I can see you cringing on your chair right now. And you must be thinking, “What the eff, Barbie?” But, you know, to this day, I get weekly random hits on my suicide post from Google searches. It’s by far my most viewed and popular post. Why? Because there are some things we just need to talk about, as uncomfortable as it may seem for us. And rape is one of them.
In the United States, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Which is awesome and it makes me ashamed that we don’t have something like this in Brazil — or if we do, it’s so under-divulged that in my twenty-five-almost-twenty-six years of life I’ve never heard of it. Because that’s one of the huge problems with rape: No. One. Talks. About. It.
So, I will.
The lack of talking and information is what makes it such an underreported crime. No matter how much statistics try to be accurate, they’ll never truly be when we take into consideration the amount of rapes and sexual assaults that will never be make known to the world. Or to anyone, for that matter. Not even one’s closest friend. Because not talking about rape makes it dirty and shameful and the victims’ fault. And isn’t it what the perpetrators want?
That’s why we need to speak out. The more people talk about it, the more we make sure it’s okay, the more victims and survivors will talk, and the more rapists will know that they can’t just get away with it — even if they still do so legally. Did you know that 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail? And there are so many reasons for that: one is that most of the time, rape isn’t reported. Victims are afraid and ashamed to speak. And you know why is that? Because even when they do report, they still have to fight to prove a crime actually happened, which is utterly absurd, because that shouldn’t be the victims’ job.
But it is. It’s 2014, and it’s still the victims’ job to convince something happened to them. It’s perhaps, the most obvious application of that famous “innocent until proven guilty” cliché. Because we live in a sexist world, and rape culture and victim blame are very, very much part of it.
If you’re from Brazil like I am, you’ve surely seen all the controversy around the survey on sexual assault in which the great majority of people claimed that “if women knew how to behave, there would be less rapes”, and if “women are dressed inappropriately, they deserve to be assaulted”. To say I’m ashamed to live in a country that most men and women have this kind of mentality is an understatement. That people still believe that what a women wears has anything to do with the fact that she was assaulted and that she could be in any way to blame for being raped. That she would be, as society views, getting herself raped, instead of being violated.
(If you’re not Brazilian, you can read about it in this HuffPo link and see our girls’ protest!)
And you wonder why women won’t speak out?
Today, in the United States, is Denim Day, which came from a ruling from the Italian High court that said that a woman couldn’t have been raped because she was wearing tight jeans — so, how could she have been raped? She must have helped the guy take her jeans off. Women are encouraged to wear tight jeans for awareness today. I like these little acts of awareness that, even if people aren’t screaming out loud, they’re showing revolt.
I know talking about rape is hard, awkward and uncomfortable, but if we don’t do it, how are we supposed to help those who need our help? How do we even know who needs our help, if people are too scared and ashamed to ask for help? Maybe some of you are reading this and thinking, “This has nothing to do with me, I’ve never been raped. I don’t know anyone who’s been raped.” Guess what, fella, you do! Statistically, you do know someone who’s been raped. More than one person, most likely. You just haven’t a clue about it.
I was reading about Rape Statistics for this and I came across an old link, and countries like France and the US had a much higher number of rapes than South American and African countries. And it made me think of something I always hear, “Wow, there are so many rapes in the US.” As if we don’t have an equivalent (or even higher) number of rapes here. What they have that we don’t is AWARENESS. They have an awareness month, for crying out loud. What about us? They have “more rapes” because more people report it and they have more accurate statistics. In countries in which no one ever, ever, ever talks about rape, a country in which you go to school and barely have sex ed, but rape is not once mentioned, you don’t have awareness, campaigns, sexual assault centers, who’s going to talk about it? Who’s going to be there for people who need it? Who’s going to reach out for help?
So, I speak out in my humble blog, even though it’s not much, it’s still awareness.
Now, like in my suicide post, I’d like to debunk a few rape myths, if you guys are still with me.
Only Women are Raped
False. One in five men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. If you think it’s hard for women to come forward with a sexual assault, can you imagine what it is like for a man? Our society expects men to be “able to protect themselves”, and if a man is raped, he’ll often feel like he failed to do that most basic thing. The rape of men are even less reported, because they’re so filled with shame and guilt, that men feel no one will ever understand how they “let that happen”. The truth is, men are raped, just as women. When someone is in a position of fear, of terror, it doesn’t matter how strong they physically, it doesn’t matter how brave they are, it doesn’t matter their gender, they do what they have to do to survive. Sometimes they fight, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they’re threatened with weapons and sometimes with physical force. In any, in no case at all, rape is ever the victims fault.
If you feel any sort of pleasure, it means deep down you liked it/wanted it.
False. The human body is a beautiful machine and it does everything it can to protect itself. If someone feels any sort of sexual pleasure during a rape — and this is actually very common — it means two things: their body is functioning the way it’s supposed to by responding to stimuli, and their body is protecting itself from pain. Because by having sexual reactions, the body gets itself ready for sexual intercourse, even if unwanted, to prevent any more pain. That is normal, and it doesn’t mean it’s willing or wanted. Having a physical reaction during a rape is one of the greatest causes of shame and guilt. But that isn’t anyone’s fault. The body is a machine, and it, really, acts on its own.
If you were drinking/partying/doing drugs/wearing tight clothes, you facilitated your assault.
False. That’s the thing about rape: it doesn’t matter who you are, what you’re wearing, how wasted you are, where you are or who you’re with. Unless you’re with someone consensually, unless there’s agreement on both parts, if you didn’t want sex, it was rape, and it wasn’t your fault in absolutely any way. The only person at fault is the rapist and if someone thinks tight clothes or wasted women (or men) are some sort of invitation for sex without their consent, they’re the ones who have a problem, not you. Never you.
Rape can be prevented.
If you’ve been the victim.
False. Whoa, wait, what, Barbie? You’re going too fast. No idea what you mean here. Okay, I know, let me lay it out for you. The thing is, rape CAN be prevented. By me, by you, by us as a society, by talking about it, by spreading awareness, by talking to children and teenagers about it, by teaching young boys what’s respect and what’s right and what’s wrong, by enlightening our society of the dangers of a sexist society, of a prejudiced society. But you can’t prevent rape by wearing a certain type of clothes, by not going out, by not doing… whatever. Because rape isn’t your fault. It is the rapist’s fault. And, the way I see it, it’s the society’s fault, for making it such taboo and so difficult to talk about it and reach out for help.
A Few Things I Want You to Know
- Like with my suicide post, I’m not going to ask any questions or incite comments. What I ask you to do is: share this with your friends, you probably have no idea who needs it. And I truly mean it. Okay?
- If you want to talk about something, you can hit the comments, of course. You can talk about anything. And if you need to talk about something in private, you know where to find me — if you know me personally :-)
- If you came here by Google Search and you need to talk about having been raped, there are some amazing resources out there. In the United States, RAINN is probably where you’ll find the most resources. If still, you just want to talk to someone, and you feel you have no one, if you feel alone, I’m no expert, but I can hear you, you can talk to me. My comments need to be pre-approved, so, no one will see anything you have to say and I can get back to you if you leave any information.
- I don’t know who you are. I don’t know if you’re my close friend, my classmate, an acquaintance or a complete stranger. But if you have been raped, I want you to know it was not your fault. It doesn’t matter what happened, when it happened or how it happened. It wasn’t your fault. Never your fault. Hear me? No? Want me to say it again? It. Was. NOT. Your. Fault. I can promise you that.