Category Archives: Rape Culture

Sexual assault happens to people you know

It happened to me. Four times I have been raped, the most recent only a bit more than a week ago. This is my story and my feelings. It is graphic and confronting – take care of your own mental space if you read this.

I am happily married to a monogamous man, but I am polyamorous. For a long time I have been burying that part of me, but with a recent bout of hypomania it has resurfaced. I struggle to love just one person, and my husband has been very understanding about this. Thus, recently I began dating again.

I made the call to try Tinder, and initially it worked really well. I was looking for casual hookups that I hoped would sometimes develop into friendships that would last, and this has happened. But the world is a dangerous place, and it was only a matter of time before  met someone who was not as good a human being as I credit them for.

I met Suman in a hotel off Queen Street, and he was incredibly respectful and caring. I was running late because of family stuff, and he was considerate and understanding. He had a clear understanding of consent – he asked if it was ok to hug me, to take my sweatshirt off, everything. He was the most respectful man I have ever had the pleasure to meet, and we had very nice vanilla sex.

He got up, and pulled out a pipe and some pot. I figured, why not, he’s a bit tense and this will relax him. He had admitted to having OCD and anxiety, and to smoking pot quite often to help deal with it. We went outside, and smoked up. I had only a little, but he drew deep and often. Before long he was buzzing and floating, happy as anything, and relaxed. We went back to the room.

As soon as we walked into the room, things changed. I took off my boots and stood up, and he wrenched my clothes off and threw me onto the bed. I was scared, and I froze up. What happened next is a mess of flashes. I can’t put it in any logical order. He forced me to go down on him, grabbing my by the hair and forcing me deeper and deeper until I choked. He pulled me by the hair til I lay on my back again and choked me. He slapped me. He bit me, and the bruises are yet to fade. He licked me all over, and that makes my skin crawl. He masturbated over my body, dripping sweat all over me. He penetrated me. All this, while I pretended to enjoy it so that I could get out of there in one piece.

Perhaps I should have said no, perhaps I should have fought. I was terrified, though, not knowing how far his violence was going to go. I shouldn’t have to excuse not fighting a sexual assault though – it’s not on me, it’s on him.

Finally, he collapsed, buzzing out, and I gave him the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert to watch. It was perfect, he was enthralled, and I got dressed and left.

I got home, threw everything I was wearing in the wash, and showered and scrubbed the sweat and stench of him off my flesh. Twenty minutes in the shower, and I felt clean enough to step out and begin the road to healing.

My husband has been amazing through this, supportive and loving. I proceeded into a four-day bender, kicked off at a wonderful friend’s place who helped me write a note to Suman telling him why I would never see him again. She poured me G&Ts until the pain was numbed, then another friend took me to dinner and poured cider down my throat.

That night, a lovely man helped me get totally plastered in a safe place, and showed me respect and kindness. It was the first step in trusting again, and I am grateful to him for how he treated me that night. The following days were spent in Wellington, soaking in wine and tequila and being cared for by wonderful women and men, and my journey continued.

Thank you to all of the people that have helped me to move forward. I’m not going to name you all, because some will want to remain unnamed and I’ll inevitably forget someone wonderful and important but I am ever grateful and I love you all.

There have been questions raised about going to the police, and it’s simply not going to happen. I know what it’s like, I’ve seen people go through it and supported them, and I will not risk my mental wellbeing for it. I will brook no condemnation for this decision. It is mine alone to make.

To the men who accept that I’m a bit broken, and deal with my freakouts and freezing up when they touch a trigger they didn’t know existed, thank you and thank you again. You’re helping me heal, and I value you deeply. To the women who have listened as I poured my heart out, you are my rocks and I appreciate you. You stand in the swirling waters of my emotions, and you hold me tight. It is wonderful beyond measure.

I will not let this stop me loving and trusting. I have known for a long time that there is no such thing as a completely safe person, after my oldest friend raped me. I choose to trust and to love, deeply and passionately. I will not let this change my heart.

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Sit down and shut up

If you’re in a group (real life, online, wherever) then you are expected to conform to the rules of the group. Cross a boundary, or even just push its limits, and the reaction can be varied, and sometimes quite unexpected. It doesn’t matter who was objectively right or wrong (if there is such a thing in play), what matters is the rules of the group.

The rules of the group can help sweep an individual into a world of things they aren’t comfortable with. If everyone gets pissed every Saturday and you don’t, that is likely to slide. It’s non-participation, and that’s a little easier to forgive. But try saying that maybe it’s not healthy to live a life so soaked in alcohol, and you’re ripe for ejection. It’s part of being in the group, and questioning it marks you out as ‘not like us’.

It makes it hard to stand up to a group of people you know, who are your friends, and say something unpopular. It takes a lot of guts to hear people joking about bashing someone and stand up and say ‘no, that’s not ok’. It’s hard to watch someone make jokes about sexual assault and call them out on it. Maybe, if you’re lucky, they will look at themselves and think ‘no, I don’t want to be that guy’, or maybe the blame for disrupting a sick joke will blow back on you.

It’s hard being the one who stands up and says no, but it says a lot about your character.

Coming Forward About Rape

Telling someone you were raped is hard. It’s often too hard, and victims hide it away. One of the big reasons is because the victim feels like they wouldn’t be believed.

