F*ck Everything, Let's Talk About Rape

true detective /hannibal / dc movies / snl / mindhole blowers / netflix / celebrity facts / marvel

F*ck Everything, Let's Talk About Rape

By Courtney Enlow | Think Pieces | March 19, 2013 | Comments ()


I need to preface this by stating that this post will offer no research, or evidence-based fact finding. This will not be a piece fraught with journalistic integrity, an unbiased sense of justice or even intelligent, rational thought.

Because, when it comes to this subject, I lack all of these things.

See, I can rationalize almost anything. I try to take a pragmatic approach to most subjects, even ones I can't personally fathom. Hatred, violence, even murder--I tend to at least consider what led the perpetrator to do or become that we find unspeakable.

But, with rape, I can't do it. I don't understand. And no amount of research or even the deepest human empathy could ever make me.

While it's been part of the culture forever, over the past year or so, rape seems to have become the new abortion. Everyone has an opinion, and the "wrong" opinions are loud, painful, cruel, spouted as fact. Certain rape is considered "legitimate." Certain rape is considered "illegitimate." Rape brought forth by high school football players is deserved when the girl is drunk. Rape is asked for when the girl is dressed a certain way. Rape is an excuse for nice girls who don't want to admit they had sex. Rape is a lie unless it's violent and from a stranger. Rape. I've heard so much about rape lately. Ever since Todd Akin opened his stupid mouth, rape is everywhere. And everytime someone offers an opinion on rape, as though it's a haircut or an episode of "Girls," something that requires review and subjectivity and not a universal understanding of being inherently wrong, it hurts. It hurts as a woman. It hurts as a mother. It hurts. It makes me sick. It makes me die inside, and I'm not exaggerating, I'm not being hyperbolic, it genuinely feels as though my heart is disintegrating, crumbling from inside out, slowing because I am so sad that this is happening, so hurt that there are people in the world who do this, and even more people who feel compelled, empowered, to speak of it as though they deserve to have opinions regarding its validity or level of wrongness.

When I was in college, I really liked this guy. I had recently broken up with my boyfriend, and, coming off of not only my first serious relationship but a deeply codependent one, I was pretty messed up. And I wanted this guy to like me, as though my entire self-worth rested in him thinking I was pretty. Worthy. One night, I was at his apartment, and I got drunk. Really drunk. I vaguely remember passing out on his bed. The next thing I recall is a half-hazy vision of him on top of me, telling me he was going to "go get the handcuffs." Then nothing until morning, when I woke up next to him. I couldn't make sense of what had happened, and, in a moment that makes the bile rise up in my throat, I nuzzled in next to him. Because, if he liked me, it would all be okay.

I was really fucked up after that. When my boyfriend, my now-husband, and I got back together, I remember sex being so strange. I was timid in a way I'd never been with him, a purely physical way. I had this reflexive inclination to pull away at his touch, but, in the moment, I wanted to keep our faces pressed together constantly, neither of us ever looking at each other, safe in blindness.

A few years back, Helen Mirren did an interview where she referred to being raped when she was younger, and referred to it as "gray area rape." And that made people mad. But I understood. Because, when I look back at that night in college, I know it wasn't right, but I also feel like it was my fault. Like I must have said or done something to indicate I wanted it. Like I did something wrong. Like it wasn't a big deal at all, just normal collegiate drunken sex, and I'm being oversensitive and making a big deal out of nothing.

Like I was asking for it.

Every news story about this subject, ever attempted definition of "illegitimate rape," is personally humiliating. Because I'm one of the illegitimates. I'm that dumb drunk college girl who threw herself at a guy, got what she wanted and then got sad about it. I feel guilty when I hear these stories, as though I'm bad and dirty, or that I'm comparing myself to people who were "really" raped.

And I think about that poor girl in Steubenville. Who not only had this unfathomably horrible thing happen to her, but had it documented and shared online for the sole purpose of laughing at her as it happened, then has had to see--because she must have seen it--thousands of internet commenters, tweeters and Facebookers calling her out for being a whore, being drunk, getting what she deserved. I cannot imagine what that must feel like. I am crying for her as I write this because it breaks my heart to think that this has fractured her spirit as it must have. And that reputable news outlets have dared to mourn the destruction of the young lives who brutalized her while she is vilified simply for being the body that they forced themselves upon.

And then I think about my own sweet girl down the hall. And I think about sixteen years from now, and what am I supposed to do? How do I protect her? Am I not supposed to tell her to watch her glass at parties, or not drink too much, or not wear revealing clothing? How am I supposed to make any attempt to rescue her from an evil over which I have no control, while never making her feel as though it would be her fault if it happened? And, if I have a son someday, how am I supposed to raise him to be a respectful man who treats people well when there's a massive segment of the population who seems to believe that just by being male, he's one short skirt away from becoming a complete monster and attacking any female he sees, and that should be an acceptable excuse for women to be the ones who need to follow the rules and protect themselves? That it is a woman's responsibility to not get raped rather than a man's responsibility not to rape.

How can I be expected to teach my child that? How am I supposed to make any sense of that for her, for myself?

I don't know. I don't understand.

I don't understand.

Update: I want to thank each and every one of you who shared your stories, your compassion and your goodness. What I love most about Pajiba is, well, you. Our commenters are truly the most amazing, strangest, most wonderful people. Thank you.

13 Couples That Would Turn Patrick Stewart's Wedding Into A Beautiful Gaystravaganza | Broken Harbor by Tana French

Are you following Pajiba on Facebook or Twitter? Every time you do, Bill Murray crashes a wedding.

Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Courtneyf150

    Wow...well I will obviously be in the minority with my feelings on this but I have to be honest and Ill probably offend some readers sensibilities but f*ck everything, lets talk about rape. I have to admit that it does make me sick to my stomach to think about guys who are labeled as "rapists" because two people got drunk, had sex and then the next day when the girl is hung over and cant remember where her panties are, she feels slutty, freaks out and automatically cries rape to make herself feel better or to save face with her friends who she left behind at the bar. If I go out with my friends, get drunk, meet another drunk person and drunkenly ask them for $100, a request with which they drunkenly comply, then next morning when they realize that they are missing a benjamin from their wallet, does that make me guilty of felony theft??? Seriously??? If some guy drugs you or drags you kicking and screaming into an alley or has sex with you AGAINST YOUR WILL, then THAT, ladies and gentlemen is RAPE. For you to get drunk and then not want to take responsibility for your actions then next day is what I call a BAD DECISION. There are entirely too many men behind bars or labeled as SEX OFFENDERS because of a woman wanting to save face and it makes me want to puke.

  • Salieri2

    I know this comment thread has been a wringer for pretty much everyone reading it or posting to it, but this popped up in my FB feed today and I thought it was worth posting, because: it's a pretty relevant insight into what (some) 15-year-olds think when they hear the news about Steubenville. Seems important, as we discuss what young people are learning about rape and consent, to check in with the front lines.


    Apparently, the thought had never occurred to them that these athletes who were convicted of rape, were in fact rapists.

    It is a strange thing about looking into the face of a 15-year-old, to really see who they are. You still see the small child that their mother sees. You see the man or woman they will be before they graduate. They are babies whose innocence you want desperately to protect. They are old enough to know better, even if no one has taught them.

    I realized then that some of my kids were genuinely confused. “How can she be raped?” they asked, “She wasn’t awake to say no.”
  • Less Lee Moore

    Thanks for sharing this story, Courtney. I have several of them myself, and as I read through all the comments I was sad that others do as well but it did make me feel less alone and more enabled to speak up.

    One of the stories involves me being 12 and the guy being 16. I wasn't raped as there was no penetration, but I was still assaulted. It was horrible and I will never forget it.

    The second story I actually have to force myself to remember. Neither of us were drunk but the whole thing was so unexpected and terrifying that I have repressed a lot of what happened. Even thought the details are fuzzy, in my memory, there was no penetration.

    The third story Is the one that I've never been able to deal with completely and it is always under the surface every day and has been for the last 12 years. It's the most "grey rape" story of them all, made worse by the fact that the person in question is well known and well liked. It's too complicated to get into and honestly, I've always been afraid that I would get sued if I talked so I only share the details with certain people that I feel I can trust.

    The whole idea of getting drunk and saying yes and then saying no resonates very strongly with me in relation to this third story, especially when I also read the stories of people trying to continue some sort of relationship with their assaulter, because that is exactly what I did. No doubt that would have been used as evidence against me had I said anything.

    I don't know how to unload the hurt that it has caused and continues to cause me or if I ever will. Justice has certainly NOT been done, but considering the specifics of the situation I don't know that it ever can be. And even if it was I don't know that me being "vindicated" would actually help or not.

    I guess I'm posting to say that you and the others who have shared their stories are brave and you have my deepest sympathies.

    Thanks for letting me ramble on.

  • Star28463

    This is long and it may trigger so I am warning everyone before they read. I was 12. My home life generally sucked. I had a drug-addicted mother with a rotation of boyfriends and abusive drug-addicted stepfather who reappeared frequently. My father was a non-presence. In and out of jail on nine month/three month cycles for failure to pay child support. School was an escape. I had a guidance counselor who actually cared. I had a best friend and I had tried really hard and made the cheerleading squad. I was an honor roll student. There was the occasional bully who was personally offended because my family was poor and my mother was an addict and did their damnedest to make me realize that I was not as good as them (ridiculously enough, about 70% of the students were in similar situations...the bullies included but that's a different story). I wasn't exactly happy. Who could be with that type of home environment? But I felt optimistic about my future. I had options. I was smart and I could get out and take care of my siblings. Then it happened.

