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

It’s Not a Movie and We’re Not Buffy


(image via rottentomatoes.com)

[Trigger Warning for discussion of rape.]

Why didn’t you fight back? 

There was a hammer nearby—why didn’t you use it to defend yourself?

Why didn’t you scream? There were houses nearby—someone would have heard you.

You were carrying a knife—why didn’t you stab him?

These are questions people have asked me about my rapes. Regular people asked. Cops and lawyers asked. All of them asked because they were skeptical about what happened to me or it was their job to tear me apart (or to get the answers to all the obvious questions before shelving my rape kit and pretending the whole thing never happened). It’s no secret that many people believe that if you don’t fight back or scream or act in the ways we’ve been taught rape victims act, then it’s not really rape.

I’m here to tell you that there are dozens of reasons a rape victim might be unable or unwilling to fight or scream. And there are some very good reasons why she (or he) might not fit the profile television and movies have created of the perfect victim–one we can get behind because there’s no question in our minds that she is a victim. She fights tooth and nail, screams until her voice fails, and perhaps most importantly, she remains the perfect victim for the proper period of time after the rape. She looks the way you expect her to: pale and stunned. She behaves the way you expect her to: timid and shaken. And there are rules.


(image via winteriscoming.net)

I recently rewatched the first season of Game of Thrones. Among other things, I was struck by the scene in which Tyrion, Bron, and Shae are playing drinking games and Tyrion reveals the sad story of his brief marriage to a woman he and his brother rescued from “rapers” who turned out to be a “whore.” Shae tells him he should have known:

“A girl who is almost raped doesn’t invite another man into her bed two hours later.”

Just so no one is confused: this statement is bullshit. It seems to be an assumption on the part of the show’s writers—I don’t believe it’s one that the character, Shae, would ever make (although I allow that she might). Because if you’ve ever been raped (or almost raped) you know that things don’t play out in real life the way they do in our assumptions. Our assumptions are based on the rape victims we see on tv and in movies—those perfect victims I described above. There are no rules about what a woman (or man) who has been raped or “almost raped” will do, how she will behave, or whether she will decide to go ahead and fuck an entire soccer team later that night. There are no rules because none of those things are indicators of whether she was “really” raped and assuming that they are amounts to blaming the victim.

I wouldn’t blame you (much) if right now you’re asking, “But Rosie, why didn’t you scream? Why didn’t you use the hammer or the knife?” The point of this post is to explain those things and hopefully squash some of these assumptions like ticks. So, I’ll tell you why.

The first time I was raped the rapist told me if I made a sound he would take that hammer and bash my brains in. So I didn’t scream, and it never even occurred to me to use the hammer against him.

Because it wasn’t a movie and I wasn’t Buffy. I was a twelve-year-old girl whose mind simply could not conceive of what was happening to her. And I wasn’t the perfect victim, either, because a few days later when a neighborhood boy rushed up to console me I found myself wondering, at first, what he was on about. I had been raped, spent a night in the ER and with the cops, spent a couple of days at home, and now I was back at school and back to running around the neighborhood with my friends. My mind was attempting to let me be a kid again, but don’t think for a second that it helped—it only made people suspicious. “It’s your word against his,” they told me, because like most rape victims, my rapist was someone I—and everyone else in my neighborhood—knew.

The second time I was raped I was in an apartment where children were sleeping in the next room. I didn’t want to wake them to my nightmare. So I didn’t scream. And yes indeed, Officer Helpful, I did have a knife on me. It was a sort of dagger thing and I have no idea where I picked it up, but a friend had made a sheath for it and I loved it. But I had never used a weapon in my life and I don’t even think I thought of my knife as a way to protect myself. It was just a cool thing I had. It honestly never crossed my mind to figure out whether it was even within reach. If it had been, would I have plunged it into the man on top of me? I don’t believe so.

Because it wasn’t a movie and I wasn’t Buffy. I was a sixteen-year-old girl being raped for the second time and all I could think to do was survive it.


