And it’s possible, she is you, too.
If you’ve tread anywhere near social media this week, you have almost undoubtedly read, if not at least seen, the published letter the Stanford rape survivor wrote. If not, I recommend reading it first here. It has sparked a viral dialogue – some of which is overtly productive, and predictably some is not – none-the-less in the end, more dialogue = good.
In response to some of the dialogue I’ve seen: Questioning a woman of a falsely accused rape IS a part of the current rape culture. The purpose of the most recent dialogue is not at all to diminish tragic consequences of the falsely accused — in fact quite the opposite — but rather to shift the rape culture enough to shed light on the countless women who are too often afraid to come forward because of the current rape culture. There is much to blame for it, and those who abuse and lie are the most reprehensible, but let us not unintentionally perpetuate their idiocy by highlighting it.
“…In rape cases, the biggest problem is not false reporting, but no reporting. Only about one-fifth to one-third of rapes get reported to police, national surveys show. One reason is that women fear police won’t believe them.” — T. Christian Miller, ProPublica and Ken Armstrong, The Marshall Project
Though on the surface, the rest of this post might come across as aggressively personal, it is not about me. Any misreading in my attempt to show bravery and share my voice not in vain (not nearly as profoundly and widely spread as the Stanford rape survivor has, but I’ll do what little I can) would be a result of my failure to articulate a reaction in response to her powerful words and to fuel its continuance. As a teacher to young girls and boys, I feel it is my duty to serve as an example in the best ways I am able. I, too, like many other women, am a survivor of sexual assault. I was a senior in college. I’ve previously only confided in two people about this, and even then, it wasn’t extensive.
The man who did this to me was once a trusted companion, and we’d once had consensual sex that I soon after regretted. Following that decision, I started to feel he was trying to control me, so eventually I ended things. I was obviously rightly intuitive in my fear that he was trying to control me, as his response to the break up was to rape me. The physical pain didn’t linger long; it was the shame and lack of trust I felt that overpowered me and unfortunately my future romantic relationships. As if fear of not being believed weren’t enough. The shame in my initial mistake, the shame of what he did to me when he was a man I had wrongly chosen to trust, and the shame of the things I had to do to hurt him in an attempt to stop him, kept me from coming forward (coupled with my fear of causing him to be deported, which of course, I shouldn’t have feared I’D be the cause). I’m sparing most details out of protecting the people I care about. This isn’t about me, anyway.
Years ago, I wrongly worried – I’d already once consented. I wrongly worried – but I knew him and was at his house. I wrongly worried – I hurt him back. I wrongly worried – I allowed him to drive me home while he muttered the entire way, “I did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong. I did nothing wrong.” Years later, I finally have the courage? to even call it rape, let alone tell other people, because this anonymous woman is helping to change the dialogue and rape culture. She is so many women. Too many. She is my hero. I’m not a huge fan of social media until things like this happen.
When we share our stories, we free others of shame and of the fear of coming forward. We create important shifts in thinking for present and future generations — Please keep the dialogue going and remain open to allowing it to make actual change in you and others — even if you can’t immediately relate, we are interconnected in unfathomable ways.