Sunday, 20 January 2013

Dear Caitlin, part 2


Edited to add: TRIGGER WARNING!  This article is about rape.

Caitlin, I’m sorry but you’ve disappointed me again.  Please don’t misunderstand me, in this age of Twitterstorms with some of us Twitterers criticising our feminist icons for what they say in their columns, I am not attempting to attack you.  I do still think your writing is great, I still have great respect for you.  I don’t expect everyone to get it right all the time, and I recognise that all of us humans are fallible.  It is wrong for me to put you on a pedestal and expect you to be perfect.  No-one can live up to that expectation.  I am truly thankful that you’ve attempted to grasp the nettle that is rape, and have started to try to make sense of the chasm in society where rapists get away with rape, and victims are blamed.  You’re not making a joke out of rape, you’ve moved away from the position you (appeared to) have when you were interviewed by Mia Freedman and talked about women clattering down the road in their heels which was the subject of my last blog to you (http://musingsofemilyrose.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/dear-caitlin.html ).  But, I don’t think you understand, not really.  Please, let me explain.  Please, listen.

I agree with you, and I applaud you, when you say, “The idea of “asking for it” – whether said by a lawyer in Delhi, a drunkard in a NYC bar or a careless woman gossiping in an office in Slough – is the single, toxic pathogen from which all our problems with rape blossom. Culpability. Blame.”  I agree with you, when you say, “Let’s not call this a sexual crime any more” because it isn’t a sexual crime.  Rape is about power, exerting power and control over a body.  It is not sex.  I personally get very angry with the newspapers when they use the terms ‘sexual assault’ or ‘sexual violence’ to minimise the crime.  To describe the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war in Mali, or Syria, as ‘sexual violence’ as Metro did this week, is absolutely wrong.  Euphemisms water down the impact, and they are unhelpful.  Let’s call a spade, a spade.  Rape is rape.

I agree with you, rape is a very hard word.  I was in group therapy this week, a group with 5 other women who have been raped.  Some by members of their family, some as children.  Some were in relationships with men who raped them regularly.  In the scheme of things, I guess I was ‘lucky’.  I was on a match.com date.  It was a ‘one off’, one night.  And, I didn’t do everything right, I was drinking.  I wasn’t wearing heels (because I rarely do) but I was dressed to impress, I was wearing jeans, but I was also showing cleavage.  For a long time afterwards, I did struggle with my culpability, had I given the wrong signals (despite saying very clearly that I didn’t fancy him so this really was going to be just a one-time dinner)?  Had I been incredibly irresponsible in putting myself at risk by drinking?  When I started to understand that my drinking and my clothing were not responsible for my rape, my rapist was responsible for my rape, I was able to start the healing process (which I am coming to think will be a process that lasts a life-time). 

But, I digress.  Rape is a very hard word.  At group therapy we are all asked to check-in at the start, to talk about our week.  The previous day I’d got into a conversation with a colleague about dating, would I go online to find someone.  And, rather than just say ‘no’, or that it ‘wasn’t for me’, I decided to be honest.  I said, no, I don’t do online dating, because I was raped when I did.  I am very frustrated by the silence that surrounds rape.  It happens to so many (you quote 1 in 20; there are some studies which claim that as many as 1 in 4 will suffer it in their lifetime), and the silence surrounding it means that survivors feel as though they are alone (when they’re not), the silence contributes to the internal feelings of shame & blame, and the silence means that many go blithely through life thinking that ‘it can’t happen to them.’  So, I decided not to be silent.  My colleague was shocked, I could see her pain for me in her face.  But, she also opened up to me about a vicious relationship she’d been in years earlier and how it still made her question her relationships, how trust is so hard to find, to feel. 

I shared this anecdote at group therapy.  It was the 5th week of group.  In all that time, it was the first time one of us had actually used the word rape, named it for what it was.  Another girl shared later.  She said that my use of the word, the fact that I could say the word, had taken her breath away.  She couldn’t use the word, it had too much power.  You are right, it is a word with “baggage of shame, and blame, and ruin. A word so hard for an injured woman – or a man, or a child – to say”  but I entirely disagree with you when you argue for it not to be used.  Yes, it has been used to often to mean things that aren’t rape.  We mustn’t use it when we don’t mean rape.  To say our facebook account has been ‘fraped’, trivialises the word.  We mustn’t do that.  But, you are wrong to argue for the word to not be used at all.  Those of us who can say the word, must say it, to honour those that cannot.

