My first thoughts went to logistics - she’s underage, drinking at a party, and went into a room alone with a man. The first words out of my mouth were, “don’t expect the police to be on her side about this; she’ll be in the wrong from the jump.” My words were cold and calculated. I hate that my first thoughts went to logistics. I didn’t take a single second to feel before immediately using my words in an attempt to manage the situation. It’s not that I lack compassion or care. It’s that I’ve accepted that this is the system we live in, where a man can force himself on top of you, and you are in the wrong because you should have done something different. After logistics I reviewed my ‘list of at least’ aloud: At least he didn’t hit her. At least it was just one man. At least she wasn’t abducted. At least she went home immediately after. As if any of these things make what happened to her better, make it less traumatic. As if any of these things can comfort her in the months and years to come as she tries to process and settle what’s happened to her.
We’d All Been There
As it happens, I was on a girl’s trip when given this news and it started a conversation with the women I was with. I looked around at this group of well-educated, successful, ambitious, strong women and listened as each of us told stories of times we’d gotten ourselves into compromising situations and decided to go along with what was happening, instead of risking the consequences of saying ”no”. As many women have experienced, there are compromising situations where refusing consent puts you at a higher risk of rape. There are men you can be naked and alone with who will respect you saying “no“, and there are men who will not. Consent is given in fear of the consequences of saying “no“. What’s worse: losing all control in the situation or doing the minimum you can to get out of the situation as quickly as possible? As I thought about it more, I’ve lost count of women I know who’ve been drugged, myself included. The lucky of us made it to safety. The rest of us lay there unable to move or woke up with a man inside of us, on top of us, assaulting us. All of us woke up confused, lost, scared, and horrified at what could’ve or did happen to us.
Shhhhhh… Don’t be Dramatic About it
We’ve all learned how to cope with this, not just the aftermath, but the reality of it. The reality that a man can take from you if the opportunity presents itself or if he just feels like it. Somehow each of us wake up everyday and continue to build a life with this reality weighing on us, fully understanding that we live in a world that will not protect us before or after an assault. On my girl’s trip, we all quietly agreed handling these situations privately is the best path, the easiest path. We have careers and reputations to protect; we have career aspirations that haven’t come to fruition yet. None of us want to be seen as one of ‘those women’. This conversation haunted me. We would rather allow injustice, allow him to do this to another woman, allow ourselves to deteriorate from the inside out for a career, for dollars in bank accounts, for accolades from bosses who don’t give a shit about us, for perceptions of people we don’t even know.
The complacency of my own words, of my own actions, appalled me, changed me.
I want to be one of ‘those women’. You know the ones who just can’t shut up about why raping a woman is wrong? The ones who go on days and days of rants about the injustice in the Brock Turner case? The ones who insist on being paid the same as a man doing the same job? Those frustrating women who want real equality, real respect, real opportunities, who are tired of the world taking from them when it's convenient.