**Trigger warning: This post contains descriptions of sexual assault and rape.
I have a morning routine of reading my emails, Facebook and Instagram before my morning coffee. It's a nice way of shocking my eyes into some sort of light and eventually forcing myself out of bed around 5:30. Today I didn't have a hard time getting out of bed. I was jarred into anger, sadness and other emotions I don't have words for.
This morning, it came to my attention that some people think rape is funny. Not just Daniel Tosh. People on my Facebook friends list.
Like not, haha funny, more like, "lol bro I'm crying that's so funny," all to various comments under the central post of:
"Some call it rape, some call it snuggle with a struggle."
Followed by a meme of a muscled guy with the caption:
"I go to the gym a lot. It makes getting girls a lot easier. The last one I raped didn't stand a chance."
That got a "well done" and two likes.
Followed by two lols and this gem:
"What rhymes with rape? You can't escape."
I was immediately sick to my stomach. It was a post by a person that we just shared our house with for five days, that I made coffee for, that I called a friend. This triggered me immediately and the entire day has been spent in emotional exhaustion, trying to figure out how to process this. How can
think this is funny, let alone a league of people
close to me? One Facebook friend away?
My childhood consisted of two parts, before my mother told me about rape and after. She sat me down at age 8 and told me her story and I grew up to be an advocate because of it. When I unfortunately experienced sexual assault firsthand, I volunteered at the YWCA Rape Crisis Center, in an effort to understand and process that experience.
And you know what's
? In all of those experiences, I never laughed. Not once.
When women and men in my life have told me their story, I've never laughed. It's never smile-inducing. I've had the same reaction every time: incredible sadness, complete disgust and the most anger I've ever felt.
But it's never, ever been funny.
Because this is what it does when you don't take rape seriously, when you make rape jokes to your Facebook friends. Not only do you laugh at victims' trauma, at the point of their life that
changed, you make it
that much harder
for rape victims to come forward because you think it's funny. Don't believe me? Here are the numbers:
So before you tell me to "Relax! It's just a joke! We aren't serious!" go ahead and round up six of the closest women in your life. Your aunt, daughter, grandmother, mother, sister, girlfriend/wife.
1 out of every 6 American women
has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).
Therefore, one of those six women, the women in your life, have had someone try to force an unwanted sexual encounter on them, or have been the victim of a completed rape. Against their will. Without their consent.
I did not report my sexual assault. I was embarrassed. And rape culture dictated this. It told me it was my fault because I was drinking. Because I couldn't give consent because I had been drugged. Because he was an acquaintance. Because I couldn't remember what happened, even though my clothes weren't on the same way. And when I started having flashbacks years later, when I learned about what date rape drugs actually do to your brain, when I learned that it wasn't my fault, then I wanted others to know, too. Then I wanted to change it all, just like I did when I was 8.
I have not told this story to a lot of people in my life, but maybe it's time to share because apparently rape illiteracy still abounds. And I want it to stop.
See, we are taught as a culture that if a woman was provocatively dressed, drunk, flirting, alone, then she was asking to be raped. We teach each other these "codes" of "safety": Don't go out by yourself. Wear loose-fitting clothes. Carry a rape whistle and mace. And if you don't follow these rules, then it's your fault.
But let's make something perfectly clear:
it's the rapist's fault. The rapist rapes people that don't want to be raped. No matter if they are completely naked and forgot their rape whistle, it is the rapist's fault. Period. There is no excuse.
So when you make fun of being raped like it's "no big deal" you perpetuate this notion that rape is the victim's problem. We were asking for it and we have no sense of humor.
But if you were my dad, brother, husband, grandfather, uncle or boyfriend and I was sexually assaulted, do you really think I'd confide in you, with you laughing with your bros about how funny rape is?
Stop laughing and start a conversation. Even if you don't think it's funny and say nothing, you're still a part of the problem.
So in the spirit of education, here are some ideas on how to deal with rape culture. Because I assure you: your encounter with it will unfortunately happen again. (Take from "Ten Things to End Rape Culture" on The Nation.)
1. Name the real problems
. These are the cornerstones of rape culture and they go hand in hand. When an instance of sexual assault makes the news and the first questions the media asks are about the victim’s sobriety, or clothes, or sexuality, we should all be prepared to pivot to ask, instead, what messages the perpetrators received over their lifetime about rape and about “being a man.” Here’s a tip: the right question is not, “What was she doing/wearing/saying when she was raped?” The right question is, “What made him think this is acceptable?” ....
2. Re-examine and re-imagine masculinity
: Once we name violent masculinity as a root cause of violence against women, we have to ask: Is masculinity inherently violent? How can you be a man/masculine without being violent? Understand that rape is not a normal or natural masculine urge.
3. Don't laugh at rape
. Most people aren't rapists. But most rapists believe that everyone does it. What's more, you can't tell if you're in the presence of a rapist. They don't look any different from the rest of us, and may be perfectly good company. So while it might seem harmless to you to laugh at a joke that makes light of rape, your laughter could be telling an unknown rapist in your midst that you think rape is hilarious. And what's worse: letting go of a laugh once in a while, or accidentally enabling a rapist? Your call.
The full article, "Ten Things to End Rape Culture" by Walter Moseley and Rae Gomes is excellent.