Trigger warning for today’s post as it discusses my childhood rape.
I want to talk about shame. Shame takes many forms so I could go all over the place but today it is one very specific kind of shame.
The shame a rape victim feels.
I was quite young when my step father raped me. The first time I felt pretty confident that it wasn’t my fault. With every subsequent invasion I became more certain it was. The years didn’t make it any easier. As my memory failed the more sure I was that I was somehow to blame for my rapes. As horrible as it sounds I kept asking myself if I liked it that first time. I kept asking myself did I come back for more?
The shame was exacerbated by the fact that my rapes were swept under the rug. I was taken away rather than the predator who committed them.
The shame was solidified by:
The therapist who point blank told me I had no other choice than to be traumatized.
The next adult to sexually assault my not yet fully developed body.
The fact that I still had to see him. Even to this day I hear him utter the words “I love you.” and I feel that shame.
I had to actively fight against it but I didn’t start out fighting. I started out cutting. I started out looking for ways to blame myself. They weren’t hard to come by. Doesn’t take long, fucking around, teasing, pushing those boundaries before a reputation starts getting whispered.
I was one. I still kind of am one. But then I was a slut for all the wrong reasons. I didn’t fuck because I wanted to enjoy sex. I fucked because I wanted to die. I wanted to find that part inside me that made them hurt me. I wanted to prove it was my fault. The morning after the first time I had PIV sex, the point I had defined as “losing my virginity”, I swallowed two bottles of pills. There was a monster inside me and if fucking couldn’t bring her out I needed to kill her.
Meeting Jarreg brought me out of that spiral of shame but it wasn’t easy. Over 15 years into my recovery from my rapes, I felt the whole weight of that shame the moment I fell in love with Nissa. Just like I was 14 years old again. I am not sure it ever fully goes away or if I just learn better ways of coping with it.
Shame is common amongst rape and sexual assault victims. It varies in strength and presentation but fucking hell do we feel it.
Why did I wear that?
Did I lead him on?
Why did I walk that way home?
Could I have screamed louder?
There are usually people lining the block, waiting to blame us for our rapes but nothing they say hasn’t already been considered. We lived a whole life being told that women must behave certain ways lest someone attack us. We already know it is our fault. We knew it was our fault while it happened. So you telling us it is our fault only fuels our self shaming fire.
It still stings. Sometimes we feed off it to the point it kills us.
That same shame is why many of us do not report. The fears that our shame will be placed on trial, held under public light, scrutinized forces us to closet our rapes. Our survival comes before justice. And if we don’t report we find yet another way to blame ourselves.
What if our rapist hurts someone else?
That blame, that shame can be the worst. I feel it all the fucking time. Every time my children exist in the same room as my childhood rapist, I feel it. I am screaming inside as they say their goodbyes and hug him, “please fuck don’t love this horrible man.” But I can’t say it aloud. I have been shamed into silence.
Sometimes we need to break that silence. Maybe we can’t go to police. Maybe we need a safe place to break it. Maybe we vent in 140 characters or less in a hash tag on twitter. Maybe we go to a therapist.
No matter where we go, we don’t need to be shamed for talking about it because I promise we have given ourselves plenty of shame already.
A couple of weeks ago commenter Anna reported her victimization to a rape counselor. I don’t know what training someone like her counselor goes through but I know that ze couldn’t have been paying attention. If nothing else every counselor who has training in sexual assault and rape really ought to have some clue how much we blame ourselves for our horror. This one might have known but still Anna walked away from that session with the shame of not reporting hanging precariously over her head.
This is wrong. I wasn’t sure how to talk about it. It is so important that we fight this shame all the time but I feel it too. I hate this scared little girl inside me that won’t report my stepfather’s rape. I hate that I have convinced myself that he has no access to children unsupervised so not reporting is tolerable.
I don’t need anyone making me hate myself more. Especially not someone there to help me.
Anna doesn’t need that either. This counselor didn’t remotely consider how fucking dangerous reporting can be for us, especially for Anna whose trans woman status makes reporting risky fucking business. This counselor chose to ignore our own shame and place one more burden on her shoulders. Instead of walking away with another tool to survive, this counselor gave Anna another judgement to seek penance for.
I just want to go and shake this counselor. I want to make hir aware of how wrong ze is. See the thing is, that there is nothing illegal or immoral about not reporting. Yes reporting might somehow cause rapists to get caught but it does not mean that victims are morally obligated to martyr themselves for future victims. If Anna’s rapist hurts another person it will not be Anna’s fault. The fault lies in Anna’s attacker and the societal structure that makes reporting sexual assault as comparably invasive as the original victimization. If reporting didn’t cause us more shame, if we didn’t have to worry about the horror experienced when we report, it still wouldn’t be ok to blame someone for not reporting one of the most horrible experiences they have ever gone through.
Rape is wrong. Not reporting your rape is not wrong.
Learn which one is appropriate to shame.