Saturday, January 18, 2014

You Shouldn't Have Worn That Dress (Trigger Warning)

At  13, my father left me alone for the weekend while he traveled to Miami to purchase a large sum of narcotics for later distribution. That sounds much fancier than it really was. More realistically, he went to buy drugs to sell to his buddies. It was something he did fairly often, but on this particular occasion, a guy I knew from the neighborhood happened to stop by to return something he borrowed from me. Being 13 and completely naïve, I let him in and offered up the juicy info that I was home alone until the following night. He asked if he could hang out awhile, and I agreed. We started a movie. I can’t remember which one. I can vividly picture, even now so many years later, certain details of that night, but this one eludes me. I guess it’s not that important anyway. 

When he moved closer to me on the couch, it was exciting. I felt so fucking cool right then. He was two years older than me and already in high school. 

When he put his arm around me, I got butterflies. It was a total internal-girl-scream moment. Like oh my god.  

When he kissed me, I was elated. I felt pretty and wanted for a change. For those few moments that feeling was wonderful, and I ate it up. I did. 

It was when he started to move further that I began to feel scared. I wasn’t ready for this. Third base seems like miles away when you’ve barely rounded first…especially since you know, without a doubt, that making it all the way to home plate is a game-changing event. I moved off the couch despite his protests and assurances. He said everything would be fine. I said I wasn’t ready for any of this as I walked towards my dad’s stereo behind the bar in the adjoining room. I thought maybe I should just play some music and get away from the couch and that whole scene. I felt awkward. Confused. I had no idea what to do and already realized it had been such a stupid mistake to let him in the house in the first place. My intentions were innocent. Obviously, his weren’t. That’s when he tackled me to the ground in front of the bar.

I lost my virginity on dingy brown carpet in front of my alcoholic father’s handmade bar while I cried and pleaded and begged for him to stop.

I told a friend of mine a few days later. She told her mom. Despite the fact that I found myself once again begging and pleading for someone not to do something, my friend’s mother decided she needed to tell my dad. I remember him storming into their house within minutes and bursting into the bathroom where I was waiting on the results of the pregnancy test she made me take. He grabbed me by the arm and dragged me through their house telling me all the way that I got what I deserved for being such a little whore.

Those are strong words, and I rightfully cringed at them. But, I find myself almost 20 years later still cringing when I read someone else’s story or when I read blogs, comments, and articles about rape. Most people don’t exactly use such strong terminology, but the message is still loud and clear:

oh, you were sexually assaulted? What did you do to cause that?

Because obviously being in a room with a guy alone means you should expect to be attacked and by doing so, you’re just a little whore who got what she deserved.

Don’t protest and tell me it’s not that way. It is. I read a blog post last night, in fact, where people ripped the poster apart for being around a guy (1). That’s all she did. She went to a party after a show and was around a guy who ended up assaulting her. What were you doing around him alone, people asked, as if being around someone is giving consent to have her orifices violated. That’s how a good percentage of people think, though. I’ve read other articles with helpful tips for women on avoiding sexual assault like the following gems:
  1. Don’t drink with men (2).
Really? It’s not about telling men that a woman who is passed out is not a sexual conquest? It’s not about reinforcing the message that silence is not consent? No, it should definitely be about telling women that if they drink with men, expect to be raped and when you are, you were being stupid, so there’s nothing you can do about it now. Because taking a drink in public, of course, means you lose all fucking rights to not have your body violated, right?!!? And then people wonder why so many go unreported. The cold facts are that only 40% of rapes are reported to the police (3). 97% of perpetrators never spend any time in prison for their crimes (4).

2. Don’t go out alone after dark (5).

Okay, have you even looked at rape statistics? Rapists are typically not a man in a shadowy alley way. At least 2/3 of rapes occur between the victim and someone the victim KNOWS (3). So, how is telling a woman that she is responsible for never going out alone after dark supposed to keep that friend of hers from taking it too far on their date? I get that you can’t change the shadowy man in the alley. If he’s going to rape regardless of all the education and deterrence methods in place, then it’s best to avoid putting yourself in a situation where he takes advantage of your vulnerability. But, the bigger problem here is that education needs to focus much, much more on the fact that it’s not the dark, smelly, subhuman monstrosity lurking for prey that is likely to rape you. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to be someone you know. To tell women not to go out alone after dark accomplishes nothing and still puts the ball in our court.

