Admin Note: This post in no way reflects the views of ASC or SOAR. It may be triggering to survivors, and includes substantial victim blaming. Please remember to be respectful to the survivor-author in the comments.
I wanted to write this to get some response and further a discussion that I have been having internally and with my therapist for months. I was inspired to do so after reading some posts on this site after I followed the link in this week’s consensus on another postering campaign.
I felt a bit of animosity toward the postering campaign earlier this year that I could not understand at the time. I don’t want to give too much of myself away and will try to keep references to myself as non-gender-specific and general as such, but I will say that I was statutorily raped (obviously before I came to Haverford) when I was eight.
I think that what bothered me first about the posters throughout campus was that some were more than inappropriate and others tried unsuccessfully to get people to feel a sense of jocular levity towards the subject leading members of SOAR to feel attacked when people responded with jokes entrenched in rape culture. I think that these sorts of jokes should have been expected and that using jokes at the outset was a poorly considered idea. But that is not what really bothered me. They made me feel attacked.
I should continue by saying that (to the best of my knowledge) I have never raped anyone and that is not why I felt attacked. I felt attacked because of the complicit nature that these posters had in perpetuating the myth that all people (I’ve intentionally used a non-gendered nomenclature here) have no responsibility to take in their own rape. I understand that it can be hard in the moment to tell a man or woman to get off of you, but that is part of being taken seriously as a member of society. It is imperative that people stop saying things like “I was too afraid to say anything.” That does not cut it. I was too afraid to say anything. Because I was a kid. But you aren’t. And it bothers me that a person can go out half naked, dance provocatively with numerous men or women, get so drunk that he or she can’t remember what happened and then claim to have been raped. If these people were to go to a person who had been raped at gunpoint and brutally attacked, I wonder how much sympathy they would get.
But I think I was misinterpreting the meaning of the site, the postering campaign and SOAR in general. I still feel that some survivors are just as, if not more, responsible than the perpetrator. And I still wonder how this can be fixed. I think the best way is to talk about it, and for that I commend the postering. I also really like the simple “consent” versus “not consent” that has been posted on this site, though when people get drunk, these steadfast rules seem a bit unrealistic.
I really need to get to my point soon, so I will say that it is this: when the sort of rape that happens on Haverford’s campus (this generalization is meant to speak of the type that the Anon March 19 essay speaks of — the type that is ambiguous and probably conducted without malicious intent) happens, it is not just the perpetrator’s fault, but both the perpetrator and survivor’s fault. And it is not just their fault really; it is my fault and your fault and the fault of everyone at Haverford. And it is not just the fault of us in the Haverbubble, but the culture that we live in.
I wanted to end with that, but I need to say one thing more. While it still bothers me to hear about a survivor who says that he or she has overcome his or her “victim blaming” it bothers me. But what is important for the individual (getting over his or her own victim blaming) is not what is important for the society (preventing more rape in the future), whether Haverford, the Tri-Co or the US. I understand that the hurt of being penetrated unwillingly can be hard and that it is important to let survivors feel that they are in no way responsible thus allowing them to move on with their lives. But I think that it is also important to make sure that we explain that survivors must take some of the blame for their own actions.
It reminds me of the way doctors have begun to deal with the parents of SIDS victims. As SIDS is usually the result of strangulation (either from too many blankets or sleeping in a bed with a baby) doctors used to tell parents that it isn’t their fault. But the strategy has shifted: if you get parents to realize that they are responsible in many cases for SIDS, you can prevent SIDS by telling people that it is their fault. By creating an ethos of responsibility, you hurt some parents’ feelings (a small travesty) but you save others from the trauma (a greater victory in my opinion).
I swear I’m done after I say this because this post is getting way to long:
To anyone who could be a survivor one day, I hope you will have the courage to end something that you are uncomfortable with by using the forceful language necessary. It is your own responsibility, no one else’s. And if you don’t find the courage to speak up for yourself, I could not find any more sympathy and empathy for your position. I have been in the same place for years. I understand that, regardless of responsibility, the hurt is the same for me, you or a victim of forceful rape. And to everyone who may one day be a perpetrator: think twice, three times. Maybe try to seek out the people you have been with. See if they are as satisfied as you. I understand this may be awkward, though I can’t sympathize with you as much as the survivors (mostly because I have been so sexually stunted that I have never actually been with anyone – though I tell my friends I have – yet I have been raped – though I tell my friends nothing).
I feel like I have infinite ideas stretching to break free from my anxious fingertips, but time is finite so I will wrap it all up with this. Essentially, I’m saying, be careful. The hurt is so great in many cases of college rape and the circumstances so ambiguous. We all need to take accountability for our actions.