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Scheherazade in Blue Jeans
freelance alchemist
What the rape culture looks like on one person. 
1st-Aug-2012 09:08 am
TRIGGER WARNING FOR THIS WHOLE POST. I'm trying to walk the line between trigger warning and cut-tagging, because cut-tagging things means no one reads them.

I woke up thinking of a particular friend-of-a-friend who'd been part of my life in Florida. I pondered going to my best-friend-in-middle-and-high-school's Facebook page to see if I could track him down through her, but I might not be able to track him down well, because I'm not actually Facebook friends with her.

Talking about rape was different in 1994, you see. In 2012, if someone tells you they've been raped, you have a general idea of what to say and what not to say. In 1994, it was a transgression of social norms to even say those words. So she had no toolkit for this, and her reaction was the number one reaction we tell people to give:

She didn't believe me.

She didn't believe me because she knew about my abusive relationship with the guy I call the Bad Boyfriend, and because I'd hinted about my bad childhood. She thought it was exaggerated, too much, that that doesn't all happen to one person.

The CDC did a very comprehensive study last year. One of the interesting pieces of data? 35% of women who were raped as minors were also raped as adults.

My friend didn't know that, of course. She just saw drama. And none of us knew, because studies about rape culture were in their infancy, that the fact that someone was raped in the past makes people less likely to believe them in the future. Even though 35 damn percent.

When I give my survivor speech for BARCC, I only discuss one incident: the rape in 1994. I chose that one because it is dramatic and unambiguously rape, but most of all, I chose it because it was discrete. It was neatly encapsulated in one terrible night. I could talk about it and take questions and be done.

But that isn't all.

I've told you about my childhood, and I've told you about the Bad Boyfriend, but *that* isn't all.

I'm going to fill in a few blanks for you. Things that I've never talked about here or really much of anywhere, because it just hasn't occurred to me to do so, because they were categorized in my head not as "rape" but as "bad stuff happens".

1993. A couple of years after my Bad Boyfriend. One year before The Rape that gets capital letters in my head because it was an abduction and a stranger rape, which is rare as hell but is what the mainstream media tells me rape is. At the time, I'm not thinking of what the Bad Boyfriend did as rape, and I'm trying to not think about the childhood stuff at all. I am 19 and living in a trailer park North Carolina. I am known as a slut; I do fool around a lot. I was sexualized very early, after all. I tell you this because it all plays in. I tell you this because it gives you context, that one day a male friend is over at my place and we're fooling around, everything strictly above the waist, when he starts to go up my skirt. I say "no, I don't want to do that."

He says, "You may as well give it up, or I'm just going to take it."

Something in me splinters. There is an echo of the bad boyfriend, who said much the same. There is the knowledge that if I do fight, no one will believe me, because I'm a slut and he's a nice guy. And so I send myself far away and I let it happen, because I don't want him to hurt me.

It takes over a decade for me to realize that this is rape.

1997. Three years after the rape I still think of as The Rape. My boyfriend and I have been hanging out a lot with the Tori Amos fan community; this is in the days of IRC, and I met said boyfriend and a lot of friends on #tori. I was introduced to Tori's music by a friend when she heard I'd been raped; she played "Me and a Gun" for me. This is the year after Boys for Pele came out, and we've been following Tori around Florida, showing up at all the meet and greets. At a club in Tampa I kiss this one fellow fan, because we're all elated and people are kissing each other. Months later, he's over at our house; we're all going out later with fellow fans. He and my boyfriend and I are sitting on the couch together; Elayna is napping in her room. I am so exhausted, and the guys encourage me to nap on the couch. I do.

I wake up with two fingers in my vagina.

I freeze. I sneak a peek through my slitted eyelids. My boyfriend isn't there, and this near-stranger who, yes, I kissed once on a dance floor.

He moves his fingers.

I stay frozen for the longest I-don't-know-how-long of my life while he continues to do this. Finally I fake shifting in my sleep, and he withdraws his hand. Soon after that, I fake waking up. I stumble into the kitchen for a glass of water and don't look at him. I apologize for not looking at him. He tells my my boyfriend went to run errands. I say okay.

I never tell my boyfriend. Because I kissed this guy once, you know. I know what my boyfriend would say.

It takes over a decade for me to realize that this is rape.

That boyfriend becomes my husband in 1998. When he rapes me, I know it's rape. I am saying no and lying very still and tears are pouring from my eyes to puddle in my hair. Even though I'm not fighting, I know that it is rape. (I divorce him in 2001. This is not Adam. Dear gods this is not Adam.)

