November 6, 2009 6 Comments
I’ve got a lot of things swimming around in my head right now, so I’m just going to jump right in.
I’ve been toying around with the idea of starting a new blog (I’ve been blogging in one form or another since 2003, mostly on LiveJournal) but Renee’s post on Womanist-Musings got me thinking about a lot of things. Mostly, sexual assault.
Sexual assault is kind of a big deal, to borrow a phrase from a dear friend of mine. It’s been broken down, analyzed from every angle, politicized, blogged on, and written about. The personal is political, as they say. I’m going to write about it, too.
I was sitting outside this morning, enjoying a cigarette, and reading Renee’s post on my phone. I started thinking about my own experiences with sexual assault, one instance in particular. More specifically, I started thinking about talking about my experience. To date, I haven’t, not really. And why? Because a lot of people would be angry. I’m not entirely sure at whom. My assaulter, you would assume, right? Except he wasn’t some stranger jumping out of the bushes. He was, and still is, a friend of mine.
Everyone hears the statistics. According to RAINN, one in six women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. But if it comes up in a conversation, the assumption will be that that one woman of six, is someone else. You don’t know her. It couldn’t happen to a woman you know. I’m not entirely sure those close to me would believe me, especially not if I gave a name. Mine is a typical story. According to the same set of statistics published by RAINN, 73% of woman know their assailants.
My assailant (it is still difficult to refer to him that way, even though that’s what he is) was someone I trusted. I trusted him implicitly. I respected him. He has done, and continues to do, great things. If asked, I, or anyone else who knows him, would say that he is a great person. Great people can do bad things. This is one of the biggest mistakes that we make as a society in our dialogue about sexual assault. Sexual assault is bad. Therefore, those who commit sexual assault are bad people. This is a very bad assumption to make–because it hurts people like me.
Because of this assumption, we as a society make another, very bad, assumption. If someone is a Good Person, they by default cannot be bad, and because only bad people commit sexual assault, if a woman accuses a Good Person of sexual assault, she must be lying.
Think about that one for a second.
Odds are, you know someone who has been sexually assaulted, and someone who has sexually assaulted someone. It’s an uncomfortable thought, isn’t it? It’s that Bad Person assumption coming up again.
I don’t talk about my sexual assault because I can’t be sure that anyone will believe me. I don’t talk about it because I don’t want to get my friend, my sexual assaulter, into trouble. I don’t talk about my sexual assault because friends and family will be angry: angry at him for doing such a thing to me, angry at me for not telling anyone about it, angry at me for not pressing charges, and angry at me for continuing my friendship with my assaulter. I don’t talk about it because I don’t want friends to lose respect for him, one person in particular, even though I would feel a whole lot better if I did.
That, among a million other things, was what I was thinking about this morning. I would like to thank Renee from Womanist-Musings for her post. Go read it. In some ways, I can understand how difficult that was to write, but in other ways, I can’t. But it moved me. It said things that I’ve felt, but couldn’t express. It also moved me to finally sit down and create this outlet for the feminist in me.