Category Archives: Change the World

Redefining Rape [Pt. 1]: Gender

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.

References & further reading:

“Blame The System, NOT the Victim!”

SlutWalk NYC

This slogan struck a chord with me when I saw it on picket signs in images of SlutWalk, inspiring me to do something about what happened to me Halloween of 2014. I went to the cops and reported the rape, but I could already tell before even finishing giving my report to the police that nothing would be done and I wouldn’t get justice through the U.S. “justice system.” The male detective’s questions were much more focused on my drinking habits, how drunk I was that night, how much I’d been drinking in the days leading up to it, etc., rather than the rape itself. I could tell that he was trying to judge whether or not I had a drinking problem, which it was pretty clear that I did. His opinion of me as an alcoholic definitely seemed to determine the questions he asked. I actually think he asked more questions about my drinking than the event itself, and he was not even remotely sensitive to what I had just been through. He treated me like I was the criminal, like I was the one who had done something wrong. The female detective who spoke with me afterward to get more of the details wasn’t much better, though she seemed to be more trained in dealing with victims of sex crimes. (She asked questions like, “What color were the sheets on the bed?” and “What was the furniture in the room? What did it look like/what color was it?” presumably to judge how intoxicated I was, how fuzzy my memory was, etc.)

The police, judges, courts and government that just pretend this is a non-issue, systematically allowing perpetrators of sexual violence to go free or receive light sentences while distracting victims and protestors from the real issues at hand – these are the entities we as victims of sexual violence should be focused on to demand justice, since they seem to think our rapists have done nothing wrong.

I was shocked and outraged at how I was treated by the male detective. He clearly had no training whatsoever in dealing with these sorts of sensitive matters, or at least he just didn’t care. Let me give some background info: I’m a white girl with long dreadlocks, a septum ring and tattoos. I live in a small backwoods town in Georgia where racism and discrimination is still very much alive and well. The second the detective laid cold, calculating eyes on me, I could sense him sizing me up and forming his judgements and prejudices. You would think maybe the fact that racism is rampant among the police force in this town might actually be an advantage to me in this case since my rapist was black, (*not to say that’s right), but it didn’t. The guy was a clean cut nerdy type who was in the military. It was my word against his, and the detective made it pretty clear from the beginning that he didn’t think a crime had been committed. He never came out and explicitly stated it, but it was obvious from his questions, his condescending attitude, and the insensitive way he treated me that he thought I was just a sloppy alcoholic who drank too much, had sex with a friend, regretted it the next day and was now trying to clear my name and conscious by accusing him of rape.

That’s why these types of cases have been referred to as “gray rape” – a term I have since learned is denounced in much of the online feminist community for implying that there are varying degrees of rape, some of which are not as “bad” – cases of rape accusations where consent is vague and hard to determine. Generally, “gray rape” refers to a sex act where consent was granted at some point but retracted later. (A common example given is where vaginal sex is consented to but oral or anal sex is not). In my case, I was drugged and had been drinking for days, so I was too intoxicated to give consent.

It’s been over a year since this happened to me, and as far as I know the man who raped me never went to jail, was never convicted of anything, probably was never even questioned by the police. This is the second time in my life I have reported a rape or sexual assault, and the assailant was never jailed or punished in any way. The same thing has happened to my 16-year-old sister multiple times just in the past couple years, and since my mother never talks much about her childhood but obviously was traumatized in some way, I have a feeling she’s probably been through it too. The pathetically small percentage of rapists, child molesters and abusers who are behind bars is infuriating and simply unacceptable. But what can be done about it? What can I do to ensure that my 10-year-old sister doesn’t have to go through the same thing?

“BLAME THE SYSTEM, NOT THE VICTIM.” A little lightbulb popped up over my head when I saw this: If my rapist gets away scot-free, where do I seek justice? Who do I blame? THE SYSTEM! The detective who handled my case so insensitively, who had already decided before I even opened my mouth that he didn’t like me and wasn’t going to help, who decided that it was MY fault I was taken advantage of while unconscious because I had a drinking problem. The police department employing the detective for obviously not training their detectives to be sensitive in handling cases of sexual assault and rape. The entire U.S. justice system for systematically allowing rapists to roam free while the victims are treated like criminals for reporting their rapists.

