I’m going to talk about rape. Specifically, the rape of women, and I am not going to talk nicely about it. I have earned the right to talk about it any way I please.
When I was in college, I did a presentation in a women’s studies class about the epidemic of rape in South Africa. The statistics then showed that a rape occurred every twenty seconds. During the entire presentation, which was comprised of a research deck and four poems I wrote for four victims of rape in South Africa that were in the news, I had another student ring a bell (The kind you find at a front desk) every 20 seconds. It was a very effective illustration of why it was considered an epidemic. My women’s studies teacher cried, and I knew then that she had also been a victim.
Back then, the statistics for rape or sexual exploitation in the United States were one in four girls by the time they were finished with college at age 22-24. Today, those statistics are one in two. ONE IN TWO.
Do you have two daughters? How about two girlfriends? Two sisters?
I wanted to do the math, to figure out based on how many rapes there were in the US in a year, how often they are happening. I wanted to know if it was worse than S. Africa’s one every 20 seconds. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find good data on rape? A big part of the issue is that only an estimated 46% of rapes are reported, and of those reported, only 3% of rapists are convicted.
Sexual assault is all over the news. Famous people coming out to tell their bad experiences. The person who committed the crimes has been held accountable and removed of his career and his family. I know the feeling of justice that comes from seeing the person who assaulted you held accountable, but I also know that’s not something that most victims ever get to experience.
In my immediate family, all of the girls- myself, my daughter, and my stepdaughter have all been victimized. Same with my best friend. My mom. My niece. I am positive, from a statistical perspective, that almost each and every one of you know someone who has been raped or otherwise sexually exploited.
In every instance except one of the assaults I listed above, the perpetrator was not held accountable.
Let me tell you how it goes.
My daughter has been working with rape victims for years now, it is a passion of hers. And then one night in the recent past, when an old high school friend was over, the unthinkable happened. (As a mother it is the absolute unimaginable. Unforgivable.) Bunny knew what to do. She went to the hospital and had a rape kit done. She filed a police report.
The perpetrator told the police that it was consensual. It was her word against his, and there were no witnesses. She received a form letter informing her that the prosecution was not going to file charges because they did not have enough evidence.
Since then, two more girls have revealed to Bunny that the same thing happened to them with the same guy. Let’s call him Danny. Danny is a much nicer name than what I really call that (mother fucking piece of shit) guy in my head. The prosecutor said that if the other girls would file a police report, she would reopen the case. The girls were not keen on going down that road after time had passed. And so, the rapist walks around free.
I told Bunny that she did the right thing, even though the right thing didn’t happen. That at least now there is a record, and if he ever does it to anyone again (and they report it), they will get him.
It’s too bad another girl will have to be victimized first, and it’s little consolation when you have been left with the aftermath.
So now life is like this: Bunny has a therapy dog, who is trained to alert her if anyone comes close, because now, a Target employee walking up behind her can cause her a panic attack. She can’t sleep in her bedroom anymore, in fact she can’t sleep too much at all anymore. She has flashbacks and panic attacks, and way too much distress for a twenty-year-old girl.
But Danny is doing fine.
When we went to visit the other daughter, at college, we talked about what had happened to Bunny. That was when she told us what had happened to her. It was a house party. It was a jock on the baseball team. It was someone who other people said she should stay away from, because he has a history, but it still happened. This daughter, she did not go to the police. She did not want anyone to know. But to her distress, she walked into work at the ice arena one day to find him there, telling her friends that they had “hooked up”, as though it were consensual. She did not want to talk about it after she told us, she wanted to forget it.
I am not going to whine about what J and I went through when we found out that both of our daughters had been sexually assaulted within three months of each other. There were plots and schemes. There were visions of revenge. There were tears, there are still sometimes tears, and there was more anger than either of us knew what to do with. We googled those (mother fucking pieces of shit) guys and we scowled at their faces. We planned secret road trips that may or may not include weapons. You know when a kid bullies your kid and you want to let them have it? Well when a punk rapes your daughters it is ONE MILLION TIMES worse than that.
But we did nothing, because we are decent human beings and those (mother fucking pieces of shit) guys aren’t worth either of our lives being spent in prison.
This has been an especially hard week for Bunny, and then there is all this stuff in the news and oh yeah let’s not forget that legislation to protect victims at colleges was nixed and perpetrators hold positions of power all over the place like the Supreme Court and the Presidency. All those things have had me focusing on what can be done to solve this epidemic. I have spent serious time contemplating whether or not chastity belts of some sort are a feasible solution. It is crazy thinking, I realize, but seriously, what do women have to do to be safe? This is how desperate the situation is making me feel.
I had a very good therapist as a teenager. She taught me not to live my life as a victim. That I was more than that, that I had hopes and dreams and goals and they were all still mine to have and to live in any way I saw fit. Because of her, I pushed myself outside my safe zone. Because of the confidence she was able to help me build back, I made myself not be afraid. Every time I set out on a neighborhood walk in the dark, alone, it’s my way of giving fear a giant middle finger. Of saying I REFUSE TO BE AFRAID.
But now I wonder, should I have been more afraid? Should we have drilled into our daughters that they should NEVER be alone with a boy, even if he’s been your friend for years? Should we have put them through self-defense classes? Should we have made them live at home for as long as possible, maybe offered them an incentive? Installed video cameras in their homes? Maybe a body cam for good measure?
And then I think- why is it up to women to figure out a way to stay safe and protect their bodies, instead of up to the perpetrators to STOP VICTIMIZING. These are the things that keep me up at night.
I had a few bad boyfriends in my life, and one of those bad boyfriends on one New Year’s Eve, when I left the room, tried to kiss one of my friends. Forcefully tried. Repeatedly.
When I found out about it the next day, he gave me a lame defense about how he was drunk, like that made him less accountable for his actions. What I said to him was,
“If you have sexual urges that you cannot control, then I have a daughter and I do NOT need you around.”
His jaw dropped in shock when I said that, as if he were offended, but it was all the same to me. It was no less offensive for him to push himself upon my girlfriend than it would be my daughter, but apparently, he thought he was on higher moral ground than that.
Not long after we broke up, that same girlfriend of mine sent me a blurb from a criminal website that listed my ex as being charged, and convicted, of fifth degree sexual assault. I was disgusted, but I was not surprised. I do not believe for a second that the one conviction was the extent of his crimes.
It is true that there is strength in numbers, but it isn’t just the people in the spotlight who need to come together, it is all women. The sisterhood is under attack, has been under attack for years, with no visible signs of letting up. We are mothers and sisters and aunts and grandmas and friends and families and we have got to look out for our own, because the Calvary hasn’t shown up yet and I can’t hear it coming.
I always appreciated in the “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” books how she tattooed “Rapist” on her rapist’s chest. I am not a sadistic or mean person, normally, though I realize this might make me sound like one.
In Minnesota, if you are convicted of a DUI, when you get your license back, you get special license plates for at least a year. These special license plates let everyone around you know that you might be a drunk driver, so they can make decisions regarding how they will interact with you on the road that may keep them safer. Those plates are also the only probable cause the police need to pull you over and give you a breathalyzer.
To me, it’s not a bad idea to tell the rest of the world that they should be on guard around someone who has victimized other people. Maybe more women would report, if they thought it would actually save someone else what they’ve suffered at the hands of a rapist.
We have seen in the news what it can do when multiple women come forward with their stories, and right now, it’s the best chance we’ve got at facilitating change.
On behalf of women everywhere, I’m giving fear a giant middle finger.
I got your back, sister.