Here’s the gross, icky, awful, terrible thing that we all pretend we don’t know, but absolutely do know, hiding underneath the black tarp of denial.
It Can Happen To You.
What is It?
It is anything, really, but for the purposes of this conversation, It is Rape. Sexual Assault.
This ends up being a timely thing to talk about, because of all the revelations coming out about Weinstein, Toback, Ratner and Spacey and the #MeToo awareness campaign (#MeToo, BTW, for harassment and gratefully, not assault).
But I don’t want to talk about the men who abuse their positions of power to assault and hurt people unable to fight back. There have been more think pieces written about these abusers than they ever counted on (good).
I want to talk about victim blaming.
So let’s circle back to that very gross, icky, awful, terrible thing again: It Can Happen To You.
Every woman has heard our Dos & Don’ts from whoever our Someone In-Charge of Continued Survival (SICCS) person was.
- Don’t take a drink from a stranger.
- Don’t drink too much, or actually, don’t drink anything ever again, even in the privacy of your own home.
- Don’t accept a ride from someone you don’t know.
- Or maybe even a male you do know. How well do you know him, exactly?
- Walk to your car with your keys in your hands.
- Learn how to karate chop someone in the throat.
- Krav Maga classes are not that expensive if you really don’t want to be raped.
- Don’t wear that.
- Or that.
- God, what are you thinking? Definitely don’t wear that.
- If someone is following you, try to get to a public place and get help.
- And if you are anywhere where guns are more normal (meaning not a blue state or a well-populated urban center), have a gun. Or failing that, bear mace.
- Definitely do not accidentally use the gun or bear mace on yourself.
- If you have to, go with the bear mace. You’ll just be blind instead of dead.
- Also, in Africa, someone developed a special anti-rape weapon that doesn’t actually prevent rape so much as exact bloody revenge. I don’t remember what it’s called so let’s just refer to it as the Teeth Tampon.
- Use your Teeth Tampon to castrate rapists while also still getting raped anyway.
- Ignore the fact that your rapist can and probably will sue you for castrating him.
And the worst part about this entire list, other than Krav Maga classes REALLY ACTUALLY ARE VERY EXPENSIVE, is that it’s bullshit.
The whole thing. Total bullshit.
Around about the 38th time I saw the comments to a rape/murder article demanding to know what the slutty, drunk victim was sluttily, drunkenly wearing in a sluttish, drunk manner, I realized that these were all ways to establish Otherness.
Well, just look at the way she dressed. (Read: I don’t dress like that, so I’m safe.)
Why did she drink that much? She should have known better. (Read: I never drink that much, so I’m fine.)
Where were her friends? Why weren’t her friends with her? (Read: I have good friends and we keep track of each other, so this would never happen to me.)
What did she expect? She didn’t even know that guy. (Read: I never talk to anyone I don’t know, so I’m in the clear.)
We have spun ourselves a handy little trap where we can pretend we are safe, because we are not like the people who have been victims or will be victims. Whoever has had this terrible thing happen to them must have done something wrong. If you’d just check page 20, paragraph 2 of the Avoiding Rape Manual, you would see that she actually failed to check her blind spot before she merged into traffic, and therefore, obviously, a rapist naturally slammed her head into the school bathroom’s wall and had his way with her while she was unconscious and bleeding heavily from the gash in her face. If only she’d remembered to check her blind spot. You’d never forget to do that. You’re safe.
There is no set of steps or rituals you can do to make yourself safer than someone else, because none of these things determine whether or not a rapist is going to attempt to rape you.
Here is the real, fast, awful truth:
- Rapes are primarily committed by repeat offenders. Because rape and sexual assault are treated as, “he said, she said” or viewed through, “we can’t ruin his life, because of one mistake,” the sentences are lenient or non-existent (just consider Definitely A Rapist, Brock Turner). This means rapists get to walk right back out into the world, confirmed that what they are doing (which, to be clear, is raping people) is totally fine. Sanctioned, even.
- The plus side? A majority of men will never and would never rape another person.
- The minus side? You are so spun out on trying to prevent your own rape, you’ve probably developed an almost malevolent distrust of all the nouns.
- The aside? We need more female judges, so much. This shit is ridiculous.
Another awful truth? Rape is not a crime committed because of a sexual desire; it is committed because of a power desire, and the power desire doesn’t have A Type.
Some chick is giving you the run around? Well, you are Entitled to Her. You have a Right to Her. The rapist isn’t trying to get into his target’s pants anymore – that’s just a means to an end. The rapist is trying to exert control and dominance over someone, who didn’t immediately acquiesce to what he considers to be his right.
People need to stop viewing these crimes as only committed against attractive, sexy, scantily clad adult women, who, if they just hadn’t inspired lust in a man, would have been fine. This understanding of rape needs to be thrown in the dumpster fire that is 2017 (let’s have something remotely good come of this crapsack year).
Children are raped. Men are raped. Unattractive people are raped. Women wearing shapeless clothing are raped.
And everything you say to assure yourself it will not happen to you is no better than a lucky rabbit’s foot. You walk out your door in morning and it’s sheer random chance that you come back alive. There are enough of those days strung together and you start to think it’s something you’re doing, a way you’re living your life, that’s superior to other people that makes you safe.
And that, my dears, is the very crux of all this bullshit we internalize. Victim blaming is the mob-sanctioned denial that It Can Happen To You.
And this is the gross, icky, awful, terrible thing that we all pretend we don’t know, but absolutely do know, hiding underneath that black tarp of denial.
But what are we going to do? Stay indoors? We are not built to be in cages.