A ranty, funny, dead-serious intersectional feminist blog.

Posts tagged “sexual assault

The Rape Culture Candidate

trumpkissface3

Trigger warning: rape, rape apologism, and all associated awfulness. 

For some of us, it’s been obvious—and ignored by the mainstream—for far too long: Donald J. Trump is rape culture incarnate. His overt misogyny and objectification of women, and the fact that he has a well-documented history of abusing women both verbally and physically, meant that many of us, while disgusted, were not even surprised to hear the GOP candidate bragging to Billy Bush that he forces himself on women he thinks are attractive and they “let him” because he’s a powerful man. My local weekly, The Stranger, recently wrote that Rape Culture is Running for President. I couldn’t agree more.

When anti-feminist men tell us (feminists) that rape culture doesn’t exist, they invoke the following “facts”: 1. Everyone knows rape is wrong. 2. No one treats rape as acceptable, and 3. We jail rapists. The facts of this election should prove the existence of rape culture to these folks beyond the shadow of a doubt by illustrating that points 1 and 2 above are simply not true, and the facts of reality tell us that point 3 is a fantasy. The facts should put it all to rest, but they won’t. And yet, I’m going to break it down anyway because it’s been eating my brain from the inside out.

1. Everyone Knows Rape is Wrong

Rape and sexual assault are certainly things most people would tell you are “wrong” were you to walk up to them on the street and ask them what they thought of these things using the exact words “rape” and “sexual assault.” But studies and recent events have shown that consent is a cloudy issue, that many believe women owe men sex in return for dinner and drinks, and that people who coerce others into sex or fail to obtain consent before engaging in sexual acts or use the bodies of drunk or unconscious people do not always believe what they are doing is wrong and are happy to soak up validation from those who cloud the issue by talking about what the victim wore, drank, or did before or after the event. In other words, when rapists hear the people around them blaming victims and making excuses for perpetrators and laughing at rape jokes, they eat that shit up. And many (if not most) are serial perpetrators, like the GOP candidate for president, if you choose to believe the dozen or so women who have come forward since the Trump Tapes revelation—y’know, the guy who brags about assaulting women to men like Billy Bush, who laugh and egg him on by pimping women for hugs. So give all this some thought the next time you assume that “everyone knows rape is wrong.”

2. No One Treats Rape As Acceptable

Contrary to the ubiquitous Twitter and Facebook apologism from anti-feminists and probably rapists, most voters surveyed said they believe Donald Trump is guilty of most or all of the acts of which women have accused him.

Forty-two percent of Republican voters and 35 percent of Trump’s own supporters think the accusations are probably true. Men and women are about equally likely to think so. -AP

If you’ve been paying attention to the polls, you know that too many of these same voters (68% of Republicans, according to the survey above) are willing to vote for him regardless because he’s not Hillary Clinton or maybe because they think he’s “pro-life.” These people have signaled their willingness to vote for a serial predator for president.

For leader of the free world.

That is the very definition of accepting rape and sexual assault.

No one treats rape and sexual assault as acceptable except the people who believe Roman Polanski and Woody Allen raped children but are willing to work with them and watch their films anyway. No one treats rape and sexual assault as acceptable except the people who ignore the Jane Does of the world while lamenting the impacts of rape accusations and convictions on rapists. No one treats rape and sexual assault as acceptable except the people who believe Donald Trump is a serial predator and are willing to vote for him for President of these United States of America regardless.

3. We Jail Rapists

No, we don’t. Statistics tell us that only 3% of rapists ever do jail time. Most rapes are not reported and among those that are, most are never investigated much less prosecuted (in the best cases this happens because rape is notoriously hard to prove in court unless there are witnesses or evidence of violence, and often even then). The Bureau of Justice Statistics believes at least 200,000 rapes went unreported between 2006 and 2010, and I can tell you from experience and from my discussions with and readings of dozens of other survivors that many of us are victims of multiple assaults and many of us do not bother reporting most of them. It’s just not worth what we go through when we report, and if you’re like me and you reported and endured that painful process twice with zero justice both times, why would you choose to go through it again?

I chose not to. And when I was a child, my parents chose not to put me through the trauma that would have resulted from the incidents of abuse I told them about. And there are many I didn’t. When I do the math, that’s a hell of a lot of predators out there walking free doing what they do to other victims who in turn must make their choices, endure the scrutiny and shame, stay silent, or simply find other ways to work through it. We are legion and no, society does not punish those who harm us.

This is a good time to mention that if you think you don’t know anyone who is a survivor of sexual assault, you are very likely wrong and should examine the possible reasons why the survivors in your life haven’t trusted you with this information.

Oh, and though Donald Trump was, until Friday, facing a civil charge that he raped a 13-year-old girl, his accuser has dropped her case after receiving death threats resulting from an announced—and later cancelled—press conference where she planned to finally break her anonymity. Despite over a dozen accusers, he will never see the inside of a jail cell or very likely any legal consequences.

***

Of course, not all of Trump’s supporters believe his accusers. Some of them have questions. Why did these women wait to come forward? Why speak right before an election? The timing seems “off.” Another tenet of rape culture: assuming the victim is lying if they don’t behave the way we’ve been taught victims behave. But really, let’s look at this question.

Imagine a person has harmed you in some major way (please take a moment to apply this to your experience, if you will), and imagine that this is a person with power over you. Now imagine this guy goes on TV and says he does stuff like that all the time. Brags about it. Laughs about it. You feel vindicated! LOOK! He’s admitting to the world that he’s exactly the person you knew he was!

Then a couple of days later, he goes on TV again and says he never did it. It never happened. Not even once. Not even the time he did it to you.

Now imagine he makes this statement during a presidential debate. Imagine that after getting caught admitting what he did, he now lies about it on national television in a presidential debate. Imagine that he might become your president. Imagine that you never felt like you had any power in the situation (maybe you even felt unsafe speaking up), but now people are talking about it, other people he wronged are coming forward, and maybe someone will listen.

Now ask yourself. What the hell would you do?

Listen. False rape allegations are rare (and did you know that if a victim withdraws their statement due to coercion by police or others or because they’re afraid or for any other reason, that incident goes into the “false” or “unfounded” column, i.e. the 2-10% of “false” rape allegations?) and they generally don’t occur in clusters. (In fact, I’d be very interested to know about any cases where a large number of victims accused a perpetrator and that perpetrator was cleared and the accusers proved liars, but I don’t think there are any.) But that brings us to another tenet of rape culture: the fact that when women are the victims of rape and sexual assault and they give sworn testimony regarding what happened to them, it is not seen by society in general as “evidence” even though it legally is exactly that. So it doesn’t matter if one accuser comes forward or 12 (Trump) or 20 (Jian Gomeshi) or 60 (Bill Cosby), too many will never see that as “evidence” that a crime was committed and will cite “absolutely no evidence” as their reason for dismissing a clear pattern of abuse on the part of a powerful man. Women are simply not seen as credible witnesses to our own experiences.

Listen. There are thousands if not millions of people out there who have been abused by rich, powerful men and who have not seen justice and never will because they’ll never have a safe situation in which to come forward and expect the kind of legal and emotional support one needs to get through something like that. In a case like this, when a victim does overcome the fear and break her silence, and then another one, the damn breaks, just like with Cosby and Gomeshi. That’s why it’s happening now, just before an election. Because this man who is running for president is happy to lie about anything and everything including something he’s already admitted to: the fact that he feels entitled to sexually assault women and has successfully avoided consequences because of his position of power.

As a survivor of multiple sexual assaults who did not see justice even once despite reporting twice, I know how hard justice is to come by. I know that most rapists walk free while victims suffer the consequences. I know the toll that rape culture—the culture that calls Trump’s bragging about sexual assault “locker room talk”—takes on us. As a victim who was not believed when it mattered, it’s frankly heartbreaking to see people behaving as though these women are lying and just in it for some kind of glory. Trust me, there is no glory in being the woman who “cried rape.” These women have made targets of themselves, and one of them has already left the country because of the death threats she received. I believe them, and I believe Donald Trump is a serial predator.

Donald Trump’s history of sexually abusing women has brought this subject to the forefront of the national conversation and for that, I’m grateful. He will walk away with whatever power he has left after this election and his sycophants will continue to believe that he’s innocent while those who held their noses and voted for a man they knew in their hearts to be a serial assaulter of women will have shown us that some people don’t actually understand that rape and sexual assault are wrong; indeed, a large percentage of people in this country treat it as acceptable.

Donald J. Trump is the Rape Culture Candidate—proof that rape culture is alive and thriving in the United States of America.

So vote.


Note: As is often the case, this post has undergone some post-publication edits for clarity.

PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Related:

Why I Won’t Publish Your Comments About False Rape Accusations (Rethink the Rant)

Most Believe Allegations About Trump and Women
(AP/GfKPoll)

The Four Women Who’ve Accused Donald Trump of Rape (FOCUS)

An Unbelievable Story of Rape (Propublica)

I Am A False Rape Allegation Statistic (The Orbit)

Lots of Men Don’t Think Rape is Rape (NY Mag)

Not All Men, But These Ones (Make Me a Sammich)

A Brief History (the Bad Parts Version) (Make Me a Sammich)

 


Not All Men, But These Ones

SAYNOTALLMENAGAIN

Trigger Warning for the many ways we experience violence at the hands of (not all) men, including CSA, SA, rape, VAWG.

I saw a quote a while back that hit home for me. I can’t find it now, but it went something like this:

The issue is not that all men are violent. The issue is that nearly all women have experienced violence at the hands of men.

The sad but true fact is that while not all men are violent, men do commit violence against women and non-binary people (and other men—in fact, according to the FBI, most violent crimes are committed by men).

I have told parts of my story before here and there. And I suspect that I will do so again. In this case, I’m reprising my tale now in order to join others who have shared their litanies of violence as a counter to the superfluous yet oh-so-ubiquitous cries of “not all men.” Because FFS, dudes. Enough already.

derail“Not all men” is a derailing tactic and serves literally no other purpose than to focus attention away from male violence and center it on the man decrying the unfairness of it all.

When people who are not men say “men do this,” we’re reporting that our experience is that enough men do this that it stands out that men do this. The fact that men do this contributes to an overall feeling of oppression. Men do engage in behaviors that perpetuate patriarchy. Men do engage in behaviors that perpetuate sexism and misogyny. Men do these things without even thinking about them because the men who came before them did it and because too often no one does so much as turn away in disapproval when it happens.

Not all men did these things to me, but these men did.

The man who sucked my tongue, fondled my genitals, and taught me to give him a blow job when I was three.

The man who was my uncle by marriage and came in my mouth when I was six, then spent hours trying to get into my underwear as we camped out in the yard.

The man who fondled my nipples when I was seven or eight during a nighttime hide-and-go-seek game at my cousin’s house.

The man who flexed his exposed erection at me and my friend when we were 9 via the leg of his shorts.

The man—a trusted family friend—who gave me music lessons when I was 9 and performed oral sex on me while my parents weren’t home.

The man who used a finger cot to make his penis small enough to fit inside me when I was 10. Who also gave me a cigar tube to practice with at home.

The man who pulled his truck over as I walked down the street, opened his door, stepped out naked and masturbated while staring at me.

The 14-year-old boy who violently raped me when I was 12 and smoking weed with him in a fort behind my neighbor’s house.

The man who had sex with me in his van knowing that I was a 12-year-old rape victim (but probably not really believing that second part).

The boys and men who repeatedly “pantsed” me over my loud objections and ridiculed me when I was angry.

The two men who took turns raping me while I was passed out drunk at my first kegger when I was 14.

The many, many men—adults—who gave me alcohol and drugs and got their rocks off on me when I was a troubled teen.

The man who exposed his genitals to me in a grocery store parking lot when I was 16.

The man who spent a drunken night trying to coerce me into sleeping with him when I was 16.

The man who raped me when I was 16 because I said no after a night of partying with him and his friend.

The man who attempted to grab me on a dark street as I rode my bike to a friend’s house, 16 and pregnant, and only stopped because I scared him with my primal and guttural GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME.

The man who beat the shit out of me in front of my 2-year-old for leaving a party when I was 18.

The man who decided that the fact that I was unconscious on his sofa meant he could go ahead and rape me.

The man who thought because we were friends and had been sexual in the past, it was ok to straddle my drunken body and ejaculate on my chest after I said no to sex.

The many men who have wished me harm here on my blog and on social media.

How many men is enough? How many men must commit violence upon my person before it’s ok if I just say “men did this”?

Men did these things. Not all men. But enough of them that this list is not even complete. Men did these things. And every time some dude Kool-Aid-Mans into a thread where people who are not men discuss male violence to declare that not all men did these things, the only thing he makes clear is that he is utterly ignorant and unwilling to listen to people who are not just like him.

Not all men. Just dozens of men in my case. Hundreds if you count my circle of friends and relatives. Thousands if you count their friends and the people they love.

And that’s enough.


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Related on MMAS:

 


The Time My “Friend” Sexually Assaulted Me

Bureau of Justice Statistics
Bureau of Justice Statistics

Bureau of Justice Statistics

Trigger warning for discussion of rape and sexual assault.

I met A in the early 1990s at a science fiction convention. I’d seen him around and…damn. The man was fine. When we finally came together, sex was a forgone conclusion. We spent a wild weekend together, and I fell in love with him. And he broke my heart, and I basically moved on. Except that almost every time I saw A after that, we ended up having sex. A was…persuasive. But he didn’t have to try very hard—I had a thing for him for years.

