When I first read “When I Didn’t Consent. Why I reported. Why I didn’t” by Elyse MoFo Anders, I cried. Then I got angry. Then I cried again. So much of her story is familiar to me and to virtually every other woman and survivor of sexualized violence.
Entitled, exploitative, and/or abusive sexual encounters with smug, manipulative people. Misconceptions about what rape is “supposed to look like.” Betrayed and raped by someone you trust. Dismissive and humiliating treatment by the police. Insensitive community response. Losing all your friends and descending into insanity because no one believes you. Coercion and self-blame perpetuated by our culture.
This must change.
I was raped. I reported it. I was raped. I didn’t report it. I was raped. I reported it but I didn’t press charges. I was raped. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do so I told myself that I wasn’t raped.
But I was. I was raped.
We have these conversations about rape, conversations that always include a question of “Was the rape reported to the police?” Women are taught that when they get raped, it is our duty to report it. We are obligated to press charges. We must crusade for justice. If the rapist is a real rapist, and he raped someone, it the victim’s duty to stop him.
And we think we know what rape looks like. We know there’s bushes or drinks involved. There’s kicking and screaming… or unconsciousness… and the word “NO!” can be heard from the next room or by passersby. And there’s crying. Crying during. Crying after. So. much. crying. And there’s blood. At least SOME blood.
And we know what to do when you know you’re being raped. If there’s a weapon, you don’t fight. If there’s no weapon, you do. And you make sure you scratch him to get his DNA under your nails. And you don’t shower. And you don’t change. And you go to the hospital. Right away. You’d be irresponsible to wash away evidence.
Even though women put a lot of effort into not getting themselves raped, we already have the script written. We have a plan. We know how we’ll handle it when someone finally thwarts our attempts to get through the night un-raped.
Funny thing about rape, though, is that sometimes your rapist doesn’t match what you thought your rapist would look like. Sometimes central casting sends in dudes that don’t match the type you were already planning to get raped by. And sometimes these guys go off script, ad libbing lines and their timing is off and sometimes it’s the script is edited so much, you didn’t even recognize that this was Your Rape because NONE of the shit that just went down was part of the original plan…
…And despite the incident not following my script for how my rape would go down, it follows a pretty standard template. Drunk -> assaulted -> reported -> not believed -> no investigation -> dismissed…
…(from the section “One time I convinced myself I had a choice” when she was doing a modeling internship with a photographer) One day, while his wife was at her office job, the photographer and I were in the dark room, like we’d done every day. And suddenly, he was behind me, hand down my pants, finger in my vulva. I froze. I didn’t know what to do. So I stood there. I didn’t want to get hurt, so I didn’t fight. But I didn’t want to give the impression that this was enjoyable. I shut down.
Later that night, he had a talk with me about how my behavior in the dark room was unacceptable. He was giving me a pleasurable experience and I was refusing it.
I explained to the man over three times my age that I was not really comfortable with such surprises and that I need time to warm up to intimate encounters since I’d been raped in the past.
He told me that wasn’t fair. He wasn’t a rapist. And I needed to learn to live in the now. “How long are you going to let this keep you down? If you can’t get over this, you’re never going to have a successful career.”…
…(from the section “The time I said no then said yes,” i. e. coercive rape) I was in high school. It wasn’t like “no means no” hadn’t been drilled into my head for years. I knew what rape was. I knew it was awful. I knew it was never the woman’s fault and skirts don’t matter. I knew the talking points. I read Sassy. I was kind of a feminist, even if I didn’t know that I was.
So when I look back at this thing, it’s a little heartbreaking for me. I was well educated on the subject. And I didn’t get what happened. What happens to girls who don’t grow up in affluent progressive schools that promote feminist ideals and encourage girls to find their feminist bearings? Girls who have sex ed every year? Girls who are taught that consent matters? I didn’t call it rape for over 15 years. Even though, immediately, I knew it was, but convinced myself it wasn’t. At worst, I decided, there were some blurred lines.
I was on a date with a guy I met at a coffee shop. I don’t remember where we went or what we did or what is name was.
But at the end of the date, we went back to his house to watch TV. And things progressed.
Once we started fooling around, he got weird. Silent. Not just silent, but non-responsive to anything I said or wanted. If I said no to something, he kept going. I said no repeatedly, but he kept going. I was having trouble processing what was happening. I kept telling him no, but why wasn’t he getting that? I was confused more than scared. I didn’t know what to do.
A situation like this seems so much like the script, you think you know what you would do. You know you said no. So you have to try to leave. But that didn’t happen. I don’t know if I even knew I could leave. Or should leave. I think I thought he would stop eventually.
But “eventually” never happened. Eventually I ended up naked. Eventually I ended up begging him to please stop. “Please, no.” I whispered. But he was putting on a condom.
At that point, I knew there was nothing I could say or do to stop him. So I stopped stopping him and I said yes.
And that’s where I convinced myself I consented. As I drove home, I asked myself, “What happened? Was I just raped? No… I said yes. I did say yes. I said yes. I said yes.”
Coercive rape has accounted for experiences with about 1/3 of my sexual partners. I never considered it rape until recently because, well, it is rape. I remember when I was in my teens and 20s saying no over and over again for hours and finally saying “yes” because I was afraid if I didn’t say “yes” he’d rape me. Turns out…
No Means No, but even more accurate: ONLY AN ENTHUSIASTIC YES MEANS YES. Not a coerced yes. Not a yes through tears or intimidation or fear. Not a drunken yes.
Learn this people.
Please read the entire article here. This victim-blaming has to stop. We–as a community and a culture–need to give the benefit of the doubt to the victim and question the accused. Only we can make sure victims who come forward are taken seriously. By doing so, we revoke the rapists’ social license to operate.
Let’s stop this.
Olivia M. Grey lives in the cobwebbed corners of her mind writing paranormal romance with a Steampunk twist, like the Amazon Gothic Romance bestseller Avalon Revisited and it’s newly released sequel, of sorts, Avalon Revamped. Her short stories and poetry have been published in various magazines and anthologies, like SNM Horror Magazine and How the West Was Wicked. Ms. Grey also blogs and podcasts relationship essays covering such topics as alternative lifestyles, deepening intimacy, ending a relationship with love and respect, and other deliciously dark and decadent matters of the heart and soul.
Read more by O. M. Grey on her blog Caught in the Cogs, http://omgrey.wordpress.com