A diversion

This may be triggering.  Please don’t read if you could be triggered by discussions of rape or other abuse.

There’s been a lot today on the internet, and on the fatosphere about rape.  And why women “allow” themselves to be raped.

The post that started it all was this one by Fugitivus.  It was picked up and expanded upon by Sweet Machine on Shapely Prose here.  It provoked discussion on the Attack Laurel’s Live Journal here.  Please note that all these posts may be triggery, and act accordingly.

One of the things that really got me was reading the comments over at Shapely Prose.  So many stories.  So many lives affected. 

It truly is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.  If you set strong boundaries, you are a bitch.  If you say a strong “no” and follow up the “no” with appropriate actions (like punching somebody in the nose for not accepting that “no” means “no”), you are the aggressor.

I too, have stories.  I was trained to not run, to not fight, by my abusers, even though one of them also taught me how to fight.  (Yeah, I could fight everybody else, but not him.  Go figure that one, right?)  In between 8th grade and freshman year of high school, I was stalked by a boy from my class.  He was a bad stalker, though.  After showing up near my house all the time, when I finally told him to go away, he told me that he was trying to get up the nerve to force me to his house and rape me.

Yeah.  He said it that way.

No.  I never told anybody.  Who’d listen anyway, right?

As a senior in high school, a boy in my creative writing class said some very crude things to me, loudly, in the middle of class.  About how much of a slut I was.  (The actual words, and yes, I remember them from so long ago, were, “If I were to kick you in the cunt, I’d loose my shoe, you would be so loose.”)  I walked out of class that day, to the substitute teacher calling me back into class and threatening ME with detention for walking out before class was over.  The male substitute.

I went immediately to the dean of students and told him what happened.  Made as formal a complaint as I could.

And was told “we’ll take care of it” and that I would be expected to go back to class the next day.  The boy who said that to me?  He didn’t even get a hand slap.  And I had to show up to class for a month, with this boy still in class (this incident happened at the beginning of May).  Talk about humiliation. 

After I flunked out of college, and feeling pretty bad from that, a roommate’s brother tied me up one day and groped me.  With me fighting to the best of my ability to get away (but I couldn’t hurt him, no matter what, I’d been trained too well in my early life).  As he was taking my clothes off, for some reason I still don’t understand, he stopped, untied me, and let me go.  Of course, when a friend heard about it, and demanded I confront him, he said it was all my fault.  His wife believed him.

My friend was upset at me for 1) not going to the police with it, and 2) letting it happen in the first place.  Letting it? LETTING it?  Yeah.  Right.

Then there was the night, years later, I was sleeping in my bedroom, and a boyfriend of a different roommate was there, but the roommate wasn’t.  He came into my room in the middle of the night and proceeded to … well.  The roommate was away at school for three days.  When she came back, he’d run away like the coward he was.  However, when she talked to him via computer IM’s, he said it was all my fault.  I’d been a tease and he just couldn’t help himself.  ‘Sides, I didn’t say no, and I didn’t struggle.

He woke me up from a dead sleep.  The only thing “wrong” I’d done was to not lock my bedroom door.  Even though he creeped me out, I didn’t want to show I didn’t trust him.

That roommate believed him, not me, and blamed me for him running away.  I told her he ran away because he knew what he done was rape, and that he could go to jail for it.

See, it’s not only guys who teach women we can’t fight back, we can’t set boundaries, we have no safety, it’s women as well.  How many times have women said about other women, “Oh, she’s just a bitch.  She’ll lead a man on and then say no and cry rape if he touches her”?  I’ve not only heard it from women discussing other women, but also been on the receiving end of it happening to me.

That last case, the roommate was mad at ME for making her boyfriend leave.  I mean, even if I DID lead him on (which, I didn’t, but let’s say I did), why would she want somebody who would cheat on her?  If I was the tease he was accusing me of, his options were to get out of the house so I couldn’t “entice” him, or to go into the bathroom and take care of things.  If I really was the tease he was accusing me of, he should have said “no” and NOT COME INTO MY BEDROOM IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT.

The thing is, it’s so engrained in our psyche, that we do this automatically.  We blame ourselves for not fighting, or not fighting hard enough.  Or not locking the damn door.  We do it to each other by echoing the words of the men who really do believe that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, or in the bedroom with her legs spread wide.  We do it when we hear of somebody who was raped, and then say (when we hear she was walking in the “wrong” part of town), “well, she should have known better.”

Yes, men need to step up to the plate, and let other men know that this type of attitude (the type that blames women for all the ills that befall them) is unacceptable.  But how are men, even the “good men” (as Kate Harding put it in her essay on this) going to know it really is unacceptable if we are saying the same thing.

I still blame myself for what happened all those times, even after years of therapy.  I still blame myself for the sexual abuse I received as a child, for the stalking in 8th grade (while I was still being abused by family members), for the tie-up-and-groping, and for the wake-me-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-and-rape-me.  If I’d only told more people (in the instances of sexual abuse), told anybody (in the instance of the boy stalker), fought harder (for the tied-up incident), fought at all (for the rape), none of that would have happened.