    I was babysitting for a neighbor to make the cash to purchase those overpriced sneakers that the cheerleaders were required to wear. So far my regular dime-store sneakers that I wore to school had been doing double-duty. I'd babysat for this neighbor many times. She had 2 little girls that I adored. The oldest was barely 2 and the youngest was 10 months. My neighbor's home was only four doors down from my home in a medium-sized mobile home park so I felt relatively safe. I knew her family pretty well. I was friends with a couple of her nephews, C and R, whose families also lived in the mobile home park. C and R heard I was babysitting and dropped by earlier that night to ask if I was okay and ask if they needed to stay awhile. I laughed and said no. I remember that I was sketching a portrait of the 10-month old and C said that he didn't know I could draw that well. After a few minutes they left. Then there was another knock on the front door. I asked who it was. The person didn't answer. I asked who is it again and when there was no answer I assumed that the person could not hear me so I opened the door to see if anyone was there. Foolish, I know but I was 12 and when you're 12 you do not really think about things in terms of, "Is this safe?"

    There was a man standing on the bottom step. It was weird because at first he just stared at me until I asked if there was something I could help him with. He asked if the neighbor was home. I told him no. Again, foolish. He asked if he could come in. I said no and that she'd been home soon and he'd have to wait until she returned. He said okay. I shut the front door and locked it. There was silence and I assumed he'd left. I remember a feeling of strange discomfort and anxiety but no one ever thinks anything violent will happen to them...especially when you are a child.

    About an hour later I was laying on the couch, almost asleep with the 2-year old beside me and the 10-month old on my chest. I thought I heard scraping noises from the rear bedroom. The neighbor had problems with mice sometimes and the noises sounded close to what mice scurrying across wood sounds like. I was only 12. I was alone with two small children. I was too afraid to go investigate. After about 10 minutes the scraping noise stopped and I fell asleep.

    Suddenly the man from earlier was standing in the hallway, telling me to come here. I thought that I was dreaming until he crossed the living room and grabbed me by my arm, roughly yanked both me and the children off of the couch and we fell onto the floor. The 2-year old awoke. She immediately started crying. I held the 10-month old protectively in the arm that he did not have a grip on.

    I was afraid to fight back. I was a small. I was barely five-four and maybe 100 pounds. I asked him what he wanted and I begged him not to hurt the girls. He twisted my arm. I thought that it would break. He told me to get up. I got up on my knees, still begging him not to hurt the girls and not to hurt me. He had a vise-grip on my arm, twisting it and pulling it upwards until I was bent over in pain. The 2-year old began howling and saying my name in babbly, broken words. She toddled over to where he had me on my knees with one arm twisted up and her sister in the other and began patting my cheeks as if she were trying to comfort me. By now the 10-month old was awake. She looked at me. She kicked her feet. She didn't cry. He told me to put the baby down and shut the 2-year old up. I said that she's scared, I'm scared, please don't hurt us. He said that if I didn't do what he said he would break my arm and to emphasize his point, he yanked it to the breaking point again. I put the 10-month old on the floor. I told the 2-year old that everything was okay. That I was okay. I tried to sing her the little song she liked to quiet her down. He put his arm around my throat. Twisted my arm around my back and told me to stand. I did. He pulled me down the hallway and into the rear bedroom.

    I knew what he was going to do and I pleaded with him to please not do this and to please stop. I told him that I was a virgin. He tried to kiss me. I had never been kissed before. I turned my head and he slobbered on my cheek. He told me to put the condom on him. I didn't know how. He slapped me. He told me to stop crying and that it would feel good. He hit me a few more times. I don't want to go into all of the details because it is so ugly and sordid. I have done my best for over twenty-years to forget all of the details but I remember how degrading it was, how painful it was, how invasive it was, how scared I was, how helpless I was, how confused I was, how dirty I felt, how worthless I felt and how I wished I was dead. I have never told anyone these feelings.

    Afterwards this bastard had the nerve to ask me if he could see me again as if we were somehow now in a magical relationship. He had violently raped at 12-year old little girl and asked me if he could see me again. I didn't answer. He told me to put on my clothes and walk him to the door. I was shaking and scared and numb. I remember walking past a knife on the kitchen counter. His eyes fell on it just as mine did and he tried to laugh. He asked me if I wanted to stab him. He said he'd stab me first. He told me not to tell anyone what happened. I promised I wouldn't. He opened the front door. He left.

    The girls were still on the floor. The 10-month old was staring at the television screen. The 2-year old was in the phase of hiccuping tears where she'd cried herself into exhaustion. I took one look at them and ran out the front door. I ran home and banged on the front door. I told my mom what happened. Her boyfriend went to the neighbor's house to look for the man who had done this and to check on the children while my mom called the police and we waited.

    I gave the police a description and my mom and I were transported to the hospital in a police cruiser. A rape kit was performed. The doctor did not tell me what was happening. He just poked, prodded and bagged. While my mom and I were at the hospital the police searched for the man who'd raped me. They found him hiding in the woods across the lake and arrested him.

    I live in a small town with small town newspapers. The newspaper published my name and the crime. C & R came to see me. They told me over and over again that they wished they'd stayed and it wouldn't have happened. I promised them that it wasn't their fault. When I returned to school, people stared at me and a few called me, "Rapist." I was depressed. I quit the cheerleading squad. I failed classes. My guidance counselor tried to talk to me but I didn't want to hear it. I didn't understand why someone had chosen me to be hurt so badly. I was a nice girl. I was a quiet girl. I was a friendly girl. I was a kid. I didn't understand why God let it happen to me. Nothing mattered.

    The trial was closed to the public and judge-only. The man tried to lie. He claimed that he knew me when the truth is that I had never seen him before that night. He said that I was his girlfriend. I never had a boyfriend. I was 12 years old and in the 7th grade. He was 23. My lawyer pointed out that he didn't even know my name or anything at all about me. The photographs of bruises and X-rays of my arm were entered as evidence. The man plea-bargained. My mom didn't fight it because she was in the midsts of suing the local newspaper for invasion of privacy. She won a few thousand that she promptly blew through to feed her addiction. The rapist was sentenced to 18 months. My childhood was destroyed. That's it.

    It turns out that he had been watching me that entire night. He broke in through a boarded-up window in the rear bedroom. The scraping noises I heard were him removing the nails from the board and crawling through the window. He had hidden in the closet of rear bedroom, thinking I would go in there to sleep. When I didn't he had to change his plans.

    A couple of years ago, the rapist was killed in a drug-deal gone bad. My memory had locked away the recollection of his name and face and when I read it in the local newspaper, I did not know the significance of what I was seeing. Memory of traumatic events are funny that way. I could have been standing behind him in a grocery line and not known who he was.

    It was my aunt who pointed it out, "That's the guy who raped you. I used to see that bastard around and I would tell everyone he was with that he is a rapist. I'd tell him to his face that he is a rapist. Well, he's dead now."

    I crumpled the newspaper into a ball and threw it into the trashcan.

    "Good," I said.

  • QueeferSutherland

    Want to apologize to anyone in here who was offended by my posts. While I strongly believe in what I said, this was neither the time nor the venue to express those thoughts. I should have followed my own advice and abstained from an online discussion about rape. This is one of the better online communities around, and there's no need to make waves about an issue that elicts as much emotion as rape. Hope everyone understands. Thanks.

  • Maguita NYC

    It takes courage to admit you were wrong, good for you QS. We've been there at a time or another where we held on to notions that are contrary to others' not only thinking, but experience and knowledge as well.

    You take a step back, let the dust fall, and make sure that you process all new cumulated information. And quite honestly, weren't you beyond surprised, no horrified, by all the facts, statistics ans stories shared?

    It shames me that this is prevalent in a supposed civilized free country such as ours.

  • Anebo

    One word, QS: Privilege. Know what it is.

  • Maguita NYC

    Yearn for the day where boys are raised to become men with honor, and that the worst that could happen to a woman drunk, no matter her age, is simply that: Being drunk.

    Amazing post Courtney and Pajibans. Everything ever thought, debated, misconstrued and rebuilt was written down today. From stories shared with guts, to misinformation put to shame, everything was said. No need for more.

  • BlackRabbit

    I won't link it here, since I don't know if Pajiba would allow it, but change.org has a petition to ask CNN to apoligize for their coverage of Steubenville. Don't know if anyone else has mentioned it.

  • BlackRabbit

    Darn! It didn't occur to me that it would link just the website name. Sorry.

  • Gail

    Thank you for this post and for your rage. I hope those two rapists are scarred for life. It's no less than they deserve.

