The election of 2016 is heating up, and rape culture has become a hot button topic, thanks to the endless stream of misogyny emanating from Donald Trump’s mouth. He says he can just grab women whenever he wants because he’s rich and famous, and he brags about not waiting for a woman to consent before forcibly violating her. When I see these things being said and see that this monster still has fans, it makes me sick to my stomach. You see, I’m not just another woman or just another feminist. I was a victim of rape 13 years ago, and I didn’t even call it what it was until many years later because rape culture made me blame myself rather than my rapist.
I’ve never written down my story, but now seems like a good time. Before I go into it, I want to talk about rape culture briefly. It’s the idea that rapists aren’t at fault for their own actions, and rape can almost always be blamed on the victim based on her clothing choices, her appearance, her intoxication levels, and a million other things. Rape culture completely ignores the one thing that’s absolutely required in every sexual encounter: CONSENT. If a woman does not consent or is unable to consent and a man has his way with her anyway, it’s rape, and it is never the victim’s fault that she was raped.
My story occurred back in 2003, when I was in college. I was trying to find my place in the world, just working and going to school. I had been dating a seemingly great guy for several months, then, one day, I was devastated when he broke up with me out of the blue. That weekend, I was invited to a party, and I thought it was just the chance to perk myself up a bit. I was quite the lightweight back then, so a few drinks went a long way and the evening got blurry. I don’t remember meeting the guy or anything; I remember sitting there drinking a hard lemonade, and my next memory is waking up in another room of the house with a guy I barely knew penetrating me. I felt scared and confused. He finished and then just left me on the floor as he went back to the party. I stumbled out of the room in a daze, and was immediately confronted by the host of the party, who proceeded to call me a slut and kick me out into the street. I don’t remember getting home that night, but somehow I made it. As painful as these memories are for me, I haven’t even mentioned the worst part: I had been a virgin before that experience. My rapist took my virginity, and I was made to feel like it was my fault.
The aftermath of that traumatic experience was confusing for me. Rape culture had taught me that he basically had a right to have his way with me because I dared to go to a party and have some drinks. Being called a slut and kicked out into the streets just confirmed it in my mind: this was shameful for me and me alone, so I had to bury it. I had to pretend like it never happened. I tried to just move on with my life, but I was never the same after that. That was the night my trust issues with men were born, and I still struggle with those trust issues today because I involuntarily see every man as a potential threat at first. I couldn’t talk to my family about something like that; they’re Baptist and they wanted me to wait until after marriage (to a controlling Baptist misogynist who would essentially own me like a piece of property). I had no one I could talk to, so I buried my feelings and persevered.
I’ve chosen to tell my story now because I hope it will shed some light on how brutal rape culture is. That man had no right to violate me when I was unable to give consent, but he got away with a crime because I was made to believe it was my fault. As women, we should be respected by men, and they should always verify that we can consent and that we do consent before doing anything. We should be able to walk down the street alone at 2 am buck naked and not be raped. We should be able to let our guard down and enjoy some drinks with friends and not be raped. We should be able to wear that cute new skirt and still not be raped. There is only one cause of rape: rapists. We desperately need to start holding rapists accountable for their actions, and stop making excuses for them. Let’s start by not allowing a man who is about to stand trial for raping a child to become President of the United States. I shouldn’t even need to clarify that, but, apparently, some people still don’t get it. Come on, America. We are so much better than this.