Except, I did tell people about the abuse.  Nobody listened (no, not even the police).  I did fight and yell “NO” over and over, and yet it was still my fault.  And I was ASLEEP, woken up in a way that put me into a flashback to the abuse of my childhood.  I didn’t struggle because it was, well, it was normal to me, still, all those years later.

If I can’t even stop myself from blaming myself, how can I expect anybody else to not blame me?

 

We all — women and men — have to work on making this a world where the first thought isn’t “well, look at what she was wearing”, or “she can’t even take a joke, can she”.  We all have to be willing to deal with being told we “can’t take a joke” or “are too sensitive” or “well, you shouldn’t have worn that, what were you thinking?”  Because it’s not about anybody joking, or anybody being too sensitive, or anybody wearing the “wrong” clothing.

It’s about not perpetuating a society where anybody who is abused, molested, raped is blamed for bringing the attack onto them.  It’s about creating a society that puts the blame where it belongs (on the aggressor), and teaches everybody that they have the ability to protect themselves, no matter how they have to do it.

9 Responses

  1. I have nothing constructive to say other than *hugs* and it doesn’t feel like enough. It’s not like I can go back in time and ‘dragon punch’ these idiots for you. (though gods know I’d try)

    Men in my life (excepting father and brother) knew from the outset that I would not tolerate being hit, or touched in any way I deemed inappropriate. Makes me a bitch, and I’m fine with that. Even Storm got that talk :)

  2. *huggles tight* I have my own stories, one of the worst, I will share so if anyone is sensitive to this kind of stuff, please, don’t read on.

    I was always teased for being fat. I’m pretty used to it. Cat calls and names… if a certain person is the aggressor, he/she will do it once or twice and then it’ll be over. Well, in high school, during my junior year, I had to walk across this narrow catwalk to get to my class and every day, I’d pass a boy that would say something crude or mean to me. Every. Single. Day. “You’re gonna break the bridge, fatty!” “I loved the way you sucked my dick last night.” So, after it happened more than a few times, I told my counselor. He said that he’d do something about it. But still, it went on in a huge crowd of people who would, at their worst, smirk or laugh at the comment, or say nothing to defend me. I started waiting behind until I saw the boy pass, and then I’d walk across the catwalk. Then I figured that that wasn’t fair, I should walk where I want to walk, when I want to walk there. So I did, was called a name and spun around and grabbed the back of the boy’s backpack and said “What is your fucking problem?! Tell me! What is your problem with me?!” He yanked his bag from my hand and took off running. I again went to my counselor. Soon after that, I saw him lounging in a hall way and I walked up to him and said, “I’m the girl you mess with every day. Tell me why you do it.” He was visibly taken aback and walked off saying “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I followed and said, “Tell me! Are you such a coward that you can’t tell me?” He ran. That incident was the last I’d see of him that year.

    My senior year, it started again. I had to walk through his group of friends to get to my class. He would often say something and his friends would laugh. One day he had a one of those cones that they hand out at football games to make your voice louder. He walked around the area shouting “Free penis! Free penis!” As I walked by, he put the cone in my face and said, “But not for you!” Like I wanted ANYTHING to do with him! I went, again to my counselor and told him it was the same boy. The worse incident was right after the shootings at Virginia Tech… The boy had a piece of cardboard cut out to resemble a knife and, as I walked to class, he ran up to me and said “I’m gonna fucking kill you!” and followed me to my class growling. (I wish, O! I wish!, I had punched him in the face!) I got into the classroom and waited until I was sure he was gone and literally ran to the counselor’s office. I filled out a report and was told it would be taken care of. It wasn’t and I faced more harassment. Once, I tried again to stand up to him. He ran and I was surrounded by his friends, alone. My mom finally had to get into it. (Even though I was an 18 year old young woman who should have been taken seriously especially when I had been reporting the same boy for two years!) The boy was expelled. Yet, I still got harassed by his friends who blamed me for what happened to him. I told them that he shouldn’t have been harassing me. If he would have stopped or, better yet, never started, he’d still be here. They said that I was a bitch who couldn’t take a joke. They claimed he only messed with me once.

    I was so pissed off in the end that I went to my counselor, knowing that he could have stopped my mistreatment. I went in crying and the first thing I said was, “I’ve been in here a number of times complaining about this boy and you did nothing!” And, this is the best part, he said, “You’ve only been in here twice, Lexie.” “TWO is a number you idiot!” I yelled and then I told him that he had no right to be proud of himself, that he didn’t deserve his job because he let me suffer for two years. I leaned over his desk and told him to quit his job.

    I couldn’t believe I was being blamed for it! I was told that I hadn’t gone to the right person… I had gone to my counselor! A school staff member! It’s the job of every single one of those staff members to protect the students! Nothing was done! It was hell for me and I have urges to go tell that counselor off again every time I pass that school. They basically said that my torture was my fault….

    Thank you for this post, it’s very, very inspiring. I’m sorry for such a long comment but I had to get it out and I hope it will remind women that they should NEVER put up with people claiming that they’re the cause of their mistreatment.

