A year and a half after I was raped, when I first start telling people about it, one of the first questions I was asked was, “Why didn’t you report it?”
At 15 years old, the simplest answer I had, was: I didn’t want to ruin their lives.
At 15 years old, I was more concerned with protecting the reputation of my rapists than getting help for myself. I had seen it before. I still see it: a young woman accuses a young man of rape. The media refers to the young man as a “promising young athlete with a bright future ahead of him,” while referring to the young woman as “the victim,” or simply, “the girl,” as if she didn’t have a bright future in front of her. (I’m looking at you, Steubenville.)
When you’re 13 and raped, 15 and trying to explain what happened to you, and you live in a society that calls a victim’s actions into question in order to justify rape, serious damage is done to everybody.
To the rape victims, it teaches use that this was our fault. We are dirty. (I used to believe this; now I know it’s not true.)
To the would-be-rapists, it teaches that as long as one can come up with a good reason to show that they were tempted by the “victim,” they may be able to get away with it.
This is Rape Culture. (And before you say, Rape Culture is a myth perpetuated by feminists in order to destroy men. You need to know that 1. You know absolutely nothing about feminism. 2. I am more concerned with helping women and minorities than I am with destroying men. 3. Rape Culture is no myth. 4. I live it every day.)
I live with it every time somebody asks me, “What were you wearing? What did you do? You’re making this up, right?”
Fact: I was wearing a hoodie and jeans. He asked me out, and I said, “No.” This is as real as my love of books, which, if you know anything about me, is enormous.
I live with it every time I hear a guy talking to his friends about how his biggest fear is being accused of rape.
Fact: you are more likely to know someone whose rape is unreported than you are to be accused of rape you didn’t commit.
I live with it every time I go out in public dressed up.
Fact: you may be a man, and I may be a woman, but my body is my body, not yours to look out.
I live with it every time I’m asked why I didn’t report my rape.
Fact: I kept quiet out of fear—fear that no one would believe me, people would blame me, people would ostracize me.
It’s easier to live with the rape quietly, in private than it is to live with all the victimizing questions, to have your name dragged through the mud. It’s easier to suffer in silence than to suffer publicly (just ask every celebrity). To be honest, sometimes I’d rather go back in time and never tell anybody what happened to me than have people ask me what I was wearing, doing. But then I realize that’s not true. Telling people has allowed me to help others. Because I’m not the only one of my friends to go through this.
When I was 15 and talking about my rape for the first time, people asked me why I didn’t report it.
Back then, the only answer I had, was: “I don’t want to ruin their lives.”
Truth is, looking back, I didn’t want to ruin my own. It’s easier to forget and forgive than it is to have long-drawn-out allegations and accusations.
Sometimes, I wonder if I made the right choice. I can’t help wonder if they’ve done it again, and if they have, is it all my fault for not stepping up to the plate, taking a swing?
It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with my past and the way things have unfolded. But I’m ok with it now.
Yes, sometimes it still hurts; sometimes I get riled up when people talk about rape as if it’s no big deal; sometimes, I still have flashbacks.
And that’s ok. Because it’s a part of my past that has seen the light of day. And from it, beauty has been created.
I used to idealize people who were brave enough to talk about the dark parts of their past. Now I’m one of them.
The problem with putting people or groups on pedestals because we perceive them to be better than ourselves, is that, when it comes down to it, underneath it all, they’re humans just like us—capable of harm. We all make mistakes.
I have forgiven others.
But, perhaps most importantly of all, I have forgiven myself for the mistakes I have made: for believing I was dirty, impure, less of a person; for believing the lies that it was all my fault.