We Need to Talk about Rape

*Special Note:

I try to include images in my blog posts to help illustrate points for readers, and because I am a visual learner. However, there were no true images I could use for this post, because there are no depictions of rape, either in classic art or modern culture, that are not sanitized fantasies.

“The dress was made in a soft, summery fabric, lightweight, but not sheer with short sleeves and a coordinating cream lace shrug. It had long, skinny matching ribbons that were lightly attached to the sides, and tied in the back in a drooping bow. It was comfortable, familiar, like a warm spring day.”

This piece was written, not based on actual events, but a nightmare I had that startled me out of sleep. This unsettling short story reveals aspects of sexual assault and unwanted touch that, while statistically valid, go against the grain of “modern” stereotypes.

What is “Rape Culture”?

Rape Culture is an often-misunderstood term that has been featured in many news articles, blogs, and essays as of late. It is defined as: “a society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault and abuse.”

“An analysis by RAINN found that 97% of rapists never spend a single day in jail for their crimes.” A cursory look at current news reports reveal that of those rapists who do go to jail, their time behind bars is so brief, as to be utterly pointless. These facts, and the thoughts of my unnamed character in, She Wore a Ribboned Dress, are the essence of Rape Culture.

“Instead of the women presenting us a vividly articulated window onto rape, we are drawn into the shattered psyche of the rape victim through a kind of black hole punched through her and from which drains her life force so relentlessly, she is made blind, immobile and drawn into the deepest, darkest isolation—a catatonic cocoon of numbing self-annihilation that, if she survives, long outlives the male’s momentary and insensate narcissism.”


Violence Resulting in Death

Once upon a time, an old, blue-and-gray van sat in a hospital parking lot, dutifully awaiting its owners’ return. The sturdy van had been a faithful servant of the little family’s for years; Numerous vacations, countless visits to distant relatives, school concerts and science fairs, church, errands, work, and more, had all been made possible thanks to the reliable GM van. So many happy memories!

And then, as the van sat in the hospital parking lot, waiting for work to be over, something terrible happened: a stranger came up from behind, and jimmied the locked door open. The van could not fight back against crowbars and criminal ingenuity; it could not scream with set off alarms, for it had none. The van was stunned and hurting from this seemingly minor assault, when something else unexpected happened: the stranger quickly hotwired the van, and took off with it!

When work was over, the owners went to find their van to go home, yet try as they might, the van was just…gone! Police were called, a search was made, and the poor van was finally found abandoned a few blocks over. Chosen because it was old, the police said, there was no way to find the kidnapper. Case closed. The poor van was now damaged beyond repair–a long-handled tool had been forced into the ignition, and it would never run again. The van was towed home along with the sad owners until a week later, when it was finally, tragically towed, to the junkyard where all cars eventually go.

Violence and Loss Not Resulting in “Death”

In contrast to the above (true) tale of violence resulting in “death,” let me tell you about two other cars that were broken into:

Twice now, my (ex) husband has had cars broken into and items stolen. In the first case, he lost a nice camera body and lens, after leaving the doors unlocked during a sleepover in highschool. He was naive and a little foolish, but did he “deserve” to have his prized possession stolen and probably hawked for nothing more than drug money?

The second time (different car, different place, years later, locked doors), the front window was smashed, leaving glass glittering the carpet and in hard-to-reach places under the front seat. An out-of-date CD player was ripped out of the dash, and pocket change was lifted from a cupholder. It cost money we didn’t have to repair the window, and eventually replace the CD player, while the thief was never caught or held accountable.

Carolee Thea’s sculpture “Sabine Woman” (1991)

We cleaned up their mess against us with no help offered from anywhere, which left an odd emotional mix of anger, distrust of our neighbors and police, resentment, frustration, and confusion. Why? Why had they done this? The CD player really wasn’t valuable, but cheap and older. The pocket change amounted to, well, just that.

We never received justice or reparations, but did get a healthy dose of PTSD from the anxiety and feelings of having our personal property assaulted and violated in such a way. For a very long time after that, we remained hyper-vigilant, jumping at the slightest sound in the night.

What is Rape, Really?

Apparently, many people think of rape as no more and no less than “sex”. It is not anything like “having sex” for the victim, which makes such assumptions all the more callous and terrible.

If anyone views sex as “sticking it in and letting it rip,” congrats! You might be a rapist.

My (now ex) husband and I have been fighting lately, about what I call his “magical thinking”. This is when he imagines that reality is very different from what it actually is. I believe many people engage in this kind of living daydream, to the very real harm of others.

When men and women claim that it isn’t rape “unless she’s screaming,” they are engaging in magical thinking instead of reality. The reality is many victims are too afraid to scream, too shocked, or too angry. They are crying, they are overwhelmed, they are sometimes unconscious.

It is a fantasy (and one that turns some people on) that victims “always” scream during rape. It is a fantasy (and one that turns some people on) that victims fight and struggle to be free. It is a fantasy (and one that turns some people on) that victims “will begin to like it.” It is a fantasy that rape doesn’t cause tremendous pain; that victims always respond to pain vocally; that rape doesn’t maim or kill because the wounds are not always obvious and death is not immediate.

It is a fantasy that rape victims are protected. It is a fantasy that victims (especially women) are “rarely innocent”. It is a fantasy that rape is “not a big deal”; that it is prosecuted; that victims receive at least a measure of justice; that they live on, “putting that mess in the past.” Rape steals, maims, kills, haunts. It is violent. It is evil. And it is time to change the narrative.

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Published by Loura Shares A Story

Loura Lawrence is a tireless, creative entrepreneur specializing in media, communications, and the arts. She holds a Liberal Arts degree in English with a background in photojournalism, and is passionate about education, public policy reform, and women's issues. www.RamblingSoapbox.com

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