Some victims don’t scream or fight back because a type of paralysis sets in and prevents them from doing anything at all. Some don’t react the way they imagined they might because they can’t wrap their heads around the fact that it’s even happening. Some don’t realize that what’s happening to them is rape because they’re making out with their boyfriend and all the sudden he’s inside them and they believe that they somehow “gave the wrong signal” or otherwise brought it on themselves and it can’t be rape if it’s your boyfriend, can it? It can’t be rape if you were making out, can it? What if you’re drunk?

The only question should be “did sexual contact occur without consent?” and if the answer is “yes,” then guess what? It was rape.

The point is, it doesn’t matter what a rape victim did or didn’t do before, during, or after the rape. The only thing that matters is consent. So if you came to this post carrying assumptions about perfect victims who behave like you think they ought to and scream when you think they should and fight like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I’m hoping you’ll leave with a better understanding of how those assumptions hinder your ability to empathize with me and other survivors. If you know someone who harbors these assumptions, I’m hoping you’ll share this with them and maybe help them understand that the only rule is there are no rules when it comes to how rape victims behave.

This is not a movie and we are not Buffy. We are individual men and women and there’s no telling how any of us will react in a given situation. And in a situation like the one we’re discussing, all bets are off.

Let’s put our assumptions aside and choose empathy, shall we?

Note: Rape happens to men and women and people all over the gender spectrum. The tropes and assumptions I’m addressing here are mostly about rape victims who are women, so I have often used the female pronoun.


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)

48 responses

  1. Day

    I am going to tell some of my story and I would like a bit of advise if it’s not to much to ask.

    The first time I ever had sex (age 16), I did not give permission. We were making out and he asked me “how bad do you want it?” I didn’t answer his question. And 2 seconds later he was inside me. I’m pretty sure this classifies as rape, but I didn’t come forward because I knew I would just be blamed for “leading him on” or “seducing him”. So I went on to date my rapist for almost a year, maybe trying to convince myself it never happened. I eventually ended it and moved on with my life. Then I was raped (at age 18) by two other men in similar situations. I never thought I would let that happen to me, but when it did, I could barely move or say a word. I was terrified of what would happen if I fought back, so I didn’t. Because I didn’t fight any of these 3 rapists, I didn’t think it was rape so I didn’t tell anyone. Just a couple weeks ago, my most recent ex boyfriend came to my apartment drunk and raped me. This time I was sure it was rape. This time I actually did try to fight back, but it was no use. He was too strong. I repeatedly said “NO” and pushed him off, but that didn’t stop him. I have been shaken up by this and it’s been really tough to get on with my life.
    A few days ago, I finally told my mom I had been sexually assaulted. I didn’t give details because I figured that shouldn’t matter to her, she should just believe me and be here for me. Instead, my mom is blaming me. She told me, “I’m not saying it’s your fault, I’m just saying it’s a pattern for you so maybe you should prevent it.” I keep telling her to stop blaming me, the victim. But she keeps saying she isn’t blaming me, she just wants to make sure this never happens in the future. She refuses to acknowledge that by saying I could have prevented it, she is basically saying it’s my fault. What should I say to her?? I really need her support and she’s killing me.
    Another thing happened a month or two before my ex raped me; my brother’s best friend was sexually harassing me. At least I think that’s what to call it. He had always had a crush on me which is fine, but that crush escalated to him telling me things I didn’t want to know. For example, he told me he masturbates to me a lot and uses a special lube every time he thinks about me so it can feel “as close to the real thing as possible”.

    Side note: I was actually pretty good friends with my brother’s two bffs because the four of us used to hang out a lot. Also, my brother and I are really close.