3. If you don’t gouge his eyes, you deserve what happens to you (5).

So, yeah, that whole thing about victim blaming is just all in our heads, right?

4. Be afraid of anyone in need of help (5).

Stopping to help anyone in trouble like that little old lady who has a flat tire is just a ploy to take advantage of our weaknesses, right? Because Ted Bundy’s “good-looking” ghost is waiting right around the corner to hit us with a tire iron and molest our dead bodies. If we fall for that tactic, it’s our fault for being delicate and sympathetic, right?! Again, this is not doing anything about the vast majority of rape cases that occur. It’s not the Ted Bundys of the world doing all the raping. Stop telling me I can’t help someone in need or I deserve to be raped and murdered. Fuck that.

Fuck all of this. There’s no reason why women (or men) should bear the weight of responsibility in preventing their own victimizations nor is there any reason why victims are somehow responsible for their attacks. Everyone should be aware of their surroundings and make better judgments on making themselves vulnerable to a would-be attacker. I get that. RAINN does a good job at providing such tips (3). It should never be about telling mostly women (as in the one article)to stop drinking to excess around the opposite sex yet never tell men to stop drinking to excess and film themselves fucking a passed out co-ed (2). Come on…

To add to that, when I read comments or articles or blogs, there are always people who bring up two very stupid arguments. 1. the victim’s sexual history and/or way she was dressed. 2. false rape allegations.

Rape shield laws are in place to prevent a woman from answering questions about her past sexual adventures in a courtroom. Historically, a woman who enjoyed sex and had sex frequently was never given a fair chance in court against an attacker. She likes sex, so how can she be a victim. That was the mentality. In the 70s, shielding laws began to emerge that prevented a woman from being asked these questions in court, but there are still so many loopholes in these laws. It’s still okay to ask a woman if she had sexual intercourse with the accused on a previous occasion because we all know that giving consent once means you have given consent for the rest of your natural fucking life (6). Oh wait…that’s not what it means. At all. It should never matter who a woman has previously had sex with in her life or how many times. Here’s a novel idea. A WOMAN SHOULD BE ABLE TO DRESS AND FUCK HOWEVER SHE WANTS WITHOUT GETTING BLAMED FOR BEING RAPED. That’s right. I said it. If I like to wear low cut dresses and have sex while I wear them, it does not, in the least, diminish my ownership of my own body to the point where I am *asking* to be assaulted. ANOTHER PERSON’S LACK OF SELF-CONTROL IS NOT MY FUCKING PROBLEM. Crazy, right?

As for false rape allegations…it seems like every guy knows some guy whose cousin was accused of rape. It ruined the guy’s life and then the girl later recanted. I hear it all the time. False allegations occur at max 8% of the time with some reports showing as little as 2% (6). That means that of the nearly 250,000 assaults that are actually reported to the authorities each year, somewhere between 4700 to 19,000 are false claims. So, let’s stop painting the accused as victims of smear campaigns. The vast majority of reported assaults are the truth and that goes without mentioning the 60% that are never reported. When those figures are added in, there are more than 379,000 rapes annually. Even figuring the highest statistic of 19,000 being false claims, there’s still a wide gap. Men aren’t always being falsely accused of rape. It happens extremely rarely despite men perpetrating 99% of all rapes (4).

What needs to happen is awareness on rapist prevention. In one study, 8% of the men questioned admitted to committing an act that would be considered rape. The questions were phrased so as not to include the words rape or sexual assault but did include the term “force.” Of those men, 84% did not believe that their act constituted rape. In that same study, men reported that they have become so sexually aroused that they felt they could not stop themselves even after the woman said no at a rate of more than 20%. Studies have also shown that more than a third of men interviewed would commit an act of rape if they knew no legal recourse would occur (4).

With statistics like those, why, for fuck’s sake…why do rape victims still have to cringe at all the victim blaming while still trying to cope with being a victim? Why do people like me feel like we owe the rest of the world a fucking apology for having the gall to be around some guy who raped us?

It’s time for things to change and awareness is key. And by awareness I mean a rapistprevention campaign and not telling women to wear muumuus and hide in the house after 6 pm.

1 comment:

  1. My mom was always so paranoid about me taking the bus downtown and hanging out there after sunset. I'd promise her that I'd stay away from bars and remind her that I was wearing my steel-toed combat boots, but she seemed to think rapists lurked around every corner.