myself from an out of body POV, hanging above, waking up, on his couch…my pants are on the ground, I am in his boxers. I have no recollection of the previous night, but I am in extreme pain.
I see the bruises running up my sides.
I see the tears streaming down my face.
I see his goddamn blue button down…one of my triggers, a fixation, as I come to.
I see a loss of dignity, an onslaught of probes, prods, things being taken from me, to ensure that I’m all right because HE took something FROM me.
Not a stranger…a white, preppy trust fund kid from the suburbs with a good job and a 401K.
One of my close guy friends said it was my fault…that I “asked for it” by sleeping at a guy’s place.
Do guys “ask for it” when they spend the night at each other’s places?
Did I ask to be stripped of my ability to trust?
We, as a society, need to be more sensitive to the plight of survivors.
We are not victims. We are coping, adjusting to a new normal, riding the waves of traumatic recall, and ultimately, surviving to thrive.
We are not untouchables.
The word “rape” cannot just be thrown around in jest. Similar to “retard” and “gay,” it must be used with consideration…people are and have been constantly affected by such words. These words are our lives (or they have been), and it is not acceptable to use them inappropriately. Think before you speak.
People fear judgment, and that is why they remain silent. Rape is a serious experience, and just because we choose to remain silent, does not entail cowardice. Self-healing is a priority, and nobody should take it upon his or herself to judge those who have survived rape until they walk a mile in their moccasins.
Do not throw around the term…it can cause unthinkable amounts of hurt.
For those who are survivors of rape or sexual assault: it is not your fault. I know that isn’t always reassuring to hear, but after having a few assholes try to weigh you down by saying otherwise, you need to know that nobody has a right to you, your voice, or your body except you.
We need to reevaluate our perspectives on rape culture. We need to realize that not all rapes are the “stereotypical strangers” but that they can hit closer to home then we might think. The best way to prevent is to inform, and I think we can start by sharing our stories, anonymous or not. But remember, you are never alone.