Warning: This post contains description and discussion of rape and its aftermath, including victim-blaming.
While you’re being raped, you don’t get to feel like a person. Your personality, your history, your passions, your mannerisms, your interests, your pleasure, your protests: everything about you gets shoved to one side so your rapist can get to a hole.*
The violence is eloquent: you’re meat. People get to decline sex, so you must be something else. You realize through the fear and the horror that in that moment you’re nothing more than a flesh frame for negative space.
And hopefully one day that feeling goes entirely away.
When people say that rape is dehumanizing, that’s usually what they mean. To rape is to perpetrate an inhuman act that denies a person human dignity. But that only scratches the surface of what it’s like to survive a rape.
After you’ve been raped, you don’t get to be treated like a person. Your experience, your story, your anger, your grief: they’re all messy and unpleasant for everyone to deal with. Won’t you please put them away?
You’re going to be a statistic now. You’re going to be a cautionary tale. If you speak out or press charges, you get to be “the accuser”, whom people will likely suggest is trying to ruin your poor rapist’s life. Above all, you’re going to be a case to study and analyze so everyone can explain to each other why you were victimized. Because that’s more important than anything else.
See, if people can somehow figure out a way to blame you for being attacked, they feel safer. If rape is a crime of two wrongs, it can be prevented by scrupulously making rights.
You? You were asking for it. Or unprepared to defend yourself, or maybe your lifestyle put you in danger’s way. Or whatever. Something like this just wouldn’t happen to everyone else, or everyone else’s loved ones. It happened to you for a reason. Had to. Otherwise things get uncomfortable!
Apparently this time-honored system of rape aftermath management holds rock solid even when the person who was raped is an eleven-year-old little girl.
A little girl can be gang raped by at least 18 men and boys, and people will point out that she dressed provocatively to look older than her age. They will comb her Facebook account trying to prove that she engaged in transgressive behavior. The men who raped this little girl can take video of the rape and share it at school and on the internet, and some fucked-up woman will have the gall to comment, “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives”. I want to believe that she’s referring to the soul-rot and gut-burrowing guilt that should encroach after committing such a vile act, but I don’t. I believe she’s referring to their reputations and the legal fallout. I believe she genuinely feels more compassion for the rapists than the eleven-year-old girl they brutalized. And I feel sick about the human race.
The New York Times and other news outlets repeated this victim-blaming bullshit without comment. NBC news invited someone to come on a TV program to say that this child was a willing participant in her rape. The way this story has been treated isn’t atypical, it’s only more dramatic because how can you blame an eleven-year-old for getting raped ARE YOU INSANE??
When people say that rape is dehumanizing, do they realize how much we as a society help it stay that way? Can anyone truly be surprised when rape survivors choose to remain silent?
We couldn’t protect and care for a little girl. We couldn’t work together to keep her safe. We couldn’t create a world where those young men would be sickened at the mere thought of hurting her. That would’ve been too much to ask, certainly. But why in the goddamn can’t we admit that she did nothing wrong, and they did?
Are we fucking animals?
*The mechanics of rape do not always work this way. I want to be very clear about the fact that I’m drawing from my personal experiences to express a feeling I believe may be communal, or close to. I’m not saying that my specific experiences are universal. Not all rape involves penetration. However, I believe it always involves some level of being involuntarily reduced to a body.