    Then, my brother’s other best friend said he was in love with me and all this crap about me having dazzling eyes and he was just completely nuts and hitting on me. Every guy friend I’ve ever had EVER has either fallen in “love” with me or tried to get in my pants, so as you can imagine, I’m pretty fucking sick of that bullshit.
    About a week ago I decided to tell my brother about both of his friends. When I did, he punched Friend 1 in the face, but then Friend 1 apparently told my brother “a different story”. I don’t think my brother believes me. He told me he never wants me to talk to them again which I’m completely fine with. But now there’s a major distance between my brother and me and my brother is the most important person to me in this whole universe. He had said he believes me, but I’m pretty sure he doesn’t – especially because he is still bffs with Friend 1 and Friend 2 as if nothing happened. I feel completely alone and I’ve tried going to therapists and friends but no one has helped. People just get uncomfortable hearing about these types of things and they avoid it at all costs. Which is why I’m writing this ridiculously long message to you. From reading your stuff, I see that you know what you’re talking about and I could really really use some input here.

    March 7, 2015 at 11:53 am

    • Wow, I am so, so sorry you’re going through this. Yes, what happened to you is rape, and yes, what your mother is doing (out of fear, most likely) is blaming the victim—putting the onus on you to prevent rape rather than on men who don’t concern themselves with what you want before taking what they want. I recommend talking to a rape counselor with your mom and brother if they’ll agree, because it seems like you need a safe place to talk where they are a captive audience, and they need to gain an understanding of how rape works from a professional. Of course your brother’s friend told him a different story. He certainly doesn’t want anyone to think he’s a rapist and has probably convinced himself that he isn’t.

      There are so many layers to this, and getting your family onboard with being part of your support network rather than part of the rape culture problem is an important one, but it is not your job to educate them at the expense of taking care of yourself.

      Many, many of us are victims of multiple incidences of rape and sexual assault. Statistics say if it happens once, it’s more likely to happen again. I have felt like I’ve spent my whole life with a target on my head. But what’s really been happening is that our culture has taught boys and men and even us that we exist for their pleasure.

      This is not your fault. You are not responsible for other people deciding to rape you. You are the victim and no one is to blame but the rapists.

      I have so much more to say but I have to log off. I’ll check back in later. Meanwhile you can message me via the Facebook page.

      March 10, 2015 at 8:02 am

  2. I think you have to at least SAY no for it to classify as rape. Saying nothing and going along with it really is not rape no matter how scared you are (especially if the rapist is a friend. How are you so scared of a friend?) Or how you feel about it afterwards.

    February 12, 2015 at 10:27 am

    • Sorry, but lack of consent is rape. “How are you so scared of a friend?” Because that friend suddenly decides out of the blue that he wants to have sex with you and he’s bigger and stronger than you are and is aggressive, for starters. I find it difficult to believe you’ve ever experienced this if you’re asking this question, and so I wonder why you feel qualified to advise others.

      February 13, 2015 at 10:45 am

  3. cj

    This is an incredibly minor point, but if you keep reading/watching Game of Thrones, it turns out that Tysha (Tyrion’s wife) is not a “whore” at all–his father and brother convinced him she was, but she was exactly what she claimed to be. So, weirdly, that series of all series seems to actually get the diversity of victims’ experiences more right (at least in that case) than some of the others mentioned here.

    November 21, 2014 at 8:51 am

    • Funny, in re-reading this piece just now, I realized that exact thing (and should have sooner, having read all the books, most of them twice). Makes me wonder why they had Shae say what she said—how much thought they actually gave it. Anyway, I think it’s a good point. Thanks for making it.

      November 21, 2014 at 8:56 am

  4. One thing at the back of my mind as I read this was the scene in Buffy where Spike tries to “win her back” in the bathroom and it escalates to a potential rape scene. It was the most realistic thing I’ve ever seen on mainstream television, and having seen it in 2011 for the first time definitely made me appreciate it more than if I had watched it as it aired, when I was 12 or so.

    September 29, 2014 at 5:33 pm

  5. Person

    Trigger warning for abuse:
    I understand this as well. Even though people like to strive themselves to be logical, clear-minded, powerful, etc. When “shit hits the fan” it very rarely ever goes like that. I was in a car accident and I’ve also had an attempt on my life after my abuser was caught being an abuser (ironically, they were caught because they trained me that the abuse was normal so I didn’t think it was an issue when I told other people) and then turned their anger on me. I can assure you neither time I behaved as I thought I would. Or rather, I realized I had no idea how to behave. You’d think at an attempt on your life one would be more violent and fight back. Instead, I just remember being relieved that it was over and hoping my life was no longer in danger.