The problem with rape is not the sex, as you say.  Sex has nothing to do with rape.  Sex is irrelevant to rape.  I agree with what you say about sex, it’s a confusing thing, with confusing emotions.  But, please don’t get mixed up and think that rape has anything to do with sex.  It really doesn’t. 

And then, your article became very hard to me to read.  Let me try to explain.  Rape is not an internalised violence, akin to a punch in the face.  There absolutely is a difference “ if it’s a vagina being brutalised, or an eye? If the weapon is a penis, or a cosh?”  When I read those words, I felt as though I was being strangled, there was a pain constricting my chest, I felt like you’d winded me.  The external body heals from an external wound.  Nearly 5 years later, the bruises have faded (I can still ‘just’ see where one of the biggest external injury was to my thigh, although no-one else would).  But, I am not healed.  I suffer from anxiety attacks, from bouts of severe depression.  My therapists have told me I am suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.  Your article makes absolutely no mention of the mental impact of internal trauma, it implicitly seems to suggest that because the body will heal after rape, we can call it assault, simplify the crime, make it easier for others to understand.  To call rape ‘assault’ is just another euphemism, minimising the impact on the survivor, telling the survivor that they have no right to be traumatised, that the pain they feel every day isn’t there.

You are right, rape is “one human ripping another human being to pieces,” and you are right, we shouldn’t call it sexual assault, but we shouldn’t call it assault either.  It is rape.  Rape is not, “Just a violence, like any other.”  Rape is not ‘just’ anything.  There is no other crime like it; even murder, because with a murder, you are dead, you are no longer suffering.  I agree with you, let’s not confuse the crime by equating it with sex, let’s ensure people everywhere understand that rape has nothing to do with sex.  But, let’s not confuse the crime by calling it assault either.  Let’s honour those survivors who still get up everyday and face this world knowing what they know about it, and honour those that couldn’t do that and ended their life because of it, by ensuring that people everywhere know how absolutely debilitating the crime of rape can be, is.  Let’s ensure people everywhere know the horror of rape. 

Caitlin, I am so happy & thankful that this is a topic that you’re trying to make sense of.  Too many women, men and children are forced to try to make sense of it for themselves.  I said before, you have a voice, a very loud voice.  You have a platform.  You can do so much to help change perceptions, to help change society.  Please, I hope you’ve understood what it was about your article that I felt insulted by.  I hope you understand that I am not trying to attack you personally.  I hope you understand that this is a dialogue.  I know you said last night in your reply to my tweet that no-one else had complained, that you had received only good feedback, including from rape counsellors.  I have spoken to other rape survivors about the article.  I am not the only one.  Caitlin, we need someone like you, who has a loud voice, to help fight our battles in society, to change things.  We hope you hear us. 


Below is the transcript of Caitlin Moran’s article that I quote, which appeared in the Times on Saturday 19th January.

‘Let’s not call this a sexual crime any more – with its baggage of shame, and blame, and ruin’
That broken, ex post facto bastard’s curse – “She was asking for it” – reached its spiteful apogee last week, in the wake of the Delhi gang rape.

The lawyer representing three of the men charged with her murder, Manohar Lal Sharma, gave an interview you will want to hide from your children – but whether more urgently from your sons or your daughters, I cannot say. Both become more doomed if they read it and believe it.

“Until today, I have not seen a single incident or example of rape with a respected lady,” Sharma said – insisting the partner of the dead woman was “wholly responsible” for her death. The unmarried couple should not have been out so late at night, using public transport.

This woman, now dead, had brought this upon herself. She left the house, intending to have sex on a bus. She had essentially walked through the streets, looking for six men to help her commit suicide via an iron bar. She was searching for the quiet sound of a fly-zip, as ruinous as the sound of a bullet being thumbed into a gun. This is something women do.

The idea of “asking for it” – whether said by a lawyer in Delhi, a drunkard in a NYC bar or a careless woman gossiping in an office in Slough – is the single, toxic pathogen from which all our problems with rape blossom. Culpability. Blame.

