There was a lot of talk about sexual harassment and rape following the Harry Weinstein allegations. It seems that there is much concern regarding what women say, or don’t say until weeks, months, or years later. Concern about sexual harassment and rape has always been an issue on college campuses as well. I remember my very last semester at Berkeley, there was a wild kidnapping incident. It was wild because the girl who was kidnapped was returned alive, but was raped and she didn’t couldn’t identify who the kidnapper rapist was. Not too long after her return, another case happened where a girl was kidnapped right off of campus.
I want to pose a question, maybe more than one, to the people out there discussing this topic. Have any you ever seen a child being corporeally punished for the first time? Or even for the x‘th time but by someone who had never hit them before? Have you seen the expression of shock and surprise on their face? And then suddenly they register that what just happened was painful, they didn’t like it, and began to cry. The child does not immediately realize what has happened or even why it has happened. They also don’t know what to do after the fact, so they sit there, feel bad, and cry.
What about when you watch people playing team sports, perhaps soccer? Imagine being a team member. You’re running, doing your part, and suddenly you are hit by the opposing team, and even though you knew there was a chance of being hit, attacked, maimed when you stepped out onto the field, you don’t quite register what just happened until after it’s already happened. And even after you register what happened, do you know if it was a foul or not before the referee calls it?
My point is how can people expect a person to know to say “no” when assault, harassment, and rape are not something you can easily comprehend until after the fact? To add to this, an incident of rape, assault, or harassment is not socially acceptable. It isn’t like a soccer game where you walk out knowing that yes there’s the possibility of a foul happening and there’s the reassurance that people watching the game, refereeing the game are going to be on your side when a foul happens. When you go out to attend a party, or when you’re walking home from school, or whatever you are doing, there’s no support from the community reassuring you that if someone rapes you or assaults you, someone will be there to call out a yellow card and ensure that you’re alright. The interrogations that victims of rape receive are so invasive that it feels like a different kind of rape just penetrated them all over again. Rather than receiving support, the victim receives a sort of blame and guilt. It doesn’t happen all the time that the victim receives blame and guilt, but clearly as seen by the discussions concerning this topic, most times the victims are the ones receiving shame instead of the abuser.
The point I’m trying to make today is that the whole “why didn’t he/she just say no” argument is not reasonable. The examples I gave before have very quick and short time spans in the sense that a hit happens in one second, versus a rape which might happen over a span of several minutes. However, please keep in mind that there were “warning signs” coming from all over as well. The child was misbehaving, the soccer player had the ball, the parent or person giving out discipline told you to be quiet, the soccer player with the ball was very close to the goal. In a rape case the “warning signs” are all there too. The victim stayed at home, the victim went out, the victim sat down on a spacious couch or their bed. It all comes down to the the idea of placing the responsibility on the victim to not be raped. The responsibility should be on the attacker to not rape at all.
A quick extra note about the people who decide to speak out much later after the rape has happened. A lot of those victims get asked why didn’t they say something earlier, and I want to point out that no one wants to drag out a bad history into their present life. Imagine a two years, five years, even ten years expired can of worms was left inside the darkest part of the pantry. Someone begins talking about cans of worms, and you suddenly remember that you had that really old can of worms sitting back there. Are you going to purposely go the pantry and take that expired, rotten can of worms out of the pantry, open it up for everyone to look at and discuss too? Clearly the can of worms is representative of rape, but imagine it being any dark secret that you don’t want others to know about. If you don’t have the courage to expose your own dark secrets to the world for inspection, please don’t expect a rape survivor to expose anything of his or her own experience.