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.
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