Why Crying About the Absence of Exceptions for Rape & Incest in Anti-Abortion* Legislation Will Fall on Deaf Ears
To give the entirety of the details would be to give some the opportunity to eroticize my assault. So the most gruesome piece of it will remain my secret. Suffice it to say that my attacker punched his fist up my skirt from behind and below me as I walked up the stairs from the underground of a subway in Brooklyn at 2 in the morning during a particularly hot summer.
I was a fan of Xena Warrior Princess. I had no martial arts training, but two years of watching my super-hero had an impact, laying the groundwork for an instinctual response over which I had zero control. Screaming obscenities in a voice no longer recognizable as my own, I did a spinning Xena kick, dislodging his fist from my crotch and knocking him into the stair railing. That’s all I did. He pulled his white t-shirt over his face and ran down the platform in the opposite direction. I ran out of an empty subway station across a traffic circle and down an empty sidewalk up four flights of stairs to my apartment. At least that’s the route that I must have taken, although I don’t particularly remember getting home. My head was in a different dimension than my body. Once inside, I don’t remember if I even made it to the living room. I think I fell in the hallway. In an instant she was there. My loving rescue pitbull Vanessa lay her body on top of me and licked my tears. No words, my trembling body told her everything she needed to know.
Fast forward two years. An aging male relative locked on to me when I gave him a hug. He had been recalling a story of his childhood and crying. If I need to tell you where and how he grabbed me, I have a problem with you. Suffice it to say that it took longer to extricate myself from his iron grip than the subway attacker. Because I got too close. I got too close because this was a person I trusted.
No unconscious stream of obscenities flew from my mouth either. In contrast, I was speechless. I didn’t say a thing. I quietly extricated myself and went home. It happened again.
After that and a year of me not attending family functions and the scrutiny of family for my absence during the twilight hours of important family members, I broke down and told one person. Thinking she was helping me, she told the rest of the family.
I suffered from the trauma of being assaulted by a close relative. I suffered again in the aftermath from the response of the family, save a few. This was a revered patriarch and I was cast as a kind of a Jezebel who asked for it or made it up. An uncle asked loudly at a family dinner why I didn’t go sit next to this relative at the dining room table after it was disclosed. No one really believed me until he also assaulted a home health care aid. I understand the psychology and the cultural context. At least one family member stated bluntly that unless you can prove an assault, you cannot talk about it. I call it the Kavanaugh effect.
After the subway attack, once the adrenaline and dust settled, I felt empowered. I had screamed bloody murder. I was not silent. I hit him so hard that I can still feel his body slamming against the railing from the force of my kick. He ran away from me like a coward with his shirt pulled over his head.
The assault from a family relative filled me with shame and a need for secrecy. I didn’t hit him. I didn’t yell. I didn’t say a word. And then I was shamed again when the horrible truth leaked out anyway. I tried to protect this relative for a full year by telling no one and swearing to secrecy the one person I finally did tell. I still apologize for him to this day. He was a wonderful man and member of the community in all other ways. My family loves me and just did not have the tools necessary at the time. I will feel badly if any of them read this. It’s water under the bridge now.
Not a victory. No winners anywhere here.
If the GOP lawmaker from Missouri, Barry Hovis, deems anything other than stranger rape as consensual, let’s be clear. What he is really saying is that if a woman gets close enough to a man she knows such that he can physically overpower her, then rape (or assault) is consensual. (This would also then apply to “incest” though I hate that word, it’s rape.)
I tell my story only to convey how complicated and traumatic “consensual assault” is, much less “consensual rape.”
There is a fundamentally different psychological reaction in a female attacked by a stranger than in a female attacked by a person she knows, loves and admires.
Are we beginning to understand why in 98% of rapes, the attacker is known?
Most women fight off stranger attacks. I used to think I was so tough, but now I understand it is a myth that we are physically vulnerable to male strength. I’m betting that stranger rape is successful only if a person has a freeze response, is significantly smaller, or if there is a weapon involved. That is why stranger rapes comprise only 2%. Our real problem, masked by our myths, is that sexualized violence is perpetrated by people we know, love & admire. It is curious that certain elements of the culture want to render it invisible.
And it will remain this way if we don’t tell our stories. But how do we tell our stories when we can’t even tell our own families?
This is what rape culture looks like. It’s 2019 and I would give anything not to tell this story.
(p.s. This same lawmaker referred to stranger rapists as the “gentlemen who step out of the bushes.”)
An 11 year old is being forced to carry her father rapist’s baby to term in Ohio
*Forced Birth Extremist