Rape & Sexual Assault
I wish I would have seen a billboard, an article, a book, a website; something that clearly stated,"Stop. Listen. It was rape. It wasn't you."
Rape means forcing someone to engage in sex against their will: physically, by threats, or by taking advantage of their vulnerability (e.g. they are a child, a dementia patient, unconscious in coma, etc - in no position to make choices). It can be done by anyone to anyone: man to woman, woman to man, man to man, woman to woman. Older to younger or younger to older. Straight to straight, gay to gay, gay to straight, or straight to gay. 86% of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim: an ex-partner, friend, step-parent, co-worker, coach, priest, nurse, babysitter. Many do not involve physical violence (because it's pointless to resist when someone is holding a gun to your head). Whatever happened, if you said you didn't want to have sex but were forced anyway - you were raped. It's not your fault: a crime was committed against you, it's no different from being robbed, assaulted, murdered, or stolen from.
Any form of violence is traumatic, but being violated sexually is particularly degrading and humiliating. The rapist derives pleasure from asserting their belief that I'm not worthy of very minimal respect, that it's OK to rub against me as if i were a sex toy, that my feelings are irrelevant, I don't matter, they have the power to do anything they like to me and there's nothing I can do about it. That I'm their bitch. It's not true, but the message is pretty convincing. I can't help but think that they must be right, I really must be worthless if they were able to do this to me. I could have screamed louder, I could have knocked them out, I could have taken a different route home, I could have stayed home instead of going to that party - I believe it was my fault somehow, that rape doesn't happen to "normal" people. I live in fear that someone might find out that I'm a rape victim, that I'm only pretending to be a "normal" person worthy of respect, while in reality I'm a nothing. The rapist saw me as a nothing, so who says other people won't see me this way too, that this isn't who I really am?
This trauma often causes long-term aftermath: low self esteem, anxiety, depression, social withdrawal. Some people commit suicide after having been raped, because they just don't know how to live with themselves. Many experience PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder): when you avoid thinking of the trauma, pretend it didn't happen, but keep having intrusive memories, flashbacks, nightmares about it, jump from sudden noises, are afraid to go to the same place where it happened, get nauseous when someone in the office wears the same cologne as your rapist did. These things are hard to cope with, and many survivors start drinking or taking drugs, develop OCD or eating disorders, some self-injure. It's understandable responses to the trauma, but you don't have to live like this for the rest of your life.
Talking of the trauma of rape can be hard, especially at first, but it's what helps heal it, especially if you do it in a group of other rape survivors. Exposure to others who are in the same shoes as you helps change your perspective on your own situation. It makes you realize that having been violated doesn't reflect badly on our character. Even if we feel worthless and ashamed at times, we have nothing to be ashamed of and are worthy of as much respect as anyone else. We're much more than just rape survivors, this experience doesn't define us. Once you see other people this way, and experience being treated this way by others who know you've been raped but don't think less of you as a result - it will help you regain self-respect, to feel in charge of your life, and to insist that others around you treat you with respect as well. Many of us here at Fort are leading successful and fairly happy lives, despite having been raped at some point in the past. You can trust our word: it does get better, your life is not hopelessly ruined, it's possible to repair what was broken, respect yourself again, and be respected by those around you. Please consider reporting this incident to authorities, and feel free to join our community, let's help each other recover from this trauma.
But was I really raped?
A lot of rape victims hesitate to label their experience as rape, or get hung up on legalese, trying to figure out if it "counts." It feels like I have to make a choice: either I'm a victim, deserve unconditional support, and the other person is a rapist who should rot in prison - or what happened to me was my own fault and I'm a slut who doesn't deserve any better. In reality, your trauma and their crime are two separate things, it's not a package deal. You can feel violated while they are innocent (e.g. if you consented to something you didn't want to happen), and they can be guilty while you're not feeling violated (e.g. some of statutory rapes). Unwanted sex (consensual or not) can be deeply traumatic regardless of how the actions of your partner might be classified legally. You have every right to feel angry, sad, or scared, to reach out for support, and to avoid this person in the future. Your feelings are not something that should (or could) be proven in court. You don't need the other person locked up for decades, in order to feel validated that your trauma really happened. It happened because you say it happened, and nobody has the right to tell you that you're too sensitive or making a big deal out of nothing. You deserve compassion, support, and help, simply because the incident bothered you enough to google this page.
~ Abraham Lincoln
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