    I had to mentally train myself to make sure I take the appropriate measures to protect myself should something like that appear again- taking to the woods where I was more familiar with the terrain versus my abuser who’d likely attempt to chase me down with a car and really loudly screaming POLICE not because I thought anyone would help me, but I thought the fear that someone would actually help me would deter my attacker and give me more time to run. And I know that sounds extremely fucked up but that’s exactly how it happened. I live in a suburbia and had a crazed and angry person chasing after me with a car and I was screaming for someone to call the police and had 0 surprise when no one did.

    Also, the sad thing is the people who one would think would be reliable in these situations, often aren’t. From personal experience, rather than help, most people would rather not be involved and wash their hands of the situation. If you’re in a bad situation, there really is no viable help system.

    I also never reported the situation where there was an attempt on my life. I’m very sure no one would believe me or think I was exaggerating, just like when I was abused as a child. I felt like I had no one to turn to (and honestly I didn’t) so I hoped if I kept quiet that everything would just go away. Actually, multiple people in my life saw that I was abused and never did anything about it. Though, I was surprised that there were four or five reports to CPS that apparently never got investigated.

    December 29, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    • I’m so sorry those things happened to you and that no one helped. It breaks my heart to think how many kids are in similar situations with no one to protect them. Thanks for sharing your story here.

      December 30, 2013 at 11:51 pm

  6. K. Lee Ellis

    My girlfriends and I were just discussing this topic last night. One out of four of us had been raped and two out of the other three had been assaulted, but managed to be spared, praise God. But the fact that three out of the four of us had been so close to it, multiple times, was a terrifying realization. What saddens me is that I think rapists rely on the fact that their victims will be too afraid, ashamed or humiliated to act out against them. My friend who was raped was violated by her cousin at age 12. She was so afraid and ashamed it took her a year to come forward. Once she did, her family pegged her as a liar. They didn’t believe her partly because they didn’t wan to and partly because they couldn’t understand why it took her so long to say anything. To this day, her familiar still treats her like a liar and she’s heard reports from girls at her sorority that sound like her cousin hasn’t changed. Even though it’s been years, her therapist has recommended that she speak to her father about it again, to tell him the entire story now that she has the courage. Many people don’t understand what this kind of assault does to a person, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. Because of that lack of understanding, many victims are blamed. A fact most rapists count on. I wish it was the other way around– we should be shaming and blaming the rapist, not the victim. Sadly, until this mentality changes, more rapists will go free.

    November 19, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    • It is so awful when the survivor’s family can’t see their way clear to supporting them because it will mean believing something they don’t want to believe about another family member. I think the only way to change things is to keep talking about it. Thank you for joining this discussion and sharing your cousin’s story.

      November 19, 2013 at 1:43 pm

  7. Andrew

    I think victim blaming often (maybe not always, but often) comes down to people not wanting to believe it could happen to THEM. As in, well if it were ME I would have become the Incredible Hulk and ripped his arm off and beat him to death with it. Or X horrible thing happened, and I don’t want to believe that it could happen to me, so they must have done something to deserve it. It is, I think, a way for the Ego to defend itself. OUr brains don’t like that the world is a random place where things happen to good people, and sometimes you just can’t do anything about it. When someone says something like that, it is more to reassure themselves than it is to help a victim of violence.

    It is almost an extension of the just world fallacy, the idea that the world is a just and fair place. When it’s not. It’s impermanent and imperfect, and not everyone has the ability or means to protect themselves.

    October 25, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    • Sam

      Very well put. I agree.

      October 25, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    • Great points. And it’s very much along the same lines as the just world fallacy, I agree.

      October 25, 2013 at 1:05 pm

  8. Pingback: Rape: who’s to blame? | underseasoned

  9. it’s not often, even for sexual assault counseling centers, to acknowledge that men are often victims as well; i appreciate that you did that, for their sake. i also appreciate that you highlight that no matter how quick-thinking and smart you are, that doesn’t matter, because there are always variables. my favorite quote from the post: “The point is, it doesn’t matter what a rape victim did or didn’t do before, during, or after the rape. The only thing that matters is consent.”

