Don’t Forget Rape Culture When You Vote This Week

Flickr / Celso FLORES
Flickr / Celso FLORES

Today, well yesterday really, it came to my attention that the person who has accused a presidential candidate of child rape was too scared to reveal her identity at a press conference because of threats she has allegedly received. This got me thinking about rape culture, and I figured I might be able provide some everyday examples of rape culture. First of all:

Rape culture is crucifying a woman presidential candidate for defending a rapist when she was court-ordered to do so, but ignoring child rape and other sexual assault allegations against a male candidate.

Now some of you may be thinking, “Of course she’s going to make it political.  This woman coming forth is just trying to sway or ‘rig’ the election.” You may even want to stop reading at this point, but rape, sexual assault, and/or rape culture affects every single one of us.

And as one of the “us,” here are some personal experiences of rape culture:

Rape culture is tonight, waiting with my neighbor because she felt unsafe sitting on her own porch with her 3-year-old godson. She was locked out of her house and three cars had gone by in five minutes cat-calling at us about how “sexy” we were. One of those cars circled back around as if we didn’t get the hint the first time that they were undressing us with their eyes.

Rape culture is last month, feeling unsafe in the middle of a Chinese restaurant waiting for take-out because a 6-foot-tall man who weighed 250 pounds repeatedly touched me while asking me if I would like a “big country man like him” to “take care” of me. He also tried to convince me that he would “love every single part” of me. When I told the manager of the restaurant, she told me not to worry because he acts like that all the time. The man only backed off when I flashed my keys at him and told him his eyeballs would be on the floor the next time he touched me. He still called out to me until I left about how beautiful he thought I was. I hated my “beauty” that night.

Rape culture is last year, being told I was disgusting for having sex. Apparently, a woman’s sexual acts turn from desirable to loathsome when that woman isn’t giving you the happy ending you thought you thought you deserved.

Rape culture is two years ago, going on a first-date to a children’s movie, and having to repeatedly move away my date’s hand from my thigh because he kept trying to feel me up with a row of four-year-olds directly in front of us.

Rape culture is 947 days, or two years, seven months, two days, and two hours ago, going to a bar with a friend, and unbeknownst to me, the friend ordering three times the amount of alcohol as in a normal shot. I thought I took three shots, when in reality, it was nine. Here’s a holiday drinking tip for you all: sweet peppermint is great at covering up the taste of alcohol.

Rape culture is 947 days and one hour ago, refusing to kiss the friend after I was starting to feel the effects of the alcohol. Shortly after, the bar manager tossed the keys to the friend and told him to lock-up when he was done and left with a final wink in my direction.

Rape culture is 947 days ago, finally getting my phone from the friend who was hoarding it, and texting a recent ex who wanted to be “friends” that I was scared. He told me that I was a “big girl who could take care of herself.”  The ex lived five minutes away from the bar. The friend took my phone away again. I couldn’t stand up straight anymore.

Rape culture is 946 days and 11 hours ago, trying to leave the bar, but almost passing out 50-feet away from the door and then being led to my friend’s car.

Rape culture is 946 days and 10 hours ago, being sexually assaulted but being adrenaline-rushed enough to remember every second.

Rape culture is having the friend tell me that I shouldn’t have expected anything else because of the short dress I was wearing.

Rape culture is choosing not to report my sexual assault because I didn’t want to be blamed for the clothes I wore, underage drinking, or somehow leading him on. I didn’t want to be traumatized any further.

Rape culture is blaming myself for over a year: for the assault itself, for not being strong enough to “let it go”, for seeing his baby blue eyes whenever I went to sleep and woke up, for trying to compartmentalize my pain and failing, for sleeping with my lights on and a knife under my pillow, for my brain fogging up when I tried to do simple work when I used to be ambitious, and finally, for slowly giving up on myself.

Rape culture is even now, still jumping at any sudden noise, having multiple anxiety attacks a week, dealing with depression, and regretting that I didn’t trust the criminal justice system.

Rape culture is, finally, very recently, realizing that I wasn’t weak to seek help and that there was nothing inherently wrong with me for struggling through this ongoing experience. And also that maybe I could maybe be a voice for others who went through a similar experience, or even just be an ear for someone else who needs to talk.

***

Now, I don’t think you should choose a candidate based on one issue or just on gender. This is my friendly PSA that you should be as informed as you can be on each candidate before you make your decision.

However, I don’t think it should be so easily tossed aside that, yet again, another sexual assault survivor might have been bullied to not share her/his story or seek justice. Especially when that bully might be a presidential campaign.

I have heard several complaints about both the Republican and Democrat candidates for not having the right “morals.” It is just something to think about that one of those candidates is accused of rape, which is a crime of moral turpitude.

Finally, (for real this time), I urge all of you to please vote no matter who your choice is. I know the consequences of not deeming myself worthy enough to being listened to and for not trusting my voice. Your voice matters and deserves to be heard, even if it just comes out as a few clicks on a computer or checks on a ballot. TC mark

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