The statistics are all over the place, but it seems that somewhere around 2-8% of rape allegations are false. That leaves the vast majority of allegations as true.

Since I was raped, I told three friends about what happened. One was immediately sympathetic – he had never met the rapist, and he was solidly on my side. He supported me immediately, listened, and helped me feel safe again.

The other two people I told both knew the rapist. And their first reactions were almost identical – they accepted that it was ‘my side of the story’ but didn’t accept that it was rape. They wanted to know his side. I kind of get that – no-one wants to think that a friend could be a rapist. But I was opening up a terrible wound, and the salt poured in it stung.

The automatic response when someone says they were raped is too often doubt. It makes it hard to speak up about it. It makes me feel doubly assaulted – first physically, and then mentally as I try to process the idea that people simply don’t believe me.

People don’t cry rape often. And people who have been raped deserve your support. Doubting them makes their experience so much more painful.

Unconscious Rape

The internet has gone nuts over the last week or so about an article by Steven Landsburg, a professor of economics at Rochester University in New York. In a nutshell, he writes three different scenarios in which he claims that no harm is done to the subject of the vignette, and asks if the feelings of the person in each should be taken into account when making public policy.

The first scenario asks if one person’s objection to others watching porn should be considered. The second asks whether an armchair environmentalist’s objection to oil drilling is worthy of consideration. And the third asks if an unconscious rape victim’s feelings should be considered.

Rape is A Big Deal. Something like one in five women have experienced it. De-legitimising their experiences in any way is reprehensible. It doesn’t matter if you were unconscious, or too scared to fight back, or ‘deserved it’, or ‘led him on’. It’s one of the most personal crimes there is. It goes unreported so often because of the guilt, or the shame, or the sheer fact that so few will ever be brought to justice that victims don’t want to be put through the wringer by the system in a fight that will damage them further, but they probably won’t win.

Someone you know has been raped. Multiple someones. I guarantee it. And lessening the impact of what happened to them by reducing it to an interesting thought experiment is wrong.

I have been one of those victims. One of the silent ones who never told. And I am royally insulted by being reduced to a thought experiment. What happened to me is wrong. What happened to every rape victim is wrong. There is never any scenario, no matter how far outside reality that it may be framed, in which rape is not wrong.

Gendered assumptions

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Source: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=455097531215160&set=a.374232849301629.83129.374226805968900&type=1&ref=nf

This rather sweet photo flashed by on my FB news feed today. It’s dead cute, and the list that accompanied it was mostly good things. I cringed a little at the “Pray and be a spiritual leader” bit, but that’s my rampant atheism talking.

There was one entry that didn’t sit well with me though. It reads:

2. You will set the tone
for the sexual relationship,
so don’t take something away from her
that you can’t give back.

What makes a male the one ‘setting the tone’ for a sexual relationship? Why do we assume that he’s taking something away from a female he sleeps with? If it’s referring to virginity (as I suspect it is) then it’s pushing an unhealthy fetishization of female virginity, plus it doles out a side serving of male dominance.

This way of thinking can reduce a woman’s value to her status as a virgin, and it’s a source of a lot of guilt for many brought up to believe in this value.

By framing sez as ‘taking something from her’, it erases the concept of a woman’s choice entirely. The idea that men ‘take something’ from women when they have sex, or that a woman gives him something when she allows him to have her virginity, is disempowering for women that do not hold sex as something sacred and holy, but rather something to be enjoyed. Sex shouldn’t be thought of in terms of giving and taking, but in terms of mutual enjoyment.

As for ‘setting the tone’? Being male should not automatically make you sexually dominant – and to say so disempowers men who cannot or do not want to be dominant, as well as women who want to be treated as equal to men.

The more we allow gendered thinking to dominate public discourse about sexuality, the more we allow and even support inequality, and it helps support the rape culture we should be fighting. Sex is not a man’s domain to rule. It’s a mutual thing.

Throwaway lines on sexual ethics

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This picture crawled its way into my FB feed yesterday. I find it offensive for two reasons.
First is the painfully obvious slut-shaming. Damn it world, get it through your head – a womans’ worth is not linked to her sex life!

The second is a bit more subtle, and a lot more worrying to me. The comparison of a woman to a free sample doesn’t just reflect on a womans’ value. It also says something about how she can be treated. It insinuates that she can be taken any time, by anyone, and no-one will mind. THAT, I find frightening.

Foundations in Rape Culture

If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. -Deuteronomy 22:23-4

Blaming a victim for the crime committed against them is disgusting – especially when that crime is a violation of their body. But the bible clearly says that every woman who has not been heard to scream and fight her rapist is at fault.

This is part of the foundations of Christianity – that a rape victim is guilty. And it continues right down into the present, with church leaders blaming adolescent boys for seducing priests. And it’s sick. To be violated is bad enough. To be told you are responsible for what happened to you is soul-destroying.

Rape victims deserve better. Every one of us. It’s far too common, and it’s brushed off with all sorts of excuses. “Oh, he was drunk”. “Well, I can’t just take your word for it”. “He’s a nice guy, he’d never do such a thing”. “Are you sure it’s not a misunderstanding?”. For shame, world. For shame. We can be better than this.

Stand up for the victims. Don’t shame them. They’ve been through enough.