In 2000 or so, I went out drinking in my neighborhood, went back to a guy’s apartment to smoke some pot, and woke up on his couch with his penis inside me. I only remembered feeling really woozy and telling him I needed to lie down on his couch. I don’t know if he drugged me or if I was just really drunk, but I never consented to sex. The next day I IM’d with A about it, and he made excuses for the guy. “Maybe he was just really drunk and didn’t know what he was doing,” he said, or something very like it.

Fast forward to the late aughts, and I’m in A’s town on business. He’s happily married, and I’m in what I believe at the time is the relationship I’ve waited my whole life for. A & I make plans to get together and have a drink at my hotel. There is—in my mind and probably in his—no question of sex. We are committed to our partners. It seriously never enters my thoughts.

I have several Martinis and somehow end up in his car on the freeway. A says something about a bar he wants to take me to, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to vomit, so he takes me back to my hotel.

Most of what came after is blurry. There is a good chance I stripped my clothes off the moment we got to my room, as I was drunk and with someone I trusted, and when I’m drunk and on my way to bed, my clothes end up all over the house. I remember getting into bed, under the covers, and I remember him lying on the bed saying things like, “What they don’t know won’t hurt them.” I remember laughing and saying, “No.” I remember that I had no intention of cheating on my boyfriend. I remember that I kissed A at one point and my boyfriend’s face popped into my head and I was like, “Whoa, no!” A continued trying to talk me into having sex with him and I continued to decline.

I remember that speaking was becoming really difficult. I remember A climbing on top of me, on top of the covers, as I tried to form words or even coherent thoughts. I remember that he masturbated on my chest and that I had absolutely no say in the matter. I remember that I got up and washed it off.

I remember that the next day when he picked me up to drive me to the airport, he asked me if I was angry with him. I could tell he felt like shit, but what exactly he felt like shit about, I still don’t know. I think I said something about being angry with myself (and I was—I blamed myself and told no one for years), but then I said something that made him defensive, because his next words were, “Come on, now, you were complicit…”

I was complicit in exactly one thing: I kissed him.

I know he felt “bad” about what he’d done—I just don’t think he knows that what he did was sexual assault. Because I kissed him. Because I took my clothes off. Because of our history. Even though I said no.

via ThinkProgress

via ThinkProgress

I understand that not everyone who commits sexual assault thinks of himself (or herself) as a sex offender. I understand that people make really bad decisions under the influence of alcohol that they might not make otherwise. But neither of these things changes the fact that sexual contact must be consensual or it is sexual assault. It doesn’t matter what someone does before the “no.” If you don’t hear an emphatic “yes,” or “do it,” or “fuck me,” etc., you are simply not cleared for take-off.

That was the end of my friendship with A. It took me a couple of years to remember that it was he who had made excuses for the man who raped me all those years ago. And then I realized that when a man makes excuses for another man’s bad behavior, there’s a good chance he’s defending his own. I was probably not the first woman to get drunk with A and end up being assaulted.

I just hope like hell that I’m the last.


If you need to talk to someone about sexual assault/rape, RAINN can help. You can also contact me via my Facebook page.

Related on MMAS:


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


It’s Not a Movie and We’re Not Buffy

buffy

(image via rottentomatoes.com)

[Trigger Warning for discussion of rape.]

Why didn’t you fight back? 

There was a hammer nearby—why didn’t you use it to defend yourself?

Why didn’t you scream? There were houses nearby—someone would have heard you.

You were carrying a knife—why didn’t you stab him?

These are questions people have asked me about my rapes. Regular people asked. Cops and lawyers asked. All of them asked because they were skeptical about what happened to me or it was their job to tear me apart (or to get the answers to all the obvious questions before shelving my rape kit and pretending the whole thing never happened). It’s no secret that many people believe that if you don’t fight back or scream or act in the ways we’ve been taught rape victims act, then it’s not really rape.

I’m here to tell you that there are dozens of reasons a rape victim might be unable or unwilling to fight or scream. And there are some very good reasons why she (or he) might not fit the profile television and movies have created of the perfect victim–one we can get behind because there’s no question in our minds that she is a victim. She fights tooth and nail, screams until her voice fails, and perhaps most importantly, she remains the perfect victim for the proper period of time after the rape. She looks the way you expect her to: pale and stunned. She behaves the way you expect her to: timid and shaken. And there are rules.

Shae

(image via winteriscoming.net)

I recently rewatched the first season of Game of Thrones. Among other things, I was struck by the scene in which Tyrion, Bron, and Shae are playing drinking games and Tyrion reveals the sad story of his brief marriage to a woman he and his brother rescued from “rapers” who turned out to be a “whore.” Shae tells him he should have known:

“A girl who is almost raped doesn’t invite another man into her bed two hours later.”

Just so no one is confused: this statement is bullshit. It seems to be an assumption on the part of the show’s writers—I don’t believe it’s one that the character, Shae, would ever make (although I allow that she might). Because if you’ve ever been raped (or almost raped) you know that things don’t play out in real life the way they do in our assumptions. Our assumptions are based on the rape victims we see on tv and in movies—those perfect victims I described above. There are no rules about what a woman (or man) who has been raped or “almost raped” will do, how she will behave, or whether she will decide to go ahead and fuck an entire soccer team later that night. There are no rules because none of those things are indicators of whether she was “really” raped and assuming that they are amounts to blaming the victim.

I wouldn’t blame you (much) if right now you’re asking, “But Rosie, why didn’t you scream? Why didn’t you use the hammer or the knife?” The point of this post is to explain those things and hopefully squash some of these assumptions like ticks. So, I’ll tell you why.

The first time I was raped the rapist told me if I made a sound he would take that hammer and bash my brains in. So I didn’t scream, and it never even occurred to me to use the hammer against him.

Because it wasn’t a movie and I wasn’t Buffy. I was a twelve-year-old girl whose mind simply could not conceive of what was happening to her. And I wasn’t the perfect victim, either, because a few days later when a neighborhood boy rushed up to console me I found myself wondering, at first, what he was on about. I had been raped, spent a night in the ER and with the cops, spent a couple of days at home, and now I was back at school and back to running around the neighborhood with my friends. My mind was attempting to let me be a kid again, but don’t think for a second that it helped—it only made people suspicious. “It’s your word against his,” they told me, because like most rape victims, my rapist was someone I—and everyone else in my neighborhood—knew.

The second time I was raped I was in an apartment where children were sleeping in the next room. I didn’t want to wake them to my nightmare. So I didn’t scream. And yes indeed, Officer Helpful, I did have a knife on me. It was a sort of dagger thing and I have no idea where I picked it up, but a friend had made a sheath for it and I loved it. But I had never used a weapon in my life and I don’t even think I thought of my knife as a way to protect myself. It was just a cool thing I had. It honestly never crossed my mind to figure out whether it was even within reach. If it had been, would I have plunged it into the man on top of me? I don’t believe so.

Because it wasn’t a movie and I wasn’t Buffy. I was a sixteen-year-old girl being raped for the second time and all I could think to do was survive it.

jenniferbaumgardner.net

Some victims don’t scream or fight back because a type of paralysis sets in and prevents them from doing anything at all. Some don’t react the way they imagined they might because they can’t wrap their heads around the fact that it’s even happening. Some don’t realize that what’s happening to them is rape because they’re making out with their boyfriend and all the sudden he’s inside them and they believe that they somehow “gave the wrong signal” or otherwise brought it on themselves and it can’t be rape if it’s your boyfriend, can it? It can’t be rape if you were making out, can it? What if you’re drunk?

The only question should be “did sexual contact occur without consent?” and if the answer is “yes,” then guess what? It was rape.

The point is, it doesn’t matter what a rape victim did or didn’t do before, during, or after the rape. The only thing that matters is consent. So if you came to this post carrying assumptions about perfect victims who behave like you think they ought to and scream when you think they should and fight like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I’m hoping you’ll leave with a better understanding of how those assumptions hinder your ability to empathize with me and other survivors. If you know someone who harbors these assumptions, I’m hoping you’ll share this with them and maybe help them understand that the only rule is there are no rules when it comes to how rape victims behave.

This is not a movie and we are not Buffy. We are individual men and women and there’s no telling how any of us will react in a given situation. And in a situation like the one we’re discussing, all bets are off.

Let’s put our assumptions aside and choose empathy, shall we?


Note: Rape happens to men and women and people all over the gender spectrum. The tropes and assumptions I’m addressing here are mostly about rape victims who are women, so I have often used the female pronoun.


Related:

PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


How to Report an Asshole on Twitter

[TW: Rape, Assholery]

Douche is the word...

Douche is the word…

Today’s Asshole: Jose Canseco

Mr. Canseco, a Very Famous Athlete, is accused of rape. Today he decided the best possible course of action was to out his accuser on Twitter.

Via the Atlantic Wire:

Jose Canseco — former All-Star outfielder, admitted steroid user, part-time fantastic Twitter idiot — apparently just live-tweeted the police arriving at his Las Vegas home, then said he has been accused of rape, then proceeded to publicly name his apparent accuser to his more than 500,000 followers, with bikini photos, and the woman’s phone number, and talk shows, and cats… then proceeded to delete the whole thing. Except her name.

Canseco also tweeted the name and address of the woman’s gym and invited followers to stop by:

Image

So, using Jose’s illegal activities as a model for a) how to report assholes and b) how Twitter’s “report” function fails to provide adequate reporting options for illegal activities like this one, here are some instructions (click images for larger versions):

(UPDATE: JC has deleted most of offending tweets because his lawyers are smarter than he is, fortunately for him. But there’s still this one. Yes, that’s her. Report his ass.)

      1. Point your browser to https://support.twitter.com/forms/abusiveuser.
      2. Click the option that best describes the situation. In this case, that’s “offensive content.” That doesn’t really cover it, but as you can see, it’s the only option that comes close:Image
      3. Type in the Twitter handle of the offending tweeter, in this case JoseCanseco:Image
      4. Next, you need to paste in URLs to the offending tweets (like this and this).(UPDATE: JC has deleted most of offending tweets because his lawyers are smarter than he is, fortunately for him. But there’s still this one. Yes, that’s her. Report his ass.)Image

        Click “Report another Tweet” for another link box.
      5. Answer the miscellaneous questions, then fill in the details box. I suggest something along the lines of “Jose Canseco has published the name, photo, and gym of the woman who accused him of rape. This is illegal. Please suspend his account.”Image
      6. Now you’re ready to hit the Submit button and hope Twitter does the right thing.

It only takes a moment of your time, and if enough people do it, maybe they’ll get the message. Maybe Canseco will get the message that bullying his accuser is not only illegal, it is not only dangerous, but it is also socially unacceptable behavior with consequences. Because rape culture has taught him that this is the right way to handle a rape accusation, and as a VFE he, in turn, is teaching young people the same lesson.


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


I Didn’t Know it was Sexual Assault

Guest post by FrabjousLinz (originally appeared at her LiveJournal)

(Trigger warning: this post talks about sexual assault and rape. It isn’t graphic, but be warned if you have triggering around this kind of discussion.)

I’ve been holding off on this post for a few weeks, what with one thing and another. It didn’t seem so extreme, in light of other stories. But I feel like we need to acknowledge that the less extreme offenses are still offenses. Being silent about them adds to rape culture. Shoutout to Rosie, Sid and the gang at makemeasammich.org.

I didn’t realize I was sexually assaulted for a long time. I wouldn’t have called it that. I didn’t call it anything, really, except for wrong and infuriating, until years later. I have been sexually assaulted besides that time; the kind that most people agree is assault – a stranger grabs my body in passing, because I’m a woman and to those people, my having a vagina means I’m available for fondling. No one disputes that as assault, although no one does anything about it, either. But this one I didn’t even recognize.

It was the first few weeks of college. I was, along with all the other freshman kids in my dorm and around the school, trying to figure out how this whole living without parents and with a bunch of strangers thing worked. All of us on our floor kept our room doors open, my roommate and I included, for large swaths of that first week. People wandered by to introduce themselves, hang out maybe. It was awkward and weird for me as a shy introvert desperately trying to be an extrovert and OK and not homesick and overwhelmed. Desperately trying to reinvent myself into someone everyone would think of as wonderful, witty, and fun. I can’t have been the only one who felt lost and weird and alone. I can’t have been the only one who just kept quiet in the face of constant socialization, even when I would rather have just told everyone to go away.

There were several people who made me very uncomfortable from the moment I met them. Most of them turned out to be harmless, if not people I wanted to be friends with. But one guy made me feel stupid and ashamed for everything about myself just as soon as he spoke, every time he spoke. He had a smug, certain look in his eyes that measured and found everything you did as a sexual come-on, and said so. The first time he came into our room, my roommate and I exchanged a lot of looks, but did and said little to discourage him. I remember I was sitting on the floor, eating a banana. He made a lot of comments about that. (He wasn’t the only one to do that, that year. To this day, I eat bananas by tearing off pieces one by one, instead of just biting it. I’ve gotten so I like the ripping noise and feel, but I started doing it because apparently women aren’t allowed to just eat a freaking piece of fruit without being told it’s all about sex.) I remember him touching my legs, which weren’t shaved, but it was still warm out, so I was wearing shorts. I was embarrassed about the stubble. I was irritated and nervous that he was touching me. I don’t remember when I told him enough, but I do remember I let him touch me for longer than I wanted to. Which was at all. I was trying to be a new, adventurous me. I was trying for urbane, sophisticated, raising my eyebrow at him instead of just jerking away and snarling. It didn’t work. I had to eventually tell him to just stop it. I remember he acted amused and sneering, like he was just testing me. His actions sent up many red flags, but I had put up with a lot of generalized sexual harassment in high school that wasn’t so dissimilar, from boys who were friends. I didn’t like that guy, but I didn’t make a fuss.

