I have been aware of predators since childhood. Since I was four or five years old and first had a man’s penis in my mouth. Contrary to some knee-jerks here and elsewhere, the fact that I’m aware of predators in my environment does not mean that I think all men are predators. It’s one of those double-edged swords women so often find themselves at the wrong end of: If we get raped, we should have been more careful. If we’re careful, we’re alarmists (worse, we’re FEMINISTS) who believe all men are out to rape us. There’s no winning with some people.
But those are not the ones we seek to reach this month. Over the next few weeks, while the Steubenville wound is still open and oozing, it’s our job to appeal to those people who are not yet aware (or not yet aware that they’re aware) but are ready for awareness. We’re not preaching to the choir or trying to make the blind see–we just need to be vocal enough and authentic enough to reach those who are out there listening, absorbing, and becoming warriors in their own time, at their own pace.
I’ve seen it happen. I know how powerful our stories can be. Share yours. The world needs your voice.
Note: Lest anyone think that the point of #AlwaysAware is to put the onus of rape prevention on potential victims, it is not. The point is that (most) women are always aware of potential of violence. We are taught to be afraid and trained to be vigilant. Sexual Assault Awareness Month is not for us–it’s for people who don’t spend every day of their lives alert and aware and looking for ways to keep something like this from happening to them. It’s for people who don’t understand how often women experience assault. It’s for those who believe that women, not men, should be responsible for preventing male-on-female rape. Until we’re all #AlwaysAware of the problem of rape culture, women will continue to bear the weight of that awareness all 365 days of the year.
I’m adding new posters as often as I have time to make them. I’ll replace the one at the top now and then, and add alternate ones here.
The idea for “Always Aware” started with a Twitter chat with the Sin City Siren and was further inspired by the above illustration by Laura Boyea (used with permission).
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.
Guest post by Bree
When I used to imagine what rape would be, I’d think of a masked man taking you into a back alley and beating you senseless to get what he wanted. As scary as that is by itself, it was scarier for me to realize that rape could come from someone you already knew…perhaps even someone you were dating already. That’s what it was in my case.
I started dating a boy when I was 13. It’s not shocking to say that at that age a boy would already be pushing for sex, and certainly not shocking to say that at that age I didn’t want to. At first It was mostly pressure, him touching, me pushing away and saying no, after a small fight it was stop and later resume again thus causing a bigger fight. But things kept getting progressively worse, he became more aggressive, the fights getting worse after I said no, him being more physical, then it started actually happening. After all the “no’s”…it no longer became worth the effort to fight anymore. This happened for years, getting worse progressively. It began happening in front of his friends, they would watch, not saying anything, then practically high five him afterwards.
I wouldn’t admit it to myself back then. I didn’t tell anyone about it or talk about it at all. He told me I was obligated to do those things because I was his girlfriend, and that’s what girlfriends do, whether we want to or not. It wasn’t until years later when I met someone who tried (and did) eventually save me from this that I was able to admit the dreaded “r” word and realize what it was that really happened to me. I still live with PTSD, I live with the flashbacks and mental scars while I am sure he is somewhere playing his xbox right now with a smile on his face. When I finally left he told his friends I “cheated” so no one would believe my story of the abuse from the boy on the pedestal.
After I started healing I got back into my writing poetry, and then I went on to spoken word. Anything to talk about my story and get it out of my system. I worry about the other girls out there who are in my situation…dating their rapist, and thinking its justified and not rape because they are dating…it’s not true ladies, the sooner you realize that, the sooner you bloom as well.
It gets better–you just have to fight for it.
Bree is a poet/spoken-word artist. Visit her website for more of her work.
If you need a safe place to share your story, please visit my Facebook page and contact me via the Message button. ~Rosie
Here’s a short film by Jodi Martinez featuring Bree and her story:
From the blogosphere:
Guest post by Sid
Ok folks, here’s the thing:
Someone is wrong on the internet.
Lots, really. Several, if we get right down to it, but I’m a busy gal and I’ve only got so much time. As such, let’s zero in on a Facebook conversation I watched go down just the other day. A friend of mine posted about CNN’s coverage of the Steubenville verdict, which I won’t recount here because if you don’t know it by now, you probably don’t own a computer. This was her take:
When my friend expressed hope he was kidding, he clarified:
And finally, when called out on perpetuating rape culture, he had this charming tidbit to add:
Mmmmmmk Sweetiekins…since you seem to be so very lost, allow me to break this down for you one asinine comment at a time.
1. “If laws are in place to protect the people, then people who are injured as a result of their breaking the law don’t get the same sympathy.”
A girl went to a party and got drunk. Tell me who she injured. Do not say the reputations of these boys. I want you to tell me EXACTLY WHO this girl PHYSICALLY INJURED as a result of her intoxication. Tell me.