    Another one in the gray area here. A 5-year relationship, started at 18, with a guy who I eventually discovered had a serious alcohol problem but was very good at appearing in control. During the relationship he twice got home so drunk he barely made sense and woke me up by pulling off my pyjamas, alternatively yelling about how he knew I'd been flirting with a friend of his and saying how much he loved me. I said I didn't want to have sex, asked him to let me sleep, denied any flirting, but he didn't stop, and whenever I tried to push him away he'd start screaming again about me being unfaithful and he would grab me harder. He was much stronger than me. In the end, both times, I ended up just crying silently with him on top of me. Both times he denied it the following morning-- he said he didn't remember a thing but having missed me lots while he was out with his mates.

    The first time I rationalised it away and buried it, thinking I had somehow allowed it to happen. A few months after the second time I escaped that relationship, but I was a mess for years after the fact. A couple of which he spent chasing me and messing with my head.

    I still am a mess, in fact. A brief stint in therapy didn't work out, and I never told anyone but my best friend and my current partner. And I thought this was all behind me, but now this supposed best friend is getting married and telling me she wants to invite him (he's friends with the groom, who has no idea about what happened between this guy and me beyond a break-up), and asking me to accept it since it's a very important day for her and this all happened close to 6 years ago. I told her I was alright with not going to the wedding and celebrating afterwards just with her and her groom, if they really wanted him there, but there was no way I could be in the same room as him. She told me off for giving her an ultimatum and said not even their families are being allowed to pick and choose who gets invited. On top of it I'm supposed to be the maid of honour.

    This was one of the few people I thought had my back. She told me two weeks ago and I have to give her an answer, but I'm having panic attacks just thinking about facing him. And rationally I know this person isn't my friend and I should just tell her to fuck off, but just typing out this comment is sending me into lockdown mode and I'm basically just in a panic all the time. And I already lost most of my friends after the break-up with that guy, so part of me just wants to keep my head low and not make a fuss and have this go away.

    Sorry to unload on you all like this.

  • Salieri2

    You absolutely do not have to go to this wedding, much less be the maid of honour, if it means being in the same room with a guy who raped you for the wedding of someone who knows it. Fuck that. There is a limit to the things you "have to" do for someone based on friendship: not inviting the rapist to your wedding is INSIDE THE LIMIT; attending and participating in the wedding while your rapist is present is FAR, FAR OUTSIDE THAT LIMIT.

    I'm sorry your "friend" doesn't understand this: but if she gets over it maybe she's your friend after all; if she doesn't, she wasn't. That bald. What in the fuck kind of "important day" is it for her to ask you to be around a man who did that to you? Get gone. There are better people out there. You will find them: they will find you.

  • Gail

    This took a few days to process, but I just wanted to thank you for your words. I e-mailed her and said I wasn't going, and that she had hurt me with this. Haven't heard back, so I guess that's that. But the panic has subsided, and your comment (along with calliope's and ang's) helped me toughen up more than you can imagine.

  • calliope1975

    Don't go to the wedding. Fuck her. I know it's easier said and done, but I promise you she is not worth any anxiety and trauma seeing him again might cause you. You don't owe her anything, and if your friend can't understand, she's not worth having as a friend. My thoughts are with you.

  • Gail

    You probably won't see this as you're one of the unsigned like me, but thank you calliope1975. I told her I'm not going and have been sleeping well at last, and your comment helped me dare put a stop to it. Thank you so much.

  • ang

    Oh god, Gail. I cannot imagine how this makes you feel but I empathize so hard. I wish I had an answer to give that would make everything ok. I'm trying to think what I would do if a friend or family member let me down like your has but I just have no idea. Obviously I don't know you IRL but I will be thinking about you and sending positive thoughts your way. Please, please try to find another person to talk to about it. Maybe ask your friend for some one-to-one private time and tell her again how you're feeling. Weddings can make people bat-shit insane. That's certainly no excuse for her behavior though. Good luck.

    *Good luck felt so lame but I really don't know what else to say.

  • Gail

    Thank you for your comments and the positive thoughts, ang. They weren't lame at all. They helped. I hope you see this, but no matter what-- thank you.

  • DeltaJuliet

    When I was 15, I was dating a guy that I worked with who was
    20. I guess I should have known better right
    there, right? And yet, I was a virgin,
    he was the first guy I had ever kissed, I had never had a drink, and I was raised in a very
    sheltered home. So he planned a special
    date for us, took me to the deserted campground that he maintained in the
    winter and brought me to the indoor swimming pool so we could have some time
    alone. I was very excited. Hell, he was so respectful he even let me change
    into my swimsuit in privacy. Something
    went very wrong after that though. I
    remember being in the pool and laughing etc.
    Then I remember lying on a floor, naked, staring out the window at the
    moon and wondering what the hell was happening as he, umm, went to town on me
    for I don’t know how long. Some of it is
    very very clear in my memory and some of it is a total blur. I remember going home and my mother asked me
    why my eyes were so glassy and to go to bed so I could feel better. Hell, I’m so naïve; I didn’t even realize until
    maybe a year ago that he must have drugged me in order to get me “compliant”,
    because I sure as hell never consented.

    I’ve only told one person in my life this story and he was
    horrified that, as disgusted as I was by the whole thing, I didn’t realize that
    was rape. And I hate to think of myself
    as a rape victim, but I am. I’d kind of
    like to tell my husband so maybe he could understand why I am so off-limits on some
    of the stuff he likes to do. But he’s
    not much of the comforting type and I couldn’t stand it to have him think it
    was my fault in any way.

    Well, thanks for letting me get this off my chest. Hang in there girls.

  • Salieri2

    Oh man, DeltaJuliet, that's harrowing and also 100% NOT YOUR FAULT. I can understand your feelings about not wanting to tell the hubs, but is there any way you can unload on someone else, like a therapist? It worries me that it's still sitting on you like that.

    I hope the stories from others on this page give you small comfort at least in knowing you're far from alone, even though that in itself is a depressing fact.

  • rio

    Thank you Courtney for sharing your stories, and thank you to anybody else who shared theirs.

    I'm so tired of getting so angry because not enough people seem to be understand how we live in a rape society that keeps takign away from the gravity of the crime but sharing it with the victim.

    when it comes to rape it feels like our society treats it like fights are treated in prison, unless you are left dead or barely walking you are punished for getting beat up just like the person who beat you up will.

    How is this acceptable, how can you have a fucking vagina, be a journalist, and say live on national television that you feel pain for the two perpetrators of an atrocious crime? Do you want to feel pain for them? do it in the privacy of your own freaking house but as a journalist, who I'm sure has come across multiple times about data and numbers and stories about rape and rape victim, how dare you send a message so deceptive out in a society that use ambiguity not as a chance to understand better how to stop crime like this from happening but rather how to justify them and continue to perpetrate them.

  • ,

    "That it is a woman’s responsibility to not get raped rather than a man’s responsibility not to rape."

    See, this is where I part ways with women, and where I get reamed for stating this point of view:

    It is BOTH your responsibilities. It is a male's responsibility to keep his hands off a woman who has not or is incapable of giving consent, BUT it is also a woman's responsibility to take responsibility for HERSELF and not put herself in positions of vulnerability.

    I get castigated for this stance, but I don't care. I look at it this way:

    If I loaded my wallet with $100s, put on my Armani suit and my Rolex watch and drove my Jag to the worst part of town at midnight, and got out and took a stroll, well, I'd most likely get beaten to within an inch of my life, if I got off that lucky, and get robbed and left for dead. And you would say to me, , how can you be such a fucking idiot? And you'd be absolutely right: I'd be a fucking idiot. Obviosuly, I have a RIGHT to go where I want to go, and do what I want to do, and wear what I want to wear; I shouldn't ever have to suffer a beating from some thug, but hey, I brought it on myself, didn't I? I asked for it, didn't I? How about a little common sense, ,?

    But somehow the thinking has evolved that no matter how badly or poorly a woman conducts herself, no matter how stupidly she behaves, she is NEVER -- EVER -- at fault for anything that happens to her.

    I think I know why this is. We have spent decades trying to convince women to come forward and identify their attackers; we have spent decades trying to explain to them, it wasn't your fault, you didn't deserve it or ask for it, help us put these cretins behind bars. Because it was damn HARD for women to come forward and do that. They were ridiculed and shamed, which was entirely wrong.

    But now the pendulum has swung the other direction, to where women are completely exonerated from their own behavior, and NOTHING they do is ever wrong. They are NEVER responsible for what happens to them, they have the RIGHT, goddammit, to get blackout drunk and do what they want and dress how they want and act how they want, with no responsibility whatsoever for the consequences of their actions and their choices. Which ought to be kind of insulting, if you think about it.

    I'm going to get excoriated for this, I know, by the hardcores who believe woman can never do anything wrong. But to say that nothing that happens to you can ever be your responsibility, even 5% you responsibility, is, I'm sorry, nuts. We are all responsible for our own behavior, we ALL own our actions. It's up to every one of us to be responsible for our own health and well-being.

  • rio

    like I said to somebody else who had an illuminating post similar to yours, you can leave your armani suit in your closet, I cant leave my vagina at home. So...

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I think you're overlooking some of what's been discussed - that the punishment for drinking too much is a hangover, and maybe people thinking you're an ass the next day because you puked on the floor or snored in the corner during a party.

    But just look at your analogy - Does a drunk woman, or a woman in skimpy clothes really equate to a wallet full of money? Does a teenage party really equate to the worst part of town?

