Feminism | Posted by Bre K on 04/27/2012

One In Five Women

never blame yourself

There you are at three in the morning, sprawled out on someone else’s bed in a foreign room that smells like sex. Your body doesn’t even feel like yours — it feels like you’re standing over yourself, watching something happen to you. You’re not quite able to explain what’s going on. Confused. Dissembled. Disgusted. Shocked. So many feelings you can’t quite put together to equate to that word. And yet there it is: Rape. It finally pops up into your head three weeks later after you come back from Thanksgiving break — your first break during your first term in college.

No this wasn’t me. This was an 18-year-old freshmen living a couple doors down from me. Let’s say her name is Barbara.

The worst part is Barbara and I went to the same party that night. But she decided to stay the night there, trusting her friends from her sports team to watch after her. She wanted to help clean after the party, she told my friend and l. We left after questioning her a couple times, just making sure she really wanted to stay. It wasn’t her first time staying the night there and as far as we knew nothing had happened to her before.

That night a boy carried her upstairs and took advantage of her. She was raped when every other drunk person had passed out, at around 5 am when even if she had yelled they would have thought it was out of pleasure. He lifted her and carried her upstairs playfully and she thought of it only as a joke. She expected him to let her down. But then he raped her and left her dumbfounded. She didn’t realize it was rape: he never asked for consent but she never said yes. She blamed herself. Just like most girls do.

She only realized what had really happened when she noticed how absently she had acted in front of her family during Thanksgiving. She told the police, informed the coach of her sports team (since that’s what the party was for and everyone on the team was there), and now goes to counseling. She had to pay at least $300 to get checked for STDs. She has to get checked again in a couple of months as well. Just a concrete price to pay in addition to the emotional one.

Fast forward two months: it’s Winter term and some friends and I see him in the dining hall. He smiles at the three of us — the three of us that were there at that party and all live on the same hall as Barbara — as he and another girl (a future victim?) wait for their food. My eyes meet his and I suddenly feel disgusted, like I might vomit.

One in five women are expected to get raped sometime during their college years. So what are we supposed to do? Not even go to college? Just kill ourselves on the spot to avoid excruciating mental and physical pain that will last the rest of our lives? Enroll in the most expensive advanced self-defense course and go broke? Make best friends with the tallest, buffest football player and drag him along wherever we go? I think not.

We have to speak out against rapists. We can’t remain silent. It was hard for Barbara, but she did speak out. She realized that it wasn’t her fault. I only wish all survivors could realize the same thing.

Please check out Take Back The Night’s resources for survivors of rape

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  • Ghazal Marvi @ at 5:42 am, April 30th, 2012

    I am happy to see that other young women like myself are interested in feminism and social issues as a whole. However, I as a young woman reading this story, I honestly must say that this does not sound at all like rape. Rape is a very strong term to use. Where are the facts to support that this was rape? What did he do? Did use threats? Did he use violence? Did he hold her against her will? What did the police conclude? There is no information as to the actual act in this article.

    Rape is a crime of violence. Sometimes I am not sure if some people fully understand this. It seems that young feminists nowadays are very keen to throw this term around misguidedly, and it does little to help our cause.

    The problem here, in this particular incident, is not the man who assumed what he was doing was okay, the problem is “Barbara” who for some reason did not object to his sexual advances. Why?

    What is wrong with saying “No”? Women have to understand that it is important to say “No”, the same way you would say “No” to drugs or to anything else you do not want or do not approve of.

    It is the lack of this understanding that leads to this particular kind of situation where a woman allows herself to be subordinated by not speaking her will.

    If a woman does not object to being touched, or object to the prospect of sex, how is a man wrong in thinking that having sex with her is okay? Men are human too, and just like women they too rely on speech and body language to communicate and comprehend the intentions of others.

    It is important to tackle these prickly issues with a logical approach, and to not allow sympathy and the sense of kinship to subsume logic and common sense.

    The greater issue here is that Barbara was not assertive as to what she wanted or did not want. It is clear that she was not entirely sure of herself at all.

    “She was raped when every other drunk person had passed out, at around 5 am when even if she had yelled they would have thought it was out of pleasure.” An assumption like this is completely fallacious. Not only is it an assumption that no one can tell the difference between a cry of terror and one of pleasure, more alarmingly it signifies the four much larger issues at hand:

    1) That Barbara relied on other people to “say no” for her.

    2) That she then decided to be passive and go along with the act after falsely assuming that no one could intervene for her.

    3) That she was not entirely sure of what she wanted (hence the “not saying yes but not saying no”).

    4) That ultimately she was not willing to state how she felt about the man’s sexual advances.

    Instead of crucifying this man, I think that these efforts should instead be invested in encouraging women to think about what their sexual policies are, and empowering them to adhere to their principles with confidence. More often than not, situations like Barbara’s arise from women torn between sexual arousal and personal principles.

    From what I have read in the article above, the man did not hold Barbara against her will or employ the use of threats or violence to coerce or force her into the sexual act. Therefore this incident is not “Rape” as you have erroneously construed. The only thing that happened here is that a man made sexual advances towards Barbara, she allowed the act to happen even though she wasn’t sure how she felt about it, and then she later regretted her decision. It is no wonder that Barbara initially blamed herself; she was right in doing so, and it is important that she learns from this experience to be clear about her position if she is ever in a similar situation again.

    It is because of this that the caption “never blame yourself” in the picture above leaves me concerned. Yes, one should never blame oneself for Rape, however it is wrongful to suggest that Rape and situations like Barbara’s are one and the same and that women like Barbara should not accept responsibility for creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    As with all things in life it is always easier to blame other people for your own moral failures. But we have to assess ourselves and others objectively and have to possess the strength to accept the blame when the ball is in our court—otherwise we will forever live in self-anguish and frustration.

  • mary mosbacher @ at 11:24 am, May 20th, 2012

    It doesn’t matter what you label it, it happened while she was in a vulnerable state of mind. What makes him think it’s ok to have sex with someone who may be too drunk to say no.
    You make a good point that women need to understand their own policies on sex and be able to say no. Men need to understand that consenual sex is with a person who is in a state of mind to give their consent. And tell me this man wasn’t preying on someone without a voice.
    Rape does not always appear as violent. There aren’t any rule books given out that explains the definition but you usually recognize after the fact. So why should we put the responsibility on her because she didn’t recognize it before it happened??? What part of the responsibility does he own?
    The fact is that he took advantage of her in a compromised state and it was traumatic for her. Whatever you call it, it was a crime.

  • bre @ at 5:27 am, June 15th, 2012

    @mary mosbacher. Ghazal doesn’t know what he or she is talking about. You are right. A real man asks a woman and she says “yes” and means “yes” in the appropriate, non vulnerable condition. My friend , Barbara, was numb when it happened. And Ghazal doesn’t know what rape means. at all. Doesn’t understand it.Barbara was indeed raped.and the effects of it will unfortunately remain with her for life.

  • Jen @ at 1:52 am, August 27th, 2012

    How about putting up posters all over campus with his photo, saying “rapist – don’t get drunk if he’s around”. Something to warn the other women and publicly shame him, and possibly result in his facing some consequences. The law doesn’t take these crimes seriously enough, so we have to put our collective feet down.

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