Posted by: mydarkestplaces | January 8, 2013

Feeling all the feelings, thinking all the thoughts

Trigger warning: Rape and sexual violence will come up in this post. Please be aware if you continue to read.


The above image came across my Twitter timeline in the wee hours this morning thanks to the Washington Post. Immediately upon seeing it, a righteous flurry of thoughts stormed through my mind.

Among the first emotions was gratitude. Bear with me. I’m so grateful that I have never been a victim of sexual violence. I’ve never been raped. I’ve never been abused. Not by a significant other, not by my parents. Not by a friend, a neighbor or a sibling. Not by a teacher, not by a priest. Not by a boss, not by a complete stranger. We’ve all heard the stories – we know the list of people who should be trusted yet abuse can go on. Forever. I’ve never had to question or worry about my safety. And I am so, so, so, SO grateful for that.

However, some of my closest friends, some mere acquaintances, more strangers than could ever be counted, have to deal with this reality everyday. They have to deal with the emotional and physical fallout of sexual violence. Fallout that doesn’t end immediately following the act itself. The transition from victim to survivor is torturous and, for most, never ending.

I also determined that I hate how rape and sexual violence only have public light shown on them when a particularly heinous crime is committed. This isn’t to say that light shouldn’t be shown in those moments, but by sensationalizing the few, it marginalizes the many. How Jyoti Singh Pandey was brutalized and ultimately murdered was, and is, heartbreaking. But the experiences I have seen loved ones go through are equally heartbreaking for me (although, I also still cry at A League of Their Own so maybe I’m just more sensitive than a lot of people).

There’s still so much work to be done. I’m not quite idealistic or naive enough to think that sexual violence and rape will ever be eradicated. It’s a reality that’s existed going back to the dawn of man, if not back to Australopithecus Afarensis and beyond. As long as there are weak men (and women) who think the best way to assert their control in a situation is to sexually assault another person, sexual violence will exist. That doesn’t mean that we should give up trying, though.

We should be stigmatizing the perpetrators of these crimes to the fullest extent of any (and all) legal and moral laws. Never, never should the victim (survivor) be held responsible for the things that are done to them. The swami who spoke out yesterday saying, “The victim is as guilty as her rapists,” he said. “She should have called the culprits brothers and begged before them to stop. … This could have saved her dignity and life,” sent me into convulsions of disgust, anger and horror. To think that a mere, “please, sir, stop,” would have stopped the act is foolish and dangerous (and infuriating).

Subsequent thoughts: There are only two thing that are going to truly combat the contagion that is sexual violence – education and acceptance. We have to teach our young men, our young women, that sexual violence is not just wrong, it’s reprehensible. It may not be comfortable, but parents – teach your kids that consensual sex is infinitely more gratifying than sex that is forced. Teach your kids that sex is nothing to be ashamed of and that it’s not something that’s unnatural. If your system of beliefs dictates it, teach them that it’s better to wait for marriage, but don’t turn it into something they should be ashamed of. (For more resources about being sex positive, check out Speak About It)

Rape is never about the sex, it’s about the power. Oftentimes, there’s a good deal of shame built in with it. And not just for the victim (survivor). If we can teach more and more kids and young adults (and adult adults) that sex is okay, sex is natural, and there really isn’t any shame involved with enjoying it consensually, then maybe acquaintance rape (far more predominant than stranger rape) would go down.

Tangentially, we have to accept that, when women and men come to us saying, “this has happened,” that it has happened. Much like I talked about how people who abuse the welfare system are part of such a small minority, the number of people who falsely report rape is minute. For that matter, when considering how many rapes go unreported, the number of people who report rape period is minute. I would rather deal with a 2% false report in order to attain a 98% reporting rate.

Women (and men, even more so for various gendered reasons) are terrified of reporting crimes carried out against them. They’re scared of judgements like the swami’s, like the far too many people who say, “well, s/he was asking for it.” They’re scared that retribution will be swift, silent, and worse than the original crime. They’re scared of losing their livelihoods, they’re scared of losing their lives.

Victims (survivors) need a shoulder, they need a back, they need a strong pair of legs to join them on the long journey ahead. Mostly they need to be unequivocally believed. Maybe between education and unquestioning belief, we can start to ease the pervasiveness of sexual violence in our culture today.

Just a thought.

PSA – If you, or someone you know, is a victim of domestic or sexual violence please consider these resources:
State of Maine
Southern Maine


  1. This is a great piece, I could not agree with you more.

    I think part of the serious problem with this is indeed in the education – and in the fact that we as a society are afraid to discuss sex because it’s usually deemed “inappropriate.” All the while, we feed our teenagers with pornography and so many ‘sexy’ and arousing visuals that it dehumanizes and devalues sexual intercourse.

    Pornographic content gives the viewer all of the power. Anyone can imagine a story about the women or men on the page or in the video, anyone can imagine themselves in that situation, taking what they want.

    Sexual intercourse is about mutual trust, excellent communication, and (hopefully for most people) some kind of love or affection for the other person. It is not a strictly physical fulfillment, which is what most pornography teaches people. Because they can’t understand the emotion (whether as virgins, or folks with poor sexual experiences, or if the people in the video or photo even have emotion) it becomes physical.

    We have taught our kids, and we have been taught to an extent, that we should chase after what we want. No matter what it is- if you want money, go for it. If you want fame, go for it. If you want to change your body with plastic, go for it. You choose your career, your personality, your hairstyle, everything. It’s all “acceptable” because the consumer is told, “you’re just being yourself! Be yourself THIS way!”

    We are consumers to our very physical structure, which is a very dangerous and unhealthy way to live. Sexual intercourse is no exception. It has become consumptive; a thing that we do because it feels good and we want it. I’m sure I don’t have to show anyone more than one Cosmopolitan cover to prove that one.

    We need to start by educating our kids at a more basic level – yes, about sex, but not just about sex. About the importance of letting someone else in on a choice. We need to teach them that putting someone else’s desires first is just as acceptable as following one’s own desires. We need to share that they don’t have to be consumers, and they don’t have to just react physically to visuals. Life is about personal engagement, patience, and self-sacrifice. Sadly, those are three things we don’t encourage. Instead, we tell our children that life is about going to cool places, having a smartphone, and being able to do what you want in this day and age. We are a very sick nation.

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