Why You Don't Know She Is A Victim
There's nothing wrong with women being wanted. The issue begins when they are demanded upon.
And not just demanded by the men who seek access.
But by the everyone demanding they relinquish ownership of their bodies for a hypothetical greater good.
We tell them:
It belongs to God always.
Chastity until they reach the altar.
Their husband when they're married.
Even their children, should they have them, get to supersede her desires with their needs.
Everyone gets to call dibs, except themselves.
Their roles, their speech, their sexuality, all restricted and required to match what someone else has deemed appropriate without ever considering the owner's input. This teaches them they are a vessel for everyone's intentions but their own. Everyone's feelings but their own.
And then we question why they feel unable to tell us about “their” trauma. In many ways it didn’t even happen to “their” body.
The silence of victims in rape culture begins the minute we fail to encourage young women to understand their options as a consumer. We spend too much effort just grooming them into the perfect product, showing them how to sell their best traits, and how to appeal to their desired market. We try to stifle their urges to preserve them in a state of innocence that doesn’t help them in a society that is simultaneously invested in snatching them out of it. If you want to create a world where women are not seen solely as commodities for consumption, allow and teach them to be a consumer.
My “heydey” started before I understood the significance of my appearance. 13 years old with a larger hip circumference and bust measurement than most adult women I easily attracted men twice and three times my age. At school, on public transportation, when playing outside it was obvious and relentless, I had a body built for mass demand. While my mother did not advocate for being a skilled consumer, she did ensure I was aware that I was a top product. That helped me establish my worth beyond what value any man could give me.
But that wasn’t enough.
I’ve still been objectified and assaulted.
I’ve still been treated as a possession instead of a person.
I still blame myself.
How could I be willing to go only that far and expect for him to respect that?
How dare I ask for him to stop at this point?
Why did I initiate any contact and not intend to appease his wishes fully?
Even if they are beyond my own?
We tell ourselves that we are a safe place for our girls to run to should they EVER be violated but we make them feel though wanting to be touched at all is a violation to us. Instead of security we give them shame. That shame leads to silence. How can she expect for anyone to care that she was uncomfortable or unwilling, if she wasn’t supposed to allow herself to get into this position? Any position?
Because it is not just the random, unknown man who followed her and attacked her. Sexual assault doesn’t always look like an episode of SVU. It’s often the guy she’s been crushing on for months that she was hoping to go to third base with, who forced her into home, and she doesn’t know how to feel about it. She doesn’t know who to tell about it.
If you have treated her only as a product, she will not want to tell you about it.
She’ll be afraid you’ll think if she wanted anything, she wanted everything, and that’s why she should’ve offered nothing. She’ll be afraid you’ll be more disappointed in her than in him. Because he’s expected to consume, and she isn’t.
So, when she replays it over and over in her head, she will alter, rearrange, and deny events to make herself feel less like victim. She’s been told she isn’t allowed to express what she wants, thus what happened is not because he lost control, but because she did.
She will quiet the voice that says, this was wrong. She’ll normalize it. She’ll come to expect it.
She’s never been permitted to have a connection between her body and her voice, so her words will be weak when it comes to describing what occurred to those limbs.
That’s how rape culture uses your love and concern to continue. That’s how rape culture uses re-victimization and makes women take responsibility for their own assault.
There is intense discussion going on as to why sexual assault victims stay silent. The irony of so many people demanding the voice of victims to repeat their pain in a specific time frame to appease them, robbing them once again of the control over the body is heart-wrenching.
The list of actions and inaction that contribute to rape culture is so extensive you will find no shortage of articles, dissertations and opinion pieces covering it. Many of us will never read them because we have convinced ourselves we are far removed from those behaviors. However rape culture, and the tradition of sexual assault, isn’t something you see and experience without internalizing and perpetuating. You do not emerge from it unscathed and unaffected just because you are aware of it. Statistically someone very close to you is likely suffering in silence. Denying her own victim-hood.
As a daughter, and now a mother of a daughter, I regularly reevaluate how I can prepare her for the world. Although it will be uncomfortable, I will ensure she knows she is not just a product, she is a consumer. Meaning my love and respect for her is not contingent on how open or closed her legs are. I know that won’t guarantee her safety, but it will increase the probability that should anyone ever make her feel unsafe within her own body, she still feels close enough to her voice to tell me.