Changing the Conversation: Dark Alley Not Required
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.
- Most Victims Know Their Attacker – National Institute of Justice
- Female Victims Of Sexual Violence, 1994-2010 – Bureau of Justice Statistics
- Law and Order: SVU (Shakesville)
- #SAAM Facts: Arm Yourself (makemeasammich.org)
- I Am Jane Doe (makemeasammich.org)
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