A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and rape by any other name is still rape. Saying no is rape. Saying nothing is rape. The absence of consent is not assumed consent. Thinking he or she wanted it, doesn’t mean they did. Everything that falls outside of yes and all of its synonyms, falls directly inside of rape.
Maybe this means you know someone who has been raped. Maybe this means you heard slut shaming poorly covering rape. Maybe this means you have been raped. It does mean I have. It took me eleven years to finally accept that. You see, here is how it happened and here is how I believe raped happened, and how those two misaligned narratives lead me to suppress the reality of my own rape.
I was a sexually active fifteen-year-old girl who liked the boy. He was older, different and from a crowd unlike my own. I felt cool because he was interested in me but the truth was he wasn’t interested in me at all. He didn’t care about what music I liked, or asked what my favourite movie was, he didn’t talk to me about my thoughts or dreams. He didn’t know me. I wasn’t somebody to him, I was just anybody. We had been to a few of the same parties, kissed at a few of those same parties and I eventually invited him to one of our parties and soon after he asked if he could come by and hang out one night. I said yes.
I remember his white car pulling up to my house once my parents were asleep and I remember the white car leaving less than an hour later, my parents still asleep. I let him into my home, into my room, and into my bed. It was late and I was sexually active, why wouldn’t he think it was on the table? This is what I led myself to believe for years. I remember lying in bed with him, trying to talk, to find out more about him and I remember him kissing me, trying to hush me as his hands wandered. I let his hands wander, didn’t I? I didn’t say no but I didn’t say yes. I remember him getting on top of me, still clothed. I remember saying no now. I remember saying no, that I didn’t want to and I remember him telling me not to worry. I didn’t fight him. I merely wriggled to bide myself time. But he found a way and I remember just turning away. I remember looking at my awful pink walls as he finished. I didn’t cry or say anything as he tidied himself up. I stared at the wall and said I was tired, so he left. He was the boy I liked, so how could he be a rapist? I said no. I said it. He didn’t listen and he didn’t stop. I wonder if he knows what he did and if it ever crosses his mind. I’m almost certain it doesn’t.
That memory has been pushed to the furthermost alleyways of my mind that at times it doesn’t feel like it’s my own. Every now and then, it would creep back and I would ask myself if it was rape, only to steer myself away from it all. I became so clever at concealing it that I almost felt nothing towards it, I detached myself so far from it until it barely became part of my own history, but it is. People speak of the shame linked to rape and the shame of my own haunted me so far that I silenced my experience. If I could carry this shame alone, I wouldn’t have to bring shame upon others, my family, and my friends, even to people that didn’t even know me but would whisper about it like they pitied me but would never be able to talk to me. I didn’t want it to define who I was or how people treated or saw me. I didn’t want to be a victim, I didn’t want to appear weak so I carried it alone, for the most part, I still do. I’m learning to unravel the memory that I knotted into the deepest part of my mind. I am learning to accept it and know it doesn’t define me but can despite all its nastiness, it can empower me.
I have faith that the next generation will have a stronger rape culture. The right conversations have begun, open and honest ones where victims aren’t questioned or shamed, ones where victims aren’t made to feel like victims. It’s only starting but a start is better than deceiving one another into thinking everything is ok, telling one another not to worry. I genuinely have faith.
Do not assume, ask and remembers that no is more than just the word. Be present enough to see that.
Take care, and be kind.