I wish I could say I was surprised about how people question rape victims, but I am not. I lived through it myself, I survived #rapeculture.
I find myself reading the same question over and over again, “why wait so long to come forward?”
When you’re watching a scary movie you have a 360 view, and for the most part you can see what’s going to happen before it occurs. However, in reality we know that is not the case. Yes, hindsight is always 20/20 but remember, our every day vision isn’t.
In a case like mine, sexual assault didn’t happen overnight. I was approached, groomed, and it was someone I knew. This person knew my siblings and even my best friend, they didn’t seem like a stranger, and in all my naivety, didn’t seem like a threat. Rapists know the type of victims that they target: those who are isolated or alone. Sometimes they do target promiscuous women because they know that people are less likely to believe their accusations.
When it happened to me, I was in disbelief. I had shame, fear, and anger…towards myself. It happened to me as a child, and I had no control over that. As an adult, I felt like I could have stopped it, I could have had control, there must have been something I could have done.
Despite what people think, when you are sexually assaulted by someone you know, the last thing on your mind is getting a rape-kit or going to the cops. This person knows where you live, where you work, this person may know a lot about you; this wasn’t a stranger. This was someone you let into your home, your heart and gave your trust to. Some rapists go out of their way to make you feel like you wanted it, or as if it never happened. And some cases it would be easier to agree with them, because then maybe the pain would subside. However that is not the case. Immediately after the attack, you think: What else is person this capable of? The only thing that is going through your head is how can I get out of here alive?
It is the fear that sets in afterwards, constantly questioning yourself, your judgment, and your decisions, because you feel like you can’t trust yourself anymore. You jump at every sound, every noise because of the fear you have in your heart and your body never seems to settle. It’s the fear that occurs to the extent that you can’t leave the house anymore or go out at night. Not only is it fear of another assault, but it is the fear that if someone looks at you, they will know what happened, or the thought that if someone doesn’t see you smile or act “normally” they will be able to see your heart bleeding from the pain that you have inside. It is the fear and reality of constant shame: how could YOU let this happen? For some, these feelings lasts forever.
Rapists will attempt to assure that you won’t open your mouth. They will try to keep you separate from everyone and attempt to isolate you. They will go out of their way to tell everyone that you sleep around or that you’re crazy. They can intimidate you with weapons, or by planting seeds in your head about how violent they have been or how violent they are, by telling you how powerful they are and what they have done to anyone who has crossed them. They may even threaten to ruin your career or other relationships. And just to provide you with a realistic idea, this is all in the first 48 hours.
The truth is, most rapists are really good at putting up a front. To others, they can be the most kind, sweet and caring people on the surface. But let’s be honest, how many people know everything about you? How many people know your deepest darkest secrets? How many people know what goes on in your mind or in your deepest thoughts? If the people closest to you don’t know what goes on in your deepest thoughts or some of the deepest feelings you have, how can you be so sure that you know an alleged rapist? The fact is, you don’t. Anyone is capable of violent crimes.
On to 72 hours and the victim decides to come forward to one person. I read the statistics on rape and I know the alarming numbers of how many rapists actually get convicted. I knew the cards were stacked against me. When you finally do come forward you’re expecting people to be understanding and compassionate. However, that isn’t the case because people do not want to believe that someone they knew could have ever done that… that someone they think they know because the person was kind in an instant or paid them a empty compliment would be capable of such vile actions. The person may have been friends with you on Facebook, or a work acquaintance who says good morning every day. That doesn’t mean that they couldn’t possibly be a rapist.
The fact is that the person that you know or feel that you know can be capable of horrendous things because you are not aware of all this person’s deepest darkest secrets. It is easier to blame the victim because that prohibits people from having to look inward and recognize the hurt and the fact that they feel scammed and taken advantage of as well.
So the person you’ve trusted and decided to tell what happened to you doesn’t believe you. If this person doesn’t believe you who else in the world is going to believe you? You’ve become hurt, one assault after the other. You begin to think to yourself: why did I let this happen? Why did I decide to go? Why am I stupid? This is my fault.
If you go to the police, in some cases you become a criminal. The victim has to prove that they aren’t lying and is hounded with questions: Why didn’t you just leave? What did you do to ask for it? Why didn’t you come forward sooner? Why did you put yourself in that situation?
Why did she wait? Because she was raped. That should be reason enough. Rape is why she waited. The reaction of people not believing her is why more women WILL wait. It doesn’t matter if it was 6 days or 60 years ago. A “When she’s ready” bill should be in place to support women by absorbing the statue of limitations. Society shouldn’t be asking “why she waited” but rather why we hesitate to protect our women. Why do we wait to pass laws to protect women?
I chose to come out when I felt ready and when I felt protected. The criminal who assaulted me was finally behind bars, and I felt confident enough to come out. That is why many women come out once others start coming out. They finally feel protected. Your sisters, mothers, daughters, and wives deserve protection. It could have been anyone; it could have been you. It still can be you. That is why we all need to educate ourselves about sexual assault. Statistics do not lie but rapist do. We as a society need to protect our women and respect both women and men who are victims of sexual assault.
We live in a society in which many women are willing to sell their bodies for fame. However, that’s #notallwomen. We can’t group rape victims in the same category, but sadly many people are doing just that. There is nothing glamorous about rape. Not every woman with a voice is trying to sell you something, some of us just want to speak our truth.
I never express the popular opinion. However, it is always the truth, and people do not like that, again, because it forces people to look inward. My voice is my voice and I am raising it against rape culture. I won’t back down because backing down to the truth is for cowards. Rapists are the true cowards.
I survived #rapeculture, please let other women do the same. We either teach our daughters that their voices matter or we question them into isolation. Victims deserve to be survivors.