    October 18, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    • Thank you. I want to always remember to acknowledge men and boys when I talk about rape. It’s something we’ve been too often silent about as a society for a number of reasons, not least because patriarchy teaches us that men are supposed to want (heterosexual) sex at all times and that if this isn’t true, they are less than men. And silence begets silence–it’s easy to forget the thing no one is talking about.

      October 27, 2013 at 11:11 am

  10. D

    Thank for writing this.
    I never got professional help in the aftermath of my rape, something I think I regret. But I received help one day, when a friend was talking about (in incidents like fights and riots) there aren’t just “fight and flight” responses; there are also “flight” responses, when individuals are so overwhelmed by what is happening to them that their brain shuts off. That’s exactly what it felt like when I was raped. I understood what was happening to a point, and once I was saying no and it kept happening, I went completely numb. I went elsewhere until it was over.
    That same friend, when I told him months later what happened, he said “maybe if you had fought back, you wouldn’t be here right now”. For years I had carried this shame, that I could’be done more, that I could’ve ripped out his eyeballs, that I must have deep-down really been asking for it because I didn’y fight more…This friend erased a lot of my shame, and saved my life. I think maybe if I could’ve seen this article earlier, it could have done the same, PLEASE, keep on writing these kinds of things, get them out there! You never know when your truth, your bravery, is the grace of god for someone else.

    October 14, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    • “I went elsewhere until it was over.”

      This is so haunting because it perfectly describes a state many of us have experienced in violent situations. It is very much a survival mechanism and I’m so glad you made that point. Thank you for sharing your story and for your words of support.

      October 16, 2013 at 10:54 am

    • Sam

      That’s what happened to me as well. In fact, I did my entire college thesis project about it.

      October 18, 2013 at 6:17 am

  11. I never said anything because he was my husband. I didn’t know exactly what had happened to me until 10 years later and I was seeing a therapist. I thought he was just being a jerk. Even when I told him to stop. Even when he laughed at me and my anger/misery. I just thought that is how men acted, especially if you were married to them. I was married to him for 6.5 years. I still have PTSD from it. This affect the intimacy I am able to express in my current marriage. We are working through it together.

    There are a lot of reasons why women don’t come forward, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t rape.

    October 14, 2013 at 3:01 pm

    • I’m so sorry that happened and so glad you are now with someone who can work through it with you. The betrayal of trust you describe is just heartbreaking. You are not alone–there are so many of us who have taken years to realize that what happened to us was rape. And yes, there are many reasons we may choose not to report or reveal these events. Thank you for sharing your story here.

      October 16, 2013 at 10:45 am

  12. Your post is painful to read — but I’m glad you wrote it. I’m sorry you lived through such nightmares. At 19, I lived alone in a small apartment facing a dark alley with low windows; a man reached in while I was reading in the bathtub and tried to pull me out the window. Luckily the window was too narrow and he fled.

    It feels like yesterday — and I’m now 56. I was far too scared to scream. Nothing came out.
    Then the bitch superintendent (female) tried to blame me for my own assault.

    October 12, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    • Holy shit. I’m so sorry. That is utterly terrifying. The victim blaming that goes on in our society is disgusting and frankly, it’s deadly. And I know just what you mean that it feels like yesterday. I’ve always been pretty good at compartmentalizing, but now and then an event is just *right there* like it’s happening now. The damage these people do–when we survive it–is always a part of us, even if we manage to heal.

      October 16, 2013 at 10:36 am

      • Thanks for the kind words…It was a useful wake-up call to take better care or myself, and a revealing glimpse of parental neglect. I’m not even sure I even told my parents, as they were both continents away, traveling, for years. The value of this shit is seeing how our friends step up to help us heal.

        PTSD is no doubt a part of our brains, even stuffed deep down.

