Sexual Assault Anonymous
The scene of my sexual assault wasn’t picture perfect nor movie worthy. Violence against women sells, but it hardly looked like that during my night. I wasn’t shrieking on the top of my lungs, nor was I thrashing to escape his clasps. My pleas sputtered out in whispers, trembling with the weight of its significance. The first time I mumbled no, I meant for him to stop touching my body immediately. About the hundredth time I whispered it, I just hoped he would finish fast. I lay there as his sacrifice, silently praying and completely immobile.
When it finally ended, he asked me if I was okay, and I said
I said yes because I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready with him, nor was I ready with myself to admit that I was sexually assaulted. Living in a culture that saw sexual assault victims as “damaged goods” and profited off the consumption and objectification of women’s bodies, I desperately didn’t want to be another statistic, another victim.
Once people started uncovering my sexual assault experience, the label of victim was branded on my forehead, giving others permission to victimize me again. Eventually, I mustered enough courage to speak with the authorities about the incident. At first the questions were harmless. When did it happen? Where did it happen? But then they progressed to: What were you wearing? Wasn’t he your friend? to questions that weren’t really questions at all, just statements laced with fake curiosity and pity of another girl who just “regretted her experience and cried rape”. At school, my experience wasn’t any different. I was “used” and “weird”, and the one word that hurt me the most, was that I was “easy”.
It’s been a year since my sexual assault, but I’m still constantly reminded of it every day. Some instances are more obvious. Sometimes, I wake up in a cold sweat because of nightmares I have of it, and sometimes, I hear about him. But most commonly, I get reminded of the experience with instances that don’t have anything to do with him.
It was the time my religious school launched a sexist dress code policy, that body shamed girls to dress more “modestly” to not distract the boys.
It was the time, or every single time, that my school hosts a feminist meeting and there is at most one male in the room out of all the hundreds of people at my large public school.
It was the time I overheard a boy stating “I never really liked her, she was honestly a bitch anyways,” in response to being rejected by a girl.
It was every single news story that advertised rapists getting off on light sentences, and the comments of sympathy that trailed behind each condemnation.
It was our President, whose infamous words “grab her by the pussy” was met with uncomfortable laughs and justifications that “boys will be boys”. Boys will be boys, words are just words, and in fact, women must secretly like it anyways.
It was every single time that served as a reminder that rape culture is not only existent, but encouraged in our society.
The first step to solving any problem is recognition. After a year of hating myself and blaming myself, what I have ultimately recognized is that I am a survivor, not a victim. All I ask for you to do is -
Please recognize the problem.
Rape culture is real. It’s undeniable, and present in interactions and events around us every single day. For the men who feel entitled to women’s bodies, for the women who slut shame others because of a system that pits us against each other, and for everyone else who contributes to the problem - this article will probably not change you. To you, I will just be another “angry feminist”, and you will keep making tasteless jokes and solidifying sexist systems. If you’re a male, it won’t be until something terrible happens to your mother, your sister, or your girlfriend, to realize that you should be a feminist.
It’s depressing, yet understandable, that half of the population will never truly comprehend the inequality women endure and never truly recognize the rape culture of objectification and sexualization women face. And yes, men do have problems too, and yes, men can be raped too. No one is denying the facts, but one clear fact is that although it is absolutely terrible that some men have been sexually assaulted, all men do not grow up in society as objectified, sexualized, and shamed to the same extent as women.
All I ask for you is to try.
Try going to one feminist meeting at your school. Try listening, without preconceived notions and biases, to your female friends who speak about their experiences. Try stopping yourself from judging women for their clothing preferences or sexual habits. Try pointing out that crude, sexist statements, even said in the safety net of a group of boys, is not okay.
There a million things you can do, but one thing that truly matters is that you recognize the problem, and try.