Saturday, August 25, 2012

The "R word" (rape) and stupid things people say

Warning: This post will probably be triggering. I haven't written it yet, but I am about to talk about rape, and I'm angry. I don't plan on censoring myself, so please take care of yourself. Only read this if you are in a good place, and stop (and seek help) if anything I say triggers you.

Rape. It's an incredibly ugly word. It's not a word I like to use. I struggle to use it to describe my own experiences, but I've found that I'm not alone. Many people who have been raped (legal definition of the word) try to use other words to describe their experiences. It has been so hard to allow myself to use that word to describe what happened to me.

Recently, in an effort to convince me to not go to a wedding (that the bride and groom invited me to), I was told that (this person) seeing me would be like me seeing one of the men that raped me. (She blames me for her divorce.) I was confused.

I spend time with my uncles. I would never dream of asking them to not go to an event just because their presence makes me uncomfortable. I have anxiety seeing them... and I have choices about what I do. I can choose not to go to functions where I know they will be. I can choose not to talk to them if I do go. I can choose to be friendly if I feel like it. Whatever I decide to do, I can only choose for me. It has never crossed my mind to ask them to stay home.

My confusion... I know I still have a desire to protect abusers... AND, I want to be healthy. What does that even look like? Is she more "normal"? I don't want to be like she is. Like I said. Confused.

I shared my confusion with BJ... as we talked, and he pointed out what a ridiculous and stupid and completely inaccurate comparison the two things are...  My confusion went away, and I got angry.

On most days, I understand that pain is pain... It doesn't matter if someone else's pain is worse than your own, when it hurts, it hurts. On this day, realizing how irrational that comparison is, made my head spin. How DARE she compare anything she has gone through to being raped?!?! (Even IF her accusations were accurate, and I was to blame for her divorce, there's just no comparison. In one analogy, an adult man decided to end his marriage. He left. He has a right to do that. Rape is a violent, violating, horrible thing done TO someone who cannot defend themselves.) She has no fucking clue what she is talking about.
"That's like scraping your knee, and thinking you must understand what it feels like to break every bone in your body." ~BJ

I don't like using the word "rape". I feel like I have no right to that word, but damn it if I am okay with those who have no clue what they are talking about, never experienced anything close to it, and ESPECIALLY trying to use that word to control and manipulate others... No patience, no tolerance, for that kind of bullshit.

That stupid comparison just reminded me of all the stupid people out there. 
They THINK they know what they are talking about, but they have no clue.

Todd Akin is currently being blasted for his stupid statement about "legitimate rape". It was a really stupid thing to say. My hope is that he was just incredibly ignorant.
"First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
What does that mean when a woman DOES get pregnant from rape? It's not legitimate?? Who the hell is he to decide what is legitimate and what is not? To take something so traumatizing, invalidating, and awful already... there are no words to describe how much harm that man could do with just a few stupid words.

Last year, there was a bill proposed that used the phrase "forcible rape". Do they not understand what RAPE is??

Up until 1993, there was no such thing as marital rape. The traditional definition of rape was, 'sexual intercourse with a female not his wife without her consent'. Basically, a woman had no right to say no to sex with her husband... And he could take it by any force necessary. The law was changed, but not without a fight. People fought over whether a woman had a right to say no to sex with her husband... and that was only twenty years ago.

Did they think about what they were fighting for? Did they care that they were fighting for the rights of a man to rape his wife? Did they think about how it would effect women?

When I started talking about what Larry did, sometimes, I even got brave and used "the R word". Do you know what SEVERAL people said to me?
"How could it be rape? You were married." 
(And I wonder why I have a hard time using that word...)
Sometimes, I'd try to explain how he did it whether I cooperated or not. It WAS a lot easier if I could just force myself to lay there and take it... but sometimes, everything in me fought against it. I'd try to explain the pain, the violence, and some understood... A few never did. They held to the belief that a man could never rape his wife... After all, a woman is given to a man. She is nothing but his property.

Today, some states still have exemptions for married men. For example, in some states a man cannot be prosecuted for forcing sex on his wife if she is impaired and cannot consent. In other words, if she is asleep, and therefore cannot consent, he can force himself on her without fear of the law. Utah law states that if a person can't consent, then it is rape, with no exception for husbands. 