  • ,

    I was exaggerating for effect, but no, I'm not suggesting my example equates to this specific instance. I meant it more generally, but I was also thinking specifically of a case that involved a pro football hero from a city not far from where I live, a city that worships its football players, so the case generated a lot of discussion. The incident occurred in a college-town bar in Georgia, and the quarterback and the woman ended up in one of the restrooms. Now it turned out the woman was 1) underage, 2) had a fake ID and 3) got so blotto drunk she really couldn't remember much of what happened, or kept changing her story or something like that, which of course worked against her accusation. IIRC eventually the thing got dropped.

    Now I'm not going to try to assess blame on a sliding scale here, not going to try to be all Solomon and say he's 75% responsible and she's 25% or something like that, because it's entirely possible they were BOTH 100% wrong. He certainly was, he was a grown man acting like a frat boy. BUT ... She broke laws to get into the bar in the first place. What annoys me are people who would strongly suggest the woman in this case has no responsibility whatsoever for what happened to her, that it's NEVER the woman's fault. (And believe me, I've had that thrown at me by people with whom I tried to argue this point at the time.)

    When my daughter started college, the school officials held a seminar that attempted to impart some wisdom to a bunch of 18-year-olds. Among the things they mentioned were two bars in town that they named and strongly suggested the girls should stay out of, that bad things could happen to girls in these places. Now if you choose to ignore that advice, if you get tarted up and tanked up in those bars, are you not responsible for anything that happens to you? In what universe are you not?

    Now before we get to that, I know I'm probably talking about a small number of actual rape cases here. I know it's possible to get raped right in your own bed at 9 p.m. on a Sunday, while you're sipping cocoa and watching "Downton Abbey." I know you can think you're in a safe and secure place and something terrible can still happen to you. Nevertheless, you can minimize the chances by the choices you make. You can take responsibility for yourself. You HAVE to take some responsibility for yourself.*

    Because ultimately, while it's true that you have a lot of rights, that you should be able to go where you want and do what you want and dress how you want and behave how you want without the concern that some fool is going to grope you or worse against your will, there are bad bad people in the world, people who don't give a fuck about your rights, who only care about their urges. And these people will hurt the unwary and the careless, regardless of who is "right." They belong behind bars, certainly, but why would you want to maximize your chances of running into one of them in the first place?

    I would have thought a lot of this was common sense, but as always, common sense doesn't seem to be so common.

    *--And I'm not just talking about women and rape here. We've had plenty of examples of, for instance, pro athletes getting shot or robbed, and whenever I hear of a case like this, I ask myself, "Were they in church at noon on a Sunday or outside a strip club at midnight on a Saturday?" And I pick B, and I'm seldom wrong.

  • Anna von Beav

    I get what you're saying, ,, but I think your'e forgetting something else here: in this specific case, we're talking about 16- and 17 year-old kids. We're talking about a girl who went to a party with her *peers*. At their HOMES. We're not talking about a woman who wore, I dunno, whatever someone deems inappropriate to a seedy bar in a bad part of town. She was neither at church, nor at a strip club.

    16 year old kids do stupid things on the regular. 16 year old kids have NO IDEA how to hold their liquor, or that maybe they can't. 16 year old kids are at the point in their lives of trying to be, or at least look, "cool"; frequently, that involves drinking themselves stupid. They're experimenting. With clothing, with styles, with alcohol and/or drugs. They're trying to figure out who they are and how they want the world to see them. Sometimes, that includes going to parties. "Should have" or "shouldn't have" has literally no relevance in this conversation. I can pretty well guarantee, using common sense, that she wasn't the only *person* there - boy or girl - who was stupid drunk. And while she ostensibly chose that, assuming she did have some idea of how much alcohol she could consume without getting to that point, and that she wasn't drugged (which is apparently a matter of some debate), ALL OF THE OTHERS *chose* to sexually violate her, to take photos of that violation, to take videos of that violation, to spread them around, to post them on social media, to laugh at her, to leave her, essentially, for dead. That was a *choice* they made. Much as she made a choice to dress however she was dressed (and I can also guarantee that if she was dressed 'inappropriately', she wasn't the only one), made a choice to drink however much she drank, made a choice to go to that party, SO DID ALL THE REST OF THEM. They *all* chose to go to that party; they *all* chose to drink alcohol, illegally, too much; they *all* chose to dress however they were dressed.

    And while we're on it, let's talk about appropriate clothing, and the arbiters of such things. Who exactly decides what's appropriate? And why does anyone think it makes a difference? I'm going to tell you two stories right now, one of which I have told exactly one person in my life.

    When I was 15, I had a friend whose mom worked at the laundromat in our town. We used to hang out there for whatever reason. The guy who owned it was an old Greek guy, who was always nice to us, but not overly nice. He never gave off any kind of Dirty Old Man vibe. One time, I went to the laundromat, and my friend wasn't there. The old man asked me to help him count the singles from the change machine in the little office, the door of which was RIGHT AT THE FRONT of the laundromat. I didn't think a single thing of it, as I had interacted with the guy and he was fine. I was counting the singles, he walked in and closed the door, pulled my pants down (there was no chair; the table was waist high), and started fingering me and licking my clit. I was completely stunned, to the point of paralysis. It was maybe 2 minutes, then he stuffed a bunch of singles in my hand and opened the door. I left. I wasn't drunk, it was the middle of the afternoon, it was in the middle of a perfectly respectable suburban town, I was wearing a plain red t-shirt and a pair of woven cotton capri pants with an elastic waist and little sailboats printed on them, and a pair of mismatched Chucks.

    Later, when I was around 20 or 21 (and still pretty dumb, as kids are prone to be) (EDIT*: as it turns out, I was actually 17-18, and a virgin.), I had a party at my family's house. They'd gone away on vacation, and I invited a bunch of friends and acquaintances, who subsequently invited a bunch of strangers. Hell, there was a guy walking down the street at one point who got invited in. There was a ton of liquor and beer, and copious quantities of marijuana. I got stupid drunk. That party went on for days, and featured people sleeping it off in trees. I don't think I quite got to the point of blacking out, but I was not in my right mind, certainly. At one point, I took off my top. My tits were out, man. I don't recall what I was wearing on my bottom half-it seems likely it was an acid-washed denim mini skirt I was quite fond of at the time. Do you know what happened to me then? Absolutely NOTHING. No one raped me. No one even tried to touch my bare breasts. One guy, someone I didn't know, did snap a picture; one of my friends went to him and said, "you know I'm going to have to ask you for that roll of film," and the guy sheepishly handed it over. It was subsequently pulled out of the canister (yes, children, back in the day there were no such things as cell phones and digital cameras). And that was it. At some point after that, a couple of my friends put me to bed, after making sure I drank a bunch of water, and one of my guy friends sat in my room with me, at a respectful distance, to make sure I didn't choke on my own vomit.

    My point, I suppose, is that this 16-year-old girl went to a house party with other underage children, in her peer group, where adults were present. I saw one of the stills, where they were dragging her around by her hands and feet; she appeared to be wearing a standard-issue skirt and a tee shirt. She behaved the same way everyone else in her peer group behaves/was behaving, including the boys. Yet, the worst the boys can expect is some penises drawn on their face with a magic marker, while the girls should expect and prepare for rape. Gang rape, no less. How is it that this *one girl* should have been expected to take 'personal responsibility', when no one else seems to have been expected to? When she did nothing different, really, than anyone else who was at that party? How does this become her responsibility?

  • ,

    I guess the easy answer would be to say that lots* of teens somehow manage to get through life without getting blotto drunk at parties, so maybe she shouldn't have been there in the first place. That might have been the responsible thing to do, but that also might be asking a lot of the average 16-year-old, to be smart enough and brave enough to say, You know, this doesn't seem like a good situation to be in, so thanks for inviting me but I think I'll stay home tonight.

    Yeah, I know how dumb that sounds.

    BTW, if my wife hadn't gotten buzzed and misbehaved at a party, we probably wouldn't be married. So I can't tsk-tsk TOO much.

    Thanks for seeing my larger point, BTW. I can retire from the discussion now.

    *--Many? Some? A few?

  • Salieri2
    Because it was damn HARD for women to come forward and do that. They were ridiculed and shamed, which was entirely wrong.

    But now the pendulum has swung the other direction, to where women are completely exonerated from their own behavior, and NOTHING they do is ever wrong.

    Did you read through the comments here before typing that? The 11-year-old in Texas who was described by her rapists' defense attorney as a spider luring flies? The death threats to the Steubenville victim? The 12-year-old who had a ponytail? Where are you getting that past tense from--"were ridiculed," "were shamed"? From everything I read in this thread, it's "are ridiculed" and "are shamed." It's hard for me to see you type "tarted up and tanked up" and feel like you're not pretty invested in the shaming yourself.

    Let me ask you this: what wisdom did the school officials attempt to impart to the 18-year-old boys? Girls: stay out of these two bars. Boys: ____________? Please fill in the blank.

