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This is About Violence

This post was originally published on March 20, 2013. As I watch the news of the stolen girls in Nigeria, I cannot help but think of the vulnerability of girls and women around the world as they continue to suffer as victims of violence, commodities, pawns in war games. I pray for those young women and the young women and girls who are being taken from their homes, their bomas, their huts even as I type this, their faces never to appear on the news, their stories never told.

I’ve been avoiding writing anything about the Steubenville rape case – a Facebook post, a tweet, a comment on a blog post – partly because I hadn’t taken enough time to know the details of the case to do so intelligently, and partly because I wanted to wait for confirmation that it was appropriate to replace the word boys with rapists and the word accuser with victim.

They’ve been found guilty.  They are now rapists.  It’s time for that argument to end.

And so I’ve begun to remove the blinders and read all of it, the news stories, the sports columns, the blog posts, the Facebook memes.  Today I read this guest post on Scary Mommy: Was It My Fault, and felt my stomach turn as I read this comment:

I think the girl has to shoulder some responsibility for putting herself in that position…

What position was this, you ask?  The author of the post had been drinking and having sex with her boyfriend who then left the room.  Another boy and then another and another came into the room and one at a time, they raped the girl.

As the outspoken blogger Jessica Gottlieb said in this much-shared Facebook post, “If a woman walks down the street totally naked and a little bit drunk it’s still illegal for you to shove things in her vagina.”

IT IS STILL ILLEGAL.

Rape is not about sex.  It is not about the actions of the victim.  It is not about sobriety or promiscuity, situations, locations.

It is about violence committed by one person again another.  Against a victim.  Against a victim who shoulders none of the blame.

Not a even a little bit.

(none)

And the most maddening thing about every post, story, and news segment I have now seen about this particular act of horrific violence against a young woman is that as a society, we have chosen to assault her over and over again by discussing her part in this crime against her.  But isn’t this what we do to female victims of violence?

Sophomore year of college I returned home to my dorm after babysitting my favorite writing professor’s son and walked into the floor lounge to fill my water filter.  It was a weekend night so I wasn’t at all surprised to find one of my guy friends passed out on the couch, the TV still on.  He began to stir as I filled the pitcher and wanting to be social, I stopped at the table behind the couch, putting my pitcher of water down, and began to attempt to chat with him.

I don’t remember every detail of what happened next.  My memory is uncannily photographic, most important moments stored like some magical, multi-sensory video that I can watch, hear, smell, taste, feel as though I’m still in the moment.  But pieces of this night are simply missing.

They aren’t missing because I was drunk.

They aren’t missing because I was high.

They are missing because that is what violence does to you.  It robs you.

What I do remember is another drunk guy storming into the lounge, yelling, throwing things, slamming the lounge door and putting himself between the door and me.  I remember looking, terrified, to my friend Jim who groggily began to get up from the couch, unsteady on his feet.  I remember a wooden chair, the kind built to withstand the use of college dorm life, hurling towards me and smashing into the wall behind me, wood splintering.  I remember water spilling.

And I remember a giant arm wrapping around my neck, squeezing.  A forearm pushing into my chin, tilting my head back.

I remember the words, “I could kill you right now.  I could snap your neck right now.”

And then he was gone.

This isn’t a story of rape because I was lucky, not because I was sober or because I was a virgin or because Jim was in the room with me.  The truth is that 1 in 4 girls will be sexually assaulted by the time they are 18.

This is also not where the story ends.  The drunk man, still on a rampage, raced down the hall to my friend Stephanie’s room.  This part of the story is hers, not mine to share.  Our stories join with the pleading eyes of one of the resident hall staff, asking us to report this, asking us to call the police, crying and sharing that she wished she had done so herself in a situation that hadn’t ended quite like ours.  There were police reports and visits with campus security.  Interviews and phone calls.

Then came the shaming.

No, not the shaming of the man who had attacked us.

The shaming of us.

The friends who would no longer speak to us.  The people in the dorm who called us bitches and said we had ruined this man’s life, had driven away from school.

We had done that to him.  By being there.  And by refusing to stay silent.

None of this is about the victim, the location, the circumstances.

