Some self-indulgence; triggers

14 May

So, although I said in my original post that “not all my posts would have a ‘me me me’ vibe”, I’ve decided to make a post about my own experience. Not my “story”, I’m not ready for that yet, and I would have no idea how to tell it. But I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching recently, mostly as a response to the suggestion from an internet confidante that I may have PTSD from my experience. I believe it’s probably the case – I have flashbacks regularly, and the nightmares come with frequency – and it was one of the things that prompted me to start taking the issue seriously. I was raped 12 years ago, and yet until a few years ago, I wouldn’t have readily admitted it. I would have said “I was raped, yes – but it was my fault, I put myself in a stupid position”.

Through recent education on the matter, as an adult I’ve grown to realise that of course it wasn’t my fault. I still deal with the guilt and anguish at the position I put myself in, but with time I’ll even grow out of that, I hope. I was unintentionally vulnerable and naive and so I became easy prey, but I did not put myself in the stupid position, as that would have involved an active role in the decision to “be raped”, which I didn’t even consider as a happy-go-lucky 12-year-old.

I was discussing triggers with my partner, after he admitted he had removed a song from a CD with the word “raping” in it. After probing him, he admitted he’d done many similar things to protect me. He’d edited posts on a forum we co-manage without telling me, and decided not to introduce me to a book he enjoyed because of a particular storyline within it, for example. I felt touched he had gone to the effort for me, but baffled that despite all his actions to hide the word from me, I have still encountered it far more since meeting him than I ever did before.

It has come in one huge, great waterfall over the world. The world is obsessed with rape! Comedians love to joke about it, teenagers love to misuse the word, TV loves exploring it as a storyline, people are talking about it, all the time.

And yes, the word rape is a trigger for me. But other things trigger me too, and it seems they are increasingly more evident now than ever before. A particular item I thought I had lost many years ago re-appeared when I was unpacking boxes in my new house, I don’t remember packing it. A band that were on repeat on the CD player during my rape are considering re-uniting “for their fans”. In the past six months, two friends have approached me (separately) to tell me they were raped or abused in their youth. Another friend told me just a couple of weeks ago that he was asked to rape someone.

It’s everywhere and I can’t escape it. But instead of trying to hide from it, I’m now trying to accept it.

 

I will raise my daughter to know she is strong enough to move on.

Male victim-blaming

14 May

I came across this post by James Landrith, Male Rape Survivors and Victim Blaming.

As much as everyone wants their daughters’ to be protected from rape, we also want our sons to be protected. And we want to educate our daughters in a similar way about boundaries, consent and compassion when they are in a sexual situation, or are being told about a sexual position. It goes without saying, as far as I’m concerned, that men can be raped, and they are often raped or sexually assault by women.

The media has portrayed men as these beings, controlled by a penis, who can never say “no” to sex – and there’s the regular mockery; if a man says no to sex with a woman, he’s clearly gay. Much like we have the perspective that all women are “after something” from a man – money, a baby or fame, for example – men come under scrutiny when they say they have been raped too. “What kind of a man must you be if you have been raped by a woman?”

I will raise my daughter to respect that consent works both ways, and that men can be raped too.

Rape myth: The “perfect victim” theory, and how a “cocktease” or “Lolita” was asking for it

14 May

I did vow to post every day, but I haven’t posted for the last three days! There’s no other reason than having had the busiest weekend I’ve had for a long, long time.

However to make up for the absence of posts over the weekend, to make myself feel better I will make 4 posts today.

This first post, I will link a great blog post by Liberal Conspiracy (a left-of-centre politics blog) which was brought to my attention by the Facebook group NO means NO.

