I have never been raped.
In a world where victims of sexual assault are blamed, disbelieved, and shamed, I am fortunate to be free of that.
Canada is currently going through Ghomeshi-gate, in which an always-creepy Canadian celebrity has actually lost his job amid a wave of accusations from multiple women who all say that he has beaten them and sexual assaulted them.
Canada seems firmly divided on who to believe – the powerful celebrity who hired a PR firm to help craft his “poor me” facebook post defending himself, or the multiple unconnected women who have only their reputations to lose by coming forward.
One man on Perfect Husband’s facebook feed actually had the gall to say that since some of these women went on one or two subsequent dates with him after the initial violent incident, and since none of these women went to the police about it, they were therefore “consenting and complicit” to the abuse which followed.
*cue steam coming out of Perfect Husband’s ears*
Furthermore, while some people ripped this guy a new one, others, including women, agreed with him.
And I can’t understand it. Because even if you’ve never been assaulted, does that really imagine that you can’t imagine what it would be like? Why do people need to believe that assault victims are lying, or to blame?
I know people who were molested as children. By a family member, by a babysitter, by a parent’s boyfriend.
I have friends who were raped. No, they didn’t call the police. They somehow allowed the rapist to convince them that it was their own fault. They didn’t think they would be believed. They didn’t want to be called a “slut” by some victim blamer on Facebook.
I can’t blame them. Not for the rape, not for keeping silent.
I firmly believe that sexual assault victims did not bring their assault on themselves. I firmly believe that rape can happen to any woman. When people blame a victim of sexual assault, or refuse to believe her because she didn’t tell anyone for years, I am filled with fury on their behalf.
Because there but for the grace of… what? God? Who is he to pick who is and is not raped? No. There but for the grace of good fortune go I.
Do certain situations increase the likelihood of rape (such as, for instance, drinking at a big frat party)? Sure. But getting into my car increases my likelihood of being in a car accident. If someone ELSE runs a red light and hits me, THEY are the ones who broke the law, and they are the ones the insurance company would find to be at fault. The insurance company wouldn’t say, “Well, you chose to take that particular route, even though there is a high crash frequency at that intersection, so what did you expect?”
I have been through a few high-risk intersections, when it comes to sexual violence.
In Which I Am Nearly Abducted Or Something
When I was a child living in a busy suburb of Toronto, my mother popped out for a few minutes to pick up my aunt at the Go Train. I was probably eight or so, not old enough to left alone for long but old enough to survive alone in the house for ten minutes without setting fire to it or anything. In fact, I was peacefully curled up with a book when the phone rang, and I answered it.
The man on the line had a deep, slow voice. He introduced himself as Dave, asked me what my name was, and asked where my parents were. I blithely informed him that Daddy was at work and Mommy had gone out to get my Aunt, because I guess my mother had never had the “don’t tell strangers you’re alone” conversation with me.
Dave then asked me if I liked money – specifically, a LOT of money. I replied with an enthusiastic affirmative. He then told me that if I told him my address, he would come right out with a big bag of it.
At that moment, someone banged on the door. I hastily told Dave that someone was at the door and that I would be right back. I rushed to let in my friend from down the road and ran back to the phone.
The line was dead.
My mother came home a couple of minutes later to find me sobbing “Call back, Dave! Call back!!”
It was only many years later that I understood my mother’s horror at hearing the story and realize how terrifying the whole situation was.
If Dave had come to get me, would it have been my fault?
In Which I Could Have Been Molested By A Teenage Boy
When I was 11 or so, my regular babysitter, the teenage daughter of some family friends, went off to university. By that time we were living in the Caribbean and the population of English speaking families was limited. In fact, we used to invite every Canadian on the island to our house for thanksgiving dinner.
So my parents’ options for babysitters were limited, I guess. They ended up hiring my babysitter’s younger brother as a replacement.
Mark was around 16 or so. He babysat me many times over the next couple of years, before he too went off to university. We didn’t have the rapport that I had had with his older sister so I was never very fond of him.
But he didn’t molest me.
He could have, though. I mean, hell, the guy would be there until long past my bedtime. I would get myself into pyjamas and settle down in bed and there he would be, in the living room, the whole time.
But he clearly was a normal teenage male who was not at all interested in prepubescent females. He played scrabble with me, talked a lot about his electric guitar, and called his buddies from my parents’ phone, which he called “the horn”.
If he HAD molested me, would it have been my fault?
If I had kept quiet, could you blame a child for not knowing what to do in that situation?
I don’t even know what I would have done. My parents had never talked with me about molestation, good touches or bad touches. I knew what sex was that age, so if I had been out and out raped I would have known that he was having sex with me, but I don’t think I even knew what the word “rape” was. At least, not until my mother read me To Kill A Mockingbird when I was 12.
If he HAD molested me, he probably could have talked me into silence, shamed me into thinking I had behaved inappropriately. My fear of opening an awkward and shameful subject with my parents might have stopped me.
In fact, I know it probably would have stopped me.
When I was 10, a female teacher pulled me out of class to tell me how inappropriate I had been by touching myself in my chest area. I was horrified because a) I had no memory of having touched my own chest – it’s not like I had a habit of twiddling my nipples or anything – and b) had no idea that it was so rude.
I was so deeply ashamed that I didn’t tell ANYONE about that for many years, until I finally began to realize that no one else seemed to die of shame if their hand accidentally brushed the front of their shirt. My mother was shocked when I finally mentioned it to her at age 17.
So if being scolded for “touching my chest” (I still don’t know what that was about) could cause such deep, ashamed silence, I can’t even imagine what an actual molestation would have done to my psyche, particularly if the molester had used the usual molester tactics of making the victim feel complicit and guilty. I might easily have kept silent about it.
