Not There Yet

When Lauren posted her super-brave condemnation of the state of women’s equality yesterday, I was incensed. So much so that I couldn’t form coherent sentences.

Because every word she wrote was true.

In a world where women are supposedly “equal” WHY do we still have these issues? It’s a bunch of bullshit. We still have the men who don’t “lower themselves” to work with women. (This is going on at work right now with one of our contractors.) We still have people who assume it’s fine to refer to a woman as “Andy’s little girlfriend” in the workplace, instead of by her name. (Yep, that one was me. And even better, I wasn’t dating Andy.) Movies that include needless rape scenes, for shock value. (I’m looking at you “The Hills Have Eyes”.) Industries and communities where women are still marginalized. Where a presidential candidate can make a fool of himself paying off the women he’s harassed, and assume he can still win a nomination. Where, as Lauren said, we’ve been taught to keep our heads down, bite our lips, and tolerate it all … just to survive.

And then this, pulled from Twitter yesterday:

“sucks to have to be a rape survivor AND a rape joke survivor”

There is so, so much wrong with this I can barely think.

I’ve touched on it briefly in the past, but let’s get a little background, and a little detail:

A month before my 16th birthday I was raped. By my boyfriend. The boy who’d given me my first kiss, pursued me and made me feel wanted, and then gotten very, very angry when I refused to have sex with him. 3 days after my laughing refusal (I’d thought it was a joke) he drugged my drink* while at a party, and spirited me off to an empty room. He was interrupted after who-knows-how-long by a friend who’d come looking for a sweatshirt. Said friend chased him off, covered me up, and told the girl giving the party to call my mom and let her know I’d stayed over. (He assumed, as did everyone else who noticed my absence, that I’d had too much to drink and passed out. In reality, I’d had no alcohol at all.) The next day, the boyfriend broke up with me via phone (without me fully comprehending what had happened) and started dating a mutual friend, who WOULD sleep with him.

That girl began a smear campaign against me, telling people not to belive a word I said, I was just jealous that he’d dumped me for her. (To this day, I’m not sure if she knew.) Having nearly everyone around you laugh at you for “making up” a trauma? Not exactly helpful during the healing process. But the worst part was yet to come.

Three months after, I confided what had happened to a good friend. Turns out, good friend knew him – they played soccer together. Apparently, during practices, he’d been bragging about what he’d done to me, to a cheering audience. My friend said “I had no idea he was talking about you.”

Let me repeat that. He raped me. And then he bragged about it. And his teammates cheered him on.

What the fuck is wrong with the world when RAPE is a form of amusement? When authorities can’t, or aren’t willing to do anything to help me, though there was a confession? When the media continues to tell girls (enough that it even got in my head) “it’s how you dress, how you act, how you speak … you brought this on yourself” and “boys will be boys, we just have to bear it.”

It’s bullshit. BULLSHIT.

But it can swing wildly in the opposite direction, too. When, three years later, I bolted from a freshman seminar about date rape, a counselor followed me. She was welcoming and comforting, and encouraged me to come back after the seminar was over, to talk to the presenter one-on-one. So I did. Only to be badgered by said presenter to “Take it to the police! It’s your duty as a woman!! We can’t let men get away with this kind of thing!!” It took 45 minutes to get away from her, and changing my phone number (“helpfully” provided to her by the school) to finally get her to leave me alone completely.

Because here’s the thing … I DON’T THINK MEN, AS A WHOLE, ARE THE PROBLEM. I think SOCIETY is. The fucking permissive, look-the-other-way, make-everthing-a-joke (and call everyone who doesn’t find it funny stuck up) society that we live in … the one that undervalues women in every way (the glass ceiling, women’s health rights, equal rights etc.) … that allows the assholes (male AND female) who actually THINK THAT WAY to do as they please with very little consequence.

Hell, my boss and I had a conversation today about a past harassment charge she’d brought against someone … only to be told by her female HR rep “You really don’t want to do this. You’ve been here 8 years, why would you do this?”


How do we fix this? How? Lauren is in her space yelling and not taking it, and I do the same here (and in person … I regularly get into it on the street. I don’t take shit from people. Period.). I know many of you do the same. But how do we get it out there? How do we make our voices heard by more than the unlucky few who choose to cross us? How do we take this thing we all know to be so, so wrong, and CHANGE it?