Who knows if it will do any good, but I am working on reporting the detective who took my report. I also intend on contacting the police department and finding out what kind of sensitivity training they put their employees through for dealing with victims of sex crimes, because they seriously need to step it up. I hope to inspire other victims to start thinking like this as well – looking to the SYSTEM to answer for these crimes, since they refuse to carry out justice for the victims.

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The “Impossibility” of Forgiving Myself

I am my own worst enemy.

Forgiving myself is by far the hardest thing I have ever attempted. I know that I am not unique in this; I know that many of us struggle desperately to cease the destructive cycle of merciless self-criticism and self-hatred that comes from making mistakes. The old cliche rings more true to me than any other. But then, just as powerful to me is the following quote (and don’t you dare look up the source):

I am mine own redeemer.

Despite the insanity and horrible decision-making of the past 3 – 4 weeks of my life, I have still somehow managed to feel a rare and special peace that only comes from true forgiveness and love. The source of this feeling of overwhelming benevolence and unconditional forgiveness is highly unlikely and frankly, quite odd.

I felt this forgiveness from a woman I wronged in a thoughtless, disgusting and inexcusable way. It seems too good to be true, but strangely enough, I felt this forgiveness from a woman who I only knew because I fucked her boyfriend last summer.

~xx~xx~xx~xx~xx~xx~xx~xx~

No, this is not the setup for another Dr. Phil episode where wives come face to face with their husband’s mistress for the first time. This is far deeper and more beautiful than two women bonding over their hatred and heartache caused by the same man.

The limitless capacity to forgive that I have seen in the woman who inspired me to write this is something that has truly restored a bit of my faith in humanity and in the innate goodness of human beings.

Despite my perpetual anger at the world for all the hurt everyone has caused me, despite my long-standing and deeply-rooted cynical belief that most people will fuck you over and hurt you every chance they get, despite my constant fuck-ups, embarrassing mistakes and the horrible and thoughtless ways I have hurt people and myself… This woman not only forgave me, she actually became a close friend.

After hearing that her ex and my ex-fling? ex-friend? was spending months in jail for domestic violence against her (not the first time), on a random whim I sent her a message (rather drunkenly, to be fair). The message was a characteristically long-winded, probably overdramatic ramble that was my attempt at a sincere apology for hurting her like I did, by sneaking around to talk to him on his cell phone that she paid for. For picking him up at her home where she took care of him like the overgrown, spoiled, psychotic man-baby that I now realize he has been all along. For totally disregarding her feelings by letting him stay with me in a hotel for an entire week in a grotesque, drug-fueled display of bullshit.

Through an hours-long exchange, she was a bit angry at first but never said an unkind word. She quickly admitted to the fact that she was more hurt than anything, but still apparently saw something good and genuine in me enough so that she could forgive me, befriend me, and even care about how the whole ordeal affected my own feelings.

~xx~xx~xx~xx~xx~xx~xx~xx~

Just one of those random, undeserved acts of human kindness and love that can really make a person see the good in this world (even one as stuck on being miserable as me). I still have yet to completely forgive myself for this, but her love and compassion for me regardless of the mistakes I made – it’s really helping me heal. It’s helping me in ways she probably will never know.

Thank you, Tonya.

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Minority: Connotations of the Term

I’m in the middle of writing an essay that covers racism in the subtle forms of a supposedly post-racial era. Researching racism inevitably turns up numerous instances of the politically-correct term “minority.” I dislike this term on many levels. If I ever have to use it in my writing, I always put the term in quotes to indicate my disdain.

Minority: The smaller number or part, especially a number that is less than half the whole number. / Children under the age of 18.

Surely I’m not the only person who has wondered why a term that clearly indicates inferiority would be so widely accepted. Google results on the subject suggest that “minority” be replaced by “people of color.” Hmm. It’d be lovely if people didn’t have to be divided and categorized by physical traits, but I guess it would be overly optimistic to imagine a world where everyone saw fellow humans before they saw a black guy or a redhead or whatever. Even white women can be labeled a minority, since apparently white males are the most superior of all lifeforms.

Whites are the accepted majority in America, but is the white population large enough to presume that anyone who isn’t white is a “minority?” Wikipedia lists whites as 72% of the population. Even if the demographic is larger, why would it be acceptable to group together everyone who isn’t white under one general term? It seems odd to me that most people don’t get pissed off about a term that means “not white” and “less than,” and is also used to refer to children. Maybe I’m just overanalyzing.

