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Feminspire | April 24, 2014

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Rape Is Rape: Coming to Terms With Sexual Assault

Rape Is Rape: Coming to Terms With Sexual Assault

With all of the recent media attention regarding rape – is it legit? Is it “real” rape? What is the definition of rape? – I can’t help but reflect on my own experience. I struggled for a long time, trying to determine if I was indeed sexually assaulted, because it didn’t fit the definitions society has taught me. But I was, and I survived it, and I am reminded of it every day. And because of this, I feel the need to tell my story.

I am in my late 20s. I have a career and a dog. One night, I had a party. The only people present were close friends of mine, who I had known for years. I was going through a difficult time in my life to begin with, and I got black-out drunk. I don’t remember much of the party. But I do remember having my clothes peeled off of me. I do remember the details of being violated. I do remember the obscene comments that were made. I do remember being consciously present but so affected by the alcohol that  I couldn’t move or protest, and any speech that came out was garbled. I do remember someone’s tongue in my mouth, while other friends egged her on. And I do remember my best friend walking in on the situation and rescuing me. 

The perpetrators were not males. They were two females, both married to men, both of whom I had trusted and felt secure with. The actions they carried out were confusing to me. I am bisexual and recently exited a long-term relationship with a man, so a million thoughts went through my mind: Did I ask for this? Was I a willing participant? Did they think they were doing me a favor? Is this what being with a woman as an adult is like? In addition, because there was no penetration, I didn’t know how to define what had happened.  Did it even count in the same league as someone who was raped? I felt like the term “molestation” would only apply to children. I had no idea how to categorize what had happened. I processed it with a couple of close friends, including my best friend that had witnessed it happening, and determined that it was indeed a form of sexual violence. I feel comfortable now calling it sexual assault. But I didn’t feel comfortable accepting that it had happened.

I have worked in the mental health field for years and, ironically, have worked with many survivors of sexual trauma. One thing that is common among victims of sexual assault is to distance themselves from the events. When they talk about what happened, it’s like they’re talking about something that happened to someone else. And I did that, for months. I could state to close friends that it had happened, but I wasn’t feeling the emotion behind it. I knew I felt violated, but I couldn’t express the anger.

The first big breakthrough I had was when I was watching a very benign movie called “Kissing Jessica Stein.” To summarize as briefly as possible, it is about a relationship between two women. While I was watching it, I was overcome with fury. I started to cry. I couldn’t figure out why. When I let myself feel this, and allowed myself to think, I realized I was furious that my first experience with women as an adult was against my will. I did not get to have the excitement of a “first time” kissing a woman or sharing intimate moments with a woman. And having women make comments about my body now makes me horrifically anxious because it reminds me of the Night At The Party.

Ever since Senator Todd Akin made his comments, I’ve been overwhelmed with a resurgence of the confusion I felt. Was my rage justified? Can I count what had happened as an act of sexual violence? But President Obama’s statement, “Rape is rape,” was what I needed. Somehow, that brought me peace. I will continue to struggle with the aftermath of my experience, but the ability to categorize it into something I can comprehend was vital toward working through it.

What I learned from all of this is that there is no single definition of sexual violence. “Rape is rape.” It just is. Any sexual act you feel is in violation of your personal safety, your rights, and your own body is unacceptable. It doesn’t matter if you’re drunk. It doesn’t even matter if you’re naked and about to have sex and change your mind. It doesn’t matter if the perpetrator “didn’t mean” to hurt you. You did not ask for this to happen to you, and you did not want it to happen to you, but it did. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge it.

Submitted by an anonymous reader