Sometime during the next few weeks, I was in another dorm room down the hall from mine with five or six other people, my roommate included. It was a girl’s room, but not everyone in there was female. The guy, the predator, burst into the room with us and threw me down onto the closest bed, dry humped me while I struggled. He was laughing, saying “Oh baby, Oh baby, yes, yes!” in a high pitched voice. It happened so fast, I barely registered he was in the room before he threw me. I flew like I’d been thrown from a merry-go-round. Once I was on the bed, he was on top of me so fast, blocking out the light, blocking out everyone else. I yelled. I thrashed. I could not move him: I was completely stuck. I couldn’t breathe because of his weight, because of the way he had me positioned. I couldn’t get any leverage to knee him or move my arms the way he held me down. I could feel his movement, his laughter, his breath. I couldn’t get him off of me, and my yelling “Stop it! Get off! GET OFF!” meant nothing to him. I was suddenly so angry that if I had had a weapon when he let me up, I would have used it. I am not a violent person, usually, but I felt such a wash of violence come over me like prickly heat: all nausea and sweat and fury. I wanted a knife and I wanted to stab him.

When he did let me up, I screamed, I hit him, I shrieked that he was never to touch me again, if he ever touched me again I would string him up by his balls, I would tear out his guts with a boat hook, I would flay him and leave him to be eaten by buzzards. (Yes, I did. I used to work on imaginative curses for my fiction, so I had these in my head already.) I kept hitting him and kicking him and screaming, which he at first took like “Hah, you’re crazy, what? Why are you mad? It was just a joke!” Looking to the room for confirmation of the joke, of my craziness, fending me off. Eventually he backed up, fled the room, calling me names. I followed him out into the hall, shrieking like mad, yelling anything and everything I could think of. His very large, also football player friends came up to me to block me, back me up, ask me “Why are you treating my friend like that?” I told them to tell their friend if he ever came near me again I would kill him, I would feed his eyeballs to snakes, I would remove his testicles with a rusty fork. I was not quiet. I did not stop screaming. I did back up, and retreated back to my room, still yelling.

The other people in the dorm room when this all happened? Stood there. They laughed when he laughed, laughed when he held me down. Laughed when I started hitting him. They then tried to get me to calm down. I ignored them. My roommate reported to me later that everyone thought I had overreacted, that I was crazy. I told her that I didn’t want to ever be near that guy again, and I didn’t care what everyone else thought. I lost some potential friends for that. I can’t regret it. Mostly we were just thrown together due to our being freshman and living in the same dorm, and while I was sad and felt a little isolated for a bit, I made other friends elsewhere later. But some of those people never really spoke to me again.

FRABLINZQUOTE.jpg

I learned a couple of things from this. When I get really angry, I am prone to violence. If you push me far enough, I will make a lot of noise. So much noise. I also learned that it doesn’t matter how much noise I make, how upset I am: most people will ignore me or try to shut me up. The important thing to them wasn’t that I was assaulted, and no one there would have called that assault. The important thing was that I was crazy. I was loud. I was untrustworthy in a gathering where someone might want to do something to me that I didn’t like. So I couldn’t be around those people.

Maybe that’s unfair – we were all very young and unsure. And it’s possible the laughter I heard was as unsure as the people – uncomfortable, trying to understand where the line is and failing. But I do think it was a failure that those people didn’t try to stop him, not so I noticed. And that when I quite reasonably lost my temper and my cool, and fought back, they said I was crazy. Overreacting. To being held down and dry humped like a sex doll, as though I weren’t a person at all. I have no doubt that if I had just taken it, laughed it off, most of them would have thought that I was a slut. That I was asking for it. If he had ever raped me later, and I hadn’t fought him then, during that first assault, they’d think, well, she probably liked it. I cannot regret that I am not friends with most of those people.

I hope that my shrieking and hitting shocked him. I’m glad it made him retreat. It may be that he didn’t want to escalate with an audience. It may be that the other football players talked him out of retaliating later. It may be that other issues stopped him from retaliating, which I know nothing about. I don’t remember ever speaking to him again. I must have avoided him from then on, because I don’t remember any further interaction at all. He didn’t live on my floor, although he had friends living next door to me. But dorms are small places, and I heard things. I know for a fact that that guy raped at least two women later that year. I know for a fact that one of those rapes went unreported. I know for a fact that guy was a predator, looking for prey. I refused to be quiet prey.

I don’t know exactly why he didn’t try again, but I’m glad he didn’t. I wonder if it’s because I was loud, and people saw it. I wonder if I just seemed like too much work. I do feel terrible for those other women. I hope they got help. I hope they know it wasn’t their fault. I admit to small, petty feelings of vindication when I heard I was right about him. I’m not particularly proud of that, but there’s a part of me that just wanted to shout “I was right!” to certain people. But those rapes weren’t about me, and I also admit to being so relieved I never saw him anymore. Mostly I felt awful they’d happened, and awful that it would probably happen again. I hoped he’d get caught, and stopped. It didn’t occur to me that I could have reported the assault. I didn’t even know it counted. Frankly, I doubt the police or campus police would have thought so, either. But I wish I’d reported it anyway.

not your fucking toy
It wasn’t until the last few years that I recognized what happened as assault. Because it’s not like I was injured or truly hurt, so it can’t have really been assault, could it? We are told, as women, that we should just expect that men will treat us as objects, treat us as subhuman, treat us as though we don’t have any agency or will. That a man can touch us, throw us around, and as long as he’s laughing, that it’s just how men are. (It’s also just how men are when they’re not laughing, but if you’re lucky, you might get to call that assault.) Men just dry hump struggling women on beds. Men just touch women who don’t want them to and make sexual comments about them, what they’d like to do with them. About fruit they’re eating. About clothes they’re wearing. Men just do that, so it’s normal. Assault isn’t normal, so what that can’t have been assault, right?

Wrong. That was assault. Do not accept that men do those things, because most men don’t. People should not do those things. Ever. We, meaning society, have to tell people that they don’t get to do those things, and they’ll be stopped if they do. So that when a predator does those things, we all know that person is a predator. So that young people know assault when they see it, when it happens to them. So it doesn’t happen to them.

We need to change this conversation.


If you need to talk to someone about sexual assault/rape, RAINN can help. You can also contact me via my Facebook page or comment here and I’ll get back to you ASAP. ~Rosie

Related on MMAS:


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Changing the Conversation: Dark Alley Not Required

change-the-conversation-2

Trigger Warning for discussion of rape.

This post was originally part of Change the Conversation: A Day of Blogging About Sexual Assault (#pghSAAM) in April 2013. It has been edited since that time. 

One of the most damaging rape culture myths facing us today is that of the prevalence of stranger-rape: that is, a stranger following the perfect victim down a dark street, pulling him/her into an alley, and raping him/her. Yes, it happens. I’m not denying that. But I am here to tell you, in case you weren’t aware, that it is the exception—not the rule.

I’m not here to talk statistics, however. While they’re very important when it comes to forming opinions based on factual information, the point of this exercise is to share my perspective. And my perspective is this:

I have been raped multiple times. Some of my rapes have been pooh-poohed by others due to the circumstances—these are the “gray-rape” scenarios. Others get a pass from those same folks because there was apparently sufficient force or lack of substance abuse involved for the responsibility to lie firmly in the lap of my rapists (my cup runneth over). My sexual abuse started when I was four and continued into adulthood. And not one single time did a scary stranger pull me into a dark place and rape me at knifepoint. Not one single time.

The same goes for nearly every survivor I have spoken to in my over half-a-century on this planet. Many have been raped. Many have experienced rape multiple times. But right now I can’t think of a single example of scary stranger rape of the kind rape culture tells us are hands-down, no-question, “legitimate” rape.

Date-rape. Acquaintance-rape. Passed-out-drunk-rape. Too-paralyzed-with-fear-to-resist-or speak-rape. You-didn’t-say-no-enough-times-rape. Making-out-and holy-shit-your-boyfriend’s-penis-somehow-found-its way-around-the-crotch-of-your-short-shorts-and-past-your-underwear-into-your-vagina-rape.

No scary strangers. No dark alleys.

And most rapes of the kinds described above go unreported because, like the woman in the last scenario I describe above, maybe you didn’t even realize it was rape because you never said anything and you even continued to date the guy, but when you think back and remember that night, you know you didn’t want or expect sex, and now you remember—why didn’t you remember this before?—that you burst into tears at that moment and he asked you what was wrong and you said, “Nothing.”

And it was still rape.

It kills me to realize how many are living with the very wrong belief that what happened to them wasn’t rape because it wasn’t perpetrated by a stranger with a knife in a dirty, dark alley behind a dumpster. When we perpetuate the myth that only forcible, stranger-rape is “legitimate” rape, we create a culture wherein victims are not only disbelieved, they disbelieve their own senses—their own inner knowledge that someone they know and trusted has violated them.

Rape is rape no matter where it happens. No matter who the rapist was to you in the moments before the rape occurred. Rape is rape even if your friend/lover/spouse didn’t set out to rape you. Rape is lack of consent. Period.

And I’m not going to shut up about it.


Reference:

Related:


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Rape Culture, Slut-Shaming Killed Audrie, Rehtaeh, and Felicia

Yesterday, the arrests of three Northern California teens placed another young girl’s suicide firmly in the “Rape Culture Kills” column. Also yesterday, during a discussion about Rehtaeh Parsons, a friend made me aware of a story I hadn’t heard before. Suddenly my week is filled with three girls done to death by a culture that shamed and blamed them for their rapes. Each of them has a name and a story, and I want to do my part to make them known.

Audrie Pott

Audrie Pott

Audrie Pott, 15
Audrie hanged herself in 2012 after posting “worst day ever” on Facebook. She left family and friends without a clue as to why. Her family launched their own investigation and came to the conclusion that “there is no doubt in our minds that the victim, then only 15 years old, was savagely assaulted by her fellow high school students while she lay on a bed completely unconscious.” (Family Attorney Robert Allard)

Audrie’s family has established the Audrie Pott Foundation, whose mission is “to positively impact the lives of children and teens by providing Art and Music scholarships to Students in the San Francisco Bay Area.”

felicia

Felicia Garcia

Felicia Garcia, 15

Before she jumped in front of a subway train on October 24, 2012, Felicia Garcia tweeted, “I can’t, I’m done, I give up.” Witnesses say she asked about the train’s arrival time, and when it pulled in, she said, “Finally, it’s here.” Those were her last words.

Following a weekend party during which Felicia allegedly had sex with members of the high school football team, football players and other classmates harassed and bullied her, calling her names and knocking her books out of her arms in the school hallway. By Wednesday, she’d had all she could take. She ended her life at the same platform where a year previously, a classmate had done the same.

Retaeh Parsons

Retaeh Parsons

Rehtaeh Parsons, 17

Another Jane Doe, Rehtaeh Parsons was gang-raped at a friend’s home after drinking, and her rapists felt so confident their social circle would approve that they distributed photos of the event. They were right–Rehtaeh was the victim of a harassment campaign that only ended when she hanged herself in her family’s bathroom.

From CBC:

“She was never left alone. Her friends turned against her, people harassed her, boys she didn’t know started texting her and Facebooking asking her to have sex with them since she had had sex with their friends. It just never stopped,” said [her mother].

I’m not really the praying type, on most days, but today I’m holding a prayer in my heart for these girls and asking myself this: What can we do to prevent more of these slut-shaming suicides? How can we create a safe place for these girls to come and talk to women who have been there? Because we simply must.

I’ll leave you with wise words from Sarah Sloan McLeod, the artist formerly known as Astrorice, who had this to say about slut-shaming when she was only 13:


Updates:

Rehtaeh Parsons Rape Case Solved By Anonymous in Less Than 2 Hours Despite “No Evidence” – Policymic

Justice for Rehtaeh: Demand an independent inquiry into the police investigation – Change.org


Related:

#SAAM Facts: Arm Yourself

A Brief History (the Bad Parts version)

Always Aware

I Am Jane Doe

Letter from Another Jane Doe

Bree’s Story


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


The Night I Didn’t Get Raped

by Sid

[TRIGGER WARNING: rape, sexual assault]

Screen shot 2013-04-11 at 1.23.43 PMGather round, friends. I want to tell you a story.

When I was 22 years old, I went to a party at a coworker’s house. Between the alcohol and the intervening years, the night is mostly a blur of photos I saw the next day, but a few parts of the evening remain clear to me—particularly toward the end.

It was a party of the “we’re young enough to still be super excited about legally buying booze” variety, and I’m not even sure exactly who was there anymore. Toward the end of the night, though, I found myself in the garage with a few people—it was set up like an extra living room, with a rug, a lamp, and a couple couches. People slowly filtered out until it was me and two guys.

I’m sure they were both perfectly fine looking (I don’t remember), but I was particularly attracted to one of them. No idea what his name was or how old he was now—I knew him for maybe an hour out of my entire life—but I remember that I really wanted to make out with him. Not have sex with him. Just make out with him.

So three of us are in the garage. I forget the specifics of the conversation that led to this, but we were joking around and Other Guy asks some question like, “Why are you in still in the garage?” I said, “I’m waiting for you to leave.” It sounds mean, but I remember it not feeling mean in context, and we all laughed. I just don’t remember the context.

This ≠ "Undress me."

This ≠ “Undress me.”

