The Normalizing of Rape and Assault
I was first raped when I was 14. At a toga party, four boys got me drunk, gang-raped me and left me to sleep in the backyard. When I returned to school the following week, my schoolmates called me a whore and a slut. Instead of speaking out about what happened, I was ashamed and embarrassed. The stress of the rape and the shaming took such a toll on me that I became sick. I lied to my mom and told her that I wanted to skip my 9th-grade graduation, yet she made me go. I was so frightened of ridicule that I threw up twice. My mom took me right home after the ceremony where I crawled back into bed and cried through the weekend.
I remained silent.
My mom had a few connections in Denver Public Schools. Knowing this, I begged her to put me in a different high school that was outside of my neighborhood. I half lied to her, telling her that girls were picking on me. I never told my mom about the rape. Nor did I ever tell her what my schoolmates were saying to me; that I was deemed the school slut because I was raped.
My mom pulled some strings and placed me in a school in a different neighborhood, where I felt loved and safe. Even today, my high school friends remain my closest friends. I feel so very lucky to have so many intelligent and successful friends from high school still in my life.
I met my high school sweetheart. It was definitely 10th-grade love at first sight. He was a star basketball player and I felt lucky to have such a handsome guy for my best friend, let alone my boyfriend. I always felt safe with him, and he was always a true gentleman.
But that didn’t protect me from the disgusting, horrific rape culture that still exists today. In 11th grade, while at a party with a girl friend, a boy from my school violently raped me in a bathroom. This was my second rape. The boy that raped me slammed my head against the mirror so hard that I had shards of glass in my hair and cuts on the back of my head. My friend begged me to go to the police. I was too embarrassed and ashamed. I never told my boyfriend for those reasons and because the boy was his friend. I was embarrassed, and I didn’t want my boyfriend to leave me because he was my best friend and safe space.
I never said another word to anybody else about that rape. I buried it deep. I would cross that boy’s path in the halls, and he would give me a look like I better remain quiet, or else he would tell my boyfriend about me. That rapist knew my currency and my greatest fear. He capitalized on that and used that to his advantage, as rapists do. I probably wasn’t his first rape.
So, I remained silent.
In 11th grade, I started acting in theaters and singing in bands around town. Thus, began my entrance into the world of entertainment and THAT rape culture. Directors and musicians who prey on cute, young girls, luring them in with mentions of lead roles and opportunities, only to get their chance to take advantage of them.
I fell into that trap and was quickly stripped of any innocence that I had left in my soul and mind. And though I was still dating my boyfriend, I was often lured into situations with directors who would attempt to sleep with me. They would push themselves on me, make unwarranted advances on me, and even get me drunk enough to sleep with me. The saddest part in all of this is that these were grown men! These were MEN in their twenties and thirties, making sexual advancements on a 16-year-old girl.
Yet, I remained silent.
At this point in my life, at the age of 51, I have been raped and assaulted so many times, that I’ve lost track of the numbers of times I’ve been powerless to a man who felt that I was a sexual object. At one audition for a band, I had a guitarist trap me in his bedroom at the apartment. I had to scream bloody murder for his bandmates to tear down the door so I could get out. While at working in a recording studio, Gene Simmons pulled me onto his lap and refused to let me go. I tried wriggling away from him, and he tried to kiss me on my neck. My boss had to explain to him that I wasn’t a “studio bimbo,” but rather I was there to “assist the engineers,” as though a title had to be used to justify his grabbing and groping of women.
Leaving the entertainment industry was my exodus out of chaos and entrance into a safe zone. I spent many years in academia, studying science and math, earning a couple of degrees, and learning that I had more to offer this world than a song and a dance. For the first time in my life, it was refreshing to enter into chemistry or physics lab and work with men who placed value on my intellect rather than my body.
However, even just recently, while at a meeting with an attorney for kids with special needs, the attorney grabbed my ass and breasts…while my kids were in another room! I gathered the kids and ran out as fast as I could and went home in tears. I told my husband, who confronted the attorney at his house, while the attorney’s wife stood right next to him.