It’s so hard to insist that rape can happen wholly unprompted, with the lights on, to a cheerful woman who has done everything “right”. Surely she had a token of ill luck somewhere on her body? Some evil glamour left in a pocket; a glance that had been better off left at home? Even though a new report shows one in 20 British women have suffered sexual assault – someone you have been in a room with, today – we think black lightning cannot fall on a sunny day, although we know it can with all the other crimes: on the bonnet of the drunk driver; in the nursery, with a shotgun.

The awful issue of blaming the injured is what makes rape so iniquitous – like telling children in care they should simply have picked better parents in the first place. Why does this happen?

Well, the problem with rape is the sex. As a species, we are still confused, overwhelmed, afraid of and intoxicated by sex. It is a cocktail, mixed in with religion, politics, suffrage, power, love, magic, fear, self-loathing and things left widely unspoken. It makes us drunk. It makes us dumb. It confuses us in manifold. Look here, at this pile, in merely its non-fatal complications: Fifty Shades of Grey, with its duct tape. Happy marriages, with their rape fantasies. Count the sex counsellors and agony aunts. Rape couldn’t happen on a bigger moral and philosophical fault-line. Rape couldn’t strike in a worse place.
That’s why I sometimes think we should do away with the word “rape” altogether. Let’s not call this a sexual crime any more – with its baggage of shame, and blame, and ruin. A word so hard for an injured woman – or a man, or a child – to say, now that we’ve used it in too many places, for too many disparate things, for it to be functionally descriptive of a crime.

Let’s call this crime something simpler, and less confusing, instead: internal assault. Intramural attack. Regard it just as we would an assailant violently forcing a hammer handle into a mouth, or puncturing an eardrum with a knife. Does it make any real difference if it’s a vagina being brutalised, or an eye? If the weapon is a penis, or a cosh? This is punching, but inside. This is the repeated piercing of someone’s body. When you put it like that, suddenly the issue of rape becomes very clear: how many women would ask for that?

The phrase “sexual assault” confuses a million men, and women, like Manohar Lal Sharma, right across the world – that troubled word, “sexual”, casting a shadow so deep that it hides the “assault” part altogether. It makes people think of rape merely as some sex that just “went wrong”.

The police report of the Delhi gang rape alleges that the victim was so badly broken, one assailant “pulled her intestines from her body with his hands”, before throwing her from a moving bus.

And yet, still, everything we debate about this incident is framed around it being a sexual assault. That they attacked her below, before they attacked her above, has defined it. It’s become another argument about men and women and desire and politics and culture. Rather than what it is – what all rapes are: one human ripping another human being to pieces.

Not sexual assault. Just – assault. Not a sexual crime. Just – crime. Not rape – with all the confusions we can’t afford, can’t bear, another generation to painfully sift through, as we have had to.

Just a violence, like any other.


22 comments:

  1. I appreciate your bravery in dealing with this topic, on such an open forum however, it seems to be that you are either misunderstanding what Caitlin is saying - which is a shame, because her view on this is pretty revolutionary; or, you believe that rape is somehow worse than an assault.

    If that is the case, I have to say that no one - not you, me or anyone else can say that being attacked in the street at 3 in the morning and having your jaw broken, whilst a man tries to grab your bag is not as bad as being raped. You just can't say that because how would you know?

    As someone who has been raped, I would never assume that my friend - the one who had her face broken, at 3 in the morning, didn't have it 'as bad as me'. Aside from being illogical - how do you even measure suffering? it is also a deeply unemphatic view to take.

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    1. How can you POSSIBLY think an 'average' non-sexual assault is as bad as an 'average' rape? Rape IS 'somehow' worse than an assault. The societal shame, length of assault, risk of pregnancy and STDs make it exactly so.

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    2. Heather.

      Thank you for your comment. It's kind of ironic, I guess, that you accuse me of being deeply unempathetic when I suppose the thrust of my piece was that I was telling Caitlin Moran that she didn't understand and empathise.

      I agree with you, we can't measure suffering. Some who are raped are able to move on, not everyone suffers from PTSD, not everyone struggles daily with what happened to them. So, I can't say that one person's experience of rape is 'worse' than another person's experience of assault.

      I do stand by what I said though. Rape shouldn't be called assault. I didn't say assault wasn't horrible, and I didn't say assault might not have mental repercussions. But I did say, and I do believe, that to 'downgrade' rape to being just assault is trivialising the crime.

      Perhaps we won't agree. I apologise that I obviously hit a nerve with you.

