On the Blind Matters of Women & Sexual Assault

RAPE & OTHER NON-CONSENTING EVENTS 

Rape and many other health-related matters that surround women, often present as a scabbed wound. Tended to and dressed in bandages to mute the bold presentation of violence, assault and the overall act of force, that is rape. Left to heal on its own over time, yet the pursuit of being whole again or heeled is an elusive feat. After the physical act, the timeline of the assault is considered to be over. However, it continues to engrave itself in the memory of now-familiar scents, feelings, and places. A matter of the day turned blind to the naked eye. It continues to live on in the subconscious of the affected.

“Perhaps the most horrifying thing about nonconsensual sex is that, in an instant, it erases you. Your own desires, your safety and well-being, your ownership of the body that may very well have been the only thing you ever felt sure you owned—all of it becomes irrelevant, even nonexistent.”

Reading Not That Bad | Dispatches from Rape Culture re-confirmed many of the ideas I have formed about survivors and the lasting impact of sexual violence. Rape and even sexual assault are life-altering events that I truly believe affect a person’s life in every way possible. Those stolen moments are the very thing that chips away at a person’s soul, leaving them feeling lost, defenseless and often mute to their own experience. Having encountered various forms of sexual assault and rape either as a bystander or personally, I have to say having a voice in those situations is one of the hardest things to do. It’s a limiting feeling to be defenseless and more so when you are watching the effects of the activities take place in someone’s life.

 

I’m not going to share the presumed story of that “one time when”, because it didn’t happen to me. Even in being a witness to another woman’s story, doesn’t make it mine to share. The encounter with those during that time still makes my heart cry. However, it leaves me questioning how being in the period of #TimesUp and #MeToo, how we are leaving women and men feeling less empowered to advocate for themselves. Plenty of experiences have been shared but just the same, if not more have been silenced by force, power, or even ignored. The resilience of some women to grow new petals to replaces those that were torn out seems to be an exception as she has to reclaim her life. Reassembling herself creating new pieces out of those that were shattered. All while being berated with idiotic questions and statements like what were you wearing, why were you out so late, you were flirting with him so what did you expect, or she was being fast. It’s her fault.  

 

In some cases, your sexual history is used to suggest that your previous actions lead this assault to happen to you. Thus, no matter what, you will always be the reason. And in reality, we not only broke the spirit of so many people that shared their experience, but we also failed them. Left them prey to societal standards that allow boys to be boys. We cheered them on when they shared private photos of girls they were sleeping with on facebook. We let them assault girls verbally because having sex at a young age wasn’t becoming of a lady. Artistically calling girls every variation of Hoe, Slut, or THOT as they saw fit. We taught them that women were property, something to be conquered. Most of all we failed the girls, letting them believe that acts of violence were normal because if he hits you or is mean to you it means he likes you. Leaving some vulnerable as they were left longing to be loved or cared for. An opening to those random men, friends, cousins or uncles who showed them that the only love they were valuable enough to have was based in sexual assault. As a society, we dropped the ball.

“Because it was drilled in until it turned subconscious and became unbearable need: don’t make it about you; put yourself second or last; disregard your feelings but not another’s; disbelieve your perceptions whenever the opportunity presents itself; run and rerun everything by yourself before verbalizing it — put it in perspective, interrogate it: Do you sound nuts? Does this make you look bad? Are you holding his interest? Are you being considerate? Fair? Sweet?”

Truthfully we turned a blind eye, allowing the boys to grow into savages and muted the girls that dared to speak truth to their assault. Above all else, we didn’t advocate or simply listen when all they wanted was to be heard. Reading Not That Bad, not only made me remember those blank stares that I had seen. It made me analyze how often we tell women that they are simply victims of their own doing. We dismiss the facts and acts of men because we made women responsible for what happens to them. While reprimanding boys who enact vicious crimes treated with leniency because in the words of Judge Aaron Persky, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others.”

We need to learn to listen without judgment and respond without defense. It happened. Whether you believe it or not the women who share that experience with you are not looking for an opinion on what she should have done or what you would have done. Be the woman or person you would want if you were to go through this. We aren’t perfect but we can be better. As women based on what can and has happened, believe other women. Read Not That Bad | Dispatches from Rape Culture, and share it with the men in your life.

“Because girls are coached out of the womb to be non-confrontational, agreeable, solicitous, deferential, demote, nurturing, to be tuned into others, and to shrink and shut up.

Because speaking up for myself was not how I learned English. Because I’m fluent in Apology, in Question Mark, in Giggle, in Bowing Down, in Self-Sacrifice Because sidelining women’s stories/voices/visages, and also glorifying — thus neutralizing — their suffering, are not only prerequisites to sexual violence against women, but also ensure that sexual violence isn’t seen as sexual violence but as totally normal, sanctioned behavior.”

Truthfully we turned a blind eye, allowing the boys to grow into savages and muted the girls that dared to speak truth to their assault. Above all else, we didn’t advocate or simply listen when all they wanted was to be heard. Reading Not That Bad, not only made me remember those blank stares that I had seen. It made me analyze how often we tell women that they are simply victims of their own doing. We dismiss the facts and acts of men because we made women responsible for what happens to them. While reprimanding boys who enact vicious crimes treated with leniency because in the words of Judge Aaron Pesky, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others.” 

We need to learn to listen without judgment and respond without defense. It happened. Whether you believe it or not the women who share that experience with you are not looking for an opinion on what she should have done or what you would have done. Be the woman or person you would want if you were to go through this. We aren’t perfect but we can be better. As women based on what can and has happened, believe other women. Read Not That Bad | Dispatches from Rape Culture, and share it with the men in your life.

 

“How many times did you say no? I’ve realized I maybe no longer need anyone to think it was bad enough, I don’t need to prove I’m worthy of pity or help. I don’t need you to feel sorry for me. What I need is what most women need when they talk about the sexual violence they’ve endured. I need someone to listen, I need someone to believe me. Whenever I tell the story I say 16, even though now I know once was enough.”

* Disclaimer: Men experience rape and it is seldom talked about. I understand this and wish that I could talk about it more but it isn’t something that I am familiar with. I do not believe only men are responsible for the rape of women, because the reality is that there are women who rape and or assault other women and girls. I have also taken into account that some women lie and that’s unfortunate. However, there are more women not speaking at all and barely being able to vocalize their experience to dismiss them all for the faults of some. Just like we can’t blame all men for the faults of some.

If you have experienced or been a survivor of sexual violence and need immediate help please call the National Sexual Assult hotline +1-800-656-4673.

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