Rape

Ok, so my next post was supposed to be a smoking rant, and I was gonna have it up before I moved and lost internet but that failed.  Then I read this article, which I’m going to tell you about and rant about because holy fucking hell that…OW!

I found this article because I’m reading a couple of reviews on the book Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick.  No doubt this YA book looks like it could be really nice or another supernatural fail in the guise of being kind of like Twilight.  For those that don’t know, I really strongly dislike Twilight.  But that is not a post for here.  There seems to be a prevalence in this book (Hush, Hush that is) of rape or sexual harassment/assault.  At least, that’s what the reviews say; I have not read the book.  And it linked back to this article, called “Another Post About Rape.

Apparently this woman writes about rape a lot.  I can handle that.  As a victim of rape I find myself interested in the other perspectives people have of it.  Whether it’s a professional view, a legal view or other survivors telling their stories, I usually pay a little bit of attention to it.  But after reading this post I wondered what the living hell this woman (her name is Harriet) was talking about.  For one, she seems to have a very “me against the world” attitude in general.  As if, because she’s a woman, the whole world is out to get her.  I know that those women who carry chips on their shoulders like that end up rubbing a lot of people the wrong way because they can’t get their perfectly good ideas out without having those chips come out.

For example, she talks about an email she got from someone who is apparently coming into her own with feminism and stuff and finds she now hates everybody because everybody has some opinion on something she just can’t stand.  Harriet says that a lot of her readers must have gone through the same thing.  She says it takes a lot of “negotiations, compromises and sometimes guts” to get through.

Stop.  Hold the phone right here.

Yeah I went through that.  In my teenage years! You’re supposed to go through that when you’re young and think you’re right and everyone else is wrong.  Not when you’re an adult and you have to deal with people civily on a regular basis.

Let me be a little blunt here.  People suck.  All of them.  Every single person on this Earth is bound to have at least one opinion you just can’t wrap your mind around.  Even your best friends.  Even your siblings and your parents.  Even your significant other.  Even your role model.  Every one of them is going to have something you dislike about them in terms of opinions on important issues. If you’re in your late 20’s or god-forbid middle age and haven’t figured this out yet there is something really wrong in your life.

Even if it’s finding out that someone you’re very close with suddenly has a view you hate, by this time in life you should know how to let it go!  Not deal with this “suddenly I hate the world” bullshit!  Oh my Gods what is wrong with you people!  You wonder how people can’t succeed in life or whatever, how they got where they are and this is why.  If you can’t figure out early on that you’re just going to have to swallow the bitter, jagged pill when dealing with things you don’t like and move on you’re definitely going to have troubles later on.

Moving on, back to the article.

I set about reading this thinking that this woman may even have some inside insight to this.  What I found was a set of very skewed beliefs.

She goes through a list of things that women are told by everyone around them, and she gives names that women are called if they act that way.

After reading the list, let me tell you first of all what the tone and writing of it says to me.  First of all, she speaks as either a black woman or a lesbian (or both) who has an issue with the world in general.  You can just hear that chip on her shoulder.  Two, she sounds like she has been called all these because she reacts wrongly to the situation.

For instance, take point #1.

“It is not okay to set clear and distinct boundaries and reinforce them immediately and dramatically when crossed. (“mean bitch”)”

Let me tell you, I was never, ever taught by anyone that setting boundaries was bad.  Never. Not a teacher, not a parent, not anyone socially ever said that to me.  In fact, setting clear boundaries was quite reinforced.  However, the whole “immediately and dramatically” part is what gets me.  First, dating in general, and meeting people, is a complicated thing.  Sometimes, people won’t know what a boundary is for someone until they cross it.  You get called a “mean bitch” if things seem to be going well but you “dramatically” react if a boundary is crossed that someone didn’t mean to cross.  Mostly because you should always start out friendly but firm.  If you tell someone nicely but firmly that you did not like what they just did, three quarters of the time you’ll get an apology and it won’t happen again.

Men are not the enemy.  More often than not the men you will meet can and are decent guys.  Of course they have their share of sleezebags, but then there are quite a few women out there who do not help our gender out either and it has nothing to do with how they were raised or what they were told.