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    3. Actually the reason I disliked Caitlin Moran's article is that is gives perfect rein to the idea that serious physical assault and rape can be compared as equal things when in fact they are apples and oranges...which is exactly what you've just done here Heather.

      You've tried to make Rose's situation comparable to yours and your friend's physical assault and found it lacking because it doesn't fit your prescribed view of how violence works and made it competitive which doesn't help anyone in a trauma.

      How would you like it if your friend who had 'her face broken' told you weren't allowed to say anything was wrong because no one hit when you were raped? You'd probably feel belittled and small and stupid and unable to admit to yourself you are suffering and to me that's exactly what the Caitlin Moran piece did.

      I've been attacked in the street and I've been raped twice and I found the rapes fundamentally more different because there was little physical evidence compared to a punch, no way to fight back and like mental illness, it was invisible to others so I thought I must be hallucinating to think I could see it. I'm not going to compare other people's experiences, but I'd happily to be punched in the face everyday rather than live through rape again.

      I though Caitlin Moran's piece was, like her schizophrenia piece, full of her talking about shit she's never lived and telling people who have how do it. It wasn't revolutionary at all. If I had a pound for every person (mainly men) who've posited the same argument to me as a way to tell me to 'get over it' or that I'm imagining rape culture, I could buy Buckingham Palace...

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    4. I don't want to get into an 'x is worse than y' debate here. But I feel great kinship with what Emily has said here. I have no desire to minimise the pain or suffering anyone else has gone through, under whatever circumstances. But according to the scenario of 'just another assault', my own experiences are nothing. Just a like a little tap really. I was 4, and then 7, and then 11, and then 19. And if you wrote what happened to me down, it would sound like nothing. And if that were true, why did it crawl its way into my skull and fester?

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    5. Thank you. And thank you for writing. x

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    6. heather,being raped has a much longer lasting impact than your jaw being broken,the mental effects and psychological trauma rips apart a persons sense of who they are,they lose EVERYTHING.i speak from personal experience.People cannot imaging just how horrific it is.

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  2. Firstly, I'm not accusing anyone of anything, I am expressing my perspective, based on my experiences, just as you are. And, from your responses, I see that I don't need to convince any of you that there's not a lot, in life, that gets more personal than rape. Unfortunately, for us all, there's a ton of people out there who just don't get it...

    I've sat here, poised, thinking about whether I want to go the extra mile and share something with you (and the Internet) and, aside from the nature of it, I guess my initial reluctance is being seen as going down the route of 'my case is worse than yours' - a tactic which I have very little time for, because we cannot measure trauma - nor should we even try to. But here goes: I was sexually abused from the ages of 5-12yrs by an old man who had been a school teacher for 50years. I was also physically assaulted by my mother - a victim of sexual abuse, herself. And then, at the age of 18, during my first month in London, I was raped by the only person I knew, here.

    So, you could say that I've been there. I understand, on a biological level, the long lasting effects of sexual violence. I'm 37 years old, I haven't had a relationship that has lasted longer than 4 months. I struggle with friendships and I'm elbows deep into therapy - because I don't know how much longer I can go on living with the burden of shame. Shame for coming from such a fucked up family - which 'friends' don't seem to be able to understand, so I can't talk about it; shame that I allow people to take advantage of me, in business and in ordinary life, because I don't feel I have a right to say no. I know the trouble with rape, and sexual abuse and every other emotional and physical weapon that can tear a person inside out.

    What I also know is that sex is a messy subject, and men, it seems to me, don't understand the violence that rape is because, at a base level, sex is always pleasurable, for them. I've also had to endure people talk about being 'fiddled with as a kid' as though it was something you could read about in a Ladybird edition. And all this has made me so fucking angry, at times.

    Where I find myself agreeing with Caitlin is her innate understanding of the politics of rape. Don't assume for one minute that she doesn't understand what rape is, she does. What she's really doing is putting it into a language that everyone understands - not just the victims, but the bystanders and the perpetrators. And that is vitally important if it is to be treated accordingly, in the courts. Proving assault will be a hell of a lot easier than proving rape.

    On a personal level, I would rather the man who was eventually taken to court for sexually abusing me, was charged with assault of a minor because, in deepest darkest Southern Africa, that would have meant that he would not have walked free. Of yes, he walked free - why? Because back in 1989 they didn't have a 'process' in place to deal with sexual crimes against a minor. He walked straight out of the court - right passed me, standing outside, alone, and out into the streets. (But sadly, not out of my life - he will always here, in some way...)