P.S. The existence of race is debatable, just came across that in my research… The argument is that race is not backed by biology and is discredited by the numerous variations within groups classified as the same race. I hate labels, pigeonholes and categories for people of any sort, but I guess they serve a purpose that isn’t always negative.

So, again, with that in mind, how can the word minority continue to be accepted? I cringe when I see or hear it. Ignorant on so many levels. What exactly even is “white” anyway? Is it only characterized by pale skin? There are plenty of people out there not of European descent who have pale skin… does that make them white too or do you have to be Caucasian? This is one of many social constructs I would love to see eradicated.

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Female Anger: A Taboo

A woman screaming in rage and anger is likely more feared than anything on this planet.

malala

Our culture conditions us to disregard levels of anger in women that make us uncomfortable, shrugging her rage off as just being “bitchy”… or oh no, better watch out, it’s her time of the month!

Women are absolutely not allowed the freedom to be angry as anyone else. If you’re angry about something and happen to be a woman, your anger will only be tolerated up to a certain point. Past that, you’re just being a bitch, or irrational, or emotional. Your feelings are disregarded if they’re too powerful for others to handle, or if they make someone uncomfortable.

As a woman, I recognize an almost unconscious restraint in expressing my anger. I know that I’ve been programmed to only be as angry as others are comfortable with, feeling pressured to always maintain some kind of composure even when expressing overwhelming emotion. Gotta try not to look ugly when you cry… Even I doubt my own feelings, constantly telling myself I’m just being dramatic.

You’re allowed to complain, but do it too much and you’re a nag. It’s ok if you want to be angry, but yell too much and you’re a bitch. We don’t mind if you want to fight for social justice or protest about whatever you’re butthurt about today, but if you get overly outraged and indignant, you’re a feminazi or a man-hating dyke. (Don’t even get me started on the feminist stigma).

I’m a woman and I’m fucking mad, outraged even. Just try to shut me up. I dare you.

coutney love angry

Who’s one of the most angry women in pop culture, and hands down the most infamously hated? Courtney Love. People come up with a million reasons to hate her: she killed Kurt, she did heroin when pregnant, whatever… I feel like it all really just comes down to the fact that Courtney Love is the poster child for an angry woman who gives absolutely no fucks whether you think she’s pretty or if her hair’s greasy. She’s the embodiment of loud, obnoxious, outspoken female rage and people either absolutely love it or can’t stand it. Whether you love her or hate her, Love’s original image is so commanding and powerful that even haters have to talk about how awful she is.

So why is it that Courtney Love is considered a gross whore and a junkie, but male equivalents are socially accepted as cool? Take Sid Viscious for example, or pick any of the numerous drug addicted rock stars who got sloppy but were still accepted because they were male.

Well not only is she a gigantic bitch, she also warps and distorts society’s sacred idea of femininity! She has the nerve to be kind of pretty, but in a really fucked up, grungy way. You can’t be that angry in such a pretty dress…

I repeat this quote so much it’s become a mantra of mine:

Your anger is a gift.

Name one time in history when anger has not been someone’s first step in changing the world. The heart of revolution is righteous anger. If you don’t get fucking pissed and outraged that something is being done that isn’t right, it just keeps happening.

So get mad. Get really mad. Get mad and get “ugly” and don’t care. Get as mad as you need to about people and things that hurt you, and use it as your motivation to take initiative and do something to change it.

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Survivors Who Changed the World

Even amidst fierce flames, the golden lotus can be planted.

Victims become survivors, and survivors can become leaders. Survivors in History is a study on those who have survived, thrived, and changed the world. Each post in this series will highlight a person who has not only survived, but gone on to shape history and change the world in one way or another.

Those featured in this series are not all necessarily survivors of sexual abuse, but all have survived and overcome some sort of trauma. The goal of this series is to give hope and inspire other survivors, and to demonstrate that those of us who have been through hell tend to be much stronger than we think.

Women of Caliber

No Boys Allowed... Unless Accompanied by a Responsible Girl

anarchopac

Anarchist & Marxist Theory & History

ANTI-MANARCHY

Writing for the vindication of the anarchafeminists forsaken by 2010s-era anarchism

Robert Graham's Anarchism Weblog

Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas

MB3-org.com

Anarchist Collective

THE FEMINIST HOUSEWIFE

because you CAN be both

Sergeant Polly

Feminism and the every day.

I was a high-school feminist

Feminist perspectives on everyday life

coffee and a blank page

a feminist writes, rants, remembers

Princess In Pain

Even royalty feels pain..