It is about violence, it is about victim shaming, and it is time that it ends.

 

Note: If you wish to comment anonymously, simply write anonymous in the name field and feel free to make up an email address in the email field.

 

Comments

  1. 41

    Amy, I’m sorry you and your friends went through this. I, too, have stories of my own from elementary school, high school, college, and even one of the places that I worked at. I was extremely lucky to have escaped the violent situations that I found myself in over the years. I had friends, however, who weren’t as lucky. I agree that society needs to stop blaming the victims of violent crimes. Thank you for speaking out on this extremely important topic.

  2. 42

    I’m so sorry. You and your friend did the right thing. Unfortunately something similar happened to one of my friends who lived on my floor my Freshman year. She had the courage also to report it and the guy was kicked out of school. Everyone was sympathetic to him, because they were both drunk. We continued to support her, it wasn’t her fault. After that, we worked hard to make sure we didn’t leave a friend alone. Unfortunately my senior year, a friend of a friend was attacked, walking home intoxicated from the downtown bars, up a deserted path – by two boys. I believe they were arrested (this was 20 years ago). Such a sad thing that this happened, that it’s still happening and people still blame the victim.
    Nancy Johnson Horn (@NancyJHorn) recently posted..Wouldn’t be great if there was a Talking Thermometer.. wait, there is one!

  3. 43
    Anonymous one in four says:

    Thank you for writing this. Sixteen years ago I was one of those 1 in 4. I went to visit an acquaintance at another college. When I got back to campus and my friend asked how my visit was I told him and he told me I wasn’t making sense. I soon realized there were large blocks of time missing and events that didn’t make sense. He asked if I’d been drinking, but I’d had nothing except iced tea. He asked if maybe I had been drugged.

    I wanted to ignore it. I wanted to hide. I took showers and still didn’t feel clean. I washed my clothes. I wasn’t sleeping and everything sent me into panic attacks. Reporting a rape is humiliating it’s self. You tell your story over and over to so many people. Since this was different colleges I had two sets of people to tell. They told me that my rambling odd story with missing time was evidently a classic story after being drugged with the date rape drug. My iced tea was prepared out of my sight and handed specifically to me. Everything fit the classic profile. As I told the story more pieces started coming back to me in hazy dreamlike memories. I remember him telling me it was my fault. It was like I was watching from outside of my body powerless to stop it.

    Next, the next round of humiliation came, the rape kit. They took me to the ER and had a wonderful woman from the woman’s crisis center meet me. She sat with me until the procedure. The doctor, as he was taking samples, made the comment about it being semi-consensual. The nurse looked at him in horror. I protested that no, it wasn’t consensual. I was drugged and even the police thought so. He just gave me an annoyed look and continued the procedure that is nothing short of more violation. I told the lovely woman from the crisis center and she ran out after the doctor.

    Then, more humiliation when I told my parents. They didn’t support me. The blamed me. My mom cried about my “stupid mistake”. My housemate said I was “asking for it”. I realized that if my parents didn’t support me what court would. He was finishing his PhD. I was an undergrad. I had a short dress on and was visiting his apartment at another college. Who would believe me?

    I made up my mind not to press charges. The DA called me several times. He promised to support me. He promised to protect me. I told him if my own family couldn’t support me I just couldn’t and wouldn’t. I knew I couldn’t hold myself together. I was barely surviving as it was. I told him that if anyone ever reported another incident I’d come out in support of her. I could hear the exasperation in his voice, but he was kind.

    Then, more humiliation, this time in the form of therapy. Once more you relive the incident in as much detail as you remember. My second therapist thought that complaining about her annoying commute was on par with constant panic attacks. She accidentally double booked my appointment more than once. I gave up on therapy.

    It took years to heal and even so you’re NEVER whole again. Any time you hear rape jokes or comments about “you can’t rape the willing” it HURTS. Anytime you hear the victim being shamed it hurts. These survivors were the brave ones. I wasn’t brave enough, wasn’t strong enough to stop him I live daily with the fact that me not reporting it may have led to other girls being in my shoes. These survivors who spoke up don’t deserve shame. The shaming should be on the rapists and the society that is a rape culture. To hear people go on about the Steubenville rapists “promising futures being ruined” makes me want to scream at the world and makes my blood boil. I’ve checked up on my rapist. He got that PhD. He’s married with a child. He got his bright future even though he doesn’t deserve it.