    The word rape doesn't work - the people who should understand what it really is, don't. Caitlin is right: FUCK sexual abuse and FUCK rape. Let's call this for what it really is: a violent assault with a deadly weapon. Because, when a victim succumbs to the effects of this crime (be it immediate or a lifetime spent enduring it), it should be tried as attempted murder and murder. Nothing less, because when it really comes down to it, that is exactly what it is. That man and my mother took a very big part of my life away from me and I am trying, every day, to survive it.

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    1. I want to thank you too for sharing your thoughts and experiences. We are stronger together. Solidarity. x

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  3. Heather, I want to send you hugs and tell you that I think you're an amazing, brave, inspiring woman. I entirely agree with you, that rape should be tried as attempted murder and murder, because that is what it is. It is a violent assault with a deadly weapon. I guess, I didn't get that from reading Caitlin's article. For me, it felt like assault would down-grade and trivialise the crime. In solidarity x

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  4. Thank you Rose - I feel quite emotional reading your response. I get a bit shaken up when talking about it and being heard and understood is something new, for me.

    I appreciate your post, especially your honesty, because you created a safe place to talk about this - and I mean, *really* talk about this. x

    Gherkingirl - if you're the same girl who comments on Guardian articles, reading your posts makes me feel like I'm not alone. Your honesty is, at times, breathtaking. Thank you. x

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    1. Heather, you took my breath away, in a good way. I am so glad I gave you somewhere safe to talk about this. Talking/writing really helps, at least that's what I've found.

      This whole exchange has really made me learn how important it is when on the receiving end of criticism to listen, because you don't know where the conversation will go.

      You're not alone. You are heard, and you are understood. Big hugs x

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    2. Heather: your follow up post makes much more sense to me. Sorry, I got the wrong impression from the first one and I really hope you didn't feel pushed to disclose in order to justify yourself.

      You wrote this much better than Caitlin Moran did because I didn't get this from her piece and I agree with you in many ways. Although for all the flaws of the word rape, it brooks no debate. My first rape was with an object and when I tried to describe accurately as sexual assault or as I thought, attempted rape, people quizzed me for detail. When I started saying rape, it was much more accepted and no one has ever made me detail it again. The same when I try to be neutral and say I was attacked: constant questioning, nothing when I use the R word. I don't know if that's because rape is stigmatising or because people understand it has a long lasting effect that few other crimes do?

      You've really made me think so thank you. Big love to you. Good luck with your path. Keep us posted. And yes, I like to compulsively overshare on the Guardian! Glad it's even slightly useful to someone else xx

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    3. gherkingirl: thank you for responding. I want to say something about what you've shared.

      My gut feeling is that the reason why people don't ask questions when the word rape is used is because it frightens them. It frightens them because they don't understand it. If the murder of that dear woman, in India, was initially reported as a violent (attempted) murder - with sexual intent, a lot more questions would have been asked. Reporting it as a rape immediately put her character into question because maddeningly, people still assume that a woman must have put herself into a compromising position to deserve it. (I think this is because 'societies' around the world are still fearful of female sexuality and we are all punished for it in some way.)

      When you hear of someone being violently assaulted with a dangerous weapon, how many people immediately assume that the victim 'must have done something to deserve that? No one, who isn't also a fucking psychopath, does. And that's why Caitlin's article is revolutionary. She's pointing out the elephant in the room; a point of false origin: the word rape has, in fact, been raped by an international women hating media. There only thing that we can do about that is to learn the local language and play them at their own game because far too many women (and children - and future generations) have been suffering a double blow.

      Now, with that said, I want to say that I'm sorry that you have endured so much pain. I didn't feel pushed to share my story to validate myself, I felt pushed to share my story because it was time for me to do so. Thank you for hearing it, I can't tell you what it means to me. x

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  5. I don't want to enter into this conversation on twitter as I use it professionally, however I'm bemused with Botulinum Toxin's comment: "I don't agree with "Heather" but I do side more with @caitlinmoran 's piece than your reply. Both are very valid POVs though." Erm, I am in total agreement with Caitlin Moran, my comments are an extension of her article. I am essentially backing it up. How can you agree with one and not the other? Perhaps she hasn't read the whole thread.

