I’m putting all of this under a cut because I know that not everyone will be able to read this. But if you don’t get triggered, if you are not a survivor of sexual assault, I urge you to give me a couple of minutes of your time and read.
TRIGGER WARNING: DISCUSSION OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AND RAPE CULTURE
Let me begin by prefacing this: I am not naïve and idealistic about the ways of the world. Yes, I understand that no one really signs up to be the Internet Police. I understand that Twitter is a clusterfuck and there is so much idiocy spewed there on a daily basis that many of you will call this a losing battle.
I am aware of all of that, but I will not condone it.
I will not, cannot stay silent.
This is not a battle for political correctness. If you know me, you know that I am not always PC. This is simply about the fact that there is nothing funny about rape. It is not a small word that you can throw around lightly–it is a word with power. It is a word that hurts, and inspires fear.
What kind of fear?
Let me tell you a little bit about how I live my life. Every day, I think twice about what I’m wearing. I test shoes before I wear them so I can make sure I can run in them. I always make sure I’m carrying something I can use as a weapon at all times. I memorize the faces of people I see in the street so I can pick them out of a lineup. And I measure every single man in the street in terms of his age, height, weight so I can figure out whether they could physically overpower me.
I look at every guy I see on the street and ask myself, “Will you be the one? Will the third time be the charm?” I’ve spent so much time wondering if that day will be the day that some man finishes what the other two started. I’m tired of being so scared and I’m tired of being reminded of this anytime I look, well, anywhere.
What people seem to still fail to understand is that being offended and being triggered are not the same thing. Being triggered is being made helpless all over again; it’s being victimized by someone’s words and actions that make you relive past abuse. Yes, I’m offended when you make a rape joke–but it also hurts. It makes me think of what would happen if someone completed the attempt. Would they get away with it? Would someone just make a joke about it and carry on?
Let’s take a look at the two latest “rape joke” outbursts on Twitter: the Jerry Sandusky sentencing and the Daniel Tosh rape joke fiasco. What do these two situations have in common? Simple: they’re both trying to come up with specific “circumstances” in which rape jokes (and, consequently, rape) is okay. This is problematic not just because of what it says about rape, but what it says about the survivor: that he/she is “too sensitive” and they need to “lighten up” and that it’s all “just words.”
Except it isn’t.
So next time you hear a rape joke? I want you to think of me. Think of my face. Think of 15-year-old me being told that it was “probably a misunderstanding.” Think of 22-year-old me being asked if I wasn’t wearing provocative clothing in front of my student or I hadn’t been “encouraging his flirtations.” Then think of your sister, your mother, your aunt, your cousin, your daughter, your niece–and how 1 in 6 American women reports being sexually assaulted each year. And how it’s estimated that 54% of rapes go unreported.
Horrified yet? Then stop the cycle. Inform yourself. And listen when someone tries to explain their experience to you.
We’re not asking for too much. We just want the respect and support we deserve so that we can heal.
After all, we are not victims–we are survivors.