    Let's read some info about the (second) Ben Roethlisberger sexual assault allegation, via Wikipedia, and ponder how exonerated and not-shamed and fully-believed and supported women are these days:

    In interviews with the police on the night of the incident, the woman alleged that Roethlisberger, after inviting her and her friends to the V.I.P. area of the nightclub, encouraged them to do numerous shots of alcohol before Anthony Barravecchio — an off-duty Coraopolis, Pennsylvania policeman, undercover DEA narcotics officer at Pittsburgh International Airport, and one of Roethlisberger's bodyguards[186][187] — stated he led her down a hallway to a stool and left. Witnesses, however, stated that Barravecchio "placed his hand" on the accuser's shoulder and applied "a little bit of pressure to guide her" into the restroom where she claims the assault took place, something Barravecchio's lawyer denies.[188][189]

    After Barravecchio's claimed departure, Roethlisberger allegedly approached, exposed himself, and despite the woman's protests, followed her into what turned out to be a bathroom when she tried to leave through the first door she saw. The woman claims Roethlisberger then had sex with her. It is further alleged that friends of the woman attempted to intervene out of worry, but the second of Roethlisberger's bodyguards, Edward Joyner—an off-duty Pennsylvania State Trooper—avoided eye contact and said he did not know what they were talking about. The policemen later claimed to "have no memory" of meeting the woman.[190]

    Milledgeville Police Sergeant Jerry Blash, who had posed for a photograph with Roethlisberger earlier in the evening, was the first officer to respond. At the scene, he made a comment about the accuser to Barravecchio: "We have a problem, this drunken [expletive], drunk off her ass, is accusing Ben of rape.” Blash later admitted denigrating the accuser and never formally questioning Roethlisberger; he did speak to the NFL player and his off-duty police bodyguards at the Capital City club, but according to Blash's own report, Roethlisberger was hardly engaged and spent most of the time on his phone.

    That's three, THREE law enforcement officers failing to take seriously an accusation of rape, one insulting the potential victim before any investigation whatsoever was made. And you're telling us the days of ridicule and shame are over?

    Please, please tell us exactly what distinction you are making between "taking responsibility" and "assessing blame," because that is hard to see. I know you don't want to get into percentages, but I don't see how you parse the two.

  • Anebo

    It doesn't sound like the victim in this Steubenville case has been completely "exonerated from her own behavior." Despite the fact that these young boys repeatedly and excessively violated her without her consent, a good number of people are trying to portray her as some kind of drunken temptress while the boys were innocents, full of potential and tragically robbed of a promising future with a football scholarship. Never mind the fact they did not recognize that this girl was in no shape to consent to anything. They could've left her alone, and they should've known to leave her alone. Not once in your comment are you blasting these boys for being too fucking stupid to do this.

    As for your example, much like with the commenter I responded to above, it's not the same situation. You don't go out and do these things with the express purpose of being mugged, and no woman (or man) goes to a party *expecting* to be raped. Like I said, parties are to have fun, and most women who are assaulted at these functions come with friends and are typically around people they expect to trust when they lose sapience. Now, I should have clarified, I don't think much of binge drinking. In fact, like you I assume, I think it is terribly dangerous. But a lot of people in a lot of different situations engage in it, and the goal AGAIN is not to get raped, but to relax, and unwind. Oftentimes, with people one knows. Sometimes, however, this isn't enough, but no one expects it. Honestly, a more appropriate comparison would be parking your car (and it doesn't even have to be nice) on ANY street, anywhere, at any time of day.

    No one's denying one should stay safe, but you're arguing a rape is an inevitability at a party involving alcohol. It's not. Again, especially if it's a party where the victim is visiting or comes with friends and thinks (and not always incorrectly) he/she is in a place where they can lose their inhibitions. You cannot know. It may be wisest not to party with complete strangers, I agree, but rape can also happen in parties where a majority of the people a person is around are known to them. Ultimately, though, the fault does not lie with the victim for being there, but with the perpetrator for raping them.

    Rape is not something a victim brings upon themselves, but something someone does to them without their consent. That is what it is by definition. Read more of these comments. A number of them do not occur at parties, but alarmingly at childhood or early pubescence, and without alcohol involved on their part. Not that it matters. As for this Steubenville case, yes, she was pretty drunk, but given the defending of these boys, a lot of people do not want to consider them rapists, and even she probably did not see them as rapists outside the party and before it happened, if she knew them. As QueeferSutherland's been said above, he doesn't like being regarded as a potential rapist. And I'm sure a lot of women understand that. They don't want to consider men, especially those they know, to sexually assault them. That's what's so terrible about rape, especially date rape. Along with being violated, one can lose their trust in a lot of people because they were wrong about someone they knew. But that isn't their fault.

  • prairiegirl

    Courtney and the rest of you who have shared your horrifying, life-changing experiences here, thank you for the courage to share your stories. When I was around nine years old, one of my uncles forced himself upon me during his teenage years. I was, thankfully, not raped, but I know the shame I felt in what had happened and how it affected me for many years until I acknowledged what happened and sought therapy. I made a lot of excuses for what transpired as a kid and even as a young adult. It's insane how you can end up blaming yourself for something done so heinously by another person.

    I can't begin to imagine the repercussions your experiences have had on each of you. I hope you find peace. I hope your children never experience what you did.

  • Cara

    Thank you so much for writing this. The topic of "grey area" rape has been on my mind since last week's episode of Girls and the sex scene between Adam and Natalia. I felt sick after watching the show. Why? Because I've been there. My (now ex) boyfriend informed me while we were having sex that he was going to do something I wasn't comfortable with. I said no. He continued to tell me he wanted to do it and I became more and more upset while explaining to him why I wasn't comfortable. Meanwhile he continued to thrust away. I could see in his eyes he was going to do what he wanted anyway ( he later admitted this was true) I eventually got up and locked myself in the bathroom. Was this rape? I don't know....I don't think so. But it wasn't right. It made me feel alone, empty, violated and dirty. And even worse was the disappointment that someone i loved and who loved me could treat me in such a vile way. Forcing your way across across another person's boundaries for your own sexual gratification is NEVER okay.

    I was surprised that the Adam sex scene didn't evoke more of a negative response. How could anyone watch that episode and not feel uncomfortable? Some people have actually described that scene as hot. How can sex where one partner is clearly uncomfortable be hot? How can we ever overcome

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I think you are far from alone in this situation, and it does suck - especially because the best sex comes from giving trust, and it is terrible to have that trust violated.

  • Peeps

    No one "asks" to be raped, but to not take caution to what the other guy is doing is simply irresponsible. If I took a flashy car, parked it in a shithole neighborhood and left the keys in it, would I be asking for it to get stolen? Or should I have taken care to protect what matters?

  • rio

    yeah the only problem is that you can leave your flashy car at home and I can't leave my vagina at home. so no honey is not the freaking same thing, no shit you gotta try to be safe, that's why your parents tell you to don't accept candies from strangers, but I expect more from the men than be a bunch of sex crazed animal that simply take what they want when they want it. When you say that somebody should be safe after that person has paid the highest price possible for doing something silly you aren't in anyway making sure that they will try to be safer next time, you are subtly blaming them for what happened to them.

  • Anebo

    We've covered the subject of "women (or men, really) do need to protect themselves, but they *shouldn't have to* since rape isn't exactly inevitable and a rapist should quite simply NOT RAPE." In addition, though, you're assuming rape happens when someone in a seedy place where they know absolutely no one. I refer you to "date rape," in which someone is sexually assaulted by someone he/she knows (and not necessarily dating, i.e. friends, even relatives).

    Granted, you may be thinking of large college or high school parties with a large amount of people, few of whom know each other very well, but the fact remains: while it's good to be prudent, would-be rapists should just simply know better. One doesn't go to parties to get drunk and then raped, one goes to have fun. Losing inhibitions is certainly very risky, but some people get drunk to reach this point. Why is another issue. But someone should not take advantage and physically violate someone in that condition anymore than one should steal a car carelessly left unlocked and with keys, no matter how shitty the neighborhood. One tends to go out of their way to not have their car in a bad neighborhood, and then take the keys with them. Parties are to have fun, and typically with friends. Whether or not one can trust these friends, and/or be able to have harmless fun around strangers without violation of their bodies is not a given thing.

  • Becky

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, Courtney. You are so brave!

  • senecafalls

    Seriously though why is it so hard for men to just not fucking rape people? Gang rapes and what not, where the fuck does the idea for that even come from? I refuse to believe it's just testosterone.

  • Janey

    Well, I'll tell you right now, this has been an ongoing dialogue with my son since he was old enough to talk to about this. And it will be an ongoing dialogue until the day he moves out, and perhaps it might not even end then.

    You know how to stop rape? DON'T RAPE.

  • me

    When I was 16, my best friend and I worked fast food together with a bunch of college kids. After I'd been there a few months, one of the girls we worked with invited us to a party at her apartment right off campus. No way were my parents going to let me go, so I tell my parents I'm sleeping at her house, and off we go.

    This being my first real party, and my first time drinking, I was so excited. To top it off, a cute college guy spent the night flirting with me. Making me drinks, staying by my side, being very sweet and attentive. He tells me, lets go back to one of the rooms to talk, have some privacy. I was reluctant because I was inexperienced with boys, much less one in college. He laughed off my nervousness. I just want to talk to you, honestly. So I went.