“It is not okay to appear distraught or emotional. (“crazy bitch”)”

Let me tell you that is completely situational.  For instance, I know one of those women I would deem a “crazy bitch” because I have gotten phone calls at two in the morning about what somebody said to her on MySpace.  Crazy damn bitch.  But you only really get dubbed that if your emotional state does not match what has just happened.  If you get ready to choke a guy just because your ass got pinched, you’re crazy.  There are much less drama-queen, attention-getting ways to handle a situation and still get your point across to a guy.  Also, to others viewing a situation that they don’t know the full extent of, you may seem overly dramatic or crazy but that’s because they don’t know the circumstances (though I figure that is not what she’s talking about here.)

“It is not okay to make personal decisions that the adults or other peers in your life do not agree with, and it is not okay to refuse to explain those decisions to others. (“stuck-up bitch”)”

One, I have never heard “stuck-up” to refer to these women. Usually “bitch” just works.  “Stuck-up” is the word used for the rich girls who think they’re better than the rest of the world.  Next, if you’re young enough that the adults in your life might have a problem about your decision, you should explain it to them.  If you’re between the ages of like 13 and 20 and the adults have a problem with your personal decision, there first needs to be some explanation and communication here.  Because they may just know something better than you do.  They have a right to protect your well-being, no matter how “personal” the decision is.
There are a few exceptions to this.  Usually having to do with religious matters (so ideas on abortions (which no teenager should be getting!) or birth control) or bigotry (like dating a black boy or being homosexual.)  If your parent has an issue with something that is truly rather harmless (like deciding on birth control for period management or being a lesbian) than take care in what you do and expect that you are going to have problems with them in this area of your life.

Back to the point being made.  In terms of what your peers think, I suppose that’s how you define “peers.”  I don’t care what other people my own age think, because I don’t know them and they don’t know me.  Lately, parenting does not focus around caring about what others think.  It’s pretty “me” focused.  If “peers” defines your group of friends, then evaluate what kinds of friends they are.  Are they someone that you’re very close with?  If so, don’t you think they deserve an explanation?  One of the problems with “it’s not okay to explain” is that you alienate those around you that like you and might want to help.  Even if all you say is “I really can’t talk about it right now” if you remain willing to come to them when you’re ready, they’ll leave it alone.  But shutting people out is not healthy.

“It is not okay to refuse to agree with somebody, over and over again. (“angry bitch”)”

Since when did that happen?  Far as I knew, women did this all the time.  You start out with your siblings and end with your married life.  You refuse to agree all the time.  Everybody does this.  Where is your logic coming from?

“It is not okay to have (or express) conflicted, fluid, or experimental feelings about yourself, your body, your sexuality, your desires, and your needs. (“bitch got daddy issues”)”

Okay, see this is where I thought “black woman.”  Because I’ve never been accused of that and I think part of it is because I’m white.  “Daddy issues” seems to be a black woman labeling and, let’s be honest here, racism still exists and stereotypes exist because there is some truth in them.  Most of the time a white woman has “daddy issues” if she’s very emotionally needy and clingy (or she’s a stripper.)

And there is a difference between having developing views on rather touchy subjects and coming off as a hypocrite.  Which, if it seems like at every turn you’re contradicting yourself when it comes to relationships, you open yourself up to being labeled as one.  Actually, I found that the more honest you are about being fluid or experimental about yourself, the more support you find.  Why is it that the world has to be a big, nasty, evil, mean place just because you’re a woman?  (Catching my drift on the main issues with this woman yet.)

“It’s not okay to use your physical strength (if you have it) to set physical boundaries. (“dyke bitch”)”

There is a difference between setting a physical boundaries (like getting up and moving away or taking steps back) and clocking someone upside the head.  The latter could be considered assault.  The other thing that I wonder is, if someone’s too close to begin with, have you been giving him signs that it’s okay?  Sometimes things we do are interpreted by people in the wrong way.  If he (or hell, she) gets to close, a small push would be okay to get them to move away.  Grabbing a wandering hand and moving it back to safe territory is also okay, and not a show that your She-Ra when you’re upset.

Some of this could happen, I think, because people can and will lie to save their asses.  For instance, you kick a guy in the nuts for going too far in the bedroom after you told him no several times.  It happened with only the two of you as witnesses.  Yet he tells everybody you freaked out on him for no reason, etc.  But why is simply proclaiming the truth and telling other people to mind their business bad?  Why do we care what people who are not related to the situation call us when they don’t even know the truth?  A lot of this just screams of insecurity.