The post is titled “The ‘perfect victim’ theory of rape, and how it’s reported“, which eloquently puts what I was actually planning to write in my blog post on Friday after a discussion with someone about the topic of blame when rape occurs. The press and the media will often reference to what the victim was wearing, or how she was behaving, or how much alcohol she had consumed prior to the attack, often to plant an idea in the reader’s mind about whether or not the victim was innocent, deserved it, or was even asking for it. Of course, we hear stories of “innocent” school girls in their conservative school uniforms being raped by gangs of men and we are shocked and horrified, but when a woman is so silly as to wear something revealing, or to have a few glasses of wine on a night out with her friends and then have the audacity to walk home alone, well, the sympathy of the public isn’t there.

In one disturbing incident, mentioned in the blog:

A recent news report in the Daily Mail blamed a 12-year old girl for being gang raped, reporting the defence statement that claimed she was a ‘Lolita’ who had accepted alcohol from the men who then raped her and her friend, as well as calling her a liar because she led them to believe she was older than she was.

These children were painted as ‘bad’ victims because they were out at night, drinking alcohol, and were ‘dressed provocatively’. Comments on the news stories painted the perpetrators of the rape as the victims of these girls, as they had been ‘led on’ and ‘tricked’ by girls who were dressed ‘sluttily’.

For those who don’t know such as myself, Lolita is a book written by Vladimir Nabokov in the 1950s which was banned – a story of a paedophile who was “both perpetrator and victim” to an obsession with a 12-year-old girl. The message by the protagonist in this story, which is repeated today in the media, is that a man cannot be blamed for his actions if a woman (or girl in this case) acts or behaves in a certain way which makes her desirable. Overlooking the fact that it’s illegal and immoral to have sex with a 12 year old at all because they are, effectively, children, this is still horribly, horribly wrong.

Essentially, if we assume the role of the rapist and tell the story as the Daily Mail did, it would read:

The girl accepted alcohol from me, so I had every right to have sex with her.

The girl was out at night, so I had every right to have sex with her.

The girl was dressed provocatively and we all know that means she wanted me to have sex with her.

The girl told me she was 16, so I had every right to have sex with her.

Obviously the thing I haven’t written there is:

The girl told me she wanted me to have sex with her, so I had every right to have sex with her.

…Because based on every account I have read, the girls didn’t agree or consent to sex, therefore it was uninvited, despite any of their previous actions. And uninvited sex is rape and rape is unforgivable, even if the victim did “lead their attackers on”.

The issue is that so many people in the world today hold a bizarre belief that men cannot be held to account for their actions if they are aroused. If we, as women, dare to intentionally or unintentionally arouse a man, what can we expect? Orgasms are not a basic human need for men – they can survive without them. If a man does become aroused and really craves “release”, masturbation exists at the next convenient occasions. Even if a woman does play an active role in making a man get an erection, it’s not her duty to provide him with an orgasm if she doesn’t want to and we, as humans, need to stop comparing the need to ejaculate as a necessity for a man in the same way as we would consider the need to eat or urinate, thus forgiving men the crime of rape because his victim left him with no choice.

She gave me 8 pints of water to drink, so I needed to pee.

She looked attractive to me, so I needed to have sex with her.

It doesn’t add up. Once people realise that men are capable of having an erection without then having the right to have sex with the nearest woman whether she wants it or not, then we’ll be one step closer to becoming a more victim-friendly culture.

 

I will raise my daughter to know that no-one deserves to be raped.

Sleep sex, sex while asleep… is it rape?

10 May

Again, this post is being written with thoughts which have been prompted by a thread on the Mumsnet forums. A woman said she was woken up in the night by her partner having sex with her, and felt very shocked and “didn’t know what was happening”.

Legally, having sex with someone who is sleeping is rape. Rape is the penetration of a person without their consent, or without good reason to believe consent would be given. A person may assume his or her partner would be willing for sex in the middle of the night, but this does not equate to consent, as consent is regularly withdrawn within relationships. The old-fashioned stereotype of a woman having a headache and saying, “No dear, not tonight.” No two people are always in the mood for sex, even if they’re in a relationship.

We can’t say the consent is implied just because of a pre-existing relationship between the two people involved, as we’re all aware that rape can happen within relationships and marriage.

