I’m sitting writing about my past, specifically my rapey past. It doesn’t bother me if people know. I don’t hide it. When people find out in a way that’s different than me sitting them down in a very serious fashion and saying “Listen, I’ve been raped,” people think I’m joking.
This is going to lead me in two directions.
1) Recently someone saw me writing and asked if I was writing a porno. Truthfully, at the point I was it wasn’t a bad guess, but I responded honestly “No, about the first time I was raped.” They walked away. When they came back they said “You say that as if it happened more than once.” I said “That’s because it did.” I’m calm. I have accepted this part of myself. It doesn’t bring me to tears or reduce me to hysterics. People always think it should, but it doesn’t. I have had time. It’s not raw. It is what it is.
People don’t know how to react. And I have to say, there isn’t a correct way of reacting. When someone tells me they were raped or sexually assaulted I tend to use “If you need someone to listen, I’m here.” That’s because they usually know my past when they let me into this intensely private part of themselves; they know I’m a safe place. There is no appropriate way to respond. And believe me, I have heard everything. “Wow!” Laughter. “That’s a good joke.” “Are you serious?” “That’s terrible.” “I would never do that! How could anyone do that?!?!?” “I’m so sorry.” And many more. As long as you don’t respond with “Were you drunk?” “What were you wearing?” or “How many people have you had sex with?” I will be pretty understanding of your reaction, like I said, there isn’t a correct one. It’s a topic that makes people uncomfortable and usually provokes disbelief. Usually survivors aren’t open like I am. I am a rarity because I speak. I speak so others don’t have to. I speak to help people. I speak because people need to hear this is a problem. I speak my story brings awareness. I speak because I want to make people so uncomfortable they demand change. I speak because I’d like to go on a date and not have to worry if this one will end in a sexual assault. I speak for so many reasons some I don’t even understand. Maybe it’s just who I am. I want to help change the world for the better, and this is how I’m starting to.
2) People’s first reaction is to think I’m joking when I tell them I’ve been raped. Has rape become such a joke in our culture that it’s their first reaction? That pains me. I hear “I raped that test.” Or “That just rapes me.” And I don’t even know what other phrases, but I hear it all the time. It’s like rape has become synonymous with bothersome. Rape isn’t bothersome. It is an intrusion. It is a degradation on a level so completely and totally unfathomable to any who have not experienced it. Rape is not just a bother, it is life altering and sometimes life destroying. I have zero tolerance for this. As a survivor, I’m offended. I am hurt. I am angry. I am angry at the individuals who use this language. I am angry at society for allowing it to happen. I am angry. This is such a personal, life-shatteringly painful experience for someone to make a joke about it is offensive. I am tolerant of most jokes. This is not one. These jokes, these phrases are part of the problem. They are the reason I stayed silent because it is a joke.
My past is not a joke. My pain is not a joke. My life is not a joke. I am not a joke. I am a survivor. I am strong. I have suffered. I have lost. I’m still standing. I’m still speaking.