In the public discussion and of rape, the term “women’s issue” tends to be synonymous. It wasn’t until my own rape as an adult that I realized just how skewed and dangerously misguided the public perception of rape actually is. While trying to come to terms with my own date rape, I found the vast majority of the resources available to victims of sex crimes (i.e. national and regional hotlines, websites and organizations) to be inexplicably unhelpful and discouraging.
While I want to focus more on the victims in this post, Lara Naughton of Bustle.com expresses a unique perspective about the relationship between victim and rapist (woman and man, in this case):
My rape threw me into a different orbit, and spun me around and around what I thought I knew about sexual violence. Once I regained a sense of equilibrium and assessed the ways I was altered, I recognized I had two new convictions. One: Rape is not a women’s issue. Two: If we want our rape culture to dissolve, we have to attend to the pain and suffering of men.
Naughton’s ability to recognize (or even care about) the suffering in her attacker might be somewhat hard to grasp for some. The last time I was raped, I literally saw my rapist as evil incarnate. I might’ve been hallucinating from whatever he’d put in my drink, but when I regained consciousness the next morning, looked at him and realized what had happened, I literally felt as though I was looking at a demon; the Devil in the flesh.
All victims of sexual violence react and deal with it in different ways. I think most of us ask “Why?” at some point. “Why did you do that to me?” This is a question Naughton addresses in her insightful piece “Why Rape is Not a Women’s Issue.” She goes on say,
When I was in the jungle with my rapist, I couldn’t run or fight. Compassion for him was my only defense.
Naughton’s poignant recollection of her trauma and the consequential permanent alteration of her psyche brings up a vital point: It’s not about what gender is victimized by sexual violence more frequently. While it is true that “men… make up the overwhelming majority of people committing sexual assaults, and women the overwhelming majority of their victims,” focus needs to be shifted from statistics to WHY and WHAT drives a person to rape in the first place.
All victims who experience a sexual assault, including rape, deserve to be acknowledged, cared for with resources designed to help them move from trauma to well-being, and given a safe place in the judicial system free from blame and shame. But those measures are reactive to the issue — they’re not the issue itself.
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