But there are people in the world who say they enjoy being woken up with a sex act or penetration from their partner. They find it arousing, or erotic. One friend said to me once, “I woke up in the middle of the night and he was touching me. It was such a turn on to think that even though I was sleeping he couldn’t keep his hands off me.” Are these people encouraging the problem? Surely it’s within their rights to have whatever sexual interactions they want within their relationship?

The same could be said about porn. The porn industry is undeniably wrong in many ways, from the problem of vulnerable young women being “used” for sex to make money, to the issue of men being given an impression that is not true of females – that they are sexual beings to be objectified and used as necessary to create an orgasm. However, pornography is enjoyed by many, from young to old, male or female, in some cases to enhance a sexual relationship in a couple, and in others to assist with sexual discovery or, of course, self-pleasuring. Should each individual viewer of porn be penalised for being “part of the problem”? Or are they entitled to use a legally acceptable service in the privacy of their own homes if they enjoy it and feel their lives are in some way enhanced by it?

We have to accept that sex between two consenting adults is acceptable and that, if consent has been given or is definitely implied, that one of them may initiate the encounter whilst the other is asleep. However, to tackle the problem of whether or not an individual encounter is rape, we have to ask the following question:

Did you give the person reason to believe you would consent to having sex while you were asleep?

Even if you have had sex with the person before, or are in a relationship with them (be it a happy or unhappy relationship), that is not reason alone for a person to believe consent is implied. The only way you would have given someone the impression that you consented to sex being initiated while you slept would be if you explicitly told them so.

“I want you to wake me up with sex tonight/in the morning” would be consent.

Perhaps it’s not the most “obvious” kind of rape as it is not regularly mentioned in the media, and it doesn’t include any of the “clichés” regularly featured when rape or sexual assault is depicted on television or in the movies. Nontheless, it is rape – realistically, morally and legally. I would go so far as to say it is probably one of the most common types of rape and also the least documented and convicted rapes as, often, the person who was asleep when it occurred isn’t even aware that they were raped, or doesn’t feel people would agree that it was rape even if they’re aware of it themselves.

To sum things up:

Having sex with a sleeping person is definitely rape, unless they have explicitly given their full consent for that individual encounter.

 

I will raise my daughter to know that if someone has sex with another person while they are asleep, it is rape.

Just because she never told you…

9 May

We all know that the word “rape” has been devalued by society in such a way that it is now used as a general term for at least two different things:

  1. To have your identity stolen online (e.g. to be “fraped”, when someone accesses your Facebook account and makes an embarrassing status on your behalf)
  2. To lose an argument or some form of combat or competition (e.g. to be “raped” in a duel, or for a football team to have been “raped” by their opposition)

The use of the word rape in these situations can be very upsetting to survivors of sexual assault and rape. To use the word rape in this way, almost as though making light of a soul-destroying experience many women and men have endured, can only (I assume) be for one of two reasons:

  1. The person who uses the word in that way has considered its effect on those who may read/hear it and decided to use it regardless – thus indicating a very inconsiderate, heartless person
  2. The person who uses the word in that way has not considered its effect on those who may read/hear it and therefore isn’t aware of its impact – thus indicating a very uninformed, naive person

In the case of scenario one, there’s very little we can do as “regular people” to combat this behaviour. Unfortunately, much as there will always be rape in the world, there will always be inconsiderate people in the world and any attempt on our behalf to “educate” them will be seen as oppression and “political correctness gone mad!” The only way that we could stop these people would be to make it a criminal action to use the word “rape” in any way other than its original definition, but given the prosecution rates in rape cases, this doesn’t seem like it would be an effective idea.

However, in the case of scenario 2, we are still able to cross our fingers and hope that some education in the matter will affect the personal choices said people make when interacting with others. I find this blog post particularly apt in highlighting the effects of using this word. Although the blog post is more specific in that it refers to people expressing their opinions about rape (as opposed to this post which is focused on the ignorant misuse of the word rape), the logic still applies.

