“Hey, did you hear the one about the girl who got raped?”
The punchline is that she was 13 years old.
The punchline is that he slammed her locker shut every day because he liked her.
The punchline is that when he asked her out, she said, “No.”
The punchline is that he decided to take matters into his own hands, along with the hands of four of his closest friends, to show her what she would be missing.
After it was over, the punchline tried not to make eye contact with her reflection in the bathroom mirror. She tried to clean herself off and hide the bruises shaped like hands and teeth as best as she could. She exited the bathroom, walked down the hall of the deserted middle school, opened her locker (half expecting it to be slammed shut immediately, and when it wasn’t, breathed a sigh of relief). She exited the building, lonely footsteps echoing behind her, got into her dad’s car, and pretended it didn’t happen—everything was fine.
The rape joke is that he sat behind her in English class. His breath on her neck was the only thing she could focus on, making it very hard to concentrate on whatever work of art they read that last month of class, especially that first one: that poem by Emily Dickinson, “My life is like a loaded gun.” 7 years later, she thought it would be fun to take an Emily Dickinson class. She’d be fine. And she was, until that poem when she found herself transported back to that moment.
The rape joke is that her professor asked her what she thought it was a metaphor for. She didn’t know how to say she thought about all the memories this poem brought back, how it could be a metaphor for all of that. “I think it’s just about a loaded gun,” she said.
The rape joke is the way he didn’t threaten her, at least not really. He just said, “no one will believe you.”
The rape joke is that earlier that year, she was taught in Health class how to not get raped. Fat lot of good that lesson did her: she wasn’t drunk; she wasn’t wearing revealing clothes; she wasn’t outside, at night, alone.
The rape joke is that his locker was right next to hers because life likes cruel irony and alphabetical order is the most convenient way to organize everybody (a terrible thing really), and he still slammed her locker shut every day.
The rape joke is that on the last day of school, when they both opened their lockers at the same time, he didn’t slam hers shut. Instead, he whispered in her ear, “At least I didn’t get you pregnant.” And then he dared to smirk: an insult to injury, really. Maybe if you had, people would believe me when I’m ready to tell, when I’m ready to stop pretending this didn’t happen, she thought to herself. Which is a terrible thing to think, but when you’re 13, you sometimes think terrible things.
The rape joke is that the first time she told somebody who wasn’t a close friend or family, they responded, “Don’t feel bad. It could’ve happened to anybody.” Translation: Lucky her; close call, everyone else who’s last name is similar.
The rape joke is that a few years later, she had to break up with her boyfriend because of this joke. Because every time he put his arm around her, she was transported back to that bathroom. And even though he knew what had happened, he didn’t understand she needed space. But she blamed herself really for believing she could be loved in the first place.
For the longest time, she thought she was going crazy. And she was.
No offense (that it happened to her).
No offense (that she buried the pain so deep, it took cutting her skin open to feel anything).
No offense (that the words said would echo in her mind for years to come: Bitch. Slut. You’ll never be loved. You don’t have to cut hard enough to leave a scar in order to draw blood).
No offense (that she went crazy, that it took her years to find her voice again but eventually she found it when she started writing about monsters and darkness, caves and loneliness).
No offense (it took a long time for her to forgive).
No offense (it’s just a joke).
The punchline is that she’s not the only one this has happened to. Among her acquaintance group, she knows of at least six others. That number grows every year, standing in solidarity, alone together.
The punchline is that she knows guys this has happened to. Nobody believes them, either.
The punchline is that we have to feel pain to become stronger, but does it have to hurt this bad?
The punchline is that our past doesn’t define us, but it does help make us who we are today.
But no offense.
The rape joke is funny because the punchline is me.
The punchline is at least I was pretty enough for it happen to me, but then how come sometimes it makes me feel so ugly?
The punchline is that this joke doesn’t define who I am.
“Come on. Lighten up. It was just a joke.”
If it’s just a joke, shouldn’t I be laughing?
It took me years to really truly laugh again.
I’m finally laughing again.
But not at this because nothing about this is funny, especially when it happens to you.
So, yeah. I’ve heard the one about the Girl who got raped.