    We talked for a long time, and he was completely charming. At some point, all the drinks he kept supplying me took over and I passed out. I woke up with him on top of me, both of us completely naked, him inside of me. I felt sick, and suffocated by his big body. Everything was hyper clear, the smell of his sweaty skin, the sound of his loud breathing, and the pain of penetration. This is never how you plan your first time. After, he wrapped me in his arms like we had just made love, and I laid there not making a sound until he fell asleep. Then I went and found my friend and we left.

    The only person I've told this to up to now is my husband. I had to explain to him why, when his face was close to my ear and i could hear him breathing loudly, or he laid to fully on me when we were intimate, I would have a panic attack. It's been 16 years since this happened. I don't have panic attacks anymore, but even now, typing this, I have a sick feeling in my stomach and a feeling of shame and regret. I actually looked him up on Facebook a couple of years ago and he's married with kids. I wonder if he would even recognize me if he saw me on the street, or given a passing thought to what he did. If he even remembers something that I won't ever forget.

    If I were as brave as you Courtney, I wouldn't have to post anonymously, even on a site I've only posted on a few times with a name thats not even real. My only reason for putting this here is in response to a comment that was made that these boys shouldn't be forever on a sex offender list, and that (I'm paraphrasing) this crime doesn't necessarily have more of an effect on the victim than any other. I had my car stolen a few years ago. I can promise you that being raped was much worse. These boys didn't have their lives ruined by a drunken mistake, as though this happened to them. They ruined there own lives, to whatever extent, by choosing to rape and violate and humiliate this girl. To use her for their sick enjoyment and then show no remorse. Whatever they face in the future they brought on themselves, and if you ask me, its still probably not even close to what they brought on her.

  • PQ

    you are incredibly brave and I applaud you for sharing such an intimate and painful part of your past. The fact that some people can still think that the rape victim brought it on him/herself is disgusting and more than that, deeply disappointing, because we KNOW that people can be better than that, /IS/ better than that, and yet these same people choose to debase others for some perverse enjoyment.

    I have been lucky - I managed to flee before it happened, and if I still have horrible flashbacks to the very narrow escape, I can't even begin to imagine the kinds of memories that can be triggered after an actual assault. Thanks again for demonstrating your courage.

  • Leigh

    To overcome your panic attacks and have a normal life and relationships is a triumph. Good for you. Hugs.

  • This made me cry.

  • manhattan

    I signed up to thank Courtney, and to thank all of those who shared their stories. Guilt--perceived or imposed, personal and cultural--is such an invasive, persistent, damaging voice in one's head. I hope that this outpouring of rage and love will help to reinforce your knowledge that you are not 'guilty'.

  • chanohack

    Dear Courtney, you are kind and brave. Thank you for writing this. I have no idea how to raise kiddos either. I'm not sure I'll live to see the better world of my dreams, and that makes me sad.

  • You're amazing, Court. Your daughter is so incredibly lucky.

  • steved

    Maybe there needs to be a law that bans penises? (that was sarcasm)

    What I mean is this is just an example of social decay, where nobody takes responsibility anymore. Just like with guns, we want to blame the gun instead of the shooter. With rape, we want to blame the girl, or blame it on the guy and their hormones. How about people stop being selfish and take responsibility for themselves.

  • To all of you ladies - friends and acquaintances from my couple of years hanging around Pajiba - who are struggling with a trauma that was inflicted upon you no matter whatever "grey area" it might hold in your emotions, I deeply desire that you could be free from the pain of your traumas. I wish I could help everyone, but to those I feasibly could help I make this offer.

    I have been training for the last few months in clinical hypnosis techniques, some of which could help deal with the lingering guilt, shame, and fear surrounding your trauma. If you are reasonably near the Austin, TX area and would like to explore healing through the avenue of hypnosis, I would like to offer any assistance I can give you free of charge.

    Admittedly, I am still new at this, but I believe the things I have learned would be very helpful in setting you free from the pain that you are carrying with you. The techniques I use are specifically designed to not make you relive the trauma in order to be free from its effects. Please, please contact me if you are curious.

    And to all of you whom are too far away to take advantage of this offer, I encourage you to seek help to resolve the pain these experiences have caused you. You all deserve to dwell in your own space of freedom, joy, peace, and love for the rest of your days. My sincere hope is that you will find that space.

    Be well,


  • oilybohunk7

    It is incredibly brave and moving of you to share your story. It is NEVER a woman's fault that she was raped. NEVER.

  • Wednesday

    My 17-year-old daughter recounted a story from school today, where a boy was talking about how it was "partially" the girl's fault for getting drunk.

    She went off on him. There were other kids listening. And the ones that spoke up were in agreement with her.

    I hope we can at least wring some benefit out of this tragedy, in that we can get kids talking about what is and isn't rape. So that girls (and boys) understand it's not "expected" or "normal" to be forced into sex for any reason, under any circumstances, and when it happens, we call it rape. Always.

  • QueeferSutherland

    How much of these conversations among teenagers do you think is posturing? Honest question. Do you think teenagers really believe that, or are they trying to sound cool/get along with friends?

  • Wednesday

    Honestly? I couldn't say. I do know my kid was pissed off enough about to talk to me as soon as I got home. I'm also close to some of her friends and feel confident in saying they would definitely agree with her on this issue, although probably only two of them with as much passion.

    As for the boy, did my kid change his mind? Probably not. But I hope she gave him something to think about. Especially since it wasn't just her voice saying it.

  • Salieri2

    Whether it's posturing or not, it has an effect. If all we had to worry about was the rapists, the people who "meant it," that'd be one thing. But we also have to worry about the silent, the enablers, the witnesses, the cell phone recorders and Tweeters and video-makers. If I can't trust the ones who say nothing, then I certainly can't trust the ones who are just pretending.

    Well done your kid. Well done the others speaking up with her.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Two things in other media - the NY Times does have a blog piece about talking to your kids/raising kids to know that this is not acceptable.


    And there's a petition going around against CNN's coverage


    That Onion video is terribly, terribly prescient.

  • kucheza

    This comment might come off as glib, but I mean it seriously. It certainly won't stop all rape, but I sincerely think it would help alleviate rape culture. In those sex ed classes in middle school/junior high - when they separate out the girls and boys, and for the girls they show 20 year old movies about the wonders of menstruation and pass around tampons and everyone just kind of cringes and giggles uncomfortably? Use a few minutes of those classes to teach the art of the crotch punch. Have a man in a padded suit available and make each girl try it (because no joke, we're intensely socialized against such a direct approach to self defense) - but I bet if more women responded to unwanted advances in this way (obviously if you've been incapacitated by drink/roofies this won't help) that more dudes would think twice about forcing themselves on others. Also, the way a guy falls to the ground like a sack of potatoes after the gentlest of crotch punches from the tiniest of fists? One of the most satisfying moments of my life, at least.

  • foolsage

    Fair point, but that doesn't address some of the problems involved. "No means no" is great, and helpful, but doesn't go far enough. If one person is incapacitated, for instance, they can't say "no" and can't punch the guy in the crotch. The proposed lesson is helpful to girls but not to guys, and I think we really need to address the problem on both sides.

    I think it'd be more helpful to explain to both girls and boys that you should never, ever have sex with anyone unless they give you legal and enthusiastic consent. If they can't legally consent, it's rape (statutory rape is still rape because our culture says the person was not able to make an informed decision). If the consent is forced, it's rape. If the consent is implied, it's possibly rape; avoid grey areas here and ASK. If they say, "Hell yes!" then have a great time.

    Having said that, I absolutely support any good self-defense training, up to and including learning how to properly punch a guy in the crotch. That's not always one of the best moves though; guys will instinctively protect that area. The training needs to go further than that. ;)

  • Laura Quinn

    I really appreciate this touching article in light of all the media pandemonium lately.

  • Wif

    When my daughter was 2 1/2 the daycare provider's 14 year old son put his penis on her bum. Police were involved, therapists were involved. It was a nightmare. BUT the part of my story that I think applies here (when I see all of these stories above that are heartbreaking) is that when we asked the therapist if ultimately she will okay, the therapist said that yes, because we believed her and took action immediately she wouldn't have residual emotions about this locked up in her sub-conscious. And (even though she was too young to remember it, so it isn't an exact comparison) it has me wondering how much better able to heal would all victims be if we took what they said seriously, gave them due consideration and acted towards justice immediately. Rape culture not only sweeps aside the actions of rapists, but makes it impossible for the victim to heal.

  • $2786243

    I was *not* sexually assaulted at a party- where I was drunk- PRECISELY because a male friend of mine saw the predator starting to circle, and he quickly shut it down. He saw it well before I did. I will always be grateful to him for that.

    I'm preaching to the choir here, but speaking up and acting when you see something 'not right' really, really makes a huge difference.

  • aroorda

    The fact is there was a pretty extensive rapist culture present in Steubenville. Traci Lords, who got famous for starring in porn underage, was raped at the age of 10 in Steubenville, and her mother was raped before her. This is a town that protected the rapists so strongly they're now under federal investigation for doing so. The prosecutor tried to talk the girl and her mother out of pressing charges for Christs sake. Or the fact that a group of teenage guys called themselves "The Rape Crew," and NO ONE BROUGHT IT UP WITH THE COPS. This is a national issue for sure, but Steubenville is an especially grotesque example of what the ideas and attitudes you villify so well look like when they go unimpeded. I'm sorry for what happened to you Courtney but want to thank you for sharing.

