Thursday, February 25, 2016
It's Not Your Fault
The more I thought about writing this, the more anxious I became. At one point I convinced myself not to write about it. Then I thought about how scared it made me, and I realized that's exactly why I have to write.
Rape isn't about sex. Rape is about power and control. It's about displaying power and taking control. It's about pain and humiliation.
The affects of sexual assault are long lasting and far reaching.
I was raped.
I was high school age. It was someone I trusted.
I walked away bruised and in shock.
I was humiliated.
I questioned myself so many times, trying to figure out how I had gotten myself into that position. What did I do wrong?
The man who assaulted me was someone who was in my life. Someone I knew I would come into contact with again and again. He made it clear he wasn't afraid of me or what I might say. He was invincible.
It was a while before I thought I could share it with anyone. Finally, I did the only thing I knew how to do when dealing with such a monumental experience. I wrote it down in a letter, intending to send it to a friend I could trust. Before I could send it, someone else found it and read it.
She sat me down and told me that she had read the letter.
She asked me what happened. She wanted to know.
A wave of relief washed over me. I was finally able to let this secret out and this was a person I could depend on. She wanted to listen and I knew she would protect me.
So I cried and let it out. I shared what happened, how afraid I was because I would see my attacker again - it was unavoidable. I was terrified and didn't know how to handle it.
"Don't you dare say a word to anyone else."
I was stunned.
"We can't let anyone know."
In an appalled silence, I listened to her talk about the humiliation it would bring to me if I told anyone else. She went on to say that no one would believe me anyway. She went so far as to say
"You know, you could have said no."
It didn't matter that I did say no. That I did say stop. That I did try to defend myself.
There it was. Definitive proof. I could have stopped it.
It was, without a doubt, my fault.
My own mother had just confirmed it for me.
So I tore up the letter.
I lived in panic and worry. For years.
Periodically, I would have to face this man. It was a long time before I was comfortable with any man in any situation.
I spent time in therapy trying to build up my inner strength and move on. In time, I realized it wasn't my fault. I know the psychology behind the attack. I even know the reasoning behind my mother's response was likely because of her own past that I knew nothing about.
We never spoke of it again.
Why share this now?
As I read about the singer Kesha, whose songs push me to ride harder and faster, I felt like I relived my rape and everything that followed all over again. I wanted to reach out to her and say "I understand, I get it, and I am sorry you are going through this."
There should be no shame in a victim sharing their horrifying experience. I know that what I went through is nothing compared to what others have gone through. Anyone should be able to come forward and say "this happened to me" and get a resolution of some kind.
Not be shamed or ridiculed or worse.
Blamed or dismissed.
Kesha is a brave woman. It might have taken her a long time to realize her strength and come forward to try to get away.
And she was dismissed by those with the power to help her get away and move on.
Shame on them. And shame on the system that perpetuates it. That chooses to say "you could have said no" and blames the woman for being attacked.
It's not your fault. It never was.