They exchanged a knowing look and Other Guy left. I got off my couch and went to sit at the edge of the couch where the guy I fancied was lying down. We started making out. Yay me, right? Then suddenly, I remembered—my obligation.

I’ve never had sex, see. To this day. I have reasons, but they’re irrelevant to this conversation. The point is that I knew I wasn’t “allowed” to kiss someone for too long without telling him we weren’t going to have sex, because otherwise he would get super pissed off (whoever he was). I prided myself on not being naïve, see. I prided myself on “not being stupid enough” to expect someone to respect my not wanting to have sex right that moment.

Wait, what?

Yeah.

Let’s rephrase for just a second: I had already accepted that my role as “sexual partner of any kind” universally meant that I was expected to do whatever my “partner” wanted. I understood that I was a minority and a freak, so I felt it was my obligation to get it out of the way early.

I need to put this as plainly as possible: I was wrong on every count.

I sat up quickly and spat out, “We’re not going to have sex.”

The words hung in the air for a second, and he looked at me as though I’d said, “I like pie!”—not upset, not pleased, just…thrown. “Okay,” he said and, satisfied, we went back to making out.

Under a minute later, he was unbuttoning my pants.

I sat up again and pushed his hands away—we struggled gently for control of the button, and finally I refastened it and covered it with my hands. I looked up, and he was irritated.

“Just because we’re not having sex means you can’t take your pants off?”

My brain said, “Well…yeah,” but my mouth only stuttered. I finally managed to get out something like, “I don’t want to,” and he didn’t force it as such, but he was pissy as hell. And I believed that I deserved it, because I was the freak. I was the outlier. I remembered the look he and Other Guy had exchanged. They had both thought he’d be out in the garage getting laid. I had made them both believe that, and I had implied sex by wanting to be alone with a boy I thought was cute.

In case you’re just tuning in, let me be clear: I was wrong on every count.

But because he was now pissy as hell, I felt like I had to make it up to him. So I tried to make him not angry with me by going further than I actually felt comfortable—not very far, but definitely further than I’d wanted. And I felt ashamed.

I was ashamed that it made me uncomfortable.

Not that I was doing something that made me uncomfortable. The actual feeling of being uncomfortable shamed me.

I froze. The combination of discomfort and shame and the shame of being ashamed all spiraled together until I melted down and had a panic attack right there in the garage. I cried and apologized ten or twenty times before I ran out. He made no effort to pretend like he gave a shit about anything except the fact that I was no longer touching his body. I locked myself in the bathroom to collect myself—the house was dark with people sleeping on the floor scattered across two rooms. When the guy finally came out of the garage, Other Guy made a rude comment about how long I’d been in the bathroom (har har, asshole) and I just felt even more humiliated. I finally went to lie down on the floor in the other room. I wanted nothing more than to go home, but I was in no shape to drive.

After lying there for at least an hour, though, I knew I wouldn’t fall asleep. I didn’t want to see him in the morning, and what if he came over to me during the night?

I say night, but it was 4 a.m. when I finally walked out the door and crawled into my Jeep. I should not have been on the road. My last drink had been hours ago and I lived nearby, but neither of those are the point. I was too drunk to drive.

But that’s the choice. Stay in a house where I was deeply uncomfortable on a number of levels (some part of me was aware how aggressive he’d been, but I was too busy blaming myself to properly acknowledge it), or don’t stay in the house and risk driving home. (And yes, now I understand the concept of getting a cab, but I was 22 and lived in Southern California—hell, what’s a cab?)

I wonder sometimes—if I’d been more sexually active at 22, would things have turned out differently? To be clear, I am in no way making comment on anyone else’s life choices—those are your own, just as mine are my own. But for me, personally, I wonder if he would have pushed harder if I hadn’t blurted out that sex wasn’t an option. I wonder if I would have been too afraid to stop him from unbuttoning my pants. If I had already had sex, I think I was just insecure enough that I would have wanted him to think I was cool…by not protesting.

This knowledge scares me. Because I shouldn’t have had to stop someone from trying to remove my clothing. Forcefully stop, actually. I should never have had to answer a question like, “Just because we aren’t having sex means you can’t take your pants off?” Because honestly, what the fuck kind of question is that? If that’s not blatant manipulation, then I need to re-up my Merriam-Webster subscription.

The night I didn’t get raped came down to luck. It was nothing I did or didn’t do—I was so insecure at 22, I barely did what I did. It shouldn’t have had to come down to luck. I shouldn’t have had to push someone’s hands away from my pants once, let alone multiple times. I shouldn’t have had to struggle for control of my clothing.

I was lucky. So many women are not. And this, folks? This is rape culture.

This is our culture.


Read Sid’s previous MMAS articles in Sid’s Stuff. Follow her at @SeeSidWrite.


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


#SAAM Facts: Arm Yourself

Last fall [2012] when the GOP was falling all over itself to determine who in their ranks could make the most asinine comment revealing their ignorance about rape and biology and pretty much everything, Soraya Chemaly wrote this article on HuffPo reminding us of some very relevant (sourced) facts re: rape. I’ve chosen a few I think are particularly interesting/topical/important/timely to explore a bit. (See the above article for additional sources.)

Most Rapes Go Unreported

Many, many survivors do not report their rapes. The Department of Justice estimates that fewer than 50% of rapes are reported each year, and gives a low estimate of 300,000 yearly rapes nationwide. The Center for Disease Control has placed their high estimate at 1.3 million. I’m inclined to go with the higher number since, of my rapes, I’ve reported fewer than 50% myself (only one went to arrest/prosecution), and none of the many cases of child molestation (some of which were absolutely rape or attempted rape, and yet see how I still make a distinction) were ever reported to the police.

Most Rapists Never Serve Time

The statistic says that 97% of rapists never serve time. That’s based on the following from RAINN:

No matter how you look at it, this sucks.

Of the 46 rapes (out of this statistical 100) that are reported, only 12 of those reports lead to an arrest. Let’s think about that for a moment:

In 34 out of 46 instances, when a rape victim files a police report regarding his/her rape, the police don’t even bother to make an arrest.

Consider that statistics have also shown that most rapes are not, in fact, stranger rapes, but are committed by someone the victim knows. And then remember the hundreds of thousands of rape kits that sit untested on shelves in police department evidence lockers across the US (one of mine in Dallas, TX). Because prosecuting rape is clearly not a priority in this country.

From Wikipedia via the National Institute of Justice:

“18 percent of unsolved alleged sexual assaults that occurred from 2002 to 2007 contained forensic evidence that was still in police custody (not submitted to a crime lab for analysis)”; 2) One major challenge is that 43% of law enforcement agencies “do not have a computerized system for tracking forensic evidence, either in their inventory or after it is sent to the crime lab”; 3) On average, 50–60% of kits test positive for biological material that does not belong to the victim; 4) Survey responses indicated that there may be some misunderstanding of the value of biological evidence. 44% of the law enforcement agencies said that one of the reasons they did not send evidence to the lab was that a suspect had not been identified. 15% said that they did not submit evidence because “analysis had not been requested by a prosecutor.”[12]

So, we don’t bother testing rape kits if no one asks us to, or because we haven’t identified a suspect. Wait, I watch cop shows—isn’t DNA one of the ways cops ID suspects who have raped before? Oh, for that to work they’d need to test even more rape kits, and in this country, we’re way too busy with the war on medical marijuana to worry about justice for rape survivors.

32,000 Women Become Pregnant Resulting from Rape Each Year

That’s right, Todd Akin: According to the National Institute of Health, rape results in 32,000 pregnancies yearly. In fact, in a 2003 study, scientists found that pregnancy occurs twice as often as a result of rape than of consensual sex.

Our analysis suggests that per-incident rape-pregnancy rates exceed per-incident consensual pregnancy rates by a sizable margin, even before adjusting for the use of relevant forms of birth control.

And yet, right-wing politicians who think their hearts are in the right places believe it’s perfectly ok to restrict Plan B, the “morning after” pill to “emergency rapes.” You know, those stranger rapes that happen more often on television than they do in real life. Thanks, GOP.

In 31 of these United States, Rapists Have Parental Rights

Imagine for a moment that you’re a woman who has survived rape and become pregnant. Should you desire an abortion, 24 states require a waiting period. Should you decide to keep the child, the rapist can sue for parental rights in 31. This is a nightmare I can’t even bring myself to imagine for more than a moment. And yet thousands of women face this in our country each year–hundreds of thousands live with it even as I write.

Here’s a handy graphic from Huffington Post showing how each state rates when it comes to laws regarding pregnancy resulting from rape:

Most Military Rapes Go Unreported

The Pentagon estimates that in the US Armed Forces, 80-90% of rapes go unreported. In 2011, 16,500 rapes were reported. I’ll let you do the math. Estimates place the number of male rape survivors in the military at anywhere from 8-37%—much higher than in civilian life (but possibly lower than in the prison system, depending on who you ask).

Also, I’m going to quote this one directly from the list:

Percentage of military victims who get an “involuntarily” discharge compared to percentage of charged and accused who are discharged with honor: 90 percent involuntary to 80 percent with honor

I have no words for how fucked up that is. <—Except those ones.

Prison is a Rape Culture All Its Own

It is estimated by some that prison rape is one of the most underreported forms of rape. Some will tell you that when it comes to rape culture, prison has the outside world beat hands down. Personally, I don’t see it as a competition, but I am well-aware (as are most of us, I think) that prison rape is a huge problem not only in our prisons, but for our society. Our “correctional system” breaks people and then releases them back into the world where they’re completely unequipped to survive and thrive. At least 20% of prison inmates experience rape, and if you’re LGBT, your chances increase significantly.

From the Bureau of Justice Statistics:

    • An estimated 4.4% of prison inmates and 3.1% of jail inmates reported experiencing one or more incidents of sexual victimization by another inmate or facility staff in the past 12 months or since admission to the facility, if less than 12 months.
    • Female inmates in prison (4.7%) or jail (3.1%) were more than twice as likely as male inmates in prison (1.9%) or jail (1.3%) to report experiencing inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization.
    • Among inmates who reported inmate-on-inmate sexual victimization, 13% of male prison inmates and 19% of male jail inmates said they were victimized within the first 24 hours after admission, compared to 4% of female inmates in prison and jail.
    • Among heterosexual state and federal prisoners, an estimated 1.3% reported being sexually victimized by another inmate, and 2.5% reported being victimized by staff (table 8). In contrast, among prison inmates with a sexual orientation
      other than heterosexual (including bisexual, homosexual, gay or lesbian, or other), 11.2% reported being sexually victimized by another inmate, and 6.6% reported being sexually victimized by staff.
    • Similar differences were reported among jail inmates, with heterosexual inmates reporting lower rates of inmate-on-inmate victimization (1.1%) and staff sexual misconduct (1.9%) than nonheterosexual inmates (7.2% and 3.5%, respectively).

Rape as a Weapon of War

Again, I’m going to take these directly from the list. These numbers serve as a startling reminder that rape—especially male-on-female rape—is and has always been considered a good way to humiliate your enemy and reward the troops for a job well done.

Actions vs. Words

The above only scratches the surface. There is so much work to be done. A reader commented today on Always Aware that we need less talk and more action. I’m in total agreement, and yet I feel paralyzed in the face of all this to do anything but read and learn and write and discuss and try to understand what it is that will turn our culture around—to understand what actions I can take out in the world to make real change.

I’m planning a road-trip sometime in the future, and I’d like it to be a thing of action and not just words. I’ll be thinking more about what that means, but if you’ve got any suggestions, please let me know.


Related

Reference:

On the Web:

On MMAS:


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


Always Aware

AlwaysAwareV4I have been aware of predators since childhood. Since I was four or five years old and first had a man’s penis in my mouth. Contrary to some knee-jerks here and elsewhere, the fact that I’m aware of predators in my environment does not mean that I think all men are predators. It’s one of those double-edged swords women so often find themselves at the wrong end of: If we get raped, we should have been more careful. If we’re careful, we’re alarmists (worse, we’re FEMINISTS) who believe all men are out to rape us. There’s no winning with some people.

But those are not the ones we seek to reach this month. Over the next few weeks, while the Steubenville wound is still open and oozing, it’s our job to appeal to those people who are not yet aware (or not yet aware that they’re aware) but are ready for awareness. We’re not preaching to the choir or trying to make the blind see–we just need to be vocal enough and authentic enough to reach those who are out there listening, absorbing, and becoming warriors in their own time, at their own pace.

I’ve seen it happen. I know how powerful our stories can be. Share yours. The world needs your voice.


Updates:

Note: Lest anyone think that the point of #AlwaysAware is to put the onus of rape prevention on potential victims, it is not. The point is that (most) women are always aware of potential of violence. We are taught to be afraid and trained to be vigilant. Sexual Assault Awareness Month is not for us–it’s for people who don’t spend every day of their lives alert and aware and looking for ways to keep something like this from happening to them. It’s for people who don’t understand how often women experience assault. It’s for those who believe that women, not men, should be responsible for preventing male-on-female rape. Until we’re all #AlwaysAware of the problem of rape culture, women will continue to bear the weight of that awareness all 365 days of the year.

I’m adding new posters as often as I have time to make them. I’ll replace the one at the top now and then, and add alternate ones here.

AlwaysAwareV3_2

AlwaysAwareV2

AlwaysAware


Related

A Brief History (the Bad Parts version)
I Am Jane Doe
10 Things Rape Is Not
Letter From Another Jane Doe
Bree’s Story

The idea for “Always Aware” started with a Twitter chat with the Sin City Siren and was further inspired by the above illustration by Laura Boyea (used with permission).
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


Bree’s Story

Guest post by Bree

Painting by Georges de La Tour

Painting by Georges de La Tour

When I used to imagine what rape would be, I’d think of a masked man taking you into a back alley and beating you senseless to get what he wanted. As scary as that is by itself, it was scarier for me to realize that rape could come from someone you already knew…perhaps even someone you were dating already. That’s what it was in my case.

