Click here to read a wonderfully written essay on the culture of rape, not-rape, and pressure to keep quiet on women in our society by Latoya Peterson of Racialicious. Here are some excerpts that were striking to me:
Rape was something we could identify, an act with a strict definition and two distinct scenarios. Not rape was something else entirely.
My ex-boyfriend had a friend who had been dating the same girl for about seven years. I found out the girl was eighteen at the time of their breakup. Eighteen minus seven equals what? The girl was eleven when they began dating while the man involved was nineteen. When the relationship ended, he was twenty-seven. I expressed disgust, and my ex had told me that while everyone else in their friend circle had felt the same way, the girl’s parents were fine with it, even allowing the guy to spend the night at their home. “Besides,” my ex offered nonchalantly, “she had the body of a grown woman at age eleven.”
Not rape was being pressured into losing your virginity in a swimming pool pump room to keep your older boyfriend happy.
Not rape was waking up in the middle of the night to find a trusted family friend in bed with you – and having nightmares about something that you can’t remember during the daylight hours.
Not rape was having your mother’s boyfriends ask you for sexual favors.
Not rape was feeling the same group of boys grope you between classes, day after day after day.
Not rape was being twelve years old, having a “boyfriend” who was twenty-four and trading sex for free rides, pocket money, Reeboks, and a place to stay when your mother was tripping.
My friends and I confided in each other, swapping stories, sharing out pain, while keeping it all hidden from the adults in our lives. After all, who could we tell? This wasn’t rape – it didn’t fit the definitions. This was Not rape. We should have known better. We were the ones who would take the blame. We would be punished, and no one wanted that. So, these actions went on, aided by a cloak of silence.
Fighting him was out, as he had already proved he was stronger than I was. I considered telling some of my guy friends, but I quickly realized I had nothing to tell them. After all, I wasn’t raped, and it would really come to my word against his. As I was the neighborhood newcomer, I was at a disadvantage on that front. Telling my mom was out as well – I’d only get into trouble for opening the door for boys while she was at work.
I gritted my teeth in frustration. There was nothing I could do to him that wouldn’t come back on me worse. So I got up, took my shower, and stayed silent.
This is how the Not Rape epidemic spreads – through fear and silence, which become complicit in perpetuating the behaviors described here. Women of all backgrounds are affected by these kinds of acts, regardless of race, ethnicity, or social class. So many of us carry the scars of the past with us into our daily lives. Most of us have pushed these stories to the back of our minds, trying to have some semblance of a normal life that includes romantic and sexual relationships. However, waiting just behind the tongue is story after story of the horrors other women experience and hide deep within the self behind a protective wall of silence.
The essay is a lot longer and I encourage you to read it. I think all young women especially pre-teens and teens need to read this or have someone in their lives to inform them, REALLY inform them of how it is out there. Not scare them and not brush it off, but keep it real.