My new worst fear
by Chloe Angyal
I have never been afraid of heights. I have never been afraid of dogs. I think snakes are pretty cool. My worst fear, for as long as I can remember, has been the fear of being raped.
For years, I have feared that one day, I would be walking down the street at dusk or on my way home from dinner, minding my own business, walking freely and without fear, and that someone would grab me. And no matter of fighting or screaming would be enough to stop him from violating me, from taking control of my body out of my hands, from raping me.
That was my old worst fear. The scenario of stranger rape, or “real rape,” as I’ve heard some people call it, still terrifies me. But now there’s something else I fear even more.
I’m afraid that one night, after we’ve both had a drink or two, a male friend, someone I’ve known for a while or have flirted with in the past, makes an unrequited move on me. I rebuff him and he doesn’t believe I mean it, or he believe I mean it but thinks he can change my mind. I’m too drunk, or too tired, or too physically weak to hold him off, and he forces himself on me and I can’t stop him. When it’s over, I try to talk to him, to ask him why he would do such a thing, and he tells me I’m overreacting.
But that’s not the worst part of it. The worst part is that if I ever find the courage to tell people about it – the police, my friends, society at large – I’ll probably be told by a whole host of people that what happened to me doesn’t count as rape.
I had been drinking, so it doesn’t count.
He was my friend, so it doesn’t count.
I had flirted with him in the past, so it doesn’t count.
I was wearing that shirt, or skirt, or dress, so it doesn’t count.
I didn’t fight and scream and dig my nails into him in protest, so it doesn’t count.
If I talked to him afterward, it can’t have been that traumatic, so it doesn’t count.
We live in a culture that refuses to take all but the most “obvious” of rapes seriously. A culture that tells women, over and over again, that what happened to them doesn’t count as rape. A culture that asks women what they did to bring on an attack like the one I described above.
We demand that women prove that they’re not just lying for attention, or trying to ruin their assailant’s reputation, or that they just don’t want to admit that they had sex and regretted it the next morning.
We live in a culture that teaches women not to go out drinking and “get themselves raped,” instead of teaching men not to get drunk and rape people. A culture that charges women an exorbitant fee, literally and figuratively, to prove that they were raped. A culture whose lawmakers believe that raping a virgin is a more heinous crime than raping a woman who’s had sex before.
We live in a culture where the media sides with alleged rapists and condemns the few women who come forward. A culture where “rape” is a term thrown casually around to describe a particularly difficult quiz or paper. A culture where women who are raped are mocked and doubted and libeled in their own communities, among their own friends.
Date rape is my new worst fear, because in this culture, the rape is only the first half of a woman’s ordeal. There is a reason that 60% of rapes go unreported. Why would a woman ever put herself through the second half?
This is rape culture. Millions of American women live my worst fear every day. It’s time to start listening to them. It’s time to stop doubting them. It’s time to make this a culture where a woman can reasonably fear spiders or flying or dogs, but never the treatment she can expect to receive at the hands of her community when she stands up, speaks out and says, “I was raped.”
Originally posted on Chloe Angyal's blog on Skirt!