A lot of survivors will read or hear the word rape being misused, and immediately have a negative impression of the person who used it. They will not think the person is ignorant or uninformed, they are more likely to think the person is very aware of how offensive their word choice was, and that they have chosen to use it anyway as they don’t care, or they think rape is an unserious, or laughing matter.

The “How Was I To Know?” Excuse

In one personal experience I have encountered, a male friend became offended when another male friend used the word “rape” in one of the “lighthearted” ways described above. The offender was quite shocked by his offense and tried to laugh it off with a teasing response: “Why are you trying to oppress me?”

The offended explained that his sister was raped when she was quite young and has suffered a range of mental health issues as a result and will probably never live a normal life. He said that hearing such a sensitive word being used in such a casual way upset him. He left before the offender had chance to reply.

The offender was stunned for a little while before saying, “Well, I feel like a bit of a <censored> now. But how was I supposed to know that happened to his sister?”

I had to explain to him that he wasn’t supposed to know. My friend should never have had to share that story with him to make him see the error of his ways. My friend should never have felt like he had to share that story at all. If the offender had been a respectful, considerate person, he would never have used the word.

Survivors, and those who have been affected by rape or sexual assault in any way (e.g. being close to a survivor), do not walk around with a sign with the word “Raped” on it for all to see, shouting: “Yes, someone who was raped has just walked into the room! Please be considerate of my feelings while I’m here, and feel free to resume your rape-talk afterwards!” As a general rule, people keep their private lives private, and all that we can do to protect those people is to be considerate of the words we use in the presence of all people, even those we are close to and assume they have never been raped or assaulted (we can never know for certain, it took me 4 years to confide my attack to another person).

 

I will raise my daughter to be considerate.

First Post, a small introduction

9 May

I don’t know where you begin with a blog which is about a topic like this.

As a “survivor”, it’s taken me 12 years to reach a point in my emotional health where I feel I can finally start moving forward, and looking at the problem of sexual assault objectively. Almost overnight, I began to feel I could be part of the solution, and not just a hidden statistic. I’ve felt thoroughly supported by the Mumsnet ‘We Believe You’ campaign and all of the informed, supportive women who are actively believing survivors of rape and sexual assault – thus tackling one of the first problems a survivor will face following an attack.

At first I hid away from the campaign and wished it wasn’t happening. The word rape has been a trigger for me for a long time, and I couldn’t read or write the word without feeling a “shock” pain across my chest. I still can’t handle hearing or speaking the word in conversation or on television.

But as a little time has passed, the campaign has really helped me. I have started to type the word rape with more ease, and I read it regularly. I donated some money to Rape Crisis (despite having never called them, their existence has always given me some comfort) and today I filled in a survey for AVA about my experiences – something I would never have felt strong enough to do before. I joined a few groups on Facebook, which are regularly posting blog links and other media about rape, and I click those links and read them with a mixture of sadness, interest and determination. Although the campaign was not designed to help me, but instead to address a widespread problem, it has greatly increased my quality of life. I haven’t told anyone new “my story”, and yet I feel more supported than ever before as though out there in the world, there are people who know about rape, and know it is wrong, and will fight for a future where women shouldn’t have to go through it.

And although I am as furious with the rape apologists, sexists, “victim” blamers and of course, rapists themselves, I feel content right now knowing that given time, more people could be educated with the help of campaigns like Mumsnet’s and the world could be a better place for my daughter, and my daughter’s daughters.

I don’t intend for all of my posts to have a “me me me” vibe about them, and in the future, I will hopefully be able to post something more productive, objective, or constructive.

So, I decided to make this blog. And I will VOW to make a blog post every single day, even if it is just a short “I’m having a good day!”, because this is an empowering experience for me – to finally be able to write about rape almost in an “activist” way – and I don’t want to lose sight of this positive feeling which has taken me so long to find.

 

I will raise my daughter to know you don’t need to suffer in silence.