Questioning The Power Of Rape, Ctd

A reader reacts to Reddit's thread:

I can tell you why at least one man I know raped – me. He was my boyfriend and I was laying in bed sick as a dog with the flu and he climbed up on top of me and had his way with me. Although it was decades ago I remember that night like it was ten minutes ago. I now call it rape, but back then I just thought he was being a jerk. And he was. But it was also rape. So why did he rape? Because he didn't care about me, obviously, as a human being. That much is clear to me now. He had an itch and he wanted to scratch it and he had no compassion. There is nothing fucking mysterious about it.

Another writes:

I just read the essay that you linked to in this post and it really spoke to me. I haven't been raped, but I was molested by a classmate on the school bus when I was in kindergarten.

It went on for about a week, maybe a little while longer. At the time I understood what was happening was wrong, but I never told my parents out of embarrassment. Mercifully, he stopped. I can't remember if someone intervened or if he just lost interest. His family moved away from my town after the school year ended, and I went on to have a pretty normal childhood. When I was 9, my parents separated and, eventually, divorced. That experience was a far, far more traumatic for me.

I think about the molestation on occasion, but in no way has it deeply impacted my life or psyche; I've had a healthy and active sex life since I started seriously dating in college (I'm 28 now). I'll admit that it's possibly easier for me to dismiss this "assault" because it happened between two children; in all likelihood the boy didn't fully understand the meaning or consequences of his actions. But the notion that I'm supposed be damaged by it is ludicrous to me.

I've never told anyone about what happened. Not out of fear or shame, but because I've always assumed it would make them see me differently: as someone to handle delicately, to pity, to rescue. What if I told a lover? Would he be gingerly with me in bed? These possibilities aren't worth a confession about my brush with sexual abuse.


Thanks for the link to Charlotte Shane's excellent and thoughtful essay about "approved" reactions to rape. It's one of the best essays I've read in ages. But I feel you do a disservice to the argument of her essay, and, frankly, to those people who've been raped, by your selected excerpts. Just reading the excerpts, your readers might think Shane believes that women who are "broken" by rape are weak or perpetuating a protective misogyny, when Shane is actually trying to open up the conversation to say that all rapes are different, all people are different, and so all reactions all valid. Here's another paragraph worth quoting:

No woman’s suffering (or lack thereof) should be a referendum on the suffering of others. One woman’s lack of trauma need not be construed as a judgment against a woman who struggles to regain her equilibrium after a sexual violation. It is only one of many possible responses, all of which are equally valid because rape is an individual’s experience, not a collective one, in spite of what current "rape culture" rhetoric often assumes. Just as I would like the right to experience my rape as not particularly upsetting, so I recognize the rights of others to experience it as the single most horrible incident in their life. It’s the insistence upon a single story that creates the problem.

Another reader:

The women I know who were raped were changed forever. While they all have gone on with their lives, little things give them away. The woman in our office who was car jacked and raped 20 years ago still cannot stand to be surprised. If you walk up to her desk and don’t announce yourself, she jumps like a spider has landed in her hair. My friend who was awakened by the rapist in her bedroom cannot 30 years later sleep in the dark.

I have been fortunate to have never been in the situation to be raped. I wonder though if that is because of my personality. I am very strong and project that strength to a degree that I can sometimes intimidate others. Most criminals look for the weak among us to target. If you target the weak and then accost them in the most personal way possible you can break a person that was not very strong to begin with.

I am not accusing any woman of inviting an attack. What I’m saying is the reason the experts counsel women to walk with assurance and keep their head up is because the bad guys pick on a target they feel they can overcome. And if rape was not such a powerful tool, the armies of the world would not routinely use it to subjugate and demoralize their opponents. Rape someone who is strong-willed and they very well might be able to move on and not let someone’s genitals ruin their life. However, someone who is not as strong can be affected forever. And no one can tell them otherwise.