Rape is not one woman’s burden. It does not happen to her alone, it is not simply a physical act she had to endure for seconds… minutes… hours. Rape is the destruction of safety and stability. It forcefully rips away the power not only from her but also from her protectors, bursting the system of support that was supposed to hold her up.
Rape is the constant thought of “I should have been there” that will haunt her sister. Following her around like a sad, exhausted shadow, morphing it into a reflection of anger and fear clinging to her through the rest of her life. It’s the muffled sounds of crying heard through bedroom walls while she was too scared to reach out and provide comfort. It’s the thick, suffocating air of silence between siblings who could have had so much more to say. Rape is the sound of a young girl’s world crashing down around her.
It takes one assault to act as a warning shot to all women who hear about it. Rape is the immediate response of “sorry, I can’t” to the nice boy in class who invites her over for dinner at his place where she may be alone. It’s the shaking hand that declines a drink from the stranger across the bar. The white knuckles around pepper spray as she walks home alone. The check behind the shower curtain, the sleeping with windows closed, double locks on doors, turned twice for good measure.
It takes one horrifying act of violence against a 16 year old girl for her father to feel that he’s failed at his job, to retreat into a world of darkness, untouched by her survival. Rape is unhealthy coping mechanisms, numbing the thoughts in his head but aiding the rise in his voice as he yelled through a broken heart. It’s the false accusations, the family meetings, the “I HATE YOUs ” and the nights of her not coming home. It’s the good memories that weren’t. It is stolen time.
Rape is suffering in silence. It’s seclusion. It’s blaming the victim for a crime she could never commit by the definition of the word itself. It’s “she didn’t scream loud enough,” assumptions made by a police officer seeing underage kids making a mistake instead of a predator committing a crime. It’s the scratchy carpet in the hospital waiting room.
It’s conversations with my family I’ve never started out of fear of what I might find. Rape is my unhealthy obsession born on a warm Florida night that I can’t shake. It’s the weight on my shoulders as I involuntarily carry what happened to her with me on each new adventure. Trying to outrun the reminder to be more careful, it could happen to me too.
It’s the thought in my mind of what may happen if I don’t just say yes even when I don’t want to. It’s the unwanted touches that I’ve allowed without confrontation for fear of something worse. The names that I’ve been called by men who think a woman who sleeps around deserves a negative title yet one who teases but doesn’t please deserves what she gets.
Rape is wondering if you will ever be safe.