Confessions of Shame; Declarations of Truth

Posted: March 18, 2013 by Sara in Feminism, Personal Stories, Rape
Tags: , , , , ,

At age 17 I was raped on a second date. At age 19 I was raped by a man I had just met. For many years I thought both instances were my fault. I told no one. Eventually I was able to speak about them in the most general of terms but I still felt at fault. Over a decade later I was able to talk about them in more detail without paralyzing flashbacks, but I still thought I was to blame.

It wasn’t until the 2012 election season that things really began to change for me. All the crazy things candidates were saying and the subsequent conversations about those comments made me angry and sad and scared and … guilty. Why was I feeling guilty? I couldn’t figure it out. So I did what I always do when I am confused – I threw myself into research.

I started researching the statements politicians were making. I researched the commentaries on these statements. I researched rape, rape statistics, rape laws, the medical and psychological effects of rape and I read many survivors stories. I don’t remember exactly when or how but somewhere during all this shifting through information I had the most profound realization of my life: my assaults – my rapes – were not my fault. Period. Full stop. No ifs, no buts, no howevers. Not. My. Fault. This wasn’t just a change to my memories. It was a change to my way of thinking. It was a change to the way I viewed everything.

I was no longer a victim, I was a survivor. I was no longer ashamed, I was indignant. I was no longer scared, I was determined. What had haunted me for years was now something that gave me strength. But I began to wonder that if I had been so wrong about this for so long, what else was I wrong about? I slowly became aware of many things I had been wrong about, but that’s a different story.

My point here is to show that if I – a well-traveled, college educated, strong, independent woman and self-declared feminist – can fall into the trap that is the rape culture we live in, then anyone can. Victim blaming is so prevalent that even the victims blame themselves. Excuses are made for rapists. Rapists are shown pity. The victims are blamed, shamed, scorned and threatened. This is completely ass-backwards!

I feel that it is now my duty to speak up; to tell my truth. To let others know that it is NEVER the victim’s fault. To let other survivors know that it isn’t their fault. It doesn’t matter what you wore, what you did, or what you said. Unless you distinctly said “yes” with a clear and able mind, then it was rape! As my husband said to me this morning, “It’s really simple. If the other person is unwilling or unable to say ‘yes,’ then don’t do anything [sexual] with them.” He’s right. It really is that simple. An un-coerced yes means yes. Anything else means no.

  1. Rosie says:

    Thank you for telling your story. It’s more important than it has ever been, I think, for people to hear how many of us have gone through this and all the ways society shames and blames us. I’m daunted by the sheer number of people out there who don’t seem to get it, but I’m inspired by the survivors and allies speaking up and speaking out. This conversation needed to happen on a mainstream level, and now maybe it will.

  2. Sara says:

    Thank you Rosie. You are very right when you say this conversation needed to happen for a while – a LONG while! I truly think that if all, of even most, of the people that have been sexually abused would speak up it would show that the MAJORITY of people have been victimized at some point and there would be a sea change in attitudes about it. Maybe it’s pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking, but I can dream.

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