    Luckily I only ended up with PTSD and some anxiety issues. I didn’t have a pregnancy or STD to contend with. The panic attacks have all but disappeared. I still can’t drink Lipton instant iced tea though.

  4. 44

    I never realized how often this happened and now I am especially thankful that it never happened to me. But I am as sickened by this behavior as anyone. The way this girl has been treated by the media and her friends is almost as bad as the way she was treated by the guys who raped her. Rape is a violent act that nobody ever asks for or has coming to them. The girl is never even slightly responsible.
    Jennifer Comet Wagner recently posted..World Water Day – Water Is Just The Beginning

  5. 45

    This whole situation has me super angry. At this stage in our lives I cannot believe that it is not clear that rape is not sex but violence. Thank you for sharing this

  6. 46

    Hi Amy,

    You are so brave to share your story. I wrote the story at Jill’s…and I know, I know…I know..and sadly it took my 27 years, and now crying over the media coverage this week..that is was not my fault…and I could finally share my story.

    I’m humbled, shocked, pissed off and horrified by the many stories that are now being shared with me.

    I hope more women will be braver than I was.

    I hope we as a society stop shaming our victims..and instead start supporting and lifting up our survivors..and prosecuting the rapists.

    Love you for this post.

    xo
    Tracy
    tracy@sellabitmum recently posted..She’s Stronger Than Me

  7. 48

    How come when someone is robbed, we never say “Well, they obviously wanted those items stolen” or “it’s their fault their windows were made of glass, they should’ve known better”? If the cops catch a robber in your house, nobody says “AW, you should’ve let them steal your TV & jewelry, they’re good boys. You’ve ruined their lives!”

    Rape is about taking. It’s about a person putting their own self above others. Why is this so hard for people to understand?

  8. 49

    Sadly I think in these cases there will always be people who blame the victim. The fact is this whole thing is tragic. 3 lives were destroyed, one more than the other of course, but it’s hard when you see promising futures dashed over stupid mistakes. Doesn’t mean the punishment doesn’t fit the crime and they don’t deserve what they got. I sure am scared for my kids though in this information age. The fact that this was all posted on the internet for the world to see just makes it that much more heinous. It will stay with this girl for the rest of her life and that is what scares me about the internet when it comes to my kids.
    Monica recently posted..The Bedtime Procrastinators

  9. 50

    This story saddens me because it happened to you, and because this is the case many times. Telling the story, sharing like this, and educating our young boys and girls is the only way to change this in the future.
    Dawn Sandomeno recently posted..Pasta Primavera – Friday Night Bites

  10. 51

    I am so sorry to hear what you went through, Amy! That sounds very scary!

    The whole Stuebinville case has made me sick. The one kid testifying that he didn’t know it was rape because it “didn’t look violent”?? Really? Are teens today that uniformed?
    … and then all the people blaming the victim. It’s just sad.
    Corine recently posted..Chocolate Cake With Peanut Butter Mousse Frosting {Recipe + Photos}

  11. 52

    First, I grew up near Steubenville and have been there many times. A friend from back home first shared a link about the rally they were holding, and that’s how I knew of this story. It shortly thereafter, exploded.

    Second, I’ve been there. I’ve been the victim, and been shamed, and called a liar and a whore. My own mother told me I shouldn’t have been where I was, without even knowing the whole story.

    The whole world has mixed views on this crime. CRIME – personal opinions aside, it doesn’t matter. A woman NEVER asks to be raped. There are plenty who give it out for free, without needing to be taken.

    We do need to stop this stigma.
    Angie recently posted..Have you joined SavingStar yet?

  12. 53

    i love you for many reasons. now i have one more.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Change a Thing.“ One mother who is not afraid to speak out makes it clear that this is about violence, not the victim. Thank you Amy. Charlie answered the question of whose fault rape is with a […]

  2. […] This Is About Violence | Resourceful Mommy […]

  3. […] This Is About Violence | Resourceful Mommy […]

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