I’m not writing this to earn any pity. I’m not writing this for attention. I’m writing this to speak out. I’m writing this to make some noise. I’m writing this to empower women. I’m writing this to remind women that remaining silent only perpetuates the rape culture. I’m writing in the hope that this will reach at least one woman or one girl, to let her know that it’s OK to speak up and speak out. We simply cannot remain silent anymore. We simply cannot bury our pain.
We simply need to stop wearing the badge of shame, because WE are the victims of rape and assault.
Silence normalizes rape. Silence minimizes the damage for the predator but creates deeper scars for the victim. Silence only perpetuates the assailant to do it again, and again, and again.
As victims, we’ve been told to remain silent because we could lose our job, our good name, our pride, and our reputation. Society continually enables rapists to act like predators because of our silence. One out of six women has been assaulted or raped in her lifetime. Rose McGowan is one out of six women. I am one out of six women. Your mother, your sister, your aunt, your daughter could be one out of six women.
Yet, they are silent victims silenced by the person who pillaged their bodies.
I joined the #WomenBoycottTwitter movement yesterday because I’m done being silent.
We live in a society where rape is normalized by this silence. The normalizing needs to stop.
My husband recently told me that he believes that men oppress women because they are afraid of women. That if men weren’t afraid of women, they would be more amenable to treating them as equals. This makes sense. We’ve been beaten down, yet, we still get up. Ladies, we are warriors.
Though men have pillaged, battered and damaged our bodies, we still stand. We didn’t ask for this. We didn’t wander into this lifestyle knowingly. We were simply born into it, without a choice. Our place on this earth has been squashed and diminished for literally thousands of years, from the murder of the mathematician Hypatia in the fifth century, to the rape of Rogneda of Polotsk in the 10th century, to the silencing of today’s rape victims, humanity continues to blame and silence the victim. Men have objectified, pillaged, damaged, and treated our bodies like disposable objects. Meanwhile, through this patriarchal treatment, our spirits fight to keep from being diminished, quashed, and frightened into passivity. Hence, every time someone like Rose McGowan makes a little noise, she is shushed and mocked.
To me, this boycott is about seeing women, of all color, as respectable, intelligent individuals and treating them as equals because that is what we are. We are equals. If my brother, son or husband were sexually assaulted, I would be the first one to come to his defense, to protect him, to help him and to show him that he mattered in the world. I know that there are wonderful men in the world who would never even consider assaulting a woman. Yet, these men are also the same men who remain silent when we are raped and assaulted. Men, how does your silence level our playing field? It doesn’t. We will never be equals as long as everybody remains silent.
I’m going to stop being silent, and I hope I can encourage other women and girls to speak out when they’ve been assaulted, especially in their most fearful moment.
This is not about feminism. This is about humanism. This is about common decency and respect. It’s obvious that the level of disrespect and vitriol brewing in our country is growing out of hand. Oppression and suppression are swelling, among people of color, among the LGBTQI community, and among women. And, quite frankly, I’m fed up with this level of stupidity. It is never acceptable to judge someone based on the color of their skin, their gender or their sexual orientation. We are living, breathing, loving, caring humans who deserve better. By remaining silent, we normalize.
The shells of our bodies encompass all that is good in us: our nurturing souls, our intelligent minds, and our altruistic hearts. Our bodies are not objects. People don’t just have unspoken permission to grab, violate and damage our bodies. Our bodies are not cheap toys that can be treated with disregard only to be disposed of. Our bodies are a connection of our beautiful spirit that contributes to this potentially beautiful planet.
The suppression, threats, assaults, and rapes need to be called out to end this ugly cycle of rape culture. Our society has become too smart just to look away. It’s time to start pointing to the suppressors and aggressors to say, “You do not have permission to harm this body or silence this victim.” It’s time to start standing up for each other. I truly believe we will never evolve into an intelligent society if we continue to tolerate and ignore our current rape culture.
It’s time to start speaking out; it’s time to stop being embarrassed and ashamed. If there is one woman or one girl out there who reads this and is afraid to say anything about her rape or assault, please remember that if you speak up and speak out, I will have your back, I will support you, I will admire you, and I will love you for it. And I will find more to have your back, to support you, to admire you, and to love you for it.