Rape is not just about a man or a woman being forced into a situation they did not intend to join. Rape is the attempt to rip control and security from someone through a sexual act. Rape is someone taking everything from you in one single swipe with no consideration for what this might do to your whole life. Rape is terrifying.
I have never been raped, but someone very close to me recently confessed she had been attacked when she was thirteen years old and had never told anyone. It took her six years to realise that what she'd gone through was not just 'boys being boys' and she had to tell someone. For a long time she thought there was no point in saying anything. She felt like it would not help anyone if she said the words: 'I was raped'. One day, we were chatting and she started blurting it all out.
She was going out with a boy she knew from school. One day, they were in his bed kissing, with no shirts on. He started touching her. She told him to stop because she didn't want to go any further than kissing. She told him she didn't want to do that. He said she was being childish and kept touching her. Her legs, her breasts, her skin; everything burnt under his hands. She tried to push him away but, as she was crushed under his weight, she realised she couldn't fight him. He was too strong and she was too weak. As she said no over and over again, he just laughed and forced himself into her. She cried, but tears made no difference to him. She lost.
After she was raped, she didn't tell anyone because she wasn't completely sure it was rape. She had, after all, gone to his house and to his bed willingly. Only years later did she realise that even girlfriends and wives can be raped, because if it takes force, it's not consensual. But by then she had something else keeping her from telling her story. She was afraid of being judged because she had gone to his house, laid on his bed, kissed him and taken off her shirt. More than judgement, she feared people would not believe she said no to sex because of all the things she said yes to. The fact that she lived in a town where everyone knows everyone didn't help. In her mind, the chances of this boy ever suffering the consequences of his actions were so slim that seeing him in town every day after accusing him of rape would become unbearable. So she didn't say he raped her. She didn't say anything - until now.
She still doesn't intend to file a police report or even tell her parents. She's not ready to put this part of herself out there, and she may never be. The truth of the matter is that everyone failed her, from her parents to the education system. We all failed her when we didn't tell her that when someone forces you into something you do not want, it's not right. We failed when we didn't tell her that it's okay to feel whatever you feel and that it's not your fault - no matter what you were wearing or agreed to do beforehand. More than anything, we failed by not teaching every single person that when someone says 'no', they really do mean 'no'. They're not playing hard to get, being shy or childish. Until we have instilled this in everyone's brain, we will have kept on failing rape victims everywhere because it is our duty to teach our young that it's just as wrong to force someone into sex as it is to steal or kill.
If anyone asks their mom, sister or best friend, they will find that, most likely, they have all been sexually harassed or assaulted at least once or twice. As children, boys might have groped them against their will. As adults, random men on the street might have yelled obscenities at them as they were walking home. And that's just some of the 'mild' violations we go through. How about when someone at work makes constant sexual innuendos and you're ashamed and embarrassed but say nothing because they're superior to you? How about when a guy you work with sees you wearing a short skirt outside the office and the next day says you were dressed like a slut and he liked it? It happens to all of us.
The ways we are made to feel inadequate and ashamed throughout our lives are countless. The worst is how sometimes it feels like we are being educated to dress appropriately and to avoid dangerous situations, when, in fact, we should be teaching men and women not to rape instead. Putting the pressure and the guilt on the person who was raped is not only wrong, but it is also pointless. It was not their choice; therefore they cannot be the ones to change.
Let's stop failing.
If you need more information about rape or just want to talk to someone, go to Rape Crisis.