“Was it a bad one?” My boss’s face read of pity and sympathy as he asked me this seemingly innocent question. He was referring to my rape, a part of my narrative he was now familiar with. I responded with a quick and non-committal, “yeah, it was.” I knew what he meant by the question, how violent was the act, but I was still taken aback and offended. Here is the list of questions I heard within my boss’s singular, well-intentioned inquiry:
Were you drunk?
Was he drunk?
Were you careful?
Were you alone?
Did you know him?
What were you wearing?
Did you have to fight him off?
How hard did you try to resist?
Did you want it at the time and then regret it in the morning?
What is your sexual history?
Do you have a lot of one-night stands?
Was it provoked?
Were you flirting with him?
Are you sure you’re ready to ruin a boy’s life with this accusation?
The list of questions goes on as evidenced by most court transcripts of rape trials.
I’m often almost thankful that my rape was violent, that I did wake up with a black eye and bruised fists. Otherwise, was it really “a bad one?” Would it have been worthy of recognition or support? Would people have believed me without the black and blue evidence staring them in the face? Statistics show that they probably wouldn’t believe me, or if my peers did, the judge and jury would not.
Six: the number of rape perpetrators that will actually be incarcerated out of every 1,000 rapes committed. Thirty-Four: the percent of rapes reported to the police. Sixty-Six: the percent of rapes not reported to the police for reasons ranging from fear of retaliation to belief that the police could not do anything about it. Two: the number of minutes in between you reading this and another person in the United States being sexually assaulted. This is not acceptable. Rape and sexual assault have become an epidemic infiltrating every space in this nation. We are not safe.
I’m a part of the 64 percent, a victim who did not report their attack. I don’t have faith in the American judicial system in matters of sexual assault. I believe there is a systemic problem within the courts that leads to these terrifying statistics. In light of the recent Brock Turner case, many Americans are questioning how the swimmer received such a lenient sentencing while I was tragically unsurprised. The current legislation leaves room for cases like Brock Turner’s to exist, for judges to have the discretion to minimize a sentence from a 14 year maximum to only six months. Even more troubling, our current society creates the judges that not only minimize sentencing but also dismiss cases completely.
As women, we are taught from a young age to protect ourselves from the world. Don’t wear this, never be alone, learn self defense, always be aware, never allow your guard to lower. All good practices for safety in today’s social climate. But, to the men I will ask, what were you taught? You were taught that teasing a girl is how you show her you like her, that boys will be boys, that violence represents masculinity, that girls play hard to get, and finally that persistence is key because “no” doesn’t always mean “no” because sometimes it means “convince me.” These indoctrinations create a society in which women are scared and guarded while men are assertive and often times intrusive.
So, was it a bad one? Yes. It was not bad because I had blood and bruises for souvenirs, nor because I have PTSD from the experience. It was bad because it was rape, the end. No more questions, at this time.