This is an apology blog. I owe an apology to women. I’ve failed my own gender and for that I am sorry.
I’ve never considered myself a feminist. To me, those types of women were the hairy, bra-less kind. We aren’t in the dark ages anymore, women can vote, there are women in positions of power that would never have been in those positions even 40 years ago. A lot has been done, why do we have to keep rocking the boat? Because of this mindset I’d had, I forgot about the thousands of other things that feminism can help bring light to.
Four months ago today I was raped. It happened and it’s over but now I find myself dealing with the aftermath of it. Part of that is the disappointment I have in myself when I realize how harshly I used to judge women, whom I didn’t even know, that were in my exact same position. So much for sisterhood.
It’s scary to think that I almost didn’t come forward and go through the necessary steps of reporting it because I was scared. I was terrified that no one would believe me, because why would they? They weren’t there. They don’t know the terror and humiliation I felt. They only have my words to go off of. If someone had told me something like that had happened to them before I had gone through it myself, I would have been sympathetic but a part of me would be wondering, “Is she telling the whole truth?” or “Well maybe if she hadn’t done/said/drank that…“
It literally makes me sick to my stomach to think like that now. I’m ashamed at the lack of support I have previously shown my fellow ladies. Why would I try to justify something as horrific as that? Rapes are one of the most under reported crimes because along with it being a very hard crime to actually prosecute, victims can feel so much shame, guilt and uncertainty that it keeps them from coming forward. This is especially true for women who know their attacker, they tend to justify it in their heads, which can have horrible repercussions mentally and physically. This is horrible and needs to stop. I’ve been lucky enough to have had very few negative reactions from sharing my story but the majority of the negative comments have come from other women. It’s horrible. Aren’t we supposed to be the ones who lift each other up and support each other in these moments. Why are we most skeptical of each other?
Again, I’m lucky in that I’ve had so many people who have been there for me these last four months. People who have stood by me and been there to offer a shoulder or a distraction, but the few moments I felt less than believed or supported still plagues me and I worry with each new person I talk with about this. I worry that the thoughts running through their minds are the ones I would have had myself. Doubt and uncertainty. I worry that they’re looking at my outfits, or the way I walk and talk and trying to pass judgement on how legitimate my experience was. And that’s my own fault, because I allowed myself to think that way too. This is so sad because female friendships are so important. I’ve leaned on my sisters and girlfriends these last few months and it’s truly been one of the most healing experiences. We take away one of the greatest relationships we can share with another person when we choose to turn our backs on each other.
So this needs to stop. With as many programs that are available in our city, state and country for victims of this type of violence we also need to make sure that the people we know and love are informed on these situations and know how to deal with it if it ever happens to someone they care about. Rapes occur in 1 in 4 women and I have to say that I was shocked by how many people who have come forward and shared their stories with me once I shared mine. A lot had never shared them before and most expressed regret at not having spoken up earlier. Rape is a silent crime that shouldn’t be allowed to muffle the voices of the ones it affects. My first step in eliminating that is to start being kinder to the women around me who may be struggling quietly and don’t dare say anything. I’m here, I’ve been there and I don’t want you to be alone anymore.
So I’m sharing all of this, my deepest, darkest, most personal experience in the hopes that it gives someone else courage to speak up. Whether it be from something that’s already happened to them or for something that may happen in the future. No one should feel alone or judged anymore. I am not going to allow this one person’s actions to control my life or my story. I will not allow him to continue to have the power to make me feel less than who I am, and neither should you.
So on that note, here are some positive things that I have had come from my unpleasant situation:
1. I would have never known how strong I truly am. For those of you that have been following this blog, you know I started it after a particularity heart-wrenching breakup. That one night of my life helped me realize how much I’ve grown since my life was broken in two. That April night I hit bottom and yet I never once picked up the phone to call my ex. Though my insides were screaming constantly to try to lean on him and there were nights I wasn’t sure I could catch my breath long enough to make it to the next moment until I heard his voice, I fought back and realized that even in the darkness I no longer need him.
2. It reminded me what an amazing family I have. When he came in and stole what I kept most sacred, God reminded me that he had given me the most loving, caring and supportive people to surround me. Their undying love for me has been the source of my strength these last few months.
3. I was able to see the friends and people in my life who truly matter. The ones who will drop everything to spend countless hours in the hospital or police station with me, the ones who will listen to my pain over the telephone, or who will take me for a coffee date to help me remember that life goes on just as normally as it did before.
4. It’s shown me that things could always be worse. I used to cry soft, wet, tears over a boy who decided he couldn’t use me anymore, but this other person slipped into the dark and showed me that I was wasting precious liquid on something that could have been much worse. Life is never as bad as you think.
5. Finally, it opened my eyes to the hidden dangers of this world and the community that I live in. My naivety toward people led me to believe that in this small town that I grew up in, nothing truly bad could ever happen to me. I’m thankful that I can now realize that that’s not true. It hasn’t made me think that there’s danger lurking behind every corner, but it’s certainly made me aware that not everyone has the best of intentions.
I hope this jumbled post of thoughts spoke to you in some way. As always, I’m around to be a listening ear. I might not have anything wise to say but as I’ve learned these past few months, sometimes you just need to know that you aren’t alone.