More Reasons to Talk About Rape -- Because People Still React Like This

On the NPR and Daily Mail backlash. And should I try to go on Dr. Phil?

Feb 7, 2012 at 1:00pm | Leave a comment

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I'm tired today.

Since I did an NPR interview about my rapist friending me on Facebook, the story has reignited a bit, getting picked up by The Daily Mail yesterday. The comments on both stories are delightful, as you can imagine. These comments, the ones questioning the veracity of my story or criticizing the way I tell it, weaken me. They drain my energy and make it more difficult for me to fight. That, I believe, is their purpose.

And while I firmly agree with the sage advice offered to me by many people of not reading the comments, I feel compelled by a growing sense of horror to do so. Because it's not what these comments are saying about me that bothers me. It's what they're saying about society's attitude toward rape.

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Because rape, unlike, say, a mugging, is always up for debate. By speaking about it, you consent to review by an anonymous jury who will decide if they think you're telling the truth or not.  Enjoy a few of the greatest hits below.

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"How do you know he raped her? Just because she said so?"

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"I find it all so difficult to understand what this young woman is on about!"

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Note the bit about "provocative poses." The picture included are just randomly pulled from the Internet or possibly my Facebook page. But of course, a woman's appearance is fair game when it comes to talking about rape. If I'm walking around looking healthy, happy, and heaven forbid SEXY, then I couldn't have been raped, right?

And even if they are willing to accept that I was raped, they still take issue with the way I dealt with it and speak about it now. Call me radical, but I think there's no wrong way to talk about your own rape.

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Sure, why not just press charges and send him to jail, right? That's likely to go very well considering the crime is 14 years old and I have no evidence beyond my own word that it ever happened. I can think of two cases in recent New York State history where there was video evidence of alleged rapists entering the girl's apartment repeatedly or dragging an unconscious woman off the dance floor at a club, and both were acquitted.

Even in cases  where there is physical evidence, it's not as easy as "Why didn't you press charges?" Last March, a 16-year-old girl in the UK killed herself when she found out there would be a retrial against her rapist. A woman who presses charges for a rape is just as much on trial as the rapist himself.  Not all of us are up to it, even if we have the resources to do so.

As far as my tittering and giggling, I think we know by know that people deal with difficult emotions in different ways. I'm a "laugh at a funeral" kind of gal.

Others take issue with the fact that I dare to see my assailant as human.
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Because rapists are monsters, you see, not guys we know. Therefore, as long as keep one eye out for the boogeyman, the "man who attacks a woman on the street, rapes her and leaves," then we don't have to look at what most rape really consists of. Human men, raping women who know and trust them.

By insisting on seeing the humanity of my attacker, by refusing to be shattered and ruined by my rape, I upset the cultural narrative, and that makes people angry. And as one of my Twitter friends responded to me,  "We're never done policing women. Even a teen girl's response to her rape is eventually subject to review."
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It's enough to make you fucking sick.

And tired, as I stated before. I'm sick and tired of the fact that talking about rape means being put on trial by the most ignorant, hateful people in the existence. No one would accuse a mugging victim of using their story for PR, or ask, "Why were you there in the first place?" I, personally, am tired of answering these questions, and lately I'm reminded of this Ani Difranco line from her song "Face Up and Sing:"

"Some chick says thank you for saying all the things I never do/ I say the thanks I get is to take all the shit for you."

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I get it. Rape is not easy to talk about. In doing so, you become a lightening rod for other people's judgments. You offer yourself up as a receptacle in which other people will pour their shame. I would never tell another women how to handle her own experience, because while I believe in causes, I believe in the health and safety of individual women more.

But some days it is honestly hard to go on in this work, committed to it as I am. Some days I feel "retraumatized," which is the word my therapist uses when she suggests that maybe I shouldn't be writing so much about this stuff.

But then I get letters. Long letters from people who read my story and were helped by it in some way. They come every day. Letters like this one I received today.

"A while ago, I read your article about your rapist friending you on Facebook, and although I wouldn't really use the word 'enjoy,' I definitely had positive-ish emotions about it. It's hard for me to put my finger on, but I guess it was a feeling of release -- like 'I'm so glad she wrote that article because now lots of women (including me) don't have to write it.'

Then today, I saw that NPR had picked up the story and that a bunch of people had written despicable comments on it, and it pissed me off. It also made me feel less comfortable about quietly enjoying the aforementioned positive-ish feelings, knowing that others were very publicly trying to shame you and dismiss the courage and importance of the story.

So, all I'm trying to say is that I'm out here reading and appreciating what you do, coping with my experiences through your words, and feeling grateful that someone bolder than me is making this topic public."

Letters like that always come at the right time, like a sip of water when you don't think you can take another step.

But here's my latest dilemma: A producer from "The Dr. Phil Show" reached out to see if I might be
interested in possibly sharing my story on the show.

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And while I  I rarely turn down an opportunity to talk about rape, as you know, I'm not sure I could handle the fallout of taking my story into such a mainstream forum. Of course, like the others who have expressed interest, they'd like to reach out to Him, to the human who raped me.

I do think that this story has the potential to help people, both sides of it. But one of my biggest fears throughout this whole experience has been that he will read the story and contact me again. I'm strong enough to talk about rape, but am I strong enough to talk about it with him sitting next to me?

While I have no idea why he would ever agree to appear on the show, the my part would be simply to give the very nice, very earnest producer I spoke to his name. They would reach out to him and let me know if he says yes, and let me know if it's possible to build a show around just me if he says no.

I said I'd think about it.

I am used to being the one who is always talking. But maybe it's time for me to step back for someone bolder than me. Yet I'm haunted by fears that that person might not exist.

Or maybe I'm being melodramatic about the whole thing and nobody needs to see me tell my story on national television. Do you think I should consider going on the show? What about letting them reach out to him?

You can read the original story here.