Did she beat someone up? Did she hit people with sticks? SHE WAS UNCONSCIOUS. Was she drinking underage? Yes. Yes, she was. She got drunk and she passed out. And that should be the end of this story.
2. “When a drunk driver hits a telephone pole, does anyone sympathize with him?”
Okay, I want to make sure the sentiment of my next statement is very, very clear.
WHAT THE HOLY SHITTING FUCK DID YOU JUST SAY?
Reasons we get pissed off when drunk drivers hit telephone poles:
This person drank to excess and then got behind the wheel of a vehicle.
This person drank to excess and then put the lives of EVERYONE on the road in danger.
This person drank to excess and then possibly cut my phone service.
This person drank to excess and then made DECISIONS which affected his evening.
The drunk driver who hit a pole did not just drink to excess. That is not the end of the sentence. Were that the end of the sentence, he wouldn’t have hit the telephone pole. He would have woken up the next day, possibly with a permanent-marker penis on his face. Jane Doe drank to excess…and that’s the end of her sentence. She passed out. This story should have ended with a permanent-marker penis, at the very worst.
3. “…but she consensually broke the law to place herself in a situation she knew was risky.”
Do you think going to a party is risky, Sweetiekins? When you personally get ready for a party, do you think to yourself, “Oh no, I’m heading to the danger zone!”? Do you personally find drinking at a party to be a risky thing for you—specifically you, Sweetiekins—to do? No? So you don’t view a party as a place where you should constantly have to look over your shoulder and see who’s trying to attack you?
THEN WHY THE FUCK DO YOU EXPECT HER TO?
4. “At least suspend her from school to send the message that underage drinking is illegal for a reason.”
“We’re proud of you for pressing charges against your rapists. There was almost certainly a lot of social and peer pressure not to press charges, but we think you make the right decision. We know the media has been tearing you apart and you must feel like three shades of crap right now, but about that minor drinking violation…”
Folks, this is how we make people afraid to come forward with rape charges. I’m not saying you should be able to get away with whatever you want because of it, but for crying out loud, underage drinking is a victimless crime. Literally the only reason anyone wants her to get hit with a punishment for it is because they want to find a way to make this her fault, too. And it’s just not.
5. “I don’t know if a ‘rape culture’ exists, but more problematic than that is this culture of ‘not taking responsibility for one’s actions.”
First let’s touch on this culture of “not taking responsibility for one’s actions.” I think your next line really brings your feelings on this into focus, so let’s look at it:
Rape victim: “I didn’t do anything wrong, the problem is the rape culture.”
Rapist: “I didn’t do anything wrong, the problem is the rape culture.”
Mmk, this tells me that you have no idea what rape culture is. Like, at all. No sarcasm. So let’s touch on it.
Rape culture is this, the world we live in, where all the questions focus on what the victim did to deserve her rape. It’s the culture where people are honestly responding to this trial with, “Those poor boys’ lives are ruined,” when the reason their lives are ruined is because they chose to commit rape.
Rape culture is the culture where most women who are raped don’t report it, specifically because they already know they abuse they’ll get. They know that it is them, the victims (and not the rapists), who will be torn apart and made to believe that whatever they did, be it have the gall to go out for a drink in the evening or the audacity to wear a skirt in public, is the reason that they deserved their rape.
And it’s just not ever true. It isn’t ever.
6. “Rapist: You did do something wrong and need to be punished.”
Hey! Yes! You got one right!
7. “Rape victim: You didn’t do anything wrong, but don’t blame a ‘rape culture’ for your stupidity and lack of foresight.”
Aaaaaand my sympathy for you is gone again. You had it for like, an eighth of a second there.
So really, explain this to me, Sweetiekins. Is this the “women should expect to be raped at all times” song? Cuz I gotta tell ya, I’ve heard it, and I really prefer Mumford & Sons. It just makes more sense to me.
Why should I spend every moment of my life expecting to be raped? Do you have any idea how exhausting that is? I mean, do you? It takes a lot of mental energy to spend all day thinking up exit strategies or figuring out how fast you can punch the guy on the bus next to you if he puts his hand on your leg. Know how I know? Cuz I do it every fucking day.
Seriously, do this for me: spend one day—just one day—keeping yourself ready for rape at all times. When you walk out the door, look around for strangers. If you see someone who looks iffy, cross the street, even if it takes longer. Keep your keys pressed through your fingers if you walk alone at night. Look all around you every few seconds. You passed some guy walking down the street? Turn around to make sure he’s not running up to attack you but look fucking nonchalant about it you don’t want to cause a scene. Wait, is he following you?? Speed up! Quick, you don’t want him to find out where you wor—oh, he turned the corner. Nevermind.
Talk to me again about foresight, Sweetiekins.
8. “Following your logic, when my $1000 bike was stolen over Spring Break when I had it locked in the racks instead of taking it inside, I did nothing to ask for it. I did ask for it.”
I. Can’t. Even.
You locked up your bike…your bike was stolen…and it was your fault because you didn’t lock it up more?
I just…I don’t even know what to do with that.
9. “Yes, there is a bike thief out there, but I am not going to detract from my ownership of the problem by saying, ‘Oh, the problem is a Bike-Stealing Culture.’”
I’m going to set aside the sociological points of actual crime culture here, because I feel that it gets away from the primary point I wish to make. You ready for this? Cuz I’m about to blow your mind.
The invasion of a woman’s body without her consent is not nor should it ever be compared to PETTY OR GRAND THEFT.
Did I really just have to write that sentence?
What, so I have be careful for having the nerve to walk about in public in blatant possession of a vagina? What am I supposed to do, Sweetiekins? Leave it at home? Lock it up? Leave your dick at home once in a while. It’s totally possible. There’s a song about it and everything, so it must be true.
Wake. Up. Rape isn’t theft. Sticking any of your appendages into any orifice of an unconscious person is not the same thing as lifting that same unconscious person’s wallet. If you don’t go to a party expecting to get raped, why the hell should I have to? If you don’t abstain from going out for a drink, why the hell should I have to? If you don’t arrange an escort to walk home in the dark after work, why the hell should I have to?
But if you won’t help break the cycle of rape culture, I guess that means that I have to.
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.
Guest post by Lenora Davis
[Note: Trigger warning for rape.]
I can’t remember what was worse: the denial or the guilt. For months I walked around numb, refusing to acknowledge what had happened, refusing to give it a name, to refer to it, because once I said it, it would become real.
The day that he raped me was the worst day of my life. He dehumanized me, he made me feel little and helpless and vulnerable.
For years, I carried that burden with me. I felt it above me, lingering, knowing that in all possibility it could fall and crush me beneath its weight. It could break me and render me incapable and lifeless. And some days that was exactly how I felt. I felt as if a part of me was taken, and I couldn’t pinpoint what it was or where it had been taken from, but I knew that I was missing it. Some nights I awoke in a cold sweat with my heart pounding because he’d penetrated my dreams; the one place I had found solitude had been invaded. I knew I had to do something to reclaim my mind, body, and soul.
Seven years later, I see the road I have traveled since that day that has led me to where I am now. It has not been a straight path. There have been twists, turns, dead ends, and horizons. It has been a long journey. Some days I felt alone, others I felt as though I was with a procession. I look at the woman I have become, the woman that the journey has turned me into, and I realize that the greatest strength has come from within me. Yes, some days I fought to put my feet to the floor and leave my bed. Some days I spent minutes crying before leaving the house. Some days I felt as though I was on the brink of absolute annihilation and that I was only a shell, incapacitated by my memories. At first, those days were frequent. I often wondered if they would ever stop, if I would ever begin to feel human again. Then one day I would wake up and feel the sunlight on my face and the coffee would taste sweeter. I would laugh. I would put on lipstick and not worry about being seen. I would make myself known.
This intermittence continued for years. Finally, the good days began to outnumber the bad. I began to love myself again. After years of blaming myself and hating myself for what I now realize was no fault of my own, I began to understand. We live in a rape culture. And although the media and society would have wanted me to believe that I deserved blame and disgrace, I slowly began to comprehend that those feelings were unjustified and unwarranted.
I began feeling the blood course through my veins again. I became able to shape the person I wanted to be. I began to feel both alive and infinite.
He took something from me – that is true. But what I have built, reclaimed, and created is bigger and more vibrant. It makes me want to live, love, and hope beyond my wildest imagination. If I ever have a daughter, I will teach her to love relentlessly and infinitely, without fear. I will teach her that yes, there are bad people in the world, but there are also good people who will listen to you, nurture you, and just be there some days when you need to cry, or laugh, or be still. I am eternally grateful to those people in my life who have, over the last seven years, watched me heal and offered themselves to help in the process. I will teach her that you are always stronger than you appear, and that nobody has the right to make you feel small without your permission.
To reclaim what I lost and to truly heal, I began writing a letter. I began writing without an addressee. I just began writing.
So to whoever is reading this, be you a survivor, a friend of a survivor, or another beautiful soul, I hope I have given you something. I hope you have read this and felt a little more at peace with yourself, or that you feel the strength to begin your own journey. I hope you find anything you may be searching for, and that you possess the love and optimism to carry on and know when you have reached your destination.
