Over 10 years ago, I started a relationship that ultimately ended in violence. He drugged me three weeks after we met. Enough ketamine will paralyse you utterly, and that’s how he raped me.
It’s at this juncture that I usually cut out the middle of my story and skip ahead to the end. Sometimes I tell about the bruises. Rarely, I tell about the scars, but I never tell the entire gory story. I learned during the first week of my rape that exposing the details was dangerous. The first friend I told blamed me, so I didn’t tell another soul for a year. The next one disbelieved me, so I didn’t tell anyone else for a decade. The third person I told was my therapist so of course she wouldn’t ask me to find my part in my rape, right? Wrong. That’s exactly what she did, so those three people are the only ones who know the whole truth; who will probably ever know the whole truth.
I let myself be silenced, and I’m still letting myself be silenced because the alternative is intolerable to me. I’m in remission from my PTSD, but it comes flying back the second I’m directly blamed.
Being silenced has dire consequences for rape survivors. Carrying such a significant secret around for so many years is intensely isolating because not one of your loved ones knows the whole story of your life. The truth gnaws at you like an infection until your entire psyche is covered in scars. Living in the shadow of rape becomes excruciating when victim blaming enters the picture. I can’t take it, so I stay quiet instead.
It only takes one victim blamer to silence a rape survivor—just one.
At best, you’re teaching us it’s pointless to do anything but hide. At worst, you’re teaching us that it’s our fault.
I had my handbag snatched four years ago. I told all 130 of my Facebook friends. Not a single person said, “I don’t believe it happened.” Nobody said, “But were you wearing expensive clothes because then you were asking for it.” 130 people and not an enth of blame, but when it was rape, all three people I told blamed me in one way or another.
We don’t blame crime victims in this world. That would be ridiculous. We only blame abuse and rape survivors. They’re a special breed. They’re super bad and apparently invite trauma because it’s so much fun.
I’ve been relapsing on my feminism an awful lot lately. The public’s attitudes about assault keep reminding me my autonomy is considered less important because I was the victim of rape instead of a nonsexual crime. When I think about the sheer number of victim blamers survivors are exposed to online, I wonder how I would have coped in an internet-dominated society all those years ago. I know the answer: not fucking well. I’d have needed to be hospitalised, and that is no exaggeration because I was hospitalised directly after I ran into my first victim blamer.
Maybe I’m particularly weak. Maybe. But weakness is not a crime. Rape is.