  • Thank you opening this can of worms and giving us room to talk about this, Courtney. You are not alone, and that was not your fault.

    I wondered how to teach my boys about this. Then my office began investigating sexual assault, as well as discrimination, on campus. And our case load went through the roof. I began to dread the sound of the fax machine, because I knew it would be another report of another goddamned rape, and I wanted to weep for every single incidence, and sometimes I do, but not at work. And I am polite and professional when the perpetrators come in to the office, because I have to be. I can't jump across the desk and throat punch them for their smug smirks and their lame ass excuses about how "they didn't know" it was rape.

    So, I decided that the only way to talk to my sons about this was to be up front. I explained that rape is sex without consent, that drunk or drugged or sleeping people cannot consent. We talked about avoiding situations where consent might be dubious, even. And how if they want to know if a woman wants to have sex with them, they should ask, and if they can't ask, they shouldn't be having sex with that person anyway. And if she can't answer, the answer is no. And if you're both drunk, the answer is no for both of you, so don't even bother asking, but please don't get that drunk (I'm still a mom).

    Then I told them that not only is it not okay to rape people, it's not okay to stand by while someone else does, either. They can choose to step in and stop it or, if that is not feasible or advisable, they can step away and call the police. It might make them unpopular and they may lose friends over it, but that doesn't change what is the right thing to do. You know what younger my son said? "Why the hell would I want to stay friends with people who thought it was okay to rape someone?" I damned near cried.

    No, it's not easy to talk to your kids about this, but it's really, really important.

  • TraceAndM

    " And how if they want to know if a woman wants to have sex with them, they should ask, and if they can't ask, they shouldn't be having sex with that person anyway. And if she can't answer, the answer is no. And if you're both drunk, the answer is no for both of you, so don't even bother asking, but please don't get that drunk (I'm still a mom)."

    Exactly this. I don't understand why this sentiment isn't universally understood.

    I was out of control in high school, and I made some terribly poor choices. I became blackout, passed out drunk at a party once, full of guys who had also been drinking, and I'd spent the evening flirting with. The moment I became falling down drunk, they picked me up, and carried me to bed. And tucked me in, found me a bucket, and then slept on the floor or in front of the door to the bedroom to keep anyone else out.

    Some people might say that I was "lucky" that this experience didn't turn out worse. I shouldn't have to think of it that way. I shouldn't have woken up and thanked my lucky stars I was with some amazingly decent young men, and worried that things could have been much worse. I'm not saying drinking to that point was a good idea - but if I'm going to make a stupid decision like that, "the punishment for getting too drunk should be a hangover, not sexual assault."

  • foolsage

    Thank you. The world needs more parents like you.

  • The thing that really chills me about the Steubenville case, the bit that I've seen hardly anyone mention, is that absolutely terrifying 'apology' issued by Mays: “I’d like to apologize to the victim, her family, my family, and the community. Those pictures should have never been sent around, much less taken."

    He didn't apologize for violating her or hurting her or raping her. He apologized for taking and circulating pictures. He apologized for doing something that got him caught. It makes it sound like the lesson he learned wasn't 'get consent' or 'don't rape.' It was 'don't leave evidence.'

  • Sherry

    And "damn, I'm sorry I got caught."

  • I got into forensic anthropology long before CSI premiered. In high school, I took my first sociology class and fell in love. When I realized the university I was attending offered a degree in criminology, I was there. Most of the guys in my family are law enforcement, and it happened that my dad's supervisor was married to the director of the state's Bureau of Investiagion. One Thanksgiving weekend, I was invited out for a tour of the crime labs.
    I was super excited. It was beautiful--very different from the labs presented on TV. Clean, well-lit. It seemed like everything was sterile white. I got to see a lot of the equipment, though it being a holiday weekend, a lot of it wasn't in use and the labs were mostly deserted.
    It was kind of eerie in some ways. Since it was a holiday weekend, and it was right around the time home turkey fryers were really becoming a thing, someone had brought a turkey and a fryer out. It was apparently being cooked on the loading dock, but it was being picked up by a vent or something and all of the labs smelled like cooking turkey. It was an odd backdrop to glimpsing a big white shirt positively soaked in blood that was being dried out to preserve the DNA, or reading the slip on a bag of evidence that was the bedding from a murder victim's bed that was awaiting processing. When the director caught my dad reading that label, she teased him that she was going to have to take him out and shoot him.
    What really sticks with me, though, is when she pulled out a brand new rape kit. She tore it open to show me everything inside. You can hear that being processed following a rape is a new violation all by itself, but it's hard to understand until you actually see everything that goes into the kit. I can't imagine what it's like going through it, especially following what has obviously already happened to you.
    Then she stepped back and pointed out this white file box. It had a short range of dates on it. It contined 20 completed rape kits. Those boxes were stacked up along the hall, floor to ceiling. They were lined on top of storage cabinets two deep. There were dozens, hundreds of them. Each box respesented 20 completed rape kits, and those boxes were just from that particular calendar year.
    And those boxes were only the ones that wouldn't fit in the designated storage.
    And each kit is only from a reported rape. That doesn't include the ones that weren't reported, or the 'gray area' rapes that maybe no one even thought should be reported. If the vast majority of rapes go unreported, and if there were that many kits all stacked up from my not-that-densely-populated state...
    I can live with the image of that blood-soaked shirt. But all those tidy white boxes lined up as far as the eye could see, that haunts me.

  • calliope1975

    It is making me physically ill to read all these rape stories, but I understand because I have one, too. Another "illegitamate" rape at 14. And the thing is, I would have been fine if he'd just gotten a condom. But he wouldn't and my then saying no didn't seem to matter. And there's still a part of me that believes I should have pushed him off me or screamed or something.
    Add that to familial molestation as a child (a whole other can of worms) and it's no wonder I can't have a relationship no matter the many years of therapy. One ten minute act on his part has followed me my entire life. I'm almost 40 and I can't stand to be touched. It's a joke among my friends - don't hug her; or, I know you don't like hugs, but I'm going to give you one anyway. Which makes me mental. Do I have to bring up a terrible time in my life for you to keep your hands to yourself?
    Thank you so much for writing this, Courtney. I had hoped Pajiba would address this. You did NOTHING wrong, and you are not alone. Does every woman have to have a story or know someone with a story for people to get that violence, rape, and treating women as objects might just be a problem?

  • Salieri2

    Hang on, are there multiple chatos around here or am I missing something? Are you, chato, a "her" who doesn't want to be hugged or the "as a man" who broke someone's arm at a frat party?

  • calliope1975

    Huh? I've only posted once and I'm a girl. Sometimes this Disquis thing confuses me.

  • Salieri2

    Clearly it confuses me too :). If you scroll down a ways, you'll find a post beginning thusly--

    "chato • an hour ago−

    As a man, this kind of thing makes me angry. Very angry.

    It wasn't your fault..."

    --so I'm not quite sure how many people I'm conversing with at the moment, but it's definitely an interesting discussion!

  • Salieri2

    Which is weird, because, having signed out of Disqus, your handle displays to me as something completely different from the "chato" displayed to me when I'm signed in. So, I needz to go to internet school or something.

  • ghisent

    No, Disqus gets into the kitchen cleaners every now and then and goes whackadoo. It's been happening now and then.

  • BlackRabbit

    No, I'm the arm-breaker. Weird.

  • Guest

    Community is great and all but this probably isn't a thread that needs more personal identifying information added to it...

  • Salieri2

    I'm sure you are right.

  • Slash

    The only thing that's going to reduce rape in any country is investigating and punishing it the way we do other serious crimes, like murder or carjacking.

    But many people don't think it's a serious crime. They just think it's sex. Until it happens to them or someone they actually give a shit about, then it's a big deal. Or maybe not. I just read some stuff on other websites about sexual abuse (mostly of young girls) in the so-called Independent Fundamentalist Baptist world. Seriously, it's goddam depressing. Every bit as bad as the shit going on in the Catholic Church.

    Many people (women and men) still don't think something is bad when it happens to teenage girls and adult women. I guess that 10-year-old who got raped by the guy who murdered her mother a few days ago gets a pass because she's sufficiently innocent (if the guy had been her church's pastor, though, it would have been swept under the holy Christian rug).

    That's why those bitches on CNN were yapping about how those poor boys in Steubenville were ruined now, because it's tragic when stuff happens to people with a penis.

    But when it happens to people with a vagina, it's just the way the world works. The way it always has. Females are worth less than males. How do you not know this by now?

  • EXACTLY. The fact that most rapists get ridiculously short, easy sentences--when it's one of the most heinous crimes you can commit-- is just infuriating to me. Yes, we need to change the conversation, but we have to change the hell out of the laws, too. Until people understand that you will be severely punished for raping someone, it won't be seen as something that has serious consequences.

  • ghisent

    At the moment that I write this, there are 130 comments and easily more than 50% of them are horrible, sad, heart-wrenching stories of women who've had similar experiences.

    Anyone who says there isn't a problem with rape and victim-blaming needs to have their damn head examined.

  • BlackRabbit

    As a man, this kind of thing makes me angry. Very angry.