“It is not okay to raise your voice. (“shrill bitch”)”

Honestly, this is something that went out in the 80’s.  Women raise their voices all the time.  I mean that.  The days of women needing to appear meek and servile are over.  Time and place hardly exist for it anymore either.  No one thinks “Oh, I’m in a place where this might not be appropriate.”  They simply do it anyway (kinda comes from that whole “I’m important” way we were raised.”  And the only reason you’d get called crazy (other than by the guy you’re screaming at (even if he does deserve it)) is when outsiders who don’t know the truth make assumptions.

And finally

“It is not okay to completely and utterly shut down someone who obviously likes you. (“mean dyke/frigid bitch”)”

I have only ever heard the term “frigid” be used for someone who is married or otherwise in a committed relationship and still won’t let their significant other get closer to them than a seat on the couch.  As for shutting down someone who likes you, you should really specify.  For instance, at a bar, if someone obviously likes you and you don’t, it is perfectly okay to shut them down.  It happens all the time.  If it’s someone you’ve been dating for a while and there hasn’t been anything major to change the relationship (like huge fights and the like) then no, it’s not okay.  You owe them an explanation of what’s going on.

This set up didn’t make me really encouraged for the next bit of her article.

“Women who are taught not to speak up too loudly or too forcefully or too adamantly or too demandingly are not going to shout “NO” at the top of their goddamn lungs just because some guy is getting uncomfortably close.”

Again, you should really be situational here.  Because, no, it’s not okay to do that in a public place where you may be able to quietly recruit someone to help you.  Bars have things like bouncers that can help.  You may be able to talk to the host of a private party.  Or, you know, just fucking leave!  Grab a girlfriend and tell her it’s time to go.

“Women who are taught that refusing to flirt back results in an immediately hostile environment will continue to unwillingly and unhappily flirt with somebody who is invading their space and giving them creep alerts.”

No, no they fucking won’t.  I don’t know if it’s just because I live in New York State or because I live in a city and grew up in the city and not in a suburb.  But I have never seen a woman continue flirting back with someone who creeped her out just because they don’t see another choice (or she’s too drunk to remember he’s a creeper.)  In fact, I have heard women rather loudly tell men that they are being creepy and to go away.  Lord knows I’ve done it.

The other situation is if he’s uncomfortably close in private.  Then, no matter how loudly or forcefully you shout “no” it still might not make a damn bit of difference.

Yes, that’s the harsh truth.  Someone set about to do what they want is not going to be deterred by a “no.”  They may not be deterred by fighting back.  In fact, no matter how much you fight, kick, scream and otherwise be a pain in the ass, you’re more than likely still going to be raped.  And more than likely, in court, it is still going to be him vs. you, without much evidence to support either way.

What we should be teaching women is not how to respond and fight in the first place, because women already know that, but what to do during and after a rape to ensure maximum evidence on your side.  Looking at her “Rape FAQ” blog, she mentions that the comment from someone that ended her friendship with them was “if it really was rape, why didn’t you call the police?”

Right here is number one thing that women unequivocally need to be taught.  It doesn’t matter if you know the guy or how close he is to you. If you are raped CALL THE POLICE.  Do not shower, change clothes, disturb the scene, nothing.  Find a pay phone.  Use a cell phone.  Go into the bathroom and do it and don’t come out until they are there.  Obviously that man is no longer close to you if he does something you blatently didn’t want and told him you didn’t want.  Forget how it will affect anyone else.

This is what women don’t do, and why rape is so underreported, and it’s not really how we were raised as much as how we emotionally feel after the rape.  We’re scared that they’ll do it again if we call the police, so we don’t.  We feel dirty and the need to shower becomes like a compulsion.  We clean and clean to erase what happened.

You’re also talking about a very specific kind of rape, usually the date rape.  You are raped by a man you know and it is in a dating setting (whether a boyfriend, a guy you met at the bar or a classmate you went out once with.)  This is ignoring all the other kinds of rape.  For instance, someone raped by a relative usually is raped young and the pattern continues.  These victims are too young to know what to do and they trust the rapist implicitly.  They may not realize until years later what happened to them and how wrong it was.  Stranger rapes, while less common than acquaintance rapes, also happen.  In fact, that was where I fell.