I started dating a boy when I was 13. It’s not shocking to say that at that age a boy would already be pushing for sex, and certainly not shocking to say that at that age I didn’t want to. At first It was mostly pressure, him touching, me pushing away and saying no, after a small fight it was stop and later resume again thus causing a bigger fight. But things kept getting progressively worse, he became more aggressive, the fights getting worse after I said no, him being more physical, then it started actually happening. After all the “no’s”…it no longer became worth the effort to fight anymore. This happened for years, getting worse progressively. It began happening in front of his friends, they would watch, not saying anything, then practically high five him afterwards.

I wouldn’t admit it to myself back then. I didn’t tell anyone about it or talk about it at all. He told me I was obligated to do those things because I was his girlfriend, and that’s what girlfriends do, whether we want to or not. It wasn’t until years later when I met someone who tried (and did) eventually save me from this that I was able to admit the dreaded “r” word and realize what it was that really happened to me. I still live with PTSD, I live with the flashbacks and mental scars while I am sure he is somewhere playing his xbox right now with a smile on his face. When I finally left he told his friends I “cheated” so no one would believe my story of the abuse from the boy on the pedestal.

After I started healing I got back into my writing poetry, and then I went on to spoken word. Anything to talk about my story and get it out of my system. I worry about the other girls out there who are in my situation…dating their rapist, and thinking its justified and not rape because they are dating…it’s not true ladies, the sooner you realize that, the sooner you bloom as well.

It gets better–you just have to fight for it.

1-800-656-HOPE


Bree is a poet/spoken-word artist. Visit her website for more of her work.

If you need a safe place to share your story, please visit my Facebook page and contact me via the Message button. ~Rosie


Updates:

Here’s a short film by Jodi Martinez featuring Bree and her story:


Related:

On MMAS:

A Brief History (the Bad Parts version)
I Am Jane Doe
Letter from Another Jane Doe

From the blogosphere:

She Was Asking For It
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


“The Problem is Bike-Stealing Culture” and Other Asinine Arguments

Guest post by Sid

Screen shot 2013-03-24 at 12.45.12 PMOk folks, here’s the thing:

Someone is wrong on the internet.

Lots, really. Several, if we get right down to it, but I’m a busy gal and I’ve only got so much time. As such, let’s zero in on a Facebook conversation I watched go down just the other day. A friend of mine posted about CNN’s coverage of the Steubenville verdict, which I won’t recount here because if you don’t know it by now, you probably don’t own a computer. This was her take:

RC1
Well said and good for her. Naturally, this was the first response:

RC2
When my friend expressed hope he was kidding, he clarified:

RC3
And finally, when called out on perpetuating rape culture, he had this charming tidbit to add:

RC4
Mmmmmmk Sweetiekins…since you seem to be so very lost, allow me to break this down for you one asinine comment at a time.

1. “If laws are in place to protect the people, then people who are injured as a result of their breaking the law don’t get the same sympathy.”

A girl went to a party and got drunk. Tell me who she injured. Do not say the reputations of these boys. I want you to tell me EXACTLY WHO this girl PHYSICALLY INJURED as a result of her intoxication. Tell me.

Did she beat someone up? Did she hit people with sticks? SHE WAS UNCONSCIOUS. Was she drinking underage? Yes. Yes, she was. She got drunk and she passed out. And that should be the end of this story.

2. “When a drunk driver hits a telephone pole, does anyone sympathize with him?”

Okay, I want to make sure the sentiment of my next statement is very, very clear.

WHAT THE HOLY SHITTING FUCK DID YOU JUST SAY?

Reasons we get pissed off when drunk drivers hit telephone poles:

  1. This person drank to excess and then got behind the wheel of a vehicle.

  2. This person drank to excess and then put the lives of EVERYONE on the road in danger.

  3. This person drank to excess and then possibly cut my phone service.

  4. This person drank to excess and then made DECISIONS which affected his evening.

The drunk driver who hit a pole did not just drink to excess. That is not the end of the sentence. Were that the end of the sentence, he wouldn’t have hit the telephone pole. He would have woken up the next day, possibly with a permanent-marker penis on his face. Jane Doe drank to excess…and that’s the end of her sentence. She passed out. This story should have ended with a permanent-marker penis, at the very worst.

3. “…but she consensually broke the law to place herself in a situation she knew was risky.”

Do you think going to a party is risky, Sweetiekins? When you personally get ready for a party, do you think to yourself, “Oh no, I’m heading to the danger zone!”? Do you personally find drinking at a party to be a risky thing for you—specifically you, Sweetiekins—to do? No? So you don’t view a party as a place where you should constantly have to look over your shoulder and see who’s trying to attack you?

THEN WHY THE FUCK DO YOU EXPECT HER TO?

4. “At least suspend her from school to send the message that underage drinking is illegal for a reason.”

O_o

“We’re proud of you for pressing charges against your rapists. There was almost certainly a lot of social and peer pressure not to press charges, but we think you make the right decision. We know the media has been tearing you apart and you must feel like three shades of crap right now, but about that minor drinking violation…”

Folks, this is how we make people afraid to come forward with rape charges. I’m not saying you should be able to get away with whatever you want because of it, but for crying out loud, underage drinking is a victimless crime. Literally the only reason anyone wants her to get hit with a punishment for it is because they want to find a way to make this her fault, too. And it’s just not.

5. “I don’t know if a ‘rape culture’ exists, but more problematic than that is this culture of ‘not taking responsibility for one’s actions.”

First let’s touch on this culture of “not taking responsibility for one’s actions.” I think your next line really brings your feelings on this into focus, so let’s look at it:

Rape victim: “I didn’t do anything wrong, the problem is the rape culture.”

Rapist: “I didn’t do anything wrong, the problem is the rape culture.”

Mmk, this tells me that you have no idea what rape culture is. Like, at all. No sarcasm. So let’s touch on it.

Rape culture is this, the world we live in, where all the questions focus on what the victim did to deserve her rape. It’s the culture where people are honestly responding to this trial with, “Those poor boys’ lives are ruined,” when the reason their lives are ruined is because they chose to commit rape.

Rape culture is the culture where most women who are raped don’t report it, specifically because they already know they abuse they’ll get. They know that it is them, the victims (and not the rapists), who will be torn apart and made to believe that whatever they did, be it have the gall to go out for a drink in the evening or the audacity to wear a skirt in public, is the reason that they deserved their rape.

And it’s just not ever true. It isn’t ever.

6. “Rapist: You did do something wrong and need to be punished.”

Hey! Yes! You got one right!

7. “Rape victim: You didn’t do anything wrong, but don’t blame a ‘rape culture’ for your stupidity and lack of foresight.”

Aaaaaand my sympathy for you is gone again. You had it for like, an eighth of a second there.

So really, explain this to me, Sweetiekins. Is this the “women should expect to be raped at all times” song? Cuz I gotta tell ya, I’ve heard it, and I really prefer Mumford & Sons. It just makes more sense to me.

Why should I spend every moment of my life expecting to be raped? Do you have any idea how exhausting that is? I mean, do you? It takes a lot of mental energy to spend all day thinking up exit strategies or figuring out how fast you can punch the guy on the bus next to you if he puts his hand on your leg. Know how I know? Cuz I do it every fucking day.

Seriously, do this for me: spend one day—just one day—keeping yourself ready for rape at all times. When you walk out the door, look around for strangers. If you see someone who looks iffy, cross the street, even if it takes longer. Keep your keys pressed through your fingers if you walk alone at night. Look all around you every few seconds. You passed some guy walking down the street? Turn around to make sure he’s not running up to attack you but look fucking nonchalant about it you don’t want to cause a scene. Wait, is he following you?? Speed up! Quick, you don’t want him to find out where you wor—oh, he turned the corner. Nevermind.

Talk to me again about foresight, Sweetiekins.

8. “Following your logic, when my $1000 bike was stolen over Spring Break when I had it locked in the racks instead of taking it inside, I did nothing to ask for it. I did ask for it.”

I. Can’t. Even.

You locked up your bike…your bike was stolen…and it was your fault because you didn’t lock it up more?

I just…I don’t even know what to do with that.

secure bike

9. “Yes, there is a bike thief out there, but I am not going to detract from my ownership of the problem by saying, ‘Oh, the problem is a Bike-Stealing Culture.’”

I’m going to set aside the sociological points of actual crime culture here, because I feel that it gets away from the primary point I wish to make. You ready for this? Cuz I’m about to blow your mind.

The invasion of a woman’s body without her consent is not nor should it ever be compared to PETTY OR GRAND THEFT.

Did I really just have to write that sentence?

What, so I have be careful for having the nerve to walk about in public in blatant possession of a vagina? What am I supposed to do, Sweetiekins? Leave it at home? Lock it up? Leave your dick at home once in a while. It’s totally possible. There’s a song about it and everything, so it must be true.

Wake. Up. Rape isn’t theft. Sticking any of your appendages into any orifice of an unconscious person is not the same thing as lifting that same unconscious person’s wallet. If you don’t go to a party expecting to get raped, why the hell should I have to? If you don’t abstain from going out for a drink, why the hell  should I have to? If you don’t arrange an escort to walk home in the dark after work, why the hell should I have to?

But if you won’t help break the cycle of rape culture, I guess that means that I have to.


Read Sid’s previous MMAS articles in Sid’s Stuff. Follow her at @SeeSidWrite.

Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


I Am Jane Doe

Trigger Warning: This post is about rape.

dontbethatguyI was fourteen years old the night my friend G took me to my first kegger. We told my mom we were going to “a little get together.” I remember almost nothing about the evening—flashes, mostly. I remember absolutely nothing about being raped that night.

I might never have known about it, except that N–a woman I’d met the night before–mentioned it casually the next morning when I woke in a strange house with what might have been my first hangover. I don’t remember the words she used, just the image they evokedof me passed out in a bed and two men doing whatever they wanted with me.

Apparently G had left me at the party—I never learned why, but I assume that I was either passed out or otherwise resisted leaving. I never asked him. Sitting there with N that morning, I barely remembered that he’d brought me. I don’t remember worrying that I’d be in trouble for not going home the night before. I don’t remember anything but a sick feeling in my gut and the vague thought that “I guess that’s what happens when you get drunk and pass out.”

N didn’t seem particularly bothered by it. I’d soon learn that she wasn’t bothered by much. If I’d heard the term “sex positive” back then I would have assumed it applied to her because when it came to N and sex, the answer was always “yes.” By comparison, even as promiscuous as I eventually became, I always felt like a prude. And I felt like one that morning because I knew I wasn’t okay with what had happened, and yet, here was this woman ten years older than I who seemed to think it was no big deal.

So that’s how I treated it. I put it out of my mind, and I never once thought of it as rape. Rape was what happened to me when I was twelve and a boy forced himself on me and I fought with every fiber of my being. That was when I went to the police and lost friends and created a scandal in my community. This was different—it was my fault for passing out and leaving my body lying around for other people to use.

I never thought of it as rape until it happened again. I was 35 or so, out drinking, went back to someone’s place after the bar closed to smoke some pot, and woke up on a couch with a man’s penis inside me. So disoriented it took me a moment to realize what was happening and shove him off me, I first assumed that I just didn’t remember somehow letting things get started with this person I had absolutely no sexual interest in. I left him sitting on his couch looking down at his lap, and I walked home in the dark, and I blamed myself and shamed myself and felt like the most disgusting slut in the world.

And then I remembered:

We’d smoked some pot, and I’d felt really tired. I’d curled up on his couch just to rest for a moment. I had passed out. Between the alcohol, the pot, and my anti-depressants (and it’s entirely possible he slipped me something, I have no way of knowing at this point) I was good and unconscious for I don’t know how long. Until some part of me realized my body was in the middle of a sex act I hadn’t consented to.

It wasn’t my fault. I feel the need to say that because it wasn’t, and because I want anyone reading this who has experienced something similar to know that it isn’t your fault, either. We never know when we walk out the door when we’re going to find ourselves in the presence of a rapist. We can take precautions and self-defense classes, maintain a constant state of awareness of our surroundings, only ever drink at home, and still get raped. I know because the first time I got raped I was just hanging out with friends smoking a joint. I know because most women who experience rape are not drunk or dressed provocatively or in any way “asking for it.” Most victims are raped by someone they know, and it usually happens in their own home or that of a friend or relative.

Rape isn’t the logical conclusion to a night of drink ending in unconsciousness. In a civilized society, it should never be a thing about which we say, “What did she expect?” If the crime was murder, we never would. Because drunk girls don’t cause murder any more than they cause rape.

What causes rape? Rapists. People who believe on some level or other that they are entitled to use someone else’s body for their sexual gratification or rage/power/fantasy-fulfillment.

I’m grateful for the guilty verdict in the Steubenville case today. I’m outraged that the judge verbally admonished the boys for irresponsible behavior while drinking (including texting dirty pictures), but not for rape. I’m disgusted at the slap on the wrist these boys got in the form of one- and two-year sentences. But I’m hoping out of all this comes a real conversation about the culture that produces boys who aren’t even sure what rape is when they see it, and a system that treats rape victims like criminals.


Updates:

Here’s a petition to remove that sorry excuse for a coach, and another to shame CNN into apologizing for their rapist sympathy.

