I have one more thing to say. After that, I think I’m done on this subject for a while. Frankly, there are an awful lot of people saying it better than I am, and staying on it. I’ve got fatigue from it. I need to think about different things to face my day and put the best me forward for myself, or else face hopelessness. That doesn’t really do anything for anybody.
In the wake of Steubenville. In the wake of the knowledge that there were purportedly further pictures on the boys’ phones of at least two other girls face down and inanimate-looking on that same carpet. In the wake of the fact that those pictures seem to no longer exist. In the wake of the rumors that there have been other girls that this Rape Crew treated sadistically as sub-human toys. In the wake of the knowledge that there are 232.2 rapes per day in the US, on average. In the wake of the knowledge that 54% of rapes go unreported in the US. In the wake of so much that I can’t even really find a stopping point, or hell a middle point in showing you what you need to see if you haven’t worked out that feminism is needed right now.
In the wake of all of that, I’ve heard a question or questions from many men, and even some women who have been fortunate to somehow not receive as much of the culture that the rest of us are permeated in.
The questioning thought’s path is, or can be paraphrased to “why don’t women stop this violence? Why don’t they report it when it happens? If rape and sexual assault are so horrific, why do they seem so unsure that it even happened and it wasn’t just a mundane sexual activity that they participated in and then felt retroactively unsure about?”
There’s a lot of reasons, really. This is about that “rape culture” term that you’ve heard thrown around so much lately. The term means that our culture is one that is supportive of sexual assault happening, denying that it happens when it does, blaming the victim themselves if they come forward to report, then finally protecting those who perpetrate, want to perpetrate, or will perpetrate as people who should celebrated and protected.
How are we supportive of sexual assault happening? The better question is how are we not, but fine. Let’s approach this one. We are supportive of sexual assault happening because we use terms that objectify women. We say they are a “sure thing,” or a “dog.” We use terms like “friendzone” to refer to a condition where a man was nice to a woman, and the woman did not respond by responding sexually.
We quite literally use images of women being victimized sexually to sell men products. I don’t mean pictures that depict fetish subculture consensual sexuality, either, but actual women-as-sexual-victim ads (a lot of the ads in question are low on this post, but be sure to read the whole thing, it’s really well written).
Shit. You know. I fleshed this out. I’ve been sitting on it for a couple days. That’s how I do things. I have a draft or three saved of ideas, and I come back to the one I’m working on regularly. Adding to it here and there in between my real, and very important job of being a mother. Every hour that it sits here, though, I come across another news story. I come across another article, or three, or seven. I come across another fresh pain that I need to add to the pile.
I just can’t anymore. If you don’t see rape culture? If you can’t figure it out for what it is? That’s willful ignorance at this point.
Google it. I don’t know what to say. Figure it out. Just for fuck’s sake, stop doing it, stop saying that the victim was the one responsible for it happening, and stop perpetuating the space that makes it possible for it to happen. I know that it’s this hard horror to wrap your brains around and you want to make sense of it and keep yourself safe. I know that trying to figure out reasons why it happened to some other her makes you feel like you can keep it from happening to you. That’s just not how it works, though.
I can’t keep writing about it.
And my original point? The reason I started to write this whole thing in the first place? I wanted to say that if someone comes to you and says “hey, this thing happened…” give them the space to talk about it. Don’t push them. Let them tell you at their speed. Help them get help if they ask for it (and if they don’t and it really seems like they need it? gently push for it). Don’t push them for the conclusion that satisfies you, either. If they don’t want to report, understand that this is a culture that does not support people who report, and that they are doing the best they can, and support them. If they do want to report, stand by them, they’re going to need you. Don’t offer to saddle up with your friends and create some street justice, either. If they do want that (and some do) then gently push them toward the legal options instead.
Here’s some good stuff to read about recovering from rape and sexual assault trauma.
Here’s some direct support online.
Or you can call 1.800.656.HOPE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
I love you. You can do this. I believe in you.
ETA: For solidarity’s sake, and perhaps as explanation as to why I’m done with this, I’d also like to offer the not that surprising fact that I am also a survivor of rape. I was raped once as a child by a stranger, and I was raped once as an adult by an acquaintance. This isn’t me flashing my creds. It’s more… hey. I’ve been there. There is life beyond it.