When I began to write this morning the sun had just begun to paint her first stroke of orange and pink across the sky.
In all her majesty she sent out that initial ray, it appeared as a fine line across the horizon, then in time it grew wide enough to push away the dark.
But in order to bring in the light, first, the sun needed to show up.
If only I possessed the power of the sun to push away the darkness that has been the news as of late.
The quiet and beauty that surrounded me earlier did not match my mood.
But, like the sun, I knew I needed to show up.
Because even though dark clouds hovered, if light was what I was after, I needed to find a way to create that first brush stroke, no matter how thin it was to begin with…
I couldn’t stop thinking of the post I had published yesterday. Or more specifically how I felt after I published it.
It all began with the article I read in Rolling Stone.
On November 19th, Rolling Stone, added to the already overflowing well of US Universities plagued with stories of sexual assault, when they published, A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA. It is a horrific story of gang rape and a University steeped in a culture of denial, coverup and victim blame.
As I read the Rolling Stone article it brought back memories. Memories that although I had tried to write of — until yesterday — I had been incapable.
After I published, The First Time I Was Raped, I felt nervous and unsettled.
I was reluctant to share my essay widely on social media, even held the story back from some of the groups I am part of. Groups filled with other women writers. Women who more than likely would have supported — if not celebrated — my decision to publish it.
It wasn’t until late in the day that I realized why.
Turns out I felt I had already reached my “things to share” quota. Somehow I was allowing my well documented experience as an abuse survivor to eclipse the raw feelings buried inside me from that first rape. And in so doing, I was not affording the 16 year old girl inside me to access what she needed in order to heal. Empathy.
Not just anyones empathy. She needed my empathy.
In other words, until yesterday, I was not extending empathy to my 16 year old self. For years I had told her things like this:
At least it wasn’t as horrific as the times Derrick raped you.”
At least it didn’t last long.”
At least he didn’t string you along.”
At least it was only one guy, not a gang.”
At least you weren’t a virgin.”
Brené Brown, in her brilliant short video, says, “Empathy rarely begins with the words — At Least.”
Showing up for myself yesterday meant putting all my other experiences to the side, in so doing, room was created for me to have access to my memory and see the girl I was then.
I was a young person with a crush. I thought the guy I liked also liked me. We all want to be seen and noticed. I offered my trust and in exchange that trust was violated. I did nothing wrong.
My story of rape adds to the chorus of those that came before me.
Mine is another example of a rape where the woman knew the man — or in my case — the girl knew the boy.
We have to do better for our next generations.
We need to teach boys and girls early and often that intimacy is something to cherish, value and honor and that everyone is entitled to their emotional and physical safety. Everyone.
Sharing our stories helps to remove the bricks in the barrier that is rape culture.
Rape culture is about the acceptance of women as objects to be used and disposed of — a mindset that creates a culture where sexual assault and blaming the victim are both normalized — that mentality is a barrier in the way of progress and it needs to be dismantled.
People want to cleave to the idea that rapist are “monsters.” Degenerates who hide in the bushes, lurk in dark alleys, subway and bus stations.
The rapist as a “stranger” is far easier for us to imagine.
We want to picture him as an intruder, a violent individual who lies in wait for the right opportunity to claim his victim. No one wants to consider that their husband, brother, father, cousin, friend, idol, hero — could be capable of sexually assaulting another human being.
Yet some are.
Look at the allegations against Bill Cosby, the countless assaults on college campuses, famous actors, Hollywood producers…the list goes on and on.
The stories of men sexually assaulting someone they know break every day — not in the news — behind closed doors. Behind walls that harbor shame, secrecy and torment.
Men we know — rape.
Here are some statistics I pulled from the Rape, Abuse & Insest National Network, also known as RAINN website:
- Every 2 minutes, another American is sexually assaulted
- Each year there are about 237,868 victims of sexual assault
- 60% of of sexual assaults are not reported to the police
- About ⅔ of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim
- 38% of rapists are a friend or a relative
Can men be victimized? Of course.
Here is the breakdown by gender.
- 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).
- 17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape.
- 9 of every 10 rape victims were female in 2003.
- About 3% of American men — or 1 in 33 — have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.
- In 2003, 1 in every ten rape victims were male.
- 2.78 million men in the U.S. have been victims of sexual assault or rape.
Information is powerful. The more we teach, the more we share, the more we learn…the closer we are to ridding the world of sexual assault. When we are brave with our voice, our courage may inspire another person to be brave with theirs.
Don’t you think it’s time to say No More?
The RAINN website is filled with fantastic resources for people who need help and for individuals who want to help end sexual assault.