Also, Jane Doe is donating all funds sent her way to her local women’s shelter and is asking that others do the same. (Worth reading.)

For more background on my history of abuse, read A Brief History (the Bad-Parts Version).

For a great breakdown of Steubenville and rape culture, read So You’re Tired of Hearing About “Rape Culture”?

And for commenters who would still like me to take responsibility for my rapes:

fuckoff


PSA: Trolls who comment here will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Related

On Make Me a Sammich:

From the web:


[TW] 10 Things Rape Is Not

10 ThingsI think it was the day I first learned the phrase “trigger warning” that I realized what it is that happens to me when people reach lazily for the word that describes my nightmare and use it to describe what their wife did to them in their divorce or what their buddy did to them in HALO the night before. That sick feeling, the inevitable visualization of what the word means–to me, personally, based on my experience having survived rape. The reminder that although at least one in four women have experienced sexual assault (and 1 in 33 men), for many people that experience is so foreign that it can easily, casually, and sometimes it seems, constantly, be reduced to an analogy or even a punchline.

When the whole Daniel Tosh fiasco happened, I wanted to write about it. I really did. I started a draft. I collected reference articles. But I just couldn’t do it. Maybe it’s because I’d already gotten up a head of steam over the topic. A few years ago, on a long-dead blog, I wrote a post about many of the reasons rape jokes and analogies should be used with care, if at all. Everyone else had done a great job of explaining all the reasons why Daniel Tosh is a jackass, so I let that pass, but I still find myself on probably a weekly basis wanting to link people to that old article that explains why I wish they’d just stop with the rape jokes and analogies already. So today I made the postcard above, and now I’m resurrecting my old post below.


Rape: It’s Not Funny (or Cool)

Picture

After seeing the word “rape” used as a punchline and an analogy for everything from the financial crisis to a sports victory, I’m utterly and completely over it. I’ll admit that this is a personal thing for me: I have been raped. I understand that’s not true of everyone, and I don’t expect my world to be scrubbed clean of all references to rape. But too many of us, male and female, have experienced this violent, debasing act for any of us to be tossing the word around carelessly. Consider the following reasons to find a new analogy—a different punchline.

Rape Analogies Aren’t Cool

I’m as outraged as anyone about the mess Wall Street has made (that our government has allowed them to make) of our economy. And who doesn’t love to see their team win? But to use “raped” to mean “was victorious over” indicates that we believe rape is a cool way to assert power. To use it to mean “victimized” (as in Wall Street victimized America) is at least in the ballpark, but I think it really boils down to a crude attempt to be edgy or even provocative. Johnny Depp compared photo shoots to rape. Really, Johnny? I expected better. When we let these analogies slide we’re contributing to a culture that trivializes rape, and that’s not ok.

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Dane Cook

Comedian Dane Cook, who doesn’t think twice about making sexist and racist jokes, had this to say about rape analogies:

I think the word raped gets thrown around far too casually. You ever listen to a bunch of guys playing video games with each other online? It’s like, ‘Ah man you shot me in the back dude. You raped me dude!’ I’m pretty sure if I talked to a woman who’s been through that horrific situation and I said, ‘What was it like, you know, being raped?’ she’s not gonna look at me and go, ‘Have you ever played Halo?’”

I’ve only ever seen one rape analogy that I thought worked, and that’s because the objective was to point out the stupidity of victim blaming in rape cases.

Rape Jokes Aren’t Funny

We use humor and analogy to help us understand our world, and humor in particular relies on (among other things) pushing the boundaries of comfort and social acceptance. People joke about religion, politics, gender, crime—even race and homosexuality still get a workout from some standup comedians. Is rape a special case? Perhaps not; maybe it’s fair game like so much else. Except that it isn’t. Rape is a violent, humiliating, abusive act that is damaging on a scale that I’m not sure one can grasp without experiencing it. I wouldn’t wish something like that on my worst enemy, but I think anyone who believes it’s ok to make rape jokes should take a moment to imagine it: someone pins you down (or threatens your life or drugs your drink or waits until you’re asleep) and penetrates you without your consent. Imagine the fear, the pain, the violation, the humiliation, the disgust…do you think you would ever find humor in that situation? Do you think you would be ok—really ok—with people making your trauma the source of their amusement?

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Space shuttle Challenger explodes

Some humor makes us laugh and cringe simultaneously. Disasters and gruesome celebrity deaths usually give rise to at least one groaner, and though we know we shouldn’t be laughing, it’s as if our bodies betray us (though there’s a part of me that always feels a little dirty afterward). But there are some lines that we seem to agree on some level shouldn’t be crossed, and when they are, nearly everyone in the room shuffles their feet and coughs uncomfortably. Race is one of these, in what I like to think of as the more enlightened circles. Homophobia and transphobia are also not considered acceptable. And there are things that it doesn’t even occur to most of us to joke about, like Hiroshima or hate crimes. That’s because these are violent, horrifying acts and events that we recognize as worthy of some gravity. Rape should, in my opinion, be among those.

But that’s only part of the problem.

Rape Jokes and Analogies Can Do Harm

Two things happen when people make rape jokes and analogies: one is that they can help reinforce a culture in which rape is somehow acceptable. Because I can’t say it any better myself, Wikipedia offers this:

Rape culture is a term which originated in women’s studies and feminist theory, describing a culture in which rape and sexual violence against women are common and in which prevalent attitudesnorms, practices, and media condone, normalize, excuse, or tolerate sexual violence against women. Examples of behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blamingsexual objectification and rape apologism. Use of the term has recently become more common.

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Winning is cool…

The other thing that happens when people use rape to get a laugh or describe a victory or make a comparison is that those of us who have been raped may be “triggered*”—that is, we may react adversely to unexpectedly encountering a thoughtless remark, for instance, using our trauma to describe what one team did to the other one on the football field today. Some of us have stronger reactions than others. Personally, depending on the remark, I cringe, my stomach clenches, I might experience some nausea or anxiety. This is a mild reaction—other people, for various reasons, can be triggered to a much greater degree. Rape survivors are traumatized people, many (or most, or all) of whom suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to one degree or another. Their reactions can range from panic attacks to flash-backs to the desire to hurt themselves to escape feelings of rage, shame, and fear.

It All Comes Down to Empathy

We’ve all got our sensitivities, and I believe political correctness can go too far. Some people seem to spend all their time looking for offense—and finding it—and I think they should really lighten up. But I also believe we can all benefit from an understanding of how our thoughtless comments can affect others whose experience might be so much different from our own. Sure, you can write people off as “too sensitive” or invoke your right to free speech or state self-righteously that “it’s not my job to keep other people from being offended,” but ultimately, if our words hurt someone, that person remains hurt despite our rights and entitlements. Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences. We all have to decide whether our right to use rape as a punchline or an analogy is worth the consequences.


UPDATE:

This article on Shakesville makes an important point that I did not: 

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http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2011/03/feminism-101-helpful-hints-for-dudes.html

Here’s another article that tells it like it is:

So You Made a Rape Joke

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I’ve also been digging up some recent tweets on the subject.

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And a petition:
FOX Sports, a division of News Corp.: Tell FOX to drop the UFC unless they clean up their act!

And if you have a strong stomach, here’s a look at 10 minutes on Twitter. This is what rape culture looks like. Oh, and here’s an entire World of Warcraft fansite forum thread dedicated to rape jokes.


PSA: Trolls who comment here will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


An Open Letter to the Oatmeal

Guest post by Sid

Matthew,

Before I start, I want you to pretend with me for a minute. Pretend that you haven’t had a wave of shitty words thrown over you in the last 24 hours, even after you took down your defense. Pretend that you didn’t have to turn off the computer just to get a few hours of peace—so you didn’t have to keep looking at words like “asshole,” “misogynist,” or “sack of shit.” Pretend for just a minute that that never happened and that the internet consists of only you and me.

Now that we’re alone, let’s talk.

I do not want to call you names or imply that you meant to hurt anyone. I won’t do that because I know that wasn’t your intention. I’m not angry with you, because I understand that you honestly might not have a handle on what all the fuss was about—and not in a “willful ignorance” kind of way. In a “no, seriously, I can’t make this make sense” kind of way.

I want to sit with you, calmly and respectfully, and try to unpack what all this backlash is really about.

Wait, wait, wait…don’t close the window yet. I know—you’ve been hearing it in 140-character chunks all day long. People have said it to you over and over again. But the thing is, most of those responses were angry and hurt, and many used hateful words. No one listens once hateful words are leveled at them. That’s just science. So here, in our little pretend world where none of those words were said and you and I are alone, I’m hoping you’ll give me a chance to explain what the problem really is.

Lots of inappropriate things are funny, including many of the things you listed. So why isn’t rape funny? Or rather—since you never claimed that rape was funny and I don’t want to put words in your mouth—why isn’t it funny to compare activities that aren’t rape to rape?

The word rape brings with it a lot of imagery. It is the forceful and unwanted invasion of a person’s body. Every day more and more people experience it. You can say the word—you can—but by using it to describe an everyday task, like refreshing a web page, it takes some of the meaning away from the word. It gives the word a little less potency, which makes it easier for friends, employers, and juries to write it off as “not a big deal.” (This gradual impotence of meaning is what people are referring to when they say “rape culture,” because it leads slowly to acceptance of rape as “norm.”)

So why is it okay to joke about other offensive things?

Because being offended is different from being hurt. If you want to fight the “people get offended too easily” fight, I will walk beside you and fly the flag, but this is something different. A lot of people—women in particular—are actually hurt when they see the hell that they experienced made into something small. They relive the experience of having their bodies invaded.

Let’s, for just a moment, liken it to the n-word. I imagine this is a word I would never see in your comic, because this word hurts people. It directly targets one specific group of people and tells them they are less. I completely understand that this was not ever your intention, but when you joke about rape, you tell survivors that it’s no big deal, that we can joke about it. It targets them as a group and tells them that they are less because they weren’t even worth thinking about.

As I mentioned, I know you’ve taken down even the defense of the joke, but I suspect you may have done that because you were tired of the hateful words (which would be totally fair). Please note that I am not saying your apology was insincere. I believe that you really meant the apology. My honest goal here is to try to help you understand—not to condescend to you and not to treat you like some kind of monster, but to come to you with a sincere explanation of a sincere issue. I hope I’ve done that.

If you would like to respond to any of my points, have questions about any of my examples, or would otherwise like to continue in respectful discourse, my Twitter is @SeeSidWrite—just DM me with your interest (and whether you prefer Matt or Matthew) and I will DM you back with my personal email address. I would be more than happy to continue this conversation.

All the best,
Sid


Read Sid’s previous MMAS articles in Sid’s Stuff. Follow her at @SeeSidWrite.


School District: Sexually Abused 12-Year-Old “Negligent”

Kristen Lewis Cunnane, age 12

Trigger warning for rape and child sexual abuse.

She was twelve years old. An age at which, in a perfect world, she might have been curious about sex, but years away from worrying about it. An age when, in a better world than this, she should have remained an innocent child with no idea of the dark side of people like P.E. teacher Julie Correa who manipulated and abused her for three years.

This past September, 30-year-old Kristen Lewis Cunnane brought suit against Moraga School District in Southern California in order to seek justice for what happened to her and to help ensure it doesn’t keep happening. In what they claim is one of nine defenses they have no choice but present, Moraga School District’s recent filing states the following:

Carelessness and negligence on [Cunnane’s] part proximately contributed to the happenings of the incident and to the injuries, loss and damages.

I’m going to repeat myself here, and probably more than once:

SHE WAS TWELVE YEARS OLD.

After I was raped at 12-years-old, I sat in the witness stand completely unprepared as the public defender accused me of being a willing participant in a sex act and later panicking and crying “rape” when I realized I might become pregnant. I was a child and I had no idea that all over the country women and girls faced victim-blaming daily. But I would learn.

This little girl trusted her (female) P.E. teacher exclusively with the information that another (male) teacher, Dan Witters, had abused her. Little did she know, her P.E. teacher was already in the process of grooming her as a sex slave. For several years, Julie Correa raped Kristen and used fear to control her. Kristen finally broke free and blocked the whole thing, but when it came bubbling back up again she got Correa on the phone and eventually coaxed a taped confession out of her and Correa was convicted of sexually abusing a child entrusted to her care. She got 8 years. Now Kristen wants the school district to take responsibility for the fact that multiple teachers perpetrated abuse against her and other students. And the district is fighting back.

Kristen Lewis Cunnane

Now assistant head coach of the women’s swim team at UC Berkely, Kristen Cunnane says she was “floored” when she read the school district’s filing. You know who else should be floored? Every single parent with children attending school in the Moraga School District. Because guess what? If teachers abuse your child, your school district will blame your child for the abuse in an attempt to avoid taking responsibility. Your 12-year-old will be held responsible for being in the wrong school at the wrong time with the wrong teacher because the school district has to protect itself. After all, as school superintendent Bruce Burns explained,

“…this is a significant case that could have serious consequences for our school district. She is demanding several million dollars in damages. As a result, at this point in the proceedings we have an obligation not to waive any potential legal lines of defense. The district raised nine possible arguments that might be used in court. Attorneys routinely insert these into Answers filed to Complaints. Ms. Cunnane and the media have seized on only one of the nine potential areas and over-exaggerated its importance.”* [emphasis added]

Kristen’s response:

“It is beyond devastating that the District would blame me for the years of horrific sexual abuse I was subjected to when I was just a child. There is a critical need for a culture shift in Moraga and elsewhere when it comes to tolerance of child abuse in schools, and this just underscores that we have further to go than I even thought. I can only hope that this lawsuit will move us one step closer to zero tolerance, while also going some way to compensate me for the years of abuse I suffered.”