If about 75% of rapes are done by someone you know, then about 25% are done by someone you never met in your life. I still do not know what my rapist truly looks like.  I never saw his face during the attack and since he’s been in jail I have been kept away from seeing him by the lawyers and such.

Everything you are ever taught about how to respond to a rape usually comes the easiest when reporting a rape by a stranger.  You have no emotional attachment to the man, you are an innocent victim of chance and you have no guilt about reporting such an obvious crime.  However, the emotional response to a stranger rape is the same as the one to an acquaintance rape.  You still want to go home and shower because you feel dirty.  You still want to forget it ever happened, to erase all memories of it.  You’re upset and angry and you may have nightmares or flashbacks over it.

The only difference is that you somehow subconsciously know that a stranger needs to be punished.  However, this still doesn’t change some of the ways that people respond to what happened to you.

Women raped by men they trusted are in some ways blamed for the rape.  First of all, if you truly feel you were raped, and anyone even once says to you that you deserved it, male or female they deserve a good whack upside the head.  And then you don’t talk to them again.  In fact, this is why, more than anything else, you should IMMEDIATELY report the rape to the police.  Because it makes it less likely that someone will take it less seriously than you do.  One of the problems with not reporting the rape is that people perceive you to have not taken it seriously.  If you don’t take it seriously, who will?

But a woman raped by a stranger is also in danger of being told it was her fault.  My boyfriend’s mother at the time believed it was my fault because I wore makeup.  Let me give you some quick facts about where I live.  My city is in the national news more often for snow than anything else.  I was raped in the beginning of December.  There was about 3 feet of snow on the ground and it was so cold that year schools closed because it was unsafe to go outside.  Just imagine, then, what I was wearing while I walked to my train station for school.  Long pants, boots, long coat, scarf, hat, mittens are all par for the course in this weather.  But I wore makeup so obviously I was asking for it.

It doesn’t matter whether you knew the person or not.  It doesn’t matter how much sense the statement makes.  Every time you get told that, it hurts.  I got questions about why I was up so early for school and why I took that particular route.

Here’s the thing, no matter what kind of rape: you can not predict it’s going to happen.  You can’t.  No matter how cautious you are, how many steps you take to protect yourself.  If you go outside you run the risk of being one of the six women who will be raped in their lifetimes.

For me, I think the most you can do is what I did.  Know what to do after.  Be as alert and aware as you can be.  I am well aware that the dissociation I have with the actual actions of the rape are because I stopped thinking about “OMG I’m being raped” and started visually recording as much information as I could for the police.  Keep yourself together and try to notice things.  Information about him, about what’s happening, the order of events and anything else someone might think is important for prosecution.  Call the police, get a rape kit taken.  Do all this as soon as possible and then get yourself a therapist.  Because even if you start out knowing what I knew, that it is never in any way your fault at all, you’ll still feel like shit and you’ll need the help.

I don’t mean to bash on Harriet or invalidate the way she feels.  In some ways, the way she views rape culture is right.  But it’s quickly changing, I’ve seen it for myself, and her reasoning simply seems outdated and a little skewed and angry.  It rubbed me the wrong way is all.

Unlike Harriet, I’ve never had to grow stronger or more accepting of what happened to me.  I was always willing to tell people what happened.  Even when one of the girls in school told me I shouldn’t talk about it, my response was “I’d rather people know and learn that it can happen and how to protect themselves, then hide away and let people live in ignorance.”

But I have never wanted to be looked at as a rape victim.  I don’t want people to think of rape when they see me, or to think that I am what a rape victim looks like.  My rape is not me.  What happened to me, while it helped shape the way I grew up as a person, is not who I am as a person.  I am more than a rape victim.  And boy do I wish there was another term for it because I sure as hell don’t feel quite like a victim.

P.S. To those of you who care, in February/March of this year, the DNA in my case finally got a hit to a name and the man who raped me was arrested.  He is currently in jail until at least April 2011 on an unrelated drug charge that violated his probation.  He is refusing to take the plea deal the ADA structured out, so I go to testify against him to the Grand Jury on the 28th of July.

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~ by ladyruby07 on July 16, 2010.

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