Thursday, April 30, 2015

The response myth

I've heard and seen several news reports in recent days surrounding a local celebrity and allegations of rape, and the sound bytes have angered me greatly. The names are not important. The fact that the grand jury chose not to indict does not matter here. I have no opinion on whether or not a sexual assault occurred. I will not debate any potential social injustice, and I have nothing to say about whether or not the jury was biased. In short, the case is not why this post came to my mind. I am angered by the sound bytes I've heard; short quotes by learned individuals who use their positions of authority to perpetuate a myth.

[She] did not act like a victim.

So there it is. The myth. According to this extremely intelligent, highly-paid, influential individual, there is some sort of "way" a victim is supposed to act, and if those actions are absent, a victim she is not.

So, I ask you, how is one supposed to behave following a sexual assault? 

(pause here for contemplation)

There is no answer because there is no one right way to react. Rape is an assault, but it's not like being beaten up or stabbed with a knife. There is no gaping hole that requires suturing. Sometimes there are no marks, no bruises, nothing to show for the damage that was done. A rapist is a thief, taking what no insurance policy can replace. For so, so many, rape destroys the most precious of gifts, physical intimacy, because of the scars it creates on the spirit.  Preparedness is not possible; so many times these destroyers are those whom we believe are safe. All we can do is react.

I could tell you about child victims who hid the abuse because they were scared for their (or their families') lives. I could tell you about the women I know who self medicate with drugs or alcohol. I could tell you about the ones who go straight to the phone and call police. or the ones with severe depression, or even dissociate. I could tell you about the women who have become victims again, maybe once, maybe twice, or maybe for the several years. I could tell you about the women who get up and go back to the fields to work pretending nothing ever happened.

But I won't. You've heard those stories before. We all have. All I want you to remember, to know, is that there is no textbook response for a victim of sexual assault, and immediate response does not indicate whether or not a crime occurred. 

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