As I watched the video “The Biggest Stories for Women This Year,” there was a question prompted that resonated with me, vibrated through my brain down to my spine and struck the panic chord in my heart: “How much harder could it actually get for women to come forward about this stuff [assaults]? We’ve already made it so hard.” Katie McDonovgh put a voice to the question that haunts me. How can anything make it harder for a woman’s voice to be heard about rape than the deafening assumptions that are being made about women every day? In a society that only needs to see one topless picture to decide that a victim must be asking for it, there isn’t much room for human error if you’re a woman.
Today, women are still held responsible for what happens to them. Because of this, I and many others must make decisions based on the chance of rape. “Do I take a drink from this guy? It might be drugged…” “Maybe I shouldn’t go to that boat party… I would be trapped if something bad happened.” “Don’t go into the mosh pit, the pack mentality may lead to assault.” I’ve trained my mind to evaluate what should be fun situations on a scale of risk to my wellbeing, so that I know I’m not putting myself in danger.
McDonovgh continued to explain how when a female does not fit the rigid, cookie cutter, virginal idea of a victim, society excludes them. What a terrifying notion, to realize that your sexual history, preferences… god forbid your mistakes, will immediately be slapped across your face the second you say “rape.” That means as a woman, I’m not allowed to make sexual choices for myself outside of what a patriarchal society deems as proper behavior because they may be used against me. This teaches women they need to feel shameful for exploring their sexuality, that they aren’t worthy of justice in the occurance they become part of the 1 in 6 American woman be a victim of attempted or completed rape. (RAINN) Personally, for me this means that if I am raped in the future, I can expect a series of sexual adventure dragged out for display or I can decide not to press charges and further support an unjust system.
As if this reality isn’t hard enough for women to confront, let’s discuss the notion of silence, of strength. How easy is it for anyone to admit to a loss? To face the fact that they feel they weren’t strong enough to defend themselves. Victims often blame themselves before others even have a chance to blame them. As Feminista Jones powerfully put, it’s near impossible to say “someone took from me something I did not want to give.” Women are taught, day in and day out to stay silent. To suffer quietly, to not let their “emotions get the best of them.” As Rebecca Odes so perfectly stated, women are already devalued in conversations about women’s rights. Women are silenced is conversations about the realities they already live in. So how can we as a society expect survivors to step forward and announce what happened them?
“What fragile territory are we already standing on if a single magazine fuck up could be why women can’t come forward,” said McDonovgh. No one story, one statement or one false accusation could possibly make it harder than it is for any woman who has suffered a traumatic assault to come forward about it than the society that tells her every day that as a women she should expect it to happen, to plan for it.