If you have never spent time sitting down with a rape victim, watching her wince and grimace as she bravely endures an invasive and painful forensic rape examination just hours after being brutally ripped apart by a man’s forced penetration, never heard her cry in anguish as she questions her every decision, wondering where she went wrong and how she could have stopped the 200-lb man from choking her while she bled from behind, never had to photograph the bruises on her back and neck where he held her down until he ejaculated….if you have never done this, then while I value your opinions and crave your input into the discussion, I REJECT your assertion that we do not live in a culture that minimizes rape. That “rape culture” is a buzzword created by feminists to further demonize white males.
If you have never sat holding the hand of a 19 year old boy for hours while he anxiously waits for the results of his rapid-HIV test hours after being brutally raped on his family vacation to the US, while he envisions a life living with HIV or dying of AIDS or never having children for fear of passing along the infection, never watched him pace the room while he panics that he parents might find out…then I REJECT your assertions that there is only one kind of “legitimate rape.” That male-rape only happens to homosexuals. That is only perpetrated by homosexuals. That men aren’t terrified, violated, stripped of their dignity, and demoralized on a daily basis, across the country.
I reject your assertion that rape only happens in alley-ways.
I reject your immediate assumption that there were drugs or alcohol involved.
I reject your question of what was she wearing or is he gay?
I decidedly reject your statement of she was asking for it.
She was not asking for it. He was not asking for it. Twenty-five percent of your sons and daughters will not be asking for it when it happens to them, will not have been asking for it hours later when they shiver under fluorescent lights and get probed, swabbed, have their pubic hair plucked and labeled and locked away in an evidence refrigerator, have the police and doctors and nurses ask them why they ever went on that date, anyway? And they will damn well not have been asking it years later when they are terrified to be alone, terrified to be with others, waking up in cold sweats from the night terrors that haunt them, and crying with shame and humiliation because the world around them blames them for their own misery.
And I reject your belief that if it wasn’t in an alley-way, if there were drugs or alcohol involved, if she was wearing a short skirt and if he was gay, that it is not rape. IT IS RAPE. And it is abominable. And it is never-ending.
Because the worst part of sitting through rape examinations, SVU detective questioning, counseling victims in the immediate aftermath of their assault, is that you sit and think the whole time, “this ordeal is far from over.” The physical hurt happens now, yes. But the patient is still in fight-or-flight mode, the adrenaline is probably high, or numbness has set in. You can see they don’t even comprehend most of what you are saying. But tomorrow? The next day? That’s when reality hits, when the nightmares and the flashbacks and the fear begins. When the victim starts noticing just how much blame society places on her, whether or not she’s told anyone. When he realizes he has to live in fear of HIV for another six months before finally being cleared. When she finds out she’s pregnant, because she doesn’t believe in Plan B as an option for herself. When he can no longer face his wife because he can’t bear to tell her he was penetrated by a man. When she can’t bear for her skin to be seen, for her body to be touched, because the cop that answered her 911 call told her she was asking for it by dressing “sexy” for her date.
So I hear you. I hear you when you say that people make up their own sexual assaults. They do, I see it countless times a week. I hear you when you say that men get demonized when a woman claims they’ve been assaulted. Sometimes, they do. Many times, they don’t. Most of the time the victims under my care don’t even make a police report, much less press charges. Most of the time they can’t even bring themselves to tell their closest friends and family.
So I reject your assumption that those who tell are attention-seekers. I encourage you to dig deeper, where the pain is found. To accept as truth the fact that many of the men and women around you have experienced sexual assault. Not inappropriate touching, not rude jokes, not cat-calling. Physical. Sexual. Assault. Accept as truth the fact that some of your coworkers, even if you’re a health professional or an attorney or a teacher or a police officer or a coach, have lived their own version of the horrors I’ve described. Accept as truth that when you say, “she shouldn’t have had that much to drink” or “she shouldn’t have been walking home alone” or “she was flirting with him” you are probably belittling some of your closest friends or family members or even your children, adding to the shame and guilt they already feel, and preventing them from coming forward or seeking help.
Choose to show compassion even if you can’t empathize.
Choose to let your words soothe the pain of those around you, even when you don’t know which one them needs it.
Choose to believe the shepherd even when his friend is crying “wolf.”