This culture that allows us to blame children for sexual abuse? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s called rape culture and it’s where we live. It’s bad enough that adults face this bullshit every day, but the fact that it is acceptable in a court of law to suggest ANY fault for adult-on-child sex abuse might lie with the child is a symptom of a very sick society. And the only cure is for every single one of us to fight it everywhere we see it–by writing about it, posting about it, talking about it until everyone tells us to shut the fuck up, and then we have to keep doing it. For Kristen. For me. For every girl or woman abused and then shamed for her behavior or her clothing, blamed for having the audacity to walk alone while female or trust a male friend or–God forbid!–an authority figure.

Say it with me:

ENOUGH.


*According to the San Jose Mercury News, “No dollar amount is listed in Cunnane’s lawsuit.” She believes “it’s for a jury to decide.”


UPDATES:

6/20/15: Kristen tells her story on CBS’ 48 Hours. Via that report:

The school district paid out a total of $18.65 million to Kristen Cunnane and the three other victims who filed civil lawsuits*.

Julie Correa is eligible for parole in 2018. Her husband has filed for divorce.

*Three “Jane Does” filed suit for their abuse at the hands of teacher Dan Witters (the same teacher whose abuse Kristen Cunnane trusted Julie Correa to help her deal with).

Abuse Lawsuit: Arguments Over Timeliness – Lamorinda Patch, 4/1/13

“Statute of limitations is issue in lawsuit of Kristen Cunnane against the Moraga School District over prevention of sexual abuse from the 1990s.”

Sign this petition to tell the school district they’re out of line.


Rape Culture Sammich 1.0

Nobody asked what my rapist wore.

(Photo credit: Kristen Althoff)

This is one of those sammiches I feel like I have to make for all the people out there who either a) don’t understand what rape culture is or (especially) b) don’t believe rape culture exists. Let’s start with a mini-lesson from a post called Rape Culture 101 over at lifelovelauren:

As children we are told not to talk to strange men who offer us sweets. As teenagers, girls are told ‘you’re not going out looking like that’. As adults, women are told to keep their doors and windows locked, not to walk anywhere alone after dark, not to look at men ‘in the wrong way’, not to open the door to strange men, not to wear short skirts or low cut tops, not to give a guy their number, not to take public transport or a taxi alone, not to sleep with multiple people, not to drink too much, not to live alone, not to be weak, not to get raped. Because if we do any of these things, well, it was our fault wasn’t it? We led him on, we asked for it, we wanted to get raped. That’s rape culture.

I’ll add that “we” above refers to girls and that we as a society do relatively little (when compared to how much time we spend preparing girls not to get raped) to prepare boys not to rape. Something is terribly wrong with this equation.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen stories (related to the one I shared from Mandaray this week) that lit a fire of rage inside me which has smoldered and sparked and grown hotter with each passing day as more and more stories come to light. These are stories of institutionalized rape culture in the United States of America. Stories about how our system makes victims responsible for the crimes committed against them, but only if those crimes are sexual and the victims are women. As someone said recently of racism (which must be considered in any discussion of inequality), this is not something laws will change. WE have to change.

We have to change how we think about rape as it relates to how we think about women. Yes, I know, rape happens to men, too, but everyone agrees that’s a Bad Thing. Men who get raped are not generally subjected to criticisms of their wardrobe choices because no one believes that what a man wears has any bearing on whether he gets raped. Think about that for a moment. Why are women imagined to be responsible for how men react to their state of dress? Do we really think that all men are born rapists with no control over their actions? I know I’m not the first to ask this question. Hell, I’m probably not the first to ask this question today. But it must be asked because it is the very definition of a double standard and this is one that hurts us as a society possibly more than any other.

Judge Jacqueline Hatch (via ThinkProgress)

So, stories. Here’s one you’ve probably heard, because it happened a couple of weeks ago. A judge in Arizona (I know, shocking) let a cop go free after a jury convicted him of sexual assault. Read that sentence again–I’ll wait. Here’s what Judge Jaqueline Hatch had to say to the victim of the (no longer alleged) assault (via ThinkProgress):

Bad things can happen in bars, Hatch told the victim, adding that other people might be more intoxicated than she was.

“If you wouldn’t have been there that night, none of this would have happened to you,” Hatch said.

Hatch told the victim and the defendant that no one would be happy with the sentence she gave, but that finding an appropriate sentence was her duty.

“I hope you look at what you’ve been through and try to take something positive out of it,” Hatch said to the victim in court. “You learned a lesson about friendship and you learned a lesson about vulnerability.”

Hatch said that the victim was not to blame in the case, but that all women must be vigilant against becoming victims.

“When you blame others, you give up your power to change,” Hatch said that her mother used to say.

The fact that this victim-blaming-shaming bullshit came from the mouth of a woman makes it seem all the more evil to me. Oh, and by the way? While officer Robb Gary Evans was fired due to his conviction, he is not required to register as a sex offender. Neat, huh?

Yeah, that story made me want to punch things. This next one makes me want to punch people.

Richard-Fourtin-Jr.

Richard Fourtin, Jr. (via ThinkProgress)

Today the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned this man’s sexual assault conviction. No one questions that sex took place, but see, this man had sex with a woman who was physically and mentally disabled. She has cerebral palsy, and while this is not always or even usually the case with CP, she is severely mentally retarded. Sinking to a new low in victim-blaming, the court ruled that the victim was capable of communicating her lack of consent, so you know, consent was a given.

The Court held that, because Connecticut statutes define physical incapacity for the purpose of sexual assault as “unconscious or for any other reason. . . physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act,” the defendant could not be convicted if there was any chance that the victim could have communicated her lack of consent. Since the victim in this case was capable of “biting, kicking, scratching, screeching, groaning or gesturing,” the Court ruled that [the] victim could have communicated lack of consent despite her serious mental deficiencies:

When we consider this evidence in the light most favorable to sustaining the verdict, and in a manner that is consistent with the state’s theory of guilt at trial,we, like the Appellate Court, ‘are not persuaded that the state produced any credible evidence that the [victim] was either unconscious or so uncommunicative that she was physically incapable of manifesting to the defendant her lack of consent to sexual intercourse at the time of the alleged sexual assault.’

So, pay attention, ladies: If you don’t say “No,” whether it’s because you’ve got a sock stuffed in your mouth or you’re just paralyzed with fear, your lack of non-consent equals consent. Got it?

Remember the girl in Texas who was told she had to cheer for her rapist at sporting events? What about the one who was court-ordered to write a letter of apology to the man who raped her because the court didn’t convict? The eleven-year-old child who news commentators accused of dressing older than her age? Does no one remember The Accused?

When are we going to put our collective feet down in thunderous unison and say ENOUGH?

Sigh. That’s all I’ve got energy for today. Over to you, readers.

Love ya,
Rosie


A Brief History (the Bad Parts version)

Trigger warning for discussion of child sexual abuse, sexual assault, rape, and domestic violence.

NOTE: This piece goes to some dark places where humor just doesn’t live. I’ll forgive you if you don’t read it, but I think it’s important because it’s about some of the really awful stuff that happens to girls and women in the U.S. and around the world. It’s my personal story of serial abuse and…social conditioning, for lack of a better phrase. This blog is my way of countering misogynistic attitudes and messages, and this story is nearly everything that led me to the place I stand as I begin it. 


overwhelmedI’m overwhelmed.

By the barrage of bullshit coming from every form of media every day. By all the anger and violence toward women. By all the ways the world has told me my entire life that my gender was the lesser of two. Subtle messages, and constant, between the lines, that said I was lucky to be born so late in the century—the 20th century, for heaven’s sake!—that these battles had long ago been fought and soundly won. Suffragettes had suffered, bras had burned by the thousands, armpits and legs had gone unshaven for my freedoms. We are woman, hear us roar.

Subtle messages like some stuff is “for” girls and other stuff is “for” boys. Like boys get into trouble and girls are good and polite. Like girls are supposed bait the proverbial hook to “catch” a boy, and boys are supposed to avoid being “caught.” Like a boy’s job is to “score,” and a girl’s job is to play defense.

And there were less subtle messages, too. These messages, these moments, do not define my life. But they do serve as an outline when I consider what a hostile world this is for girls and women.

  • By age 9 I had been molested multiple times by multiple pedophiles. Relatives, family friends, neighbors… It turns out you don’t have to look very far to find a pedophile in this world. I learned too much too soon and I had no idea what to do with the information. I was troubled after the first incident (series of incidents) at age 4, and pretty confused by the second at 5, downright scared by the third at 6. By 9 I wasn’t even surprised anymore, and they somehow knew that I was the perfect victim. A family “friend” was visiting regularly at this point and playing his little games and I hated it but I felt powerless to stop him. I was so terrified of the trouble I’d be in if my mom found out that I worked myself into a state of utter emotional turmoil until one day when she came to yell at me about something completely unrelated I lost it—screamed and shook and sobbed until she finally dragged the truth out of me.

These trucks still creep me out.

  • When I was 10 and on my way to the local shopping center (back in the days when parents let 10-year-olds walk anywhere unattended) on a stretch of empty highway between my housing development and the mall walking against traffic like I’d been taught, an old Ford truck passed me and pulled over a little way up the road. I told myself I was imagining things when I saw the driver watching me in his rearview mirror. And when I came up alongside his truck across the two barren lanes of traffic he opened the truck door. He was completely naked, and flopped one leg lazily out as he masturbated, staring at me. I had been down this road before and I was fucking terrified. I turned and ran as fast as I could past empty houses to my street and stopped at my friend’s house, hysterical. Her mother laughed. I was really starting to get the feeling it was just me.
  • As a pre-teen, it wouldn’t be long before the neighborhood boys would introduce me to “pantsing,” or forcible removal of my pants and underwear by multiple boys, each one stronger than me, in front my friends. This is wrong on so many levels, but let’s just cover a few: 1) I knew damned well that I didn’t like it when the boys ganged up and took my pants off. 2) As humiliating as it was, I never cried. I learned very early on that to complain about it was to invite ridicule not just from the boys, but from the girls. There I’d be, the solitary person in the room who thought it was a Big Deal when clearly it wasn’t and what was wrong with me, anyway. 3) As an adult, when I talk to other women about it, we all agree that it was terrifying and humiliating and tantamount to bullying at least and sexual assault at worst, and none of us knows why we didn’t (couldn’t) tell someone and make it stop. (Does this still go on? Google shows me laughing people in their underwear.)
  • At 12 I was raped by a 14-year-old neighborhood kid who was known for being a bad boy. I lived in a poor suburb of Sacramento and us kids built forts in our backyards to entertain ourselves in the summertime. Me and two girl friends were in the fort behind my next-door neighbor’s house with the bad boy smoking pot. My girl friends left. I never saw it coming. One moment we were sitting there smoking a joint, the next I was on the ground and he was lying on top of my saying, “Shut up or I’ll hit you in the head with this hammer.” I clenched every muscle in my body until he finished. I don’t think he enjoyed it. He walked with me to my backdoor, and I think it was locked. He said something to me. I don’t remember what. I walked in the front door and through the living room, which was dark. My mom and brothers were watching tv. I put my hand up to my face as I walked through and hoped my mom wouldn’t see me–that I was crying, or had been, or what a mess my makeup was, or something. I don’t remember thinking anything but how can I get through this room. Then she asked if I was ok and just like when I was 9 I lost it and she had to drag the truth out of me one more time. I cringe when I remember the ensuing horror show that was my neighborhood’s reaction, the investigation and lawyer prep, and the trial that I dreaded for months and which ended in a verdict that validated the public defender’s stuttered accusations: “Isn’t it true that you cried rape because you were afraid you were pregnant?”
    It_was_rape_logo_square-copyEven he seemed to understand on some level that the whole thing was a setup. I was only 12 and had never had consensual sex , so they’d have a hard time making me look like a slut, but they could cast doubt on me, question what possible motive I might have to falsely accuse the poor defendant (who admitted to having sex and later served time for statutory rape, meaning his only crime was sex with a minor), the fact that no one heard me scream (because I really wanted that ball-peen hammer to the temple), whether I did or did not seem, to the people they interviewed, to be distraught enough in the days following the incident. What’s amazing to me about writing this is that I don’t remember anyone fighting for me other than my mom and my cousin D who left my house in the dark of that night with a baseball bat as I sat in the kitchen sobbing (he came back frustrated with a clean bat). I know there must have been someone, but I have this sense when I look back that I was the one on trial; that I was the poor sap with the crappy public defender.
  • When I was 14 I went to my first kegger. My mom thought I was going to “a little get-together.” I got drunk and passed out. The next day someone told me that two guys had screwed me while I was unconscious. No one thought this was particularly wrong. Everyone was drunk. They were just being guys. I just tried not to think about it. It probably wasn’t the last time. I try not to think about that, either.
  • Given all this, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that I became a promiscuous teen. You know that girl in high school everyone calls “slut”? That was me. I started out looking for what sex was supposed to be (True Love!), but what it amounted to was giving in to every guy I had a crush on because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. It was what they wanted, so if I did, they’d like me, right? Instead every guy at my school had the idea that I should sleep with him because I’d slept with one or more of his friends.

    This is what I wanted that phone to look like. I wasn’t strong enough.