    The point is, Caitlin's argument is a sophisticated one and it takes those with an indepth understanding of what rape is - the emotional effects / what is does to the victim, as well as the ability to discuss the subject, objectively. Which is why a number of rape Councillors have responded favourably to her article, via twitter.

    I want to finish by saying that I think it's great that you have taken the subject on and, by posting a considered response to her article, you have facilitated a more indepth discussion. And, importantly, you've responded with an open mind; prepared to accept an apposing viewpoint, making this conversation all the more interesting. Thank you. x

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  6. Hi Heather

    I want to thank you for keeping the dialogue going, and sharing so honestly. I'm continuing to think about this, but I rather think, if Caitlin is arguing the position you say, that rape should be treated like a deadly assault, then she's doing it in a way that is so sophisticated as to be going right over my head. I've always considered myself a person who can see the nuances, and I don't, not in what she has written. Some councillors have responded positively; we discussed this a little in my therapy group today, and I can't say that my councillor was getting her point in the same way....

    In her article, Caitlin hasn't mentioned the emotional effects on the victim at all, only to mention shame and the ability to discuss the subject.

    I wouldn't worry overly on what the estimable Beaux Tox has to say, he's a lovely guy most of the time but does take great pride in being obtuse and playing devil's advocate. (Cue, I'm sure, him coming into the fray, one way or the other). One day I might have a face to face and ask him what he meant.

    So, I guess what I'm saying is, if Caitlin meant that rape should be termed assault, with some kind of new grading of assault beyond grievous bodily harm, then I didn't hear that in what she wrote; I've heard it in your interpretation, but it is not clear in what she wrote.

    What I heard in what was written, was that the word rape is not useful because it is linked to sex, and linked to disbelieving the victim and victim culpability. I agree that these links exist. But I do not agree that the problem is with the word, nor that replacing the word rape with the word assault will solve the issues. For me, assault does downgrade and trivialise the crime - I can slap you across the face (not even a punch) and it is a form of assault. For me, assault is just another euphemism.

    I don't believe we should shy away from calling rape, rape. That is part of the problem. We need to understand that rape isn't about sex, and we need to stop looking for victim culpability in the crime. These are big societal, cultural shifts that need to be made. I don't think there is an easy answer, and I certainly don't think that the answer is in changing the name of the crime to assault.

    On the other hand, I may be missing out on the sophistication of the argument, it's not unheard of. I recognise that whilst I do have first-hand knowledge of the emotional effects, what it does to the victim, that my objectivity can be called into question precisely for those reasons.

    However, as I said, I will continue to think on this. I would dearly love Caitlin to clarify what she meant, perhaps a follow-up, because right now, I personally don't know if she meant what I think she meant, or what it seems you think she meant.

    I don't 'say my prayers' as I'm not a religious person, but if I did, you would be in my prayers; instead, I am sending you love and good wishes.

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  7. "I don't believe we should shy away from calling rape, rape. That is part of the problem. We need to understand that rape isn't about sex, and we need to stop looking for victim culpability in the crime."

    I agree with the second sentence in that quote.

    Rape and 'sexual abuse' is not about sex, it's a violent and disturbing act of power carried out by one human over another. The problem is that no matter how many times you tell people this, the fact that our sexual organs are involved will always be the point. Why? I'm not sure - I need to think about that (although, I'd really rather not...). One of the most disturbing things about having to tell people about what happened to me - from the original police officer to my grandparents etc. was being intensely aware that everyone - and I mean, everyone, upon hearing the 'news', would immediately look right between my legs. It took decades to work out why this made me so angry: it was just another violation. To learn that people would actually be envisaging it happening to me, standing right there, was just unbearable and it would make me furiously angry. I would rage, inside.

    I'm not sure what I think about this now, at this time of my life, but something about that still does not feel OK, to me.

    In a way, using a non sexual term protects the victim because, unfortunately, the word rape has sex written all over it, thanks to erotic rape fantasy literature and 'popular' brutal films of a similar nature - and you're not going to be able to change that, I"m afraid, because people are FASCINATED by power. One of the worst things about being raped is the shame associated with it. I'd bet it's one of the reasons the women in your group shy away from using the word because it's so visual. And who wants to be seen in that way? I do not want people to visualise me, poised, in one of the worst moments of my life BUT I do want the men who ruin peoples lives, doing this, to be punished. And if securing a conviction means that we rethink the terminology of rape, then I, for one, am all for it.

