Trigger warning–assault, rape and the perpetuation of such including the culture of violence and oppression will be discussed.
I was raped three years ago by a former friend. I had been drinking, but was in no way drunk. I was in jeans and a Star Wars crew neck. I was made up. I had high-heeled boots on. My hair was up. We had just come back from a party and all the rest of our friends had paired off. We went to his room to crash–something I had done many, many times. He raped me. I was SAFE-kitted the next day.
Then I was told that by the police at my university that because they found no evidence (he used a condom) and there was no sign of a struggle (I was afraid of getting physically hurt so I didn’t move…something I learned to do, ironically, from a workshop that the UPD ran), they couldn’t help me. The fact that I had alcohol in my system, regardless of how little, also worked against me. I had one of the police officers tell me that “drunk sex that you regret” unfortunately didn’t constitute as rape. I was so shocked at the dismissiveness and immediate victim-blaming (although in retrospect, I shouldn’t have been) that I dropped it.
So yes. Rape sucks. It is shitty.
But I think that as a survivor, worse than the actual act of rape or assault is rape culture. Rape culture is like a perfect shit storm of what-the-actual-fuckery. It’s something that I myself find so difficult to talk about that I’m going link crazy in this post to avoid explicating it myself and thus buggering it up for those who want a clear, conclusive, and non-rambling definition of rape culture.
So here it is (again) if you need it.
Normally, I’m not rape-triggered. I’ll feel triggered when it comes to issues of sex and orientation. I understand that those issues and rape often go hand in hand, but normally my rape does not come up for me, personally. In fact, I remember only two times post-rape that I was triggered. One was when I was at a club; I had been ass-grabbed by seven different men several different times during a one-hour time span and security did nothing about it (“If you don’t like it, leave,” I believe was the professional response that they came up with). The other was when I actually ran into my rapist after more than two years of not having seen or heard from him.
Today was lucky number three.
I had been walking to grab some lunch with a group of my co-workers and as I briskly passed the street crosswalk, a man bumped into me. He grasped my inner thigh, dangerously close to my crotch, and trailed his hand to my ass as he brushed past me. I was so shocked and it happened so fast that I barely had enough time to register it and half-heartedly shouted “you fucking asshole!” to his retreating figure, which was already on other side of the street.
My co-workers looked at me quizzically. None of them had noticed, and I didn’t blame them–it really did happen fast.
Without another word, I broke away and strode ahead of them and to the gourmet food truck to place my order for lunch. By the time the rest of them had caught up with me, I had already ordered and was waiting for the service people to prep my food. The adrenaline dump was dissipating, my breathing was beginning to even out, my heart rate was starting to slow back down. An older female co-worker of mine, seeing that I was distressed asked me if all was well.
“Some dude just groped me out of fucking no where,” I explained. “Just walked right by me and grabbed my thigh–can you believe that?”
She chuckled. “Jeez. Well, I guess that’s what happens when you’re a pretty girl, right?”
My heart sank as she chuckled again. “Well, I would think that that’s what happens when you’re an asshole.” I tried to say it light-heartedly, but it came out as somewhat of a humorless murmur.
We both laughed uncomfortably and I immediately felt upset. I wanted to be mad at her, but I couldn’t because what she said was out of ignorance. She is not a rape apologist. She is just not informed. And that fucking depresses me, because she is what a lot of people (even myself included) would call progressive, and genuinely meant what she said as a compliment.
Placing the blame of being groped on someone’s level of attractiveness invalidates their experience and shifts the fault of being groped onto the victim. It’s a sad state of affairs and incredibly telling of how we societally think of rape that the first reaction we have to a person who was just groped is to compliment them on how attractive they must be.
I listed my level of sobriety, what I was wearing, and who I was with in the beginning when explaining the events surrounding my rape to demonstrate that it doesn’t fucking matter. A rapist will rape regardless of the situation.
So yeah. Rape sucks. But rape culture? Somehow, it will always just feel infinitesimally worse.