    It wasn't your fault. It's not movies or video games or sports-it's parents not giving their male kids a strong foundation to deal with those influences. I won't say those Steubenville boys make me ashamed to be a man, because that's silly and trite. But they do make me feel bad that they thought that this was acceptable and that their parents didn't do more to raise them properly.

    There was a frat party in college. I looked in a room where a young man and woman were together. He was moving his hands all over her, under her clothes, which were half-off. She was out like a light-drooling and snoring a little. I walked in.

    He somehow broke his arm falling down the stairs. I didn't join the frat.

    These stories make me angry. And all of you ladies in the comments have my respect.

  • BlackRabbit

    Not to sounds egocentric, but I feel like I should apologize for my posting above. I'm not boasting about it or trying to impress anyone and I'm regretting sharing that shameful story. I wish there was an edit button.

    Also, many hugs to Courtney.

  • bibliophile

    If someone like you were at the parties in Steubenville that night, maybe it would have turned out differently. The problem, and the thing I find the most disturbing, is that not ONE person stood up to stop what was happening.

  • BlackRabbit

    I'm not, 9&1/2 times out of 10 a violent person. I can't say I've always stood up the way I should have in a bad situation, and I'm still uncomfortable about telling that story here. But the indifference or even lack of empathy/awareness people show in these situations is almost as horrible as the crime.

  • BlackRabbit

    On a total hijack and just for my own curiosity/concern: did something happen that made you decide to discuss this today, Courtney?

  • Salieri2

    I think this might be it:


  • Disqus won't let me paste the link from my phone but an Upworthy post featuring death threats and hateful tweets toward the victim after the ruling. Reading that was the nail in my coffin.

  • bibliophile

    This ripped some scars open for me too. Worse than the other stuff. Never goes away does it?

  • NateMan

    It's okay to feel proud of doing the right thing. It'd be better if you didn't have to, but that's not your fault. You did the right thing then, and you did the right thing sharing. More men need to take a stand like that.

  • Salieri2

    I don't care if you're boasting or not, I thank you for stopping that event and it's something to be proud of. If more people intervened, some of the stories on this thread wouldn't be here.

  • Oh, I just want to give you a big ol' hug, Courtney. Having had my own experience not unlike yours, I know that pervasive feeling that follows you around. I actually tried to confront the "great guy" that this happened with, and I got a lovely version of, "You make it seem like I took advantage of you! Do you have any idea how that makes me feel?" followed by his expression that, because I left as soon as I woke up from the drunken haze, without a word, that it felt like I had "used" him. I lost friends over it, ones who did a pretty good job of blaming me without explicitly blaming me, if that makes sense. Nothing like being slut shamed by your friends.

    Your post was pretty heartbreaking to read, not only because of what was done to you, but also because of your expression regarding your daughter and possible future son(s). I've wondered about that, this week - how do we teach what is right and what is wrong, and make sure it sticks? How do we do that when so many other parents won't/don't? It breaks my heart and makes me pretty despondent, because I wonder how the change will happen, if it will happen at all.

  • Tinkerville

    This is one instance where I'm hesitant to wade into the comments as it's a difficult subject for me to discuss, so I'm just going to say that this was brave and beautiful and thank you, Court.

  • Miss Kate

    Thank you for sharing your story. This was beautifully written, and it must have been very hard. This is a subject we ALL need to talk about. It's a subject I will have to broach with my own son, when he gets old enough to understand it. My heart goes out to you and all others who've suffered. And as someone else said up thread, it was NOT your fault.

  • Belphebe

    I worked for many years as a crisis intervention counselor at a nonprofit sexual assault survivors clinic. It's not about whose fault it is (I wish it was obvious to everyone that it's the aggressors fault always), it's not about what choices that led you to a bad situation, it's about respect. If you want to raise children to be less likely to be victimized and to not be perpetrators, l believe you need to install a healthy sense of respect of self and others.

    I have seen hundreds of perpetrators interviewed by police and some put on trial. The unifying factor for almost all of the rapists is their lack of empathy and inability to accept the responsibility for actions that harmed another soul. Most of the whip out the "poor me" badge and wear it with honor, no matter how despicable their behavior was. It's appalling and so very tragic as they are more than the sum of their bad acts and damage everyone around them with their destructive behavior.

    I don't worry about raising a rapist as I am instilling in my children a sense of moral responsibility for how their actions affect others. My hope is that I am raising safe children who know that they are loved and wanted by their families and peers. I know that kids who have a strong sense of belonging do not make good marks for pedophiles. I know that young men and women who have high expectations of how they will treat and be treated by romantic partners and friends are less likely to be involved in acquaintance rape. I know that people with projected self-confidence and awareness of their surroundings are less likely to be targeted for robbery or assault.

    I don't know that I can keep my children safe, but I do know that I will not be the mother sitting behind her son at the defense table wondering how this could have happened. I wish I had known some of this when I was a college age student following after a theater major who was "complicated" and needed to be saved from his own destructive behavior. His lack of respect for self and for others led to my being victimized. It's not my fault, but I could have avoided it if I had not buried my own voice in submission to someone else.

  • Sherry

    It took me a long time to realize that I was a victim. Because I, too, was young (17 and a senior in high school) and "in love" (more in awe) with my freshman college boyfriend, and I allowed him to pressure me into having sex for the first time so that I wouldn't lose him. Halfway through it, I changed my mind. He didn't. It was horrible, hurt tremendously, and I just remember pushing against his chest while I sobbed for him to stop. He was eight inches taller than I am and pretty solid, so I didn't have much luck there. But hey, afterward, he bought me a pretty necklace. Then he tried to dump me. That wasn't the worst--the worst was that I wouldn't LET him, that I guilted him into staying with me because somehow, that made it all better. And that shaped all of my sexual experiences until I finally met my (sane) husband. You see, I somehow believed that because of that, that was the only way to tie a man to me. Sex. I considered a BJ more intimate than sex because of that--sex was just a tool. Years of therapy later, I'm better. But it'll still never be okay. (And sidebar: He did succeed in dumping me four months later by letting me know he'd been cheating on me. I don't know what kinds of messed up I was (am?) that THOSE were proper dumping grounds.) My overall pity-party point is...I don't really know. Just that the rest of you aren't alone. No matter how it happens to you, if it's against your full, conscious, sober consent the entire time, it. Is. RAPE.

  • NateMan

    Thank you for sharing that, and I'm so sorry someone did that to you. That, like so many stories on here, are fucked up, and you deserve better.

  • Sherry

    Thank you. Really. Heartfelt hug.

  • goddammitmrnoodle

    I am you, Courtney, and the 16-year old, and the "I thought I was with a friend," and the "wrong place, wrong time." Four times in my life I have been "gray-area'd." Four times. The first time I was at a party with my cousin and I had never really had any alcohol before and the next thing I know I am in some bed at the party, naked, with some strange guy naked next to me. The second time I was in Japan and I won't go into those details. The third time I was walking my dog and the maintenance man at the apartments--a man I had had many really nice conversations with--wanted to show me the upgrades in a vacant apartment and he cornered me in the door, forced my pants down, and while telling me how much he "loved my fat p*ssy" violated me, because I guess being a good conversationalist means please stick your dick in me. The fourth time a friend, B, kept my boyfriend busy downstairs talking about motorcycles while B's friend raped me on my bed because I, I don't know why, but I was too scared to yell and he had his hand over my mouth anyway.

    OK, I had too much to drink. I trusted a friend. I trusted a seemingly nice man. Guess what? I wasn't dressed any certain way. I wasn't coming onto anyone. I was fucking walking my dog in the middle of the day, wearing sweats. I had friends over to my house. I went to a party with my cousin. In what way I am responsible for what happened to me?

    Fuck the world. I want off.

  • InternetMagpie

    You're a survivor and every day you live your life happily you're spitting in their faces. good for you.

    Thanks for sharing your stories. I wish you didn't have to.

  • Kate at June

    I hate the term "gray area rape," to begin with, but holy hell, what you described is definitely NOT gray area.

    I'm sorry and I love you.

  • goddammitmrnoodle

    I thank you both.

    I guess I used "gray area" because of the way I felt after telling people about what happened. "Well, he shouldn't have done that but maybe you should've have had those drinks." "Well, I'm sorry that happened to you, but why did you go into that apartment in the first place?" "Well, he's an asshole, but you didn't really know them all that well, so maybe you shouldn't have invited them over, ya think?"

  • Salieri2

    Ugh, I hate "[perpetrator] was wrong BUT" constructions, because their implied conclusion always lets the asshole off the hook.

    If you're going to be dickish enough to tell the victim what she did wrong, and clearly you are, would it kill you to END the sentence with the weightier wrong? "You shouldn't have gone into that apartment in the first place, but he was wrong." Language isn't math; flipping the sentence changes the emphasis and thus the conclusion.

  • NateMan


    "I'm not racist, but..."
    I'm not homphobic, but..."
    "Yes it was rape, but..."

    Any time you have to make that sentence structure, odds are you're doing something wrong. Let me fix it:

    "Yes he was drunk, but he raped her."

    Is it really so hard?

  • Sara Habein

    I don't have a story to share, but I know too many stories. We love you, Courtney, and it was not your fault.

blog comments powered by Disqus