There are so many other instances of politicians saying things that are just WRONG. Joking about rape. Trying to minimize and sometimes defend it. Protecting everyone but the victims of rape. I don't feel like going into any more of it now... just know there are a whole lot of really stupid people out there.

As a teenager, I read the book Miracle of Forgiveness. I was full of guilt. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to feel good in my life. I believed my unhappiness was because of sin. (I heard it over and over and over in church.) I wanted to repent, so I could be happy... So I read the book.
There are a few passages in the book that STILL make me want to hurl.
"Your virtue is worth more than your life. Please, young folk, preserve your virtue even if you lose your lives.”

-    The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 63
“Also far-reaching is the effect of loss of chastity. Once given or taken or stolen it can never be regained. Even in a forced contact such as rape or incest, the injured one is greatly outraged. If she has not cooperated and contributed to the foul deed, she is of course in a more favorable position. There is no condemnation when there is no voluntary participation. It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.”

-   The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 196

Up until two years ago, I believed my family would prefer I was dead than to know the truth of what happened to me. I believed the fact that I was alive was proof that I was bad...

"It was better that I had died defending my virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle."

I could not tell anyone the truth. I was barely alive already, and I knew I couldn't handle it if they agreed with me, and said, "We wish you would have died."

I found a great therapist. I found BJ. I found many great people and resources that helped me to change the way I think. I learned the truth. (It was NOT my fault. It is much better to cooperate and LIVE than to die. And so on.) I talked to people that understood... I tried to shut out the people who were clueless.

Now what I want to know is, where are all the people who KNOW?
Why aren't there more talks in church about the effects of abuse? Why aren't there more talks about how it isn't the victim's fault AT ALL? Why hasn't the church apologized for publishing such AWFUL things? Why are they still handing out that awful book?

1 in 4 women nationally, 1 in 3 women in Utah. 1 in 6 men nationally, 1 in 5 men in Utah will experience sexual assault in their lifetimes. That means that 33% of the women in any ward in Utah will have been raped or assaulted. With statistics that high, isn't it about time to start talking about it, and I don't mean the people that have no clue... I mean the people that KNOW.

Why are the ignorant people talking about rape? What makes them even THINK they have a right to make a law that effects victims of rape? They don't. Every single one of them needs to stop it. NOW. I don't care that they think they are protecting life... until the conversation is more open and honest and they have a clue about what they're talking about. Shut up. And do some listening. Get educated. Do NOT talk about rape unless you know what you are talking about.

I'll finish with this:

A friend posted this on Facebook. THIS is how rape should be talked about. THIS is what happens when a woman is raped. (And I know it's not just women who are raped.) This is what happens when a PERSON is raped. It's time people understand what really happens and how truly awful, traumatic, life altering, and sometimes life ENDING it is.


  1. This is going to be a lot longer than I originally intended, sorry. I am not trying to steal your thunder. Just trying to add to it.
    A lot of thoughts occur to me upon reading this. To begin with, I have encountered the word rape in competitive video games when one person completely dominates another. It has been used in other types of competition to mean the same thing. Knowing that it means so much more than one person forcing another to have sex with them has opened my eyes to a lot of social flaws. First off, rape is more than just sex. It is more than forced sex. It is more than just taking something from someone. It is beyond violence. It is rape. Using it to describe other things undermines what it is, and I have corrected people in the past on using the word in such ways.
    The victims of this are in the minority of the total population. As a minority we are told, in any number of ways, to be quiet. Those who have not been the victim, will never know what it is like to be the victim. This keeps them from having too much sympathy. There is also a group of these people who can't rationalize why such a thing happens, and therefore blame the victim. I am tempted to write that several times to emphasize it. Amazingly only a small number of people can actually willfully commit to such a vile act. And they do it with impunity. Otherwise such things would be stopped.
    As for Akin, he was talking about rape in regards to abortion. As a man the only thing I should be allowed to say in regards to abortion is that no man should have a say in regard to abortion unless it the child was conceived in love. Period. As far as rape goes, it must only be a word to him. Otherwise he would not so carelessly throw it around. I would love to only qualify certain people the use of such a word, but we have the freedom of speech. So I allow stupid people the right to open their mouths and make themselves look stupid.
    Even though I have a lot more to say, I am going to close with this. Ignorance is bliss. Except to the victims of it. This is why I make a point to (truly) understand as much about as many things as I can. This is why I am against anyone who is not for education. This means I am against stupidity in all of its forms. (ignorance, conformation bias, arrogance, Dunning Kruger Effect, cognitive dissonance, etc.)

    1. I agree that rape is so much more than just about sex. I've tried to explain this... but I have a hard time finding the words. And I get pretty worked up about it, and then I don't make much sense.

      I also appreciate what you said about free speech - and allowing people the right to open their mouths and make themselves look stupid.

      I have no doubt that people will just keep getting better. Understanding and awareness is increasing.

      And since you didn't repeat it, I will.
      "There is also a group of these people who can't rationalize why such a thing happens, and therefore blame the victim."

      I have seen people using victim-blaming as a way to make themselves feel safe. If they are separate from the victim, or the victim does things that they would never do, then they know that will never happen to them. It doens't matter that it is irrational and untrue, it just makes them feel better.

    2. Want to know who can be the victim of rape? Anyone. But people tell themselves that they wouldn't let it happen. Not to themselves at least. This is the only reason that explains why victim-blaming happens. People tell themselves that it would never happen to them. So when a person they knows is the victim, they look for why, and cannot see any reason other than the victim as the reason, because they probably knew the perpetrator. This attitude only encourages the behavior. The only way to stop rape, and minimize the probability a person is raped, is to stop blaming anyone but the perpetrators of such things. Send them to prison.
      There is a term I use occasionally. It is consensual rape. This is what happens when a person is raped, but nothing is done about it. Each time I have been involved in conversations like these I point out that by not reporting a rape a person is condoning it. If you are worried that the person might go to jail, let it be known that a lot of men plea bargain down to a lesser sentence on the first offense. But they get registered as an offender. This is what needs to happen. Make them wear a scarlet R. In all honesty I don't wear a V because of what happened to me. I wear a S, because I am stronger because of what I survived. Jen if you want help not getting the triggers when things like this come up, I can teach you how to wear a S as well.

  2. I am going to cut and paste my story once I get to my computer, but Ryan WHAT THE HELL? Consensual rape is when it isn't reported? Does that make a 4 year old a consensual incest victim?

    It took me 30 years to make someone take the incest seriously. There are many women and children who don't know what to do and did not get good advice at the time it happened.

    My parents told me to talk to my bishop. No one told me to talk to law enforcement until 6 weeks later. At that point I was already dealing with all the crap from church. I did NOT consent to being raped. It was violent, my body still has scars from it. I am not defined by whether there was a conviction.

    1. Julia - Thank you! And YES!
      EVERY person has the right to decide IF or when they report a crime. And just because someone doesn't report it, doesn't make it not a crime. By definition rape is NOT consensual... I'll quote Obama on this one, "Rape is rape."

      I never reported any of the abuse. As a child, my abuser told me it was a secret I was supposed to keep. As a young adult at BYU, I told my bishop. He at least had the wherewithal to tell me it wasn't my fault, and I hadn't sinned, but no one told me that I COULD report it... Never crossed my mind as an option. And when I was married, I thought that what he did was normal. It took me ten years before I used the word "rape"... so OF COURSE I didn't dream of reporting it...

      I'll repeat it again, because this is my blog, and it's so damn important to me for people to understand, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS CONSENSUAL RAPE. EVERY rape is "forcible rape". EVERY rape is a "legitimate rape". We all deal with it the best way we know how, and most of us are pretty damn lucky we survived... There are no "shoulds" on how a person deals with something like rape...

    2. Julia, I probably should clarify. Incest and child molestation are completely different from rape. These things are done by different kinds of predators. First off children do not always know what is being done to them. Then they don't always know that these things should not be done. Adults do. Talking about rape and child molestation in the same way makes sense because they are both wrong and sexual in nature, but these are two entirely different crimes. One is against someone that does not know any better. The other is against someone that does. As for consensual rape, I use that term to highlight the fact that there are so many women, some of who I have talked to about this, that do not report it. With a child the situation is a completely different thing because a child more likely than not does not know what to do. I could go into detail, but you know what I mean. There is a thing that usually occurs in both circumstances. Shame. I am not ashamed to say that I was molested though. I was a victim. Because of this and so many other things I fight to empower women. Consensual rape is a term that I use, only in regard to rape, to make victims aware that reporting is the right thing to do, and that shame will go away, because as a person comes to terms with what happened to them they realize that there is no shame until you refuse to defend yourself in any way you can. If someone does something to you that is a crime, do not be ashamed that you were a victim. Regain control by reporting the crime. I hope this clarifies my point of view on both of these.