“They” say to be the change. The hard part is finding the place to start.


* Little known fact about rohypnol – you’re not actually unconscious. If someone props you up and walks … you’ll walk with them. You look very, very drunk. Which is one of the more terrifying aspects of the drug … no one will notice anything wrong. And while I wasn’t aware of it while it was happening, I have very, VERY vivid memories of that night. So, I don’t stand for “well, date rape isn’t REAL rape” either.

8 Comments to “Not There Yet”

  1. Thank you so much for posting your super personal experience with violence against women (violence against Sarah… every single one of them). I’m definitely not the brave one here, you are.

  2. Oh, honey. I’m so very sorry this happened to you. I think being raped as a teenager is terrible because NO ONE around you knows how to handle it. Even if they believe you, they don’t know if they should shun the person or not. And I’m angry that you had such awful responses from people who should KNOW BETTER.

    People think I’m nuts for not being okay with rape jokes or similar. And I should tell them that I’ve been raped, that friends have been raped. But I generally go into an intellectual place, because I don’t trust them with something so personal and real about me. I have to stop that. I have to let go of hiding my experiences for fear that they will be judged, and share them so that people can know.

    I like to talk about rape culture and how society is the problem instead of just individual men, and that we all have to call it out, not just women, not just victims/survivors. ALL.

  3. This. I’ve earned a reputation amongst some of my friends as being a “humorless bitch” about rape jokes, but I’ll take that label any day if it means I’m pointing out the problem rather than adding to it. (Incidentally, does it enrage anyone else that men laugh it off when a woman points out their sexism but actually listens when a man does?)

    Sarah, thank you so much for sharing your story. You’re one of the bravest people I know.

  4. You are so right that it’s a society problem. Those raunchy comedy movies perpetuate stuff like this — the funny friend who brags about getting girls drunk so he can take advantage of them. It’s everywhere and it makes me so upset. It was even on This American Life’s story “#1 Party School.” It disgusts me, and I can’t sit silently anymore.

    Our society teaches men that they can do this and get away with it. It teaches them that date rate isn’t rape. That getting a girl drunk is an exception to getting consent. There are no excuses for intentionally getting someone drunk to have sex with you when you know they wouldn’t have sex with you sober. This behavior should be criminal but instead it’s a punch line.

    Sarah, thank you for sharing your story. The more women who do will force society to confront the fact that these jokes cause harm. They have consequences. They create an environment in which a boy can rape his girlfriend and then brag about it.

  5. Thank you for sharing your story. How awful. I’ve had similar things happen to other friends, who have swallowed it up inside themselves.

    It was going to do nothing for your healing process to go to the police 3 years later – with no physical evidence, your word against his, etc. – so the fact that the militant counselor was pressuring you that way … well, I honestly can’t help but think she was violating her scope of practice. And, if she didn’t have a scope of practice (i.e., not licensed mental health professional)? That’s worse (though that’s probably the likely scenario – I can’t imagine a licensed professional doing that).

    Because you’re absolutely right, it’s not “men.” It’s society. Women are as awful to one another; moreso, perhaps, in many ways.

    @Ms. Bunny:
    There are no excuses for intentionally getting someone drunk to have sex with you when you know they wouldn’t have sex with you sober. This behavior should be criminal but instead it’s a punch line. In many states, it IS criminal, unfortunately it is excruciatingly difficult to prove.

  6. I don’t have any answers for how to change our society–one voice at a time seems like we’ll never be able to chip away at the problem yet I don’t see any other viable options. But I want to thank you for telling your story. I’m so sorry that you went through such a traumatic experience. Thank you for sharing it here.

  7. I think a very, very significant piece is setting a very exact definition of rape. Because, even though our society has a term for “date rape”- many still don’t see it as such. I’m blessed with a husband who insists that men need to stop assuming that a lack of “no” is the same as a “yes.” Those guffawing jackasses wouldn’t have laughed at a story about your boyfriend pushing you down in a dark alley and muffling your screams. Somehow, the fact that it wasn’t “forcible” (gag gag gag, THIS TERM) makes it less scary, less threatening, less criminal.

Leave a Reply to liz Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: