I was talking to some of the women at work about what had happened (which I covered in my previous post I Know I Said I Wouldn't Do This), and as I talked I found a very uncomfortable trend.
Almost every single woman I spoke to had had at least ONE experience with rape. Most had two or more.
I'm sorry, but am I the only person to find it disturbing to think that RAPE is NORMAL?!?! It happens so often in society (though rarely spoken of in reference to one's self) that most every woman I talked to today could describe a scenario in which she was raped or almost raped within her lifetime.
And they don't talk about it to other people! Which, on the one hand, I can understand. If I weren't such a blunt person, I wouldn't talk about it. Even with my blunt personality, I had to fight the urge to bury it all beneath a fake smile and camouflage the fact that everything had suddenly changed. For someone like me, that's amazing. I say almost everything. I love to communicate and I rarely miss an opportunity to exercise that ability.
So the urge to bury the shame of rape is pretty strong, if it could actually still my tongue for even a day.
This made me think even more. All these women are walking through life brushing up against other women, the vast majority of which have suffered this terrible hell called rape at one time or another. And instead of reaching out to one another and sharing that burden, talking about their experiences and their means of overcoming the emotional repercussions, they allow shame and fear to crush them into silence.
I can't help but wonder if that is part of the reason rape has become "normal".
On top of everything, by talking to all these women who had been through much the same as I had, I found myself feeling stronger and stronger. Because I looked at them and thought to myself: "They don't act terrified all the time. They've moved on with their lives and shaped relationships with other people despite what they went through. They aren't jumping at shadows or crying at the drop of a hat. And if they can manage to do something that amazing, so can I."
So by remaining silent about rape, we are actually denying other women and ourselves the opportunity to heal and find strength. We are crippling these victims from finding the support they need to grow back into confident young women.
Of course, it isn't acceptable to just talk about rape in society. At least, not if it isn't about the most recent news article or serial paperback featuring the subject. Isn't it sad that we have to distance ourselves from the subject to discuss it at all?
And why? From a fear of gossip? Of being blamed? Of being ridiculed?
After all, aren't our own minds doing a good enough job at ridiculing at blaming ourselves as it is?
I may be gossiped about and badmouthed behind my back for admitting to date rape at work. I may be blamed and ridiculed and speculated about. But I don't think I will be. Because I talked to real women today, one on one, about real things that had effected us both as human beings. Rare are the souls who will open themselves up to you in a private setting and then blab your secrets to all who come along. After all, they gave you some of your own ammo from which to fire back.
But even if I am gossiped about for discussing it, I'm glad I did it. I couldn't have collected more useful data from going through years of therapy (been there, done that), internet searches (lots of upbeat articles about how "This Isn't Your Fault"), or books (recommend therapy and not blaming yourself).
These were real women leading real lives every day. They got choked up when they thought about what happened, they nodded their heads when I described my thoughts and emotions, and they completely understood and commiserated with my actions and choices. And they had moved on. They weren't stuck in the past indefinitely. They weren't still wallowing in depression and fear. They had picked up the pieces their lives had become and put them back together to make something beautiful.
So I'd like to dedicate this post to all the women out there who have been through this before. You took a life that had been cracked beyond all seeming repair and somehow glued the pieces together into something amazing.
I only hope I can be as strong as you.