    -Lexie

  3. I also add hugs & complete understanding. Been there, survived so much of that.

    And Firehauke, you are showing much of that same attitude, saying that you let men know that you will not “tolerate” being hit or touched inappropriately. That is all well & good, but it is quite possible for some people to still do things to us which we will not ‘tolerate’ & for us to be unable to stop them; that doesn’t make it our fault. We can be as assertive & outspoken as we wish, but we can still be beaten, raped, or murdered, & to many, we will still have been asking for it.

  4. I’m so sorry you went through that. So many of us have so many stories that we’ve never, ever told because we accept the blame and don’t want to make a fuss.

    Men are the ones with power in the patriarchy. When women snipe at and criticize and blame other women for “getting themselves raped”, it’s a kind of survival strategy in reaction to the unbalanced power structure that is patriarchy. That we all have to live a life that includes abuse, rape, assault, commodification, and being sub-human is the fault of the dominant culture, and the men who perpetuate it.

    It’s difficult to not blame women who perpetuate it as well but it helps to remember that on some level they are doing it for the same reasons we don’t protest when we’re assaulted and we allow ourselves to be groped by strangers and we don’t yell obscenities at men who ogle us; because that’s how we survive in a culture where we are the underclass. Some (false) privilege is granted by the power-holders to women who are complicit but it’s always temporary and under implicit threat of violence.

    Needless to say I’ve been doing an awful lot of thinking about this sort of thing lately.

    • When I wrote this post, I didn’t mean it to sound like I was blaming women, although I can see how it did.

      A lot had been said elsewhere about how men, the “Good Men”, don’t step up to the plate and tell the abusers, the predators, that their actions are not acceptable. How the “Good Men” continue the cycle when they stay silent when certain jokes are told, or when other guys say things like “I’d hit that,” or whatever.

      I was trying to show that it’s not just the men doing this stuff. That women also are complicent in their silence, in their agreeing with the culture that if a woman is raped or otherwise abused, it is her own fault.

      There is a problem, and until we can all see the problem, and how far reaching it is, we can’t address it. Yes, the women who belittle other women for “allowing” themselves to be abused, coerced, raped have bought into the paradigm just as much as those who can’t argue (lest we be told we aren’t “ladylike”), who can’t say “no” and make it stick (less we be told we’re a “bitch”), who can’t punch somebody in the nose who’s molesting us (less we be told we “can’t take a joke”).

      It’s extremely hard to unlearn things that ingrained to us. But if we really want to make this a world where the first thought isn’t “What was she wearing?”, then we have to look at ourselves as hard as we are looking at others. We have to demand from ourselves the same consideration we are demanding from others.

      If I say (and I have in the past), “Well, no wonder she got raped, she should never have been walking THERE when she was”, then I am contributing to the problem.

      Instead of surviving in a culture where we are the underclass, we need to take our power, and let ourselves be heard. We need to not “be good girls/women” and take it quietly, or snipe at other women for deserving what they got. We need to show solidarity, teach ourselves and others what isn’t acceptable, and show the predators that their behavior isn’t going to be tolorated any more.

      It’s through us working on ourselves, seeing where we still buy into that paradigm, and changing it in ourselves (so that there is a bigger group of “we” who don’t feed our own to the pirranahs), that we will find our strength to stop this crap. To really take back our bodies, our minds, our spirits.

      It happens one person at a time. I’m just hoping to reach one person, and help that person to think about how they are perpetuating a climate of agression against women in our culture.

      • And I don’t mean to sound as if I’m condoning the actions of women who do, just adding a layer of perspective. I think we’re on the same page.

  5. Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Gretchen Paules and I am the Administrative Director for a newly formed nonprofit called the Let Go…Let Peace Come In Foundation. Our mission at LGLPCI is to help heal and support adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse worldwide. We are actively seeking adult survivors who would be willing to post their childhood photo & caption, their story, or their creative expressions to our website http://www.letgoletpeacecomein.org. By uniting survivors from around the globe we hope to provide a stronger and more powerful voice to those survivors who have not yet found the courage to speak out or have been cast aside with disbelief. I recently came across your site through Google Alerts and I was wondering if you would please consider posting to our website. If you have any questions please feel free to e-mail me directly at this e-mail address. Together we can; together we should; together we NEED to stand up and be counted. Please share this with anyone you think might benefit from a safe and judgment-free place to share their experiences.

    Warmest Regards,
    Gretchen Paules
    Administrative Director
    Let Go…Let Peace Come In Foundation
    111 Presidential Blvd., Suite 212
    Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004

  6. It happens way too often.

    I consider myself an Ok guy but the more and more I hear about it, the more I wonder that maybe I am the exception to the rule.

    I have yet to have a relationship with a girl that has NOT had an occasion of sexual abuse. Sometimes its so severe that one girl used to get flashback. Hearing her continually scream “No” whilst I cowered in the corner of the room, was the scariest thing I ever experienced.

    You are not aone, and it is definitely your fault, and the longer we live in a society that doesnt stand up to men who believe women are only good for sex, the longer this will go on.

    Keep fighting, Im right with you

  7. yeah… i meant its definitely not your fault… got typolexic there sorry

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