Lenora Davis is the pseudonym of a young woman who approached me via the MMAS Facebook page and wanted to tell her story. To anyone reading: please know that you can tell your story here anonymously. Feel free to add it to the comments or let me know if you’d like me to publish it in a post. ~Rosie
From the blogosphere:
Trigger Warning: This post is about rape.
I was fourteen years old the night my friend G took me to my first kegger. We told my mom we were going to “a little get together.” I remember almost nothing about the evening—flashes, mostly. I remember absolutely nothing about being raped that night.
I might never have known about it, except that N–a woman I’d met the night before–mentioned it casually the next morning when I woke in a strange house with what might have been my first hangover. I don’t remember the words she used, just the image they evokedof me passed out in a bed and two men doing whatever they wanted with me.
Apparently G had left me at the party—I never learned why, but I assume that I was either passed out or otherwise resisted leaving. I never asked him. Sitting there with N that morning, I barely remembered that he’d brought me. I don’t remember worrying that I’d be in trouble for not going home the night before. I don’t remember anything but a sick feeling in my gut and the vague thought that “I guess that’s what happens when you get drunk and pass out.”
N didn’t seem particularly bothered by it. I’d soon learn that she wasn’t bothered by much. If I’d heard the term “sex positive” back then I would have assumed it applied to her because when it came to N and sex, the answer was always “yes.” By comparison, even as promiscuous as I eventually became, I always felt like a prude. And I felt like one that morning because I knew I wasn’t okay with what had happened, and yet, here was this woman ten years older than I who seemed to think it was no big deal.
So that’s how I treated it. I put it out of my mind, and I never once thought of it as rape. Rape was what happened to me when I was twelve and a boy forced himself on me and I fought with every fiber of my being. That was when I went to the police and lost friends and created a scandal in my community. This was different—it was my fault for passing out and leaving my body lying around for other people to use.
I never thought of it as rape until it happened again. I was 35 or so, out drinking, went back to someone’s place after the bar closed to smoke some pot, and woke up on a couch with a man’s penis inside me. So disoriented it took me a moment to realize what was happening and shove him off me, I first assumed that I just didn’t remember somehow letting things get started with this person I had absolutely no sexual interest in. I left him sitting on his couch looking down at his lap, and I walked home in the dark, and I blamed myself and shamed myself and felt like the most disgusting slut in the world.
And then I remembered:
We’d smoked some pot, and I’d felt really tired. I’d curled up on his couch just to rest for a moment. I had passed out. Between the alcohol, the pot, and my anti-depressants (and it’s entirely possible he slipped me something, I have no way of knowing at this point) I was good and unconscious for I don’t know how long. Until some part of me realized my body was in the middle of a sex act I hadn’t consented to.
It wasn’t my fault. I feel the need to say that because it wasn’t, and because I want anyone reading this who has experienced something similar to know that it isn’t your fault, either. We never know when we walk out the door when we’re going to find ourselves in the presence of a rapist. We can take precautions and self-defense classes, maintain a constant state of awareness of our surroundings, only ever drink at home, and still get raped. I know because the first time I got raped I was just hanging out with friends smoking a joint. I know because most women who experience rape are not drunk or dressed provocatively or in any way “asking for it.” Most victims are raped by someone they know, and it usually happens in their own home or that of a friend or relative.
Rape isn’t the logical conclusion to a night of drink ending in unconsciousness. In a civilized society, it should never be a thing about which we say, “What did she expect?” If the crime was murder, we never would. Because drunk girls don’t cause murder any more than they cause rape.
What causes rape? Rapists. People who believe on some level or other that they are entitled to use someone else’s body for their sexual gratification or rage/power/fantasy-fulfillment.
I’m grateful for the guilty verdict in the Steubenville case today. I’m outraged that the judge verbally admonished the boys for irresponsible behavior while drinking (including texting dirty pictures), but not for rape. I’m disgusted at the slap on the wrist these boys got in the form of one- and two-year sentences. But I’m hoping out of all this comes a real conversation about the culture that produces boys who aren’t even sure what rape is when they see it, and a system that treats rape victims like criminals.
Also, Jane Doe is donating all funds sent her way to her local women’s shelter and is asking that others do the same. (Worth reading.)
For more background on my history of abuse, read A Brief History (the Bad-Parts Version).
For a great breakdown of Steubenville and rape culture, read So You’re Tired of Hearing About “Rape Culture”?
And for commenters who would still like me to take responsibility for my rapes:
PSA: Trolls who comment here will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)
On Make Me a Sammich:
- A Brief History (the Bad Parts version)
- #IStandWithDylan – My Story of Childhood Sexual Abuse
- 10 Things Rape is Not
- #SAAM Facts: Arm Yourself
- Letter from Another Jane Doe
- Bree’s Story