I was never going to write about this. It was far too personal for me. However, I feel like it would be a huge disservice to not discuss it in light of recent media coverage.
Let’s start with this is not a pity me piece. I’m not asking for some form of personal attention. Now that’s out of the way, we can discuss this massive problem.
According to Marshall University, Rape Culture is
“an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.”
I’m gong to start with my own story to talk about this issue.
My freshman year of college, I was super excited. I was going to my dream school. I hadn’t even applied to other schools. My mom was so nervous. I go down for orientation. Meet a cute boy. He’s on the football team and he’s southern. I mean that’s what a girl from the north wants in a man when she goes down south. We talked that whole summer until I moved into the dorm. I think my mom had been back in NJ for 24 hours max when I called her from my roommates cellphone to tell her I had been raped and the police had taken my cellphone as evidence. Not only did they take my cellphone but basically all of my possessions. Being the amazing mom she is, she left work and drove back to South Carolina. Thanks mom.
Now, this doesn’t sound like rape culture, right? No. It doesn’t. You know what is. When a school representative went on the news to slut shame me and defend my attacker. When my lawyer showed me pictures of me drinking (I had a serious alcohol problem then to cope) and told me how I handled being raped would make it harder for her and she wished I would behave differently. When his lawyer used previous sexual encounters against me but made him out to be a saint (aka I was slut shamed). When in the hospital my ER doctor said I wish you would have struggled harder so you’d have more visible marks, it’d make it a lot easier to prosecute. When members of the football team wrote their jersey numbers on my dorm room door and said call me next time for a good time.
The state of South Carolina did not take my trial to court. We didn’t even make it to a grand jury. They said they had enough evidence but it was not worth prosecuting. Why? Because he was a football player from a D-1 school and I was a girl from out of state.
We had to go to school court and he was expelled the first time. Huge win, right? Wrong. He appealed naturally. He won the appeal because the school said they were in no position to decide on the law, that was up to the state. We see how that went. The school then decided to suspended him for 2 years. I was approached by a school official that said they were hoping he’d just go away and play football somewhere else. Why not push him onto some other school and make him their problem?
I only talk about this with my husband and best friend but after Ke$ha and Lady Gaga I just felt the Spirit so strongly. I needed to write about the problem.
Lady Gaga co-wrote this song with Diane Warren about the problem of campus rape. Both of these courageous women were assaulted. The lyrics and video are so raw with emotion. I can only imagine how difficult it is to write a song like this. But I understand.
After it happened to me people were trying to take me out and telling me that I’d be fine eventually. Here we are almost 8 years later and I’m writing about it. Here we are almost 8 years later and I still have nightmares about it. You cannot understand what a victim goes through until it happens to you, which is something a victim would never wish upon you.
The problem with this Rape Culture is that the attacker typically gets to walk away unscathed. The problem is that there is a culture where the victim cannot feel safe coming forward. After going through it, I understand why.
The news broadcasted their version of what they thought happened to me in a dramatic reproduction. They showed pictures of my victim statements on the air. They were crawling on campus. There were comments all over the internet about how people had heard what an awful human being I was and how my attacker was a wonderful church going man. It was terrible. I was slut shamed all over the place. I think sometimes I still am. I know people in law enforcement who have made commentary about how sometimes girls lie about these sort of things and how “if” I were raped…So I can understand now why victims chose not to come forward.
Let’s look at Ke$ha. My heart breaks for her. It literally breaks for that woman. She was assaulted by her producer physically, sexually, and emotionally repeatedly and a judge ruled that she must continue to work with said producer. She cannot leave her contract with Sony. Huffington Post did a piece about how the scariest part of this story isn’t about what happened to her, but that her story isn’t unique. It’s a normal occurrence. The reason it’s getting media attention is because she is a celebrity who is trapped. But how many people are forced to work alongside their attacker? More than 10,000 workplace sexual harassment suits are filed a year. According to Huffington Post, this is not the full amount and I am not even shocked.
There is little support from people when one comes forward about an attack. Some of my closest friends have shown little support over the years. It’s simply not a subject of discussion anymore with those who cannot understand.
Lena Dunham offers an insightful article into how our justice system does not work for the victims of abuse.
Time offers various articles on the subject of rape culture and the many schools that have been in trouble for their promotion of their rape culture.
The problem starts with discussion and the ability to discuss. If we cannot talk about the problem we cannot solve the problem.
Marshall University offers tips to help end Rape Culture.
- Avoid sexist language
- Speak up
- Avoid slut shaming
- Take allegations seriously
- Always communicate with sexual partners
- Be involved
Moral of this story is that this ends when we discuss it. We have to be open and honest about what’s happening in the world.
If you or someone you know has been a victim please know you aren’t alone.