I'm not going to continue. But the point is that I could continue. That there is a list I could go on with, of being driven out to places I have no way of getting back from and told that this was my only way back, of things going farther than I said they could and being told that the guy misunderstood.

And none of these things are things I talk about when I talk about rape, because they're not discrete. Because I can't condense all of this, the full impact of the rape culture on one person, into a five-minute speech with Q&A afterward.

And because there is so much of it that you will not believe me. At a certain point, sometimes as low as just two sexual assaults, which is actually really common, people will not believe.

And so we don't tell people.

I woke up thinking of that nice guy I knew in Florida who made me a model Babylon 5 Black Omega Starfury. I thought of him because we just moved the Starfury out of my craft room to paint it. It's sitting on a bookcase in my living room. And Judah and I watched B5 last night. I thought about looking him up, and getting the recipe for the flan he brought to my house that one Thanksgiving, because that was great flan. And I'd like to know that he's doing okay. But that led me to my friend, and that one thought that floats over a decade of friendship, that one thought that snaps across everything that we used to be; she used to be my best friend. That one thought.

She didn't believe me.
1st-Aug-2012 01:20 pm (UTC)
I read this whole post.
1st-Aug-2012 01:30 pm (UTC)
I read this whole post.
1st-Aug-2012 01:37 pm (UTC)
I read this whole post.

I have never been raped. When I was 18 I joined a group of women in a play about rape, and one of the things I learned was that there is clear evidence that rape culture is a culture, not a set of single incidents.
1st-Aug-2012 01:52 pm (UTC)
I read the whole thing.

When I was 16, my life fell apart. Someday I'll tell you the whole story of my dad's death, but this is not the forum. I was fooling around with my on again off again high school boyfriend because I wanted to feel good about something. And I decided that sex would make me feel better. I was very insistent about condoms, and he was good the first time. It hurt some, and it wasn't going anywhere. We took a break, and then he started again without a condom. I told him to stop, to put a condom on. Instead he kept going, pulled out and came on my back.

I didn't think it was rape then. I mostly stopped thinking about it afterwards, because it was all tied up with the fact that he had been fucking someone else at the same time and she thought she was pregnant. I didn't know anything except that it wasn't right, and now I had to get tested for everything.
1st-Aug-2012 01:53 pm (UTC)
I read this whole post.

1st-Aug-2012 01:53 pm (UTC)
I read this whole post.
1st-Aug-2012 01:59 pm (UTC)
I read the whole thing.

Edited at 2012-08-01 01:59 pm (UTC)
1st-Aug-2012 02:15 pm (UTC)
I read these posts, all of them, even when you do use a cut tag. I hope you'll forgive me for finding them cathartic... or something. There are things that I find I still can't say or even write because hearing it out loud or seeing it in text makes it too real.
1st-Aug-2012 02:21 pm (UTC)
I read the whole thing.
1st-Aug-2012 02:27 pm (UTC)
I read this post whole post, and I am grateful for your words.

(Also, I don't care about cut tags, use or lack, FWIW.)

1st-Aug-2012 02:30 pm (UTC)
I read the whole post.

And I wonder if there's any good way to get your former friend to read it, too.
1st-Aug-2012 02:34 pm (UTC)
I believe you.
1st-Aug-2012 02:39 pm (UTC)
I read the whole post, too.

Pebble. And yummy gluten-free treats, when you like. And silly dancing.

I never, ever wish this on anyone. Not someone I love, someone I like, someone I don't know, even someone I hate. But your courage in talking about this, the not-being-believed, and what it does to you? The rest of us share in your strength and grow it and spread it around.

I remember trying to tell and being minimized after my then-fiance raped me, and had been coercing me continuously. I didn't know how to get out, and I didn't know how to stop it all, so I married him and continued to suffer.

The person who minimized me was my mother. She died a few years later, never knowing. Probably better for her. Some days I still have to struggle to forgive her, but as loving and protective as she was, she came of age in the 1950s and was a creature of her time.

Since then, I've been assaulted again in less dramatic fashion, but now I'm around people who believe me and believe in my right to be safe in my own body. That makes a huge difference.
1st-Aug-2012 02:44 pm (UTC)
I read this whole thing. I believe you.

I did not know this: that the fact that someone was raped in the past makes people less likely to believe them in the future.

All this time I thought it was because I am a writer, because I've always been a storyteller. Because sometimes the truth was so bad that the lies were nicer, easier, more pleasant for everyone, but I was telling them and that made me a liar and liars aren't believed, by definition.
1st-Aug-2012 02:46 pm (UTC)
Of course I read the whole thing. *more hugs*
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