    The murder of that woman in India should never have been reported as a rape. She was brutally attacked and died from internal injuries. The fact that she was also gang raped, during the attack that took her life, is secondary. They ripped her intestines out of her body before throwing her from the vehicle. It was first degree murder, with vicious intent. Now THAT charge would have had a very different day in court because who, in their right mind, would go out looking for that kind of action? Exactly. That is the point that Caitlin's making. Well, it's what I heard, anyway.

    Finally, for the record, I never reported the rape to the police because I felt so ashamed to have allowed myself to be fooled in that way. I had been (and still am) so angry with my mother for not protecting me (she admitted that she knew 'something was going on'...) and leaving the country at 18, I promised myself that nothing like that would ever happen to me, again, but it did. Luckily, for me, I was not physically hurt, I was just humiliated and angry. If there was a charge - other than that of rape; something along the lines of 'a violation of a person's body', I'm pretty sure more people would report the crime. It needs to be technical. Rape is a angry, raging word and it does not serve us well. It just doesn't.

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  8. I meant third sentence: "We need to understand that rape isn't about sex, and we need to stop looking for victim culpability in the crime."

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  9. I realise that I'm pretty much having the conversation by myself - which is OK, I can handle it...;)

    I just felt like telling you that I had a therapy session, this evening, and I told my therapist about Caitlin's post and your blog and my experience of sharing so much with you and the world and my therapist - a specialist in her field, pointed out that CM's article is flawed because rape is very, very different to an assault in that it's after effects are often where most of the trouble lies. She said that women can be incredibly hard on themselves and the act of rape happens in out most private and protected place and, being against our will, it takes so very much away from us and in the most devastating way. She pointed out to me that, what I was sharing with you - my earlier and still very present traumas was an example of why people react so strongly to child abuse and rape.

    Thinking about it, on the way home - whilst crying (I have cried a lot this week - for seemingly no reason...), it occurred to me that I felt secure in my 'intellectual' take on it because, whilst I was in that seat, I didn't have to feel anything. Or, so I thought.

    My therapist said what you've been saying: that instead of 'watering down the term' - for mass consumption, more energy must be put into educating people about the true effects of rape. There's a bloody good reason that rape comes a very close second to murder because it takes almost as much away from the survivor.

    So, I just felt that after all we've been through, that it was appropriate to share that with you. This has been a hell of experience, for me, but I am better for it. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful responses.

    With love.

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  10. Hi Heather

    I'm really sorry if I made you feel that you're having a conversation with yourself; you're not. I am listening. Following your previous post, I didn't feel like I had anything new to add, and I didn't have the energy to be honest to continue. I think you'll understand when I say that putting all this down, it helps, but it's also exposing, and it takes a lot of out of you... Well, I find it takes a lot out of me. My own therapist has been cautioning me about putting too much of myself 'out there' without doing the internal work as well...

    Thank you for sharing that. I feel that your therapist has understood what I've been trying (and probably failing to articulate sufficiently) to say. And I totally understand that disconnect between what we intellectually grasp, and that which we emotionally feel. Sometimes it's so hard to separate the two. I feel that through this discussion you've become closer to my position, but that I've also become closer to your's. It's only through open discussion like this that the world can change, and we both might have been doing it through this on a very one-to-one basis (but who knows how many are keeping up with it?) but the world does only change through the actions of individuals and so we have been doing our part... I don't know. It's late, and one of the most important relationships in my life just ended, so maybe I'm talking bullshit. But, thank you for sharing that. I am also better for this exchange. And thank you also for your kind and thoughtful responses. Much love. Emily. x

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  11. Emily, a loss of connection - in whatever form, can be such a painful thing to experience but you know that the intensity of pain will evolve, over time, into a quiet fondness for what was. Be proud that you're living your desires.

    I regret, so deeply, the years I've hidden mine away because of the shame associated with my body and what it has experienced. It's such a waste, to lose so much, out of fear. Those terrible things that happened, happened to the perpetrators, too, and it should be their burden to carry, not ours.

    There's a lot of living ahead of us and so much love to give and so much love to receive. Our time is now. This is it. x

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