How many women do you know who have been raped? Statistically, it’s many more than you’d like to believe. Unfortunately, the rape culture in our society has a way of silencing those victims.
1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape). 17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape. (source)
I am a survivor of sexual assault. The power dynamic that comes from someone being abused, whether as an adult or a child, lies in that inequity of power and fear. A rapist has more power than their victim. A victim might not come out forever. Some people wait until they feel “safe” enough to speak about something, even if it is 20 years too late. A victim might not speak out until they feel they have a safety net, in this case, the reassurance of more than 20 women who went through the exact same assault. You carry it inside you until you cannot any longer, it is a burden you will always bear. It’s something that the abuser doesn’t ever have to think about, but as someone who was sexually abused, there is always that chip. There is always something that you know was taken away from you. No matter how strong of a person you are, someone took something from you forcefully. As strong as I think I am, I feel weak and shamed for having never come forward before.
This sensitive topic has been brought to light once again by over twenty, now closer to thirty women accusing Bill Cosby of sexual assault.
“So why speak out at all and why now?” she asks in her essay. “The simple answer is that it’s the right thing to do.” (source)
It’s polarizing. People are very easily and casually saying “well I wasn’t there, I don’t know.”
We are all innocent until proven guilty in a court of law in this country. Bill Cosby is lucky he won’t have to face the law. He gets to stay rich and stay free. Any personal attack consequences he’s faced in recent years will never affect his comfort or quality of life. He will never have to go to therapy for PTSD or feel shame when he has to explain to a gynecologist or other medical professional why he flinches at the slightest and most clinical touch. Over two dozen women have accused Bill Cosby of sexually assaulting them, yet he will likely never face a judge or jury of his peers. He will still work, make glib “jokes” about the allegations
, make money and then die. Even with his tarnished reputation, he will be remembered as a comedian and actor first and a rapist second.
“He would never do that!” or “He’s such a nice guy” or phrases like “But look how much he’s done for the community” or “He comes from a good family” don’t apply to just this celebrity scandal in question. Rapists and abusers hide in plain sight. They are not all knife-wielding psychopaths in ski masks waiting to ambush you from a dark alley. They are someone you know. A family member, a baby-sitter, a trusted friend, your own boyfriend or husband. It could be literally anyone despite how wholesome they appear to the community. That is how they get away with it. That’s a tactic that kept me quiet for so long, thinking no one would believe me. “But he was your boyfriend” and “aren’t you two friends?” The inequity of power as well, when you know damn well that someone has more money than you do, it is a caste system as you sadly realize you don’t stand a chance.
This affects me personally. I’ve been assaulted by three different men that were in my life at different ages. The fear kept me quiet. Fear of “don’t tell anyone or I will hurt you and your family.” The fear that, if I did tell anyone, my abuser would not be the only one on trial, because I truly feared that my father would literally kill the men who harmed me and end up in jail. I did not want my dad to go to jail for trying to protect me. The fear of not being believed kept me quiet for years and years, but enough is enough. Instead of feeling shame of thinking “why me, why was it me, three times over?” I am here to say that I am not ashamed or guilty for being assaulted and raped. I did not deserve this, and no woman, man or child does. Period. It does not matter what you were wearing, who you were with, how much you drank, if you said yes and then no, or even said no and eventually yes to just make it easier on yourself. It is time to end victim shaming.
I recently cut ties with someone because of a simple FB post, just one sentence innocently typed- “I support Bill Cosby”. It really triggered an array of complicated feelings inside me- betrayal, anger, hurt, shame, guilt, rage, sorrow. Nearly 1 in 5 women report having been sexually abused in their lifetime. And that is only the percentage that have been brave enough to come forward and say something, even if they chose not to report it to the police. When you make a glib statement like that to your network on social media, consider how many people you are hurting with that statement – “I’m OK with this rapist.” Because, as a silent victim who up until now, had too much shame and fear to talk about my assaults, that’s all I read. The follow-up comments calling the victims gold-diggers and attention seekers were just as hurtful. It hurts to lose a friend I’d been close with for many years, but I simply couldn’t have someone in my life that could so easily say the same statements about me. No one prospers from a false rape allegation. The percentage of false accusations are about the same as any other crime, but because of their personal nature and the difficultly in prosecuting rape cases, it is easy for people to misconstrue the facts and statistics as they see fit. It’s easier to call a woman a whore than to call a priest, father, coach, boyfriend or actor a rapist.
It’s taken me a long time to say this. It has taken me a long time to acknowledge these things happened to me, even to those closest to me. This was my time to come forward. It’s 20 years later and I will get no justice for what was done to me. But I am putting this out there for women to know- I am part of the statistic that stands with them in surviving sexual abuse.