I WASN'T RAPED, RIGHT? HOW BROCK TURNER REDEFINED MY NOT-RAPE
I have never been raped. Sort of.
My whole life I’d been told all the things to do to avoid being attacked. Don’t wear a skirt at night. Men are more likely to attack you if you wear a skirt, so always wear pants. Keep your keys in your hand in case you have to fight someone off. Yell “fire” and not “rape” or no one will come to help you. Don’t drink out of any glass that you took your eye off for an instant. I was totally prepared to go through my whole life without ever being raped. As women, we are told so many conflicting things about how to behave with men. We can’t flirt, or it’s our own fault that the men were so confused that they thought our no meant yes. We can’t be rude, because a lady is always gracious, even to the creeper who won’t leave her alone, then follows her home against her wishes. We can’t drink at a party, because we have to be on alert. We can’t avoid every party, because how else are we going to meet a guy and finally get married and validate our life choices? We can’t dress too provocatively or we’re asking for it. We should dress femininely, or we’re just not attractive. Right?
So here’s my experience with male privilege and my not-exactly-rape. I met a guy and he was good looking and sexy and I liked him and I liked having sex with him. Then I didn’t. He got weird and mean and creepy, and I stopped answering his calls. I told him not to come see me again, because I wasn’t feeling comfortable anymore. I specifically said I wanted to be left alone, and that I did not want to see him again. Imagine my surprise when he showed up at my house in the middle of the night. He had unzipped his pants and his dick was out as he stood on my front steps, banging on my door. I guess I could have called the cops. Instead, I told him to come inside, because I didn’t want my neighbors thinking I was the kind of girl who had men like that coming to her house. Once inside, I asked him to leave. I told him I wasn’t interested and reasserted that I wanted him to go away. Instead, he got aggressive with me. I distinctly remember thinking, “Oh my god, I’m about to be raped.” And then I decided, why not just go along with it? Why not just have sex with him, so he’d leave happy and I could say that I wasn’t raped? So I did. I let him fuck me and I hated every minute of it. When he was done, he left quietly. I congratulated myself of not being raped in my house or having to call the cops. I took a shower, then got dressed and walked (alone and in the dark) the six blocks to a bar where a friend of mine was having a birthday party. I did a shot of whiskey and drank a beer, wished him a happy birthday, then came home.
When I told a friend of mine about it the next day, she insisted I had been raped and should call the cops. And tell them what? That I willingly let him into my house and let him sex with me against my will? They wouldn’t take me seriously, and besides, it wasn’t rape. Sure, I had some panic attacks. And yeah, I did try to get a restraining order against him. (Didn’t work, though. I would have had to deliver the paperwork to him myself or hire someone to do it, and I couldn’t afford it.) I changed his number in my phone to “Danger” so that I would know not to answer it, and I went about my life. This was 10 years ago. This was before “victim blaming” was a term I had ever heard. I didn’t have a name for it, but I knew that if I told someone what happened that there was no way anyone would take me seriously, so why put myself through that? I mean, of course if it had been a “real” rape then things would be different. Then I’d call the cops and the guy would get arrested and it would have ended differently. If it had been a real rape.
And 10 years later, I see Brock Turner. A man who was literally caught in the act of assaulting an unconscious woman, who was chased down and attacked by onlookers who saw what happened. Who was found guilty of felony charges in court. Who then served a laughable three months of a pathetic six month sentence, because his “20 minutes of action” shouldn’t ruin the rest of his life. Wait, what? But this was a real rape. With cops and lawyers and a fucking conviction. And still nothing? What happened to me 10 years ago sucked. But I am very lucky, because I was not physically hurt, and because I have been able to dismiss it as a shitty night and move on (most of the time). I have a wonderful life now, and I am fortunate in all of that. What is not so fortunate is that a decade after I felt forced into a terrible, painful experience, which I then willingly blamed on myself with the hope that the system would work if I ever really needed it to, I see that the system didn’t work. It didn’t work at all. Instead, this woman was attacked over every choice she made that night. In 10 years, she will still be thinking about how she was failed by the system created to protect her, while Brock Turner will be God knows where, hurting God knows who.
I wish I had a strong finish here. Something about empowering women to stand up and fight against men like Brock Turner. I want to have something moving and inspirational about taking back our power from men like him and the disgusting people who enabled him and excused his behavior. I want to do all of that, but I’m too angry and too sad about it to come up with anything good. So in the absence of my big finish, let me just say to the women who have been hurt and abandoned by the system, you are not alone. There are women (and men) who hear you, and who believe you, and will keep fighting this stupid fight until it gets better. Because it has to get better.