        October 16, 2013 at 11:07 am

  13. lkeke35

    I think a lot of these people forget that many women are raised never to lift a hand to another person, to never fight back when harmed or be violent in any way. Our entire culture teaches women (conveniently for predators) that women must never physically harm anyone.

    It takes a hell of a lot of training against one’s instincts or what one has been taught your whole life to be able to hit someone with a hammer or stab someone with something, even in dire conditions. That’s a level of violence most men aren’t even acculturated to. Most women are not raised to think like it all. And even if the thought occurred to you, you must overcome years of training to be “the gentler sex.”

    October 12, 2013 at 9:30 am

    • Absolutely. We’re conditioned to be nice, kind, and polite–all of which make it nearly impossible to defend ourselves from people with violent intentions, especially if they know how to manipulate. I remember a story about a woman walking home with groceries and a man convincing her (after much cajoling) to let him help her. People who “just want to help” don’t cajole, but he basically shamed her into letting him “help” his way into her apartment and Bad Things ensued. Thankfully, she escaped (literally saw her chance and escaped the apartment) with her life, but it was a close thing and it happened because she believed she didn’t have a right to say “no” when someone was “just trying to help.”

      October 16, 2013 at 10:32 am

      • lkeke35

        For me, the infuriating aspect of it is not that some guy came along and took advantage of her niceness, but that Later on someone will blame her for her assault. Why was she so nice to this man? Why did you invite him in?

        So really, the whole thing becomes a no-win situation where if you grow up expressing aggressive behavior you get vilified for it, but if you grow up and behave exactly as you’ve been taught, you get blamed when someone takes advantage of that.

        October 22, 2013 at 7:56 am

        • YES. This, exactly.

          October 22, 2013 at 9:18 am

  14. Exactly. It’s not a movie. But even Lisbeth Salander couldn’t simply fight the guy off the first time. She had to plot her revenge. I mean, do people ask male victims of assault, why didn’t you just punch the guy out? It’s completely ridiculous. We are not Batman, or Buffy, or Lisbeth. We invent characters like that as power fantasies. Power fantasies

    Asking “why didn’t you just stab him?” or whatever strikes me as every bit as nonsensical as asking, “why didn’t you just fry him with your mutant laser vision?”

    October 11, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    • Yeah, I you make an excellent point. Several of them. Ever since I saw Linda Hamilton all buffed out for Terminator 2, I have wanted to be a badass warrior woman, and while I believe there is a badass warrior woman within me, I also know that I am not a superhero–I am human.

      October 16, 2013 at 10:26 am

  15. lkeke35

    I have never been raped but I’ve known plenty of women who have and who chose to share that experience with me. My response has always been to take whatever they told me at face value and whatever they chose to do or didn’t do, I would back their play. I wasn’t there, so who am I to question someone else’s lived experience.

    It’s something I’m acutely aware of because as a WoC, my lived experiences get questioned or dismissed all the time and I am loathe to do this to another human being. So far me, the response to rape survivors is fairly simple:

    Were you present? What right do you have to question a personal event you didn’t experience or witness for yourself.

    How is that hard to understand?

    October 11, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    • Yes! It amazes me how many people believe it is their right to question another person’s lived experience as though they are somehow the experts and the other person is just not seeing things clearly. Those same people often brandish words like “logic” as though whatever seems logical to them is somehow proof against things that don’t make sense in their worldview or experience.

      October 11, 2013 at 2:51 pm

  16. Rosie,
    I read your post earlier today and tried to add a comment but could not.
    I’ve never read such a raw account of rape and I’ll never understand how anyone finds it in themselves to violate another person like you have described. I’ve witnessed death and the aftermath of suicide and I’ve helped sick friends as they painfully wither and die but I never cried during those times like I did reading your words. I cried not only for the trauma you suffered, but for the reminder of the capacity of some people to do harm to others. I think I understand the paralysis you describe. It comes with witnessing or experiencing something that is incomprehensible; something you know is wrong and would never happen. I sense you’re finding your way through it and I admire and respect your words, and your presence in them.
    Sometimes I read something and I carry it with me and I know it changes me inside. I am grateful you took the time to write this personal account. Thank you.

