(**I’m feeling a lot of feelings about the tragedy that happened in CA this past weekend, so I’m going to share them, because sometimes sharing is a positive thing. I hope that this is one of those times. Bit of a trigger warning to go along with this, rape talk ahead)
What happened this weekend wasn’t an act of deranged mental illness, it wasn’t an untraceable inexplicable moment of rare violence. Unlike other shootings, the cause and effect is extremely clear. What happened was a direct result of the widespread misogyny, entitlement, and violence against women that permeates our society. The killer was simply one of many men whose anger is fueled by the thought that they are owed access to women’s bodies, who feel injustice in their inability to gain it, and who act out when they are rejected.
It is that same sense of entitlement that lead my rapist to believe that a few weeks of seeing each other entitled him to taking my virginity from me while I was so drunk that I, an inexperienced drinker, could not stand (when he was 100% sober.) And it was that exact entitlement that fueled the anger on his end in the argument we’d had earlier that day about why I wouldn’t sleep with him. Not allowing him access to my body was an injustice to him, and since I wouldn’t’ give it to him, he took it.
It’s the same entitlement that lead my male (and female) friends to actively question me on whether or not I had “wanted it,” and was just afraid to say so, or if it was all a misunderstanding (I had been involved with him, afterall.)
And it’s the same violence and misogyny that lead to him spitting on my best friend in a music venue, screaming ‘slut,’ and throwing punches at me while my male friends begrudgingly defended me, later chastising me for ‘causing drama.’
It was the same anger that caused someone to anonymously create a website mocking me for being raped, and for people to actively take sides (the majority of whom chose his) and lash out against me in what I now know (but didn’t then,) was a very clear case of rape.
It’s all of those things combined that have often kept me from feeling safe numerous times in the presence of a male, that kept me confined to my apartment for the three years after out of fear and anxiety, and that have unfortunately kept me from actively speaking out about my rape (because his presence is littered all over the internet, and my fear of igniting his anger has often outweighed what value sharing my story might have.)
Anyone who has ever spent a day not responding to messages on OkCupid can tell you that there is a horde of angry, violent, and sexist ‘nice guys,’ out there. What happened this weekend was not a surprise to me, it’s just a step further than the ‘fuck you bitch,’ messages I’ve gotten in response to no response online; a mere inches away from the behavior I’ve seen my friends deal with when they’ve rejected advances. And it’s a step, not a leap.
This is the kind of world we live in; this is the reality of being a woman. And unfortunately, my reality is much kinder than that of women who are minorities, or living in other countries. My rape pales in comparison to the treatment other women have dealt with and will continue to deal with. There is a vast spectrum of violence against women and it takes place daily all around us, in little and big ways. You don’t have to look far to find it.
I’ve always identified myself as a feminist, and I hope that if there is some silver lining in this tragedy it’s that now maybe more females my age will be willing to do so, that some level of awareness has been spread of the vast inequality that still exists between the sexes. What is happening is not okay, and the more awareness that is spread the better; the more people that share their stories the better off we are. So here I am sharing mine.
I hope that the #YesAllWomen uproar on twitter is indicative of a unification of us third-wavers that has been long overdue, and that this isn’t simply a call for women to protect themselves and for men to behave better, but for everyone to try to initiate change on every level.
At the very least, I hope someone reads this and knows that they are not alone, that violence against women/rape and sexual assault is a widespread epidemic that more people suffer from than speak out about. That there is hope and healing and a life after what seems like the end of it. That it really and truly wasn’t your fault.
If you ever need it:
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE
Or if you need someone to talk to, there’s always the good ole’ ‘ask’ button on my tumblr.