facebook

Why It Took Me 25 Years To Admit I Was Raped

Photo: Courtesy of the author
Why Our Victim Blaming Rape Culture Is Still Keeping Women From Sharing MeToo Stories Of Sexual Assault
Buzz, Sex

The cold, hard truth.

Even with the #MeToo movement in full swing, rape culture's practice of victim blaming and victim shaming is enough to keep even the most empowered women quiet about their experiences with sexual assault.

The sad truth is, you probably know at least more than one woman who's been raped, but has chosen not to go to the police or seek help out of fear of being further victimized. When it happened to me, I didn't want to go to report it to the authorities either.

RELATED: I Was Raped When I Was Homeless

When I was in college, I was raped in my own bed.

The rapist, a friend, turned to me as he left my room and said"Well, this really makes me look like an a******."

I listened as he walked out of my apartment. I could hear his footsteps disappearing as he went down the street.

I didn't want to call the police. I wanted to not be pregnant so I went to the hospital in my hometown instead. I was treated with kindness and respect there, but the staff was required to call the police.

I reluctantly went into the police station and was met by two burly officers who were there to collect the "facts": What was I wearing at the time of the rape? How much did I have to drink? If I didn't want to be raped, why was I alone with this man in my apartment? How many other people had I slept with? Had I been leading him on?

It felt like I was the one being blamed; yet, I refused to give the name of the man who raped me. The police (and those that loved me) could not understand why I would want to protect the rapist.

I didn't want to protect the man who raped me. I wanted to protect myself.

If recounting the rape to the police made me feel like a slut who got what she deserved, there was no way I wanted to go to trial and face more victim blaming — a seemingly unavoidable part of rape culture. I just wanted to heal.

I coped by sleeping twenty hours a day and eating. I gained thirty pounds. I could barely keep up in my classes. I decided to withdraw from a class to lessen my burden.

I went to the Dean of the English department and explained that I had been through a deeply personal and traumatic experience, wasn't coping well, and that I'd like to withdraw from a class. "I'll let you do it this time," he said sternly. "But you can't withdraw from a class every time you break up with a boyfriend or get an abortion."Like I was the one to blame.

And people wonder why victimized women choose to protect themselves by keeping quiet. Why they don't come forward. Why they don't saunter to the authorities and press charges.

Victim shaming in today's rape culture is real. It's powerful. And it works effectively to keep rape victims quiet.

I continued to eat and sleep until I couldn't take the milky blackness of my life. I finally sought help.

Around the same time, in the hopes of processing the trauma, I wrote a paper about my rape. I got an "A". The professor called me back into the classroom as the class was dismissed. He told me that my paper was powerful and needed to be published.

"That will never happen," I assured him. "If this is what it feels like to write honestly, I never want to write again." I tore up the paper and did not write again for nearly twenty-five years.

RELATED: 13 Powerful Quotes For The Fight Against Sexual Assault And Victim Shaming

My body, heart, and soul healed in time, but it took half my life to get to the bottom of what that rape truly cost me: my writing.

Five years ago, with the help of a couple of amazing writing coaches, I decided to write again. I felt like a hoarder, with a half a lifetime of words and stories crammed into my body. It was time to let them out.

My first published article was picked up by Time magazine. My editor called me to tell me the news and we both burst into tears. My God! I could write! I had all but forgotten I had this talent in me. In fact, it would be another couple of years before I was able to connect my vulnerability around writing to the rape.

I realize now, the rape itself was the smaller part of my ordeal. The shaming and my perceived need to silence myself in order to feel safe were the unending hangovers.

I got over the physical and mental trauma of the rape. The shame and silence lasted for 25 years.

I wonder what I lost, what the world may have lost, because of my silence. I'm not alone. Every woman who is raped, made to perform or endure sex acts either by force or fear, has her own story of loss.

Collectively, what has been lost by the shaming and silencing of rape victims? I know the talent I held back. What about others? How many other victims have truncated themselves out of fear or shame or the desire to find normalcy, rather than coming forward with their rape stories?

What if this is the last generation of girls who silences themselves in order to feel safe? What if we link arms, find our voices and, knees shaking, tell our truth? What if we expand instead of contract?

And most of all, what if the world listened?

RELATED: Should We Forgive Men Who Are Accused Of Sexual Assault If They Apologize?

T-Ann Pierce is a transformational life and mindset coach, who helps her clients tweak their perspectives so they can begin loving the lives they are living. If you still have questions about injecting your life with empowerment, joy, meaning, and peace, drop her a note through her website.

Author
Expert