A ranty, funny, dead-serious intersectional feminist blog.

Changing the Conversation: Dark Alley Not Required

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Trigger Warning for discussion of rape.

This post was originally part of Change the Conversation: A Day of Blogging About Sexual Assault (#pghSAAM) in April 2013. It has been edited since that time. 

One of the most damaging rape culture myths facing us today is that of the prevalence of stranger-rape: that is, a stranger following the perfect victim down a dark street, pulling him/her into an alley, and raping him/her. Yes, it happens. I’m not denying that. But I am here to tell you, in case you weren’t aware, that it is the exception—not the rule.

I’m not here to talk statistics, however. While they’re very important when it comes to forming opinions based on factual information, the point of this exercise is to share my perspective. And my perspective is this:

I have been raped multiple times. Some of my rapes have been pooh-poohed by others due to the circumstances—these are the “gray-rape” scenarios. Others get a pass from those same folks because there was apparently sufficient force or lack of substance abuse involved for the responsibility to lie firmly in the lap of my rapists (my cup runneth over). My sexual abuse started when I was four and continued into adulthood. And not one single time did a scary stranger pull me into a dark place and rape me at knifepoint. Not one single time.

The same goes for nearly every survivor I have spoken to in my over half-a-century on this planet. Many have been raped. Many have experienced rape multiple times. But right now I can’t think of a single example of scary stranger rape of the kind rape culture tells us are hands-down, no-question, “legitimate” rape.

Date-rape. Acquaintance-rape. Passed-out-drunk-rape. Too-paralyzed-with-fear-to-resist-or speak-rape. You-didn’t-say-no-enough-times-rape. Making-out-and holy-shit-your-boyfriend’s-penis-somehow-found-its way-around-the-crotch-of-your-short-shorts-and-past-your-underwear-into-your-vagina-rape.

No scary strangers. No dark alleys.

And most rapes of the kinds described above go unreported because, like the woman in the last scenario I describe above, maybe you didn’t even realize it was rape because you never said anything and you even continued to date the guy, but when you think back and remember that night, you know you didn’t want or expect sex, and now you remember—why didn’t you remember this before?—that you burst into tears at that moment and he asked you what was wrong and you said, “Nothing.”

And it was still rape.

It kills me to realize how many are living with the very wrong belief that what happened to them wasn’t rape because it wasn’t perpetrated by a stranger with a knife in a dirty, dark alley behind a dumpster. When we perpetuate the myth that only forcible, stranger-rape is “legitimate” rape, we create a culture wherein victims are not only disbelieved, they disbelieve their own senses—their own inner knowledge that someone they know and trusted has violated them.

Rape is rape no matter where it happens. No matter who the rapist was to you in the moments before the rape occurred. Rape is rape even if your friend/lover/spouse didn’t set out to rape you. Rape is lack of consent. Period.

And I’m not going to shut up about it.


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10 responses

  1. Darlene

    I’m an ‘example’ of a scary stranger rape scenario… I was 7 and he was a serial rapist. He lured me off my swing and into the bushes in my neighborhood park. He tried to suffocate me and I was brutually raped. It took a year and a half of weekly counselling sessions to be able to even acknowlege that it was rape.
    For decades my child-brain told me I had been bullied and beat up – because of the blood between my legs. I threw my bloody panties away. I never told my Mother because I thought I would get in trouble.
    They labelled me a ‘living witness’ because I got away. He’s in jail because he continued to rape and then murder young children in my neighborhood.
    So, I just wanted you to know that I am not a UNICORN and I am NOT a MYTH. It’s hard living with the guilt of not telling and knowing that there are other kids who died because I kept my mouth shut. I’m resigned that it’s my lot in life -that of being thrown under the bus so that other rape victims can validate their experiences.
    I too have been raped multiple times since the bushes. My neighborhood was full of pedophiles…and a math teacher. Some people saw what happened but those people looked away. Those are the people I hate the most. The nurses at the nursing home who set the food tray down in front of me on the portable table while I sat paralyzed on the lap of an old man with his hand down inside my pants. I got a dirty look and then they partially closed the door when they exited the room.
    But what hurts the deepest comes from other people like me who have been ‘raped’ and use my horrific experience as the framework of ‘rape culture?’ Oh, and by the way, RAINN doesn’t collect data from anyone under the age of 12, SO I guess nothing that happened to me in the bushes counts RIGHT?
    Take Care,
    Darlene

    March 17, 2015 at 8:10 pm

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  4. Reblogged this on FEMBORG.

    April 28, 2013 at 10:22 am

  5. You are so brave in sharing your story so candidly. I was never raped but I was repeatedly molested as a little girl. Never by a stranger, either. For years, I blogged about it on a different site and sharing my experiences helped me greatly in overcoming them. Though, sexual abuse-no matter to which degree-is really not something one ever forgets.

    Thank you for sharing your story!

    Mari

    April 17, 2013 at 11:04 am

  6. craftspagan

    My worst was my ex-husband. And then his best friend, with my husbands permission and help. And even my family doesn’t believe me. My first was at age six. I gave in so the guy would leave my sister alone. I found out later that he went after her anyway. So then the guilt that I “messed” that up on top. Never once a stranger.

    April 16, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    • Thank you. I’m so sorry your family doesn’t believe you. :(

      April 17, 2013 at 6:07 am

  7. Perfectly said! This is a huge hot topic for me…as someone who was consistently sexually abused and raped by someone I know, and was dating at the time, people often like to apply the “But-he-was-your-partner-that-doesnt-count” theory or just say “boyfriend privilege”. No. I said no, and it happened anyway. THAT is and was rape for those 6 years I was in that terrible place. I’m glad other people can see this too

    April 16, 2013 at 1:36 pm

  8. Larissa Lee

    I still have problems using the word “rape” about my experiences. I may recognize that rape comes in many forms in my head, but I have an issue applying that knowledge to my own experiences and admitting to myself that I was raped.

    April 16, 2013 at 9:52 am

    • I know the feeling. :(

      April 16, 2013 at 12:27 pm

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