    October 11, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    • John, you honor me and all survivors with those tears and I am grateful for your words. Thank you.

      October 11, 2013 at 2:46 pm

  17. humanufo

    Thank you for writing this, Rosie. Every time I read a post about your personal experiences I feel like I know you a little bit deeper and understand you that much more. It makes me sad, want to scream and hunt down those who have wronged you and shake them with my bare hands and demand they pay for what they have done to you (and likely others). I find strength in yours. And I cherish the open line of communication and insight into your experiences.

    On paralysis, in a fleeting moment several years ago now, I experienced what I will call situational paralysis for only a few seconds, but it’s something that has haunted me in a way ever since mainly, for me, because I wish very much that if I ever find myself in a similar situation, that I will find whatever it is I need–be it strength, courage, or something else entirely that I perhaps haven’t yet experienced–to be able to move.

    I had just parked at a large, local (and very busy) produce stand/market and was adjusting myself, purse, jacket, what have you as I walked away from my car toward the market. Almost as soon as I moved away from my car, I zeroed in on a small child, maybe four-years old, standing in the middle of the driveway behind parked cars, completely alone and paying little attention to his surroundings.

    Almost as soon as I noticed him, concern and confusion set in, but before I could act on it, a car started to pull out and the boy was directly in the car’s path. I panicked, and at the same exact moment my brain told my body to act, it also told it to freeze. I turned to stone. Only my senses were functional for at least a second (or two or three, I have no idea). I could see what was happening. I could hear people around, car engines, the car moving toward the boy, but I absolutely could not move.

    It all happened so quickly. It was entirely surreal and unimaginable in so many ways. I’ve always thought of myself as someone who would fight, no matter what, for myself, for others, and especially for those who are helpless and utterly vulnerable. That belief shattered in those brief moments.

    The car backed out and stopped a few feet from the boy, then turned and drove away as though the driver had never had any idea how close he or she came to flattening a little boy. And the little boy was completely oblivious. He scanned the area ahead of him and apparently saw the people he was with and quickly made his way to them. He had no idea how close HE had come to being flattened. And neither did his family, by the looks of it.

    I stood there and watched the whole thing in astonishment, terrified by what I had witnessed. But almost as soon as it happened it was over. And I was the only one who seemed to have noticed how close we all came to a great tragedy.

    They boy may not have been killed at such a low speed, it’s hard to say what would or *could* have happened. All I know is that when someone says they were paralyzed in fear, I know what they mean, and I don’t judge them. Though it’s safe to say I’ve judged myself enough in the wake of that incident. I’ve made peace with it, I think. But I shudder to think about it.

    October 11, 2013 at 11:36 am

    • Thank you for sharing this story. It’s a terrifying illustration of that paralysis that some people have never experienced and others know so well. I’m so glad that little boy was ok.

      Thanks also for your words of support and love.

      October 11, 2013 at 12:13 pm

  18. James Cates

    Several times you allude to inaction resulting from an inability to apprehend and process the surreality of your situation.
    To anyone who considers that, and remains skeptical, I would say, imagine some momentary event in your life when something exceptional and distressing occurred. Remember how you froze, even if only briefly?
    Now imagine that the exceptional, distressing occurrence was another person invading; violating, not only your space, but your body; aggressively and callously denying your voice, your choice, your humanity. Can you maybe stretch your imagination to encompass paralysis being among the possible responses?
    It is inconceivable to me that civilized people still debate the parameters of rape. Or, to be more precise, that people still want to so narrowly delimit “legitimate” rape.
    It seems so fundamental, so basic.

    October 11, 2013 at 2:07 am

    • Thanks, James. You describe that paralysis well.

      It does seem inconceivable that we’re still arguing about this, and yet I have lost friends and acquaintances over it because I’m not willing to continue to engage people who argue with me about what’s “legitimate” rape and what just “doesn’t count” (e.g., comparing being drunk to leaving your purse out where someone could steal your money, as though bodies and property are one and the same).

