Conversations: On Rape, Silence and Shame
What were you wearing?
Jeans and a tunic. But does it seem right that the person who raped me is justified because of what I was or wasn’t wearing?
Where did this happen?
In his house.
No one will believe you.
I know. You don’t even believe me either.
Why were you out so late? No responsible woman is out that late.
Maybe because I have a life to live, and I have the same rights as a man. And sometimes, I go to work, and come back late. Or maybe I just want to hang out with friends.
Tell me how it happened. Everything
You want me to relive the experience for your listening pleasure?
How do you know him?
I thought we were friends. You know working at the same place for months. Carpooling together. I assumed we were friends.
Why did you go to his house?
Do you have friends? Have you ever visited them?
If you went to his house then you brought it upon yourself.
Safe to say if I came to visit you at home I could expect you to rape me?
Did you shout or fight back? Cos if you didn’t it means you wanted it.
I don’t remember.
I’m sure a part of you wanted this? What wear you wearing?
You asked what I was wearing before. But does this change anything for me. For the 8 year old raped by her pedophile teacher? For the fully clothed Indian women who get raped regardless of what they’re wearing? For the 70 something year old woman who got raped on her way back from the farm? What were they wearing?
Where you flirting with him?
I don’t know what flirting means anymore. Enjoying a good conversation? Laughter? Smiling? Maybe you should tell me which of those acts is sexually enticing.
This is why we always say you should cover up. Can you see for yourself?
Well yes. Seeing as I raped myself.
Were you drinking?
Just a glass of wine. But did the alcohol rape me?
Was he drinking? If he was then it isn’t really rape.
How so? Does alcohol assume responsibility for a man’s actions?
Did you enjoy it?
Who enjoys being mounted against his or her will?
You should not report this. For your own shame, and for your family’s shame.
Why am I the one who should be ashamed? While the one who is a criminal goes free?
Are you sure it was rape?
Is having sex with an unconscious person consensual? Is forcing someone to have sex consensual sex?
He’s your husband / boyfriend. How can you say he raped you?
But it is my body, not his. So I can say “No”
You don’t look like you’ve ever been raped.
How should I look? Damaged? Head hung low?
You seem pretty calm for someone who has just been raped. We don’t believe you
*Turns on hysteria switch*
Have you looked at yourself? Who wouldn’t want to have sex with you?
Not without my consent
Note: I was heartbroken and angry to read about the Stanford Rape Case, especially seeing as the perpetrator got only 6 months behind bars. I’ve also seen attempts to shift the conversation from the heinous act of rape, to other details like alcohol, and college cultures. P-L-E-A-S-E. I have been there, I’m 28 and I have been sexually assaulted thrice — from my first sexual encounter at 16 when I clearly wasn’t ready (without the glaring statutory rape charge), to being raped at 22 by an ex who invited me to talk about our relationship, to the trusted friend who raped me all night, even when I stopped fighting and was begging and crying for him to stop. Years after, I still squirm when I’m alone in the company of a man I’m not comfortable around. And there’s no logic for being comfortable around any man. I kept blaming myself for putting myself in those circumstances, it took forever to realize that I didn’t do anything wrong but be with people who didn’t know that “No” meant “No”. If you told someone No and they still went ahead without your consent, it’s rape. And I hope you never spend a second more blaming yourself.
In the event that you’re raped, I know that the first reflex is to scrub every remembrance of the event off your body. If you intend to press charges, it’s best you go to the Police and have yourself examined by Medical Personnel. Not just for evidence, but also for health reasons — to prevent STIs, contraceptives and perhaps ARV. (If you live in Lagos State, please call the Office of the Public Defender).
I wish in my own case I had gotten help and didn’t just call my friends and burden them being there for someone who they didn’t exactly know how to help. I hope no one else has to wake up the next morning and because of the fear of stigma pretend that all is well, even when you’re hurting. I hope that even though you make better safety choices, you don’t ever feel the need to share the responsibility of an assault on your body and mind with someone who didn’t care about your own freewill.
Get all the support that you need, a few good friends and family who don’t blame you. And get Therapy / Counselling too!
If you’re a rape survivor, I hope you rise from the ashes. You’re not broken, you’re not someone else’s mistakes. You’re who you always were, only stronger and wiser.