In the United States, one in five women have been raped. Globally, one in three women have been raped. I am one of those women.
Obviously, this is not something I go around telling everyone I meet. But with all of the debate/discussion/bullshit surrounding the subject of rape lately (Daniel Tosh’s inappropriate jokes, Todd Akin’s horrific statements, legislation that differentiates “forcible rape” from any other kind of rape, etc), I’ve decided to out myself as a rape survivor. Because all of this debate HURTS me. It makes me terribly sad. It makes me angry.
Eve Ensler wrote a letter to Representative Akin regarding his statement that women don’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape.” Her words are perfect:
You used the expression “legitimate” rape as if to imply there were such a thing as “illegitimate” rape. Let me try to explain to you what that does to the minds, hearts and souls of the millions of women on this planet who experience rape. It is a form of re-rape. The underlying assumption of your statement is that women and their experiences are not to be trusted. That their understanding of rape must be qualified by some higher, wiser authority. It delegitimizes and undermines and belittles the horror, invasion, desecration they experienced. It makes them feel as alone and powerless as they did at the moment of rape.
When you, Paul Ryan and 225 of your fellow co-sponsors play with words around rape suggesting only “forcible” rape be treated seriously as if all rapes weren’t forcible, it brings back a flood of memories of the way the rapists played with us in the act of being raped — intimidating us, threatening us,muting us. Your playing with words like “forcible” and “legitimate” is playing with our souls which have been shattered by unwanted penises shoving into us, ripping our flesh, our vaginas, our consciousness, our confidence, our pride, our futures.
Rape is rape. Whether it is forcible rape, assault rape, date rape, gray rape, statutory rape, or any sexual conduct in which the victim did not give their consent, then it is RAPE.
Jezebel’s Katie J.M. Baker wrote a brilliant piece yesterday titled The Official Guide to Legitimate Rape, where she said:
Let’s stop differentiating between different types of rape as if they were different flavors at an ice cream shop. Politicians need to get over the pervasive fear that adopting a zero-tolerance attitude towards rape means that people will be able to disingenuously “cry rape” if they’re having a bad day. That’s not going to happen. You know what’s way more dangerous? Allowing legislators like Akin to make declarative statements that are unarguably false. If you don’t know how basic biology works, you shouldn’t be able to hold a government position that gives you real power over the bodies of millions of women.
And that is the problem here. These government officials, mostly privileged older white men, are trying to define rape in terms that make sense to them or suit their political ideals. According to these men, I was not raped.
I was not attacked by a stranger in a dark alley. I was not abused, beaten, or tied up before the rape occurred. But I did not give consent, and that is why what happened to me was rape.
Some would say that my case falls into the area of gray rape. I was 22, I was out with new friends, and we were drinking heavily. A male friend of these friends decided that even though I was so drunk I was throwing up on the street, that I was still sexually desirable. So when we got back to our mutual friend’s house, and though I was saying, “I just want to go to sleep. Let me go to sleep,” he took that as permission to have sex with me.
The next day, with my roommate’s urging, I called the police. Unlike most victims, I reported this rape. This experience made me realize why most rapes go unreported. The female police officer that came to my home said, “You know, sometimes we drink too much and make bad decisions, and then we regret it in the morning.” This is what a FEMALE POLICE OFFICER said to me as I was reporting my rape. I went to the station to speak with a detective, and he told me what a long and drawn out process that this would be if I decided to press charges. I would have to tell this story over and over again. People would try to make me look like a bad person. Did I really want this guy to go to jail? Is that what I really wanted to happen?
So I didn’t press charges. When law enforcement officials were telling me that this wasn’t worth my time and that maybe I just made a mistake, I felt invalidated. I did not feel like a victim. I felt like I was wasting everyone’s time because they didn’t care about what had happened to me. Apparently what had happened to me wasn’t rape.
That was five years ago, and it still hurts to remember. No, my rape story is not the worst one there is. Many if not most rapes are more violent and terrifying than what I went through, and I cannot fathom the strength it takes to survive an attack like that. But that does not mean that I was not raped. That does not mean that I was not “forcibly raped” or “legitimately raped.” Someone had sex with me without my consent. That is rape.
When you need to specify that rape is forcible or legitimate, you are hurting me. You are invalidating what I went through. You are telling me that I was not raped. You are making me feel how I felt when the police told me that maybe I just made a mistake. I did not make a mistake. I was raped.
When you make jokes about rape, you are hurting me. What happened to me is not funny. Rape is not funny. Taking away the power of consent, taking control of someone’s body, taking away the beauty of sex and replacing it with something ugly is NOT FUNNY. Joking about rape doesn’t make you funny, it makes you a jerk. When one in five women in the United States are rape victims, what are the odds that you are telling your rape joke to a rape victim? Is it okay that you are making them, even for only a moment, remember and re-live their rape?
So, stand up for what is right. Rape is rape. Do not vote for people who try to say that one form of rape is tragic and another is not legitimate. When someone makes a rape joke, tell them that it is offensive. Or, if you have the strength to do so, let them know that you were the victim of rape or that you know someone who is. Let them know why their jokes cause pain, not joy.
My name is Kate Rogers, and I was raped. I am a real person, and I experienced something horrible. Your words, whether misguided or uneducated, have the power to hurt me and the millions of women like me. Learn before you speak on topics that you know nothing about. Expand your world view. Experience empathy. Try to understand.
To everyone who is already outraged by what is happening, keep speaking up. If we are silent, nothing will change. Things need to change.
Love and latex,
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