      Thanks for reading and for being part of the discussion.

      October 11, 2013 at 8:30 am

  19. Reblogged this on Tiffany's Non-Blog.

    October 11, 2013 at 1:30 am

  20. I wish I could say I can’t believe anyone would say that to a 12 year old but I would be lying. We unfortunately live in a world where even a child can be treated like a criminal when they are a victim. Anything that challenges the narrative of men’s ownership of women’s bodies is to be derided lest men be held accountable for their own disgusting behavior.

    October 10, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    • The public defender for the first rapist seemed almost as though he couldn’t believe the things he was saying as he accused me of consenting then panicking when I realized I might become pregnant and then “crying rape.” I know he was just doing his job, but I still have a hard time imagining how he slept at night after he managed to win a verdict of “statutory rape” meaning yes indeed, the court believed I was full of shit. I sometimes want to look up the men involved with that case (they were ALL men) and ask them how they’ve slept these past 30-something years, but my case probably wasn’t the worst of them. I don’t even want to think about how many girls like me sat on that stand. And that was another example of me not playing the “perfect victim.” There really wasn’t anybody on my side of the fence telling me what to say or how to act. It was several months after the fact, and I was 12, and I know I didn’t display the proper amount of whatever I was supposed to display. In fact, I think I even snorted at the above question because it seemed so ridiculous to me. The facts of the case didn’t matter as much as that I look pale and shaken and timid on that stand and shed the proper number of tears (I shed none).

      Thanks for being here, Christine.

      October 11, 2013 at 8:22 am

  21. I am so sorry this happened to you. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to be questioned (interrogated) by police, lawyers etc after being raped. I admire your courage in writing about these awful things that have happened to you.

    I was raped 4 years ago by an acquaintance/coworker. I never reported it because: 1) I was afraid I wouldn’t be believed by the police because I was in his company willingly the night it happened, 2) I was afraid my family would find out (there are family issues that would have made them finding out very painful and not at al helpful, 3) I knew the statistics and I knew the chances of him being convicted were slim to none, even IF I could withstand the interrogations of police, lawyers, and a judge (assuming it went to trial, which was unlikely anyway).

    October 10, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    • Thank you for sharing your story here. I’m so sorry that happened and I totally understand your choice not to report it. Virtual hugs.

      October 10, 2013 at 7:27 pm

      • Oops, I posted my comment before I could edit and finish it. Basically, I was going to say, I understand why you didn’t fight back with the dagger or hammer. You explained it in a way that made complete sense to me.

        As for me, I could have fought back harder physically than I did. But I didn’t, because it was like I froze. Just like a deer in a headlights. I couldn’t physically move. I was so shocked that someone I considered a friend would do this to me, and I think that shock and horror just froze me. I was also intoxicated, so that might have had something to do with it. But whatever the reason, I couldn’t move. And I hate when I hear people berating rape victims for not fighting back harder, because sometimes that just can’t happen.

        So sorry, again. Wishing you all the happiness in the world, and thanks again for sharing your story. You’re a fucking hero.

        October 10, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    • Oops, I posted my comment before I could edit and finish it. Basically, I was going to say, I understand why you didn’t fight back with the dagger or hammer. You explained it in a way that made complete sense to me.

      As for me, I could have fought back harder physically than I did. But I didn’t, because it was like I froze. Just like a deer in a headlights. I couldn’t physically move. I was so shocked that someone I considered a friend would do this to me, and I think that shock and horror just froze me. I was also intoxicated, so that might have had something to do with it. But whatever the reason, I couldn’t move. And I hate when I hear people berating rape victims for not fighting back harder, because sometimes that just can’t happen.

      So sorry, again. Wishing you all the happiness in the world, and thanks again for sharing your story. You’re a fucking hero.

      October 10, 2013 at 7:31 pm

  22. I’m so sorry this happened to you both times. I admire your courage in speaking out. The best to you.

    October 10, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    • Thank you, Gretchen.

      October 10, 2013 at 6:40 pm

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