But thankfully, that didn’t happen.
In Which I Am Babysat By A Boy My Own Age
Well, not quite my own age. But close enough.
When I was 13, my much-older-than-me male babysitter went off to university and my parents found themselves desperate for someone to look after me when they had to go out one night.
I pointed out to them that I was 13 years old and that we had a dog and an elaborate alarm system. Nor was I the kind of kid who caused trouble. I begged them to let me stay by myself, but I guess the Dave incident had scared the bejeebers out of them, because they still didn’t think that was a good idea.
Instead, they decided it was a much better idea to have a 15 year old boy babysit me. Specifically, the blond haired, blue eyed, fairly short son of my mother’s Dutch exercise instructor. I knew this boy from a couple of barbecues and I think he may have attended riding lessons and my riding stables. He was half a head taller than me, good looking, and only two grades above me.
And so my parents ushered in the smiling 15 year old to babysit their starting-to-grow-breasts, now-technically-teenage daughter and left, feeling content that I was safe (As an aside, these same parents refused to let my gay male friend, who they KNEW was gay, hang out in my room with me alone just a few years later, so he had to sit in our living room cutting photos of Leo DeCaprio out of my YM magazines. I still don’t understand many of my parents’ parenting decisions).
At the time, I was just humiliated. We were practically the same age and he was being paid to babysit me.
“Tonight, you LITTLE kid!” said the dutch boy with good humor. And we played scrabble. It was awkward. It was uncomfortable. It was not sexual.
In Which I Walk Into A Strange Man’s Apartment With Him
I’m going to skip pretty much my entire teenage years, because by then my parents had switched to jealously guarding my chastity with pointy sticks (as evidenced by the gay-friend story) and because by then I had been convinced by my peers that I was completely undesirable to all males. So my dating/boy experiences during Junior High and High School were absolutely nil.
Which is why it was so baffling to find an admirer within a couple of weeks of getting to university.
There was a young man, a year senior to me, who actively sought out my attentions in a friendly, cordial, but unquestionably INTERESTED manner. Even with my deep belief that I was inherently unattractive, I could perceive his interest and feel flattered. It helped that I wasn’t particularly attracted to him, so I wasn’t crippled by shyness.
I found his attentions enjoyable and I found his conversation pleasant. I also liked his friends.
I don’t remember the context, but at one point he splintered away from his friends to go get something, possibly his coat, from his apartment. He asked me to come along with him, and like a fool, I WENT.
People who blame rape victims call moments like this “asking for it”. I can imagine what they would say to me. “What were you thinking, walking off alone with a strange guy and agreeing to go with him to his empty apartment?”, “What does a woman expect, agreeing to go into a guy’s place alone?”, “Why go to a guy’s place, in the dark, and then try to pretend it didn’t occur to you that something might happen?”
You can ask those questions, and I just don’t have an answer they would understand. I was 18. I had only ever met trustworthy males (with the possible exception of Dave). I was not used to even thinking of myself as an object of sexual interest. And so I went. Men may find this hard to believe, but sex just WASN’T IN MY THOUGHTS.
It wasn’t until I was standing in his dark hallway of his empty apartment that a little voice in my head said, “what the hell do you think you are doing?”
In one horrifying moment, I remembered that rapists exist, and realized I had just voluntarily left a group of people to go alone with a strange male to his dark, empty apartment. I could see the mattress on the floor which was his bed. Was this to be the scene of my rape? Did I have anything on me that I could use as a weapon?
But before I had formed a defense strategy, he was back, with his coat in his hand.
“Let’s go,” he said.
The fact is that (I firmly believe this), MOST males aren’t rapists. Statistics indicate that 6-8% of men admit to performing acts that constitute rape, even though they don’t identify themselves as rapists – But that still means that whenever you roll the die, there’s an 92% chance of something terrible not happening to you. It averages out to a lifetime offs of 20% chance of being assaulted… at least, in this part of the world. It’s much higher if you are unlucky enough to be born in a country where women are still bought and sold.
My die has rolled well again and again. Some things help – like the fact that I rolled the die well in childhood. I was born to parents who didn’t molest me themselves, and whose siblings and in-laws were also not molesters. I didn’t even mention being babysat many times by my mother’s bachelor brother, an Uncle who loves me and was horrified when, at the age of 24, I was mistaken for a girlfriend by some of his curling buddies.
“I changed her DIAPERS!” said the man who has always dated women his own age, as if the fact that I was 30 years younger would stop some people out there.
Anyway, the fact that I went through my childhood without being sexually abused probably helped future die rolls. Victims of abuse are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, which damages your odds.
It helps that I am naturally somewhat reserved in my behaviour. I didn’t act out as a teenager, didn’t drink myself blind at big parties. I didn’t flirt with strangers in bars – in fact, I have only had two boyfriends, Coat Guy mentioned above and PH himself – I didn’t dress in sexualized clothing.
Did this help lower my odds of being raped?
Maybe. Maybe not. Some of the things, like not meeting random guys from Plenty of Fish or not going to big drunken revelries, probably did reduce my odds. But I didn’t avoid those things for fear of rape. If I were the type of person to enjoy such things, I probably would have gone. Men and women alike enjoy them and engage in them.
It’s just fortunate that I happen to have a personality type which abhors the idea of online dating or loud, debauched parties. I didn’t go through those particular intersections, not because of the risk of a crash, but because they didn’t take me where I wanted to go.
As for my t-shirt-and-jeans preferred mode of dress, I don’t think that did much for me. Statistics don’t support the “she was asking for it” clothing line. Women are raped in t-shirts and jeans.
No, I think that no matter how you look at it, I am simply lucky that I have not been raped or molested or assaulted.
So there you go – it’s that simple. Want to avoid being assaulted? Just be lucky.