  • By 16 I was “in love” with a guy who barely tolerated me, but now and then he’d be nice to me and I’d fall all over myself to do anything he wanted—including servicing him in front of his friends. I followed him around like a dog, and he treated me like one. Miserable, on the street (a habitual runaway) going from one bad situation to another,  one night I sat soaking wet in a convenience store parking lot and a family of Mormons rescued me and took me in for a couple of weeks. It was a bit like hitting a reset button as I saw what life was like in a completely new environment. Soon I was ready to “turn over a new leaf,” as my dad put it when he made arrangements for me to go to Dallas, Texas and live with his stepfather, an elderly judge who had no idea what to do with a teenage girl and whose strategy for dealing with disagreements consisted of sitting there laughing at me as I grew increasingly frustrated with him. Angry and bored out of my mind in the middle of summer I went out looking for interesting people to meet. On one of my first outings, outside a drug store, a man pulled up next to me in his car and stopped, one hand on the wheel and the other massaging his penis. About a week later, when two young black men pulled over and chatted me up, I was flattered, and after a bit of coaxing (with one of them showing me his ID and both promising I’d come to no harm, we were going to have a grand time) I got in their car. And we partied. For a few hours, it was a fascinating experience. They took me home and someone’s sister fawned over me. I met a bunch of little kids. Then we went out to a bar where every single head turned toward me like that scene from Blues Brothers and a man on the way in muttered something about “y’all bringin’ Snow White around here” under his breath as he glanced nervously up and down the road. There was music and alcohol. There were drugs. Then it was back to the apartment where everyone was fast asleep and it was time for me to put up. I begged and pleaded, but I didn’t fight. I cried as quietly as I could (so as not to wake up Sis and the kids) and later when he dropped me off at yet another convenience store, I called home and my drunk uncle was over and answered the phone and called me a fucking cunt. The next thing I remember is several people pulling me off the pay phone as I did my best to beat it to death with the receiver, screaming my rage. And the cops asking me why I didn’t use my knife. Against a man twice my size. Lucky for me, I forgot I even had one. I never got it—or anything—from the cops or the system. Somewhere, probably still in Dallas, a man who once went by the name of Charles Ray “Chuckie Ray” Smith might still be walking around free to rape at will, but is very likely dead and buried at the hands of someone’s loved one avenging something very like the crime he committed against me, for which he never even stood trial.All I can say about this list up to this point is Thank. Fucking. God. AIDS wasn’t a thing yet.
  • Soon after that, I got pregnant, and not on accident. My life up to then had been a series of after-school specials from hell, and I wanted a change, but the change the adults in my life were serving up was not working for me. When an acceptable candidate made himself available, I counted the days from my period to maximum fertility and I made damned sure he put a baby in my belly. Then he bought me a ticket home to California and I didn’t see him again until my daughter was 9 (which was ok with me). I moved in with my mom, stepdad, and three younger brothers. One night just after dark I rode my brother’s bike over to my cousin’s house a few blocks away. When I saw a man up ahead that I knew for a FACT I had passed just moments ago, I knew he had come around the block for me. I had almost no time to think about it, and as I neared he reached out for my handlebars. Out of breath and utterly terrified, a sound erupted from my throat that I have never made before or since. The words I tried to say were, “GET AWAY FROM ME!” but I sounded wild, primal, like a crazy person. He jerked his hands back and said, “Okay, gah!” Like he was the victim.
  • Life settled down a lot after my daughter was born. I focused on being a mother, and for a little while, that was enough. But I wanted my True Love. And when I was 18, I believed I’d found him. He was amazing. Handsome, successful, smart, funny, and 35 years old. My friends and I saw nothing wrong with that. We all wanted him. But he wanted me. I was the lucky winner. Within a year I’d moved back to Texas with him and was keeping his house and caring for his 12-year-old son along with my daughter, now about 2. I don’t even know anymore how long it took for things to get bad—maybe 6 months—but one night after a party I’d left early because he pissed me off, he came home and started in on me, first with his hands, and then with a paint scraper. All things being relative, he didn’t hurt me badly. Just badly enough that I knew damned well if I could get out of that room I’d never come back. He let me get my daughter from down the hall, and when someone knocked on the front door and he went to answer it, I took her and ran out the back. I ended up in a shelter and within a couple of days I went back to my abuser because I had no local support and no money to go anywhere else, and some well-meaning-but-misguided types advised me that it was his job (my abuser’s) to finance my return home to California. This bought me another month or so before his next blow-up, but this time we escaped without incident and didn’t go back. I showed up in the middle of the night on the front porch of my grandfather’s house in Waco and introduced myself. “Mr. Abney, I’m your granddaughter.” We stayed a few days, and he cashed his Social Security check and put us on a plane. I never saw him again.
  • In many ways I feel like I experienced a lot of bad things so my daughter wouldn’t have to. I taught her right away that predators were out there and that she should never hesitate to scream, kick, run, and tell someone if anyone ever did something she didn’t like. And when, inevitably it now seems, she found herself in a situation where someone crossed the line, she knew that the boundary was hers to set and protect and she knew to tell someone.
  • Jump ahead to my 30s, when I found myself single after a long period and in a new town. One night out drinking, I overindulged and passed out in someone’s apartment only to wake up with him on top of me doing his thing. All these years later, it was still that easy to wind up with someone’s penis inside me uninvited. Because I got too drunk and passed out. (For those of you still unclear on the concept: No means no. Unconscious and/or unable to form words means no. No matter who you are, you are not entitled to take your sexual pleasure/rage power-trip out on someone else’s body no matter what mistake they make.)

As I write this list—and I have long needed to—more and more incidents occur to me. Some I insert into the timeline. Others I don’t. Some seem trivial, hardly worth mentioning. Some I can’t write about. Some involve people I care about who might be hurt by the content. Even I am amazed seeing all this written down in one place. These events scarred me in a number of ways, I’m sure, and fed into each other, perpetuating a cycle. But they also taught me that my worth was tied up in the fact that I was a sexual object, and that worth wasn’t much. And that the world is a very hostile place, especially for girls and women.

I’m far from alone in these experiences. Get a group of five women together, and if they’re being honest, 3 or 4 of them will tell you they’ve lived through one or more of the above scenarios. Not to mention the one thing nearly every woman has experienced in one way or another (and many encounter all day, every day): unwanted sexual attention. Why do some men think it’s ok to approach women and bother them simply because they find them attractive? What’s with the entitlement? Because make no mistake, women who don’t respond well to this sort of attention often go from “beautiful” or “my future ex-wife” to “bitch” or even “cunt” in about two seconds flat. The fact that men are, by and large, bigger and stronger than women turns this scenario from annoying to terrifying in the same span, which brings me to the third lesson the bullet points above taught me: most men are stronger than I am and if they want something from me, they have the power to take it.

lou ferrigno

Hey, baby. Nice ass. What? I’m just being friendly.

If you’re a woman, chances are you understand on some level what that feels like. If you’re a man, just give it some thought. Imagine that your counterparts on this planet are on average several inches taller and 50-150 pounds heavier than you and comparatively very strong. Now imagine that some of them are predators. And some of them seem harmless enough, but they just won’t leave you alone—and what if they’re not harmless? (I know small guys get bullied by big guys, but this is different. Imagine that fully half the population potentially wants something from you, be it your attention or something more, that they have no right to expect, and yet you’re the asshole if you don’t play along.)

From  Almie Rose at Ms. Magazine:

Now. Sometimes I love attention from men. But when it’s respectful and when I clearly indicate that I want it. Guys, here is how you tell if a girl is interested: if she makes direct eye contact with you, smiles, and asks you questions, then she probably wouldn’t mind getting to know you. (If you’re British and you’re in America, you’re pretty much given an automatic green light. This is a half-joke.) If she’s mumbling, looking down, closing off her space to you, and gives short answers, she wants you to leave. She’s just been conditioned to think that she can’t say, “Get the fuck away from me.” There are LOTS OF WOMEN, I KNOW, WHO CAN SAY THAT. And who have every right. But I’m just not one of them. I can’t. I have to to think of myself first. I can’t worry that you, strange man in a bar, is going to flip out when I reject you harshly.

Jokes aside (see, feminists can be funny!), it ought to be a pretty simple concept: No means no.

Anyway, me. Throughout the grim timeline above many other things happened, most of them happier, some even wonderful. I lived my life and raised my daughter into a brilliant young woman and had flawed relationships and finally found my really, really for true love at 41*. But all that time I encountered even more of those subtle messages that seem a lot less subtle when people point them out. Like the very real fact that on average, women in the U.S. still earn a lot less money than men doing the same job; that until recently women in the U.S. paid higher insurance premiums than men; that among many men the word “woman” is an insult, and that boys and girls grow up hearing things like “stop crying like a little girl” so we can keep that cycle chugging along; that men who sleep around brag about it and get high-fives from their friends, but women who do the same are sluts or whores (and women who don’t put out are clearly frigid or just prudish or lesbians, and oh yeah, nothing wrong with a lesbian that a good stiff cock can’t fix); that the same behavior called “assertive” in men is termed “bitchy” in women. I could go on and on. And I will—just you wait.

And in all these years I have never called myself a feminist. Not because I wasn’t in favor of equality, but because I didn’t particularly want to be lumped in with those strident women (often referred to as Angry Feminists) who could never seem to shut up about what was sexist. That’s not to say I didn’t speak out when I saw inequity. I quit one of my first jobs (leaving behind a very angry resignation letter) after watching my manager pass up women who had worked there for years for promotion over and over again in favor of young men hired weeks before. I was outraged, you see. I seriously thought this kind of thing didn’t happen anymore.

Then I watched as the industry I’ve worked in for over two decades spawned a culture of misogyny and abuse that has largely gone unchallenged by the professional community. Online gaming servers are rife with everything from codified rape culture (i.e. game messages that actually say things like “You got raped by BigDog1999” and players being banned from their servers for complaining about it) to sexual harassment of women by male gamers written off by the community as “just the way it is” or “free speech” of all things. Only recently is some of this coming to light, with major influencers like Penny Arcade choosing to take the low road at pretty much every opportunity.

And I watched the Internet birth a subculture of misogynist trolls who seem to feed off a sense that they’re causing their female targets pain, anger, or even fear. Let a woman even announce that she plans, at sometime in the future, to release a video examining the roles of women in video games, and they pour out of the woodwork like cockroaches. Simply having an online presence as a woman can mean enduring a regular routine of insults and threats via Twitter, email, etc. Appear on television like my daughter and her roommates did once a few years ago, and the trolls flock to their keyboards to comment on your weight (fat bitches) your attractiveness (I wouldn’t fuck that with a rented dick) and whatever else their rotted little brains can conceive.

Now, at 47, I’m finally realizing—really realizing—that to be a girl or a woman in this country (and much of the world) is to be a member of a class still fighting for its civil rights, and also to be subject to a lot of really fucking difficult crap that someone who’s not a woman probably can’t understand. And not only do I identify as a feminist, I am becoming an Angry Feminist. I’m completely fed up with the double-standards, the condescension, the dirty politics, the constant barrage of media messages, the way we’ve been taught to be quiet and polite and how that keeps us from speaking up when we have something to say and the way some men take advantage of that fact to bulldoze us. And when we do speak up—when something really matters and we sit in a room full of men to make our cases—heaven forbid we should show any emotion.

Lucky for me, the quiet and polite training didn’t take. I’ve always had a habit of speaking my mind—but that hasn’t stopped some overbearing men from shouting me down (and some of these are men who probably consider themselves progressive if not feminist and certainly not sexist or misogynist). And I’m ready to talk about all this stuff. I don’t intend to take every single person I meet to task for every act or word that might be interpreted as sexist or damaging to girls and women, but if I think it’s important, I’ll write about it. You bet I will.

So, yeah. This is my story, the Bad Parts version, by way of explaining how I got here, to this place, to this website, and also because I think we have to talk about it—the good, the bad, the horrifying—if we want things to change. It took me nearly half a century to wake up, but here I am in my bathrobe, drinking my coffee, working out a plan for the next 50 years. I don’t care what names people call me or what assumptions they make. I don’t hate men. I love men. (Yes, some men have done terrible things to me, but far more have been my friends and family and colleagues and mentors and heroes.) But I have no tolerance for misogynists and misogynistic policies and attitudes which are so commonplace and accepted in these oh-so-superior and socially advanced United States that some men (and women!) engage in them without even realizing it. I want to help change that.

I recently saw a TEDTalk by Courtney Martin of Feministing.com (if you want to see misogyny in action, have a look at the comments) in which she talked about this overwhelm I’m feeling. That sense that there’s just too much wrong for one person to make a difference. Her advice is to “act in the face of overwhelm.” That’s what I’m doing. I will fight this war on as many fronts as I have to so that maybe my granddaughters won’t grow up thinking that the world views them as somehow less. So that media stops treating us as objects and our culture starts treating us like equal members of society. So we can walk down the street without feeling like prey.

NOTE: For those of you tempted to bring up the fact that men have it rough too and there are policies that are unfair to men, rest assured that I am aware. That’s not what this article, this conversation, this blog, is about. There are all kinds of inequities in the world. I know that. But in my country, the United States of America, a lot of rich white men and their corporate sponsors are making decisions about women’s health without involving women in the conversation. Teenage boys think it’s cool to talk about slappin’ bitches and hos. Rape is still a punchline and a sports analogy. That’s the conversation I’m having here, and this is my house. If you want to talk about misandry or the evils of feminism, go start your own blog.

*Yeah, that turned out not to be true.

PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Related:

Why I Won’t Publish Your Comments About False Rape Accusations (Rethink the Rant)

#IStandWithDylan – My Story of Childhood Sexual Abuse (MMAS)

I Am Jane Doe (MMAS)

10 Things Rape Is Not (MMAS)