A current “controversial” topic, and one that I am quite passionate about, has made a lot of headlines recently and has been a source of both negative backlash and positive support. The topic of rape/sexual misconduct is always heavily debated. I am choosing not to be specific regarding the current story that is all over the news and our social media feeds, but I cannot say that this current story, did not encourage me to write this post. I have always felt the need to address rape especially since I am a woman, but also a victim of rape. However, I was always met with feelings of apprehension, nervous that discussing such a serious and real topic would be too transparent. I also was anxious that it would not be well received. But as always, the powerful little voice in my head reminded me of how important it is to share our personal narratives, in order to connect with others and close the gap between us. By using my own voice, I hope to inspire others to be brave and use theirs as well. Our stories need to be heard. We each have a place in this world and we are meant to take up space.
I want to speak generally about rape and how society perceives and receives those who claim to have been raped or sexually offended. It isn’t a new statement, but it is a true one, that women do not report rape/sexual misconduct because they feel that they will not be given the support and justice they deserve. We know that we will not be well received. We know that we will be asked a number of questions that make us feel less like a victim and more like a suspect. “Are you sure you said no? Did you make it obvious that you didn’t want it? What were you wearing? Were you under the influence?” Because well, if the woman was wearing a mini skirt, she was asking to be violated. Because if the girl drank too much and lost control of her body, she clearly wanted three men to take turns with her. Because if she only said “no” once, she didn’t really mean it.
As victims, we know that we will not receive empathy or even sympathy. We know that we will be put under a microscope to determine whether or not we “brought it [the misconduct] on ourselves.” We know that we will be looked at with shameful, judging eyes. We know that some will even deem us as dirty or attention-seeking.
We know there is no space for us to tell our truth. Because society doesn’t want our truth if it’s not pretty. And that’s what women are supposed to be: pretty. Pretty, delicate creatures who do not use their voices to stir up anything. We are not to communicate our power, we are to remain silent. But we are a force. Women are the seeds which hold and bring about life. We are strong. Our voices matter. We deserve justice, we deserve empathy, and we deserve to be met with support and love, especially when we are suffering. Our voices MUST be heard.
There’s a powerful hashtag that has gained popularity in recent weeks: #whyididntreport
Women all over the world are explaining why they didn’t/don’t report sexual abuse.
Because we’ve been shown time and time again that reporting only hurts and humiliates us more. Remember Ke$ha’s story? Big time pop singer, loved and respected by many, and even she didn’t receive justice. So why would I, a “nobody,” even imagine that I would?
I was raped when I was fifteen years old, and it broke me. My thoughts, my perceptions of the world, were forever altered. I began to see the world as an unsafe place, I became overly anxious all the time about everything, I began to question my worth. I was traumatized and became depressed, but even still, I told my parents I would rather die than report the boy because I knew I’d somehow be blamed for ruining his life. Ironic, right? I didn’t want the whole school knowing what he did to me, I didn’t want such a personal event to be made public. I didn’t want others to weigh in on the conversation and to decide whether or not I was right in reporting a 15 year old boy for rape. So I didn’t. It remains a heavy burden I will always hold onto. A memory I can never forget.
Why didn’t I report? Because I couldn’t stand the thought of people feeling bad for him over me. I couldn’t stand the idea that people could blame me for what happened or worse, see him as the victim. Because “boys will be boys” and “kids, they don’t know any better, they make mistakes.”
But I needed a guarantee that he would be held accountable for his actions. I needed a guarantee that I would be met with love and support, and not scrutiny or judgement.
I am angry and disappointed, by the way we treat women who come forward. I am angry and disappointed that we continue to teach women how to protect themselves from predators, and how to prevent misconduct, rather than teaching men not to rape. I’m in disbelief when I think about the lack of empathy and support given to those that our vulnerable and brave, who put themselves and their truths out there to receive justice.
We don’t give women the space to tell the truth.
Women already go through life feeling unsafe. We already live knowing that “pretty is the most important thing we can be.” We already live knowing we are seen as the lesser sex. Why not give us one safe space where we are encouraged, supported, loved, heard? The space to not be persecuted when we attempt to share our narratives?
We shouldn’t have to bury our pain deep inside of us. We shouldn’t have to hide any aspect of who we are. We need to feel like we share our human experiences. We all need that space. A space where we voice our inner-sentiments, a space where our voices are heard, a space where we connect and say “me too” or “you are not alone,” a space where we use love to close the gaps between you and me.
Simply put, the world needs more compassion, empathy and love.