  3. This comment was originally posted at a comment for a thread with a slightly different question, but it directly related to incest, how the LDS church handles, it, and whether it was acceptable for women to talk about it at church.

    I am an incest survivor and a teenage rape victim. I spent 6+ years being systematicly being molested.

    To deal with the long-term incest, I learned to dissociate (let “me” leave my body and “go flying” so that I didn’t have to feel what was being done to me. Once it stopped I “stuffed it” so that I could survive living in the same house with my father. It wasn’t until I was married for several years that I was able to understand that my continual nightmares and flashbacks were memories.

    When I was raped at fifteen, I did exactly what my body had been trained to do. I floated up and watched the attack from a safe tree branch about 10 feet up. Even during a terribly brutal attack, I didn’t feel anything, until I got to the bathroom and had to start dealing with the blood from having my vagina ripped to shreds by his finger nails, after he came inside me. Since I didn’t understand the impact of being molested, first I and then my father and bishop blamed me for not “fighting to the death.”

    I told my bishop what happened less than 24 hours after the rape. Kissing the boy half an hour before the rape was enough for my bishop to excuse the young man, and lay all the blame on me. (No magic phone call to Salt Lake for an interpretation of the hand book, no offer of help or counseling.). So, several months after being called as Mia Maid president I was unceremoniously stripped of my calling, refused the chance to take the sacrament, told not to speak in classes, say a prayer, or talk to anyone about the rape at church. I was told point blank that if I did any of those things I would be immediately excommunicated. (I didn’t know that a bishop couldn’t do that unilaterally, and I believed him when he said he would announce my transgressions from the pulpit.)

    I was required to read The Miracle of Forgiveness, and discuss the topics in the book with my bishop. The conversation about not fighting until death (and the two page paper I was required to write about what I should have done) was two days before I found out I was pregnant. You can bet I didn’t tell my bishop or parents about that! The only one I told was my best friend on the debate team, who had helped me right after the rape to get cleaned up, and who wasn’t a member. Her mom helped me think through abortion and adoption options, and I decided that abortion was probably the best choice. I didn’t have an abortion because I miscarried before I was able to talk to my mom about it. I don’t know what I would have ultimately decided but I truly was, and still am, grateful that the miscarriage didn’t force me to make a choice. (It is too bad that my body hadn’t been taught how to be a Republican, whose body would have spit out every sperm along with all the blood.

    1. I got the messages more subliminally, but if these things were said to me directly, I don't know that I would have survived. Thank you for sharing your story! Thank you for sharing your hope and your courage. I just want to kick your old bishop in the shins. I know it wouldn't help anything, but it would make me feel better.

      I too dissociated, and for a long time felt like I was crazy. Now, I think it was a magnificent gift that allowed me to survive. I didn't have to deal with the pain, trauma, or the reality of what happened until I was ready.

  4. I have helped run rape support groups, IRL and online. I still volunteer as a mentor to victims of incest and rape. My father was finally excommunicate four year ago, thirty years after the abuse ended. I truly wish that mine was a one-off bad bishop experience, but I still hear the stories of young women who have bishops tell them essentially the same things I was told.

    It is your fault, you chose this, now you must repent and HOPE that you can be forgiven.

    I don’t usually talk about the rape at church. The bishop’s handling of the situation, and the general response from people that I MUST have misunderstood what he did or meant, just isn’t helpful to me keeping my testimony. I have felt promptings to share my testimony of the Atonement, as the place to find healing after being assaulted. EVERY time I have shared that testimony from the pulpit (even in a ward in the Denver suburbs that I only attended that one Sunday) I have had multiple women come and talk to me, ask me questions, and share their stories.

    In my current ward, I felt inspired to share how difficult it is to be “sealed” to my father, when I would much rather have the chance to be sealed to my mother and stepfather, especially now that my father has been excommunicated. After my comment, five other women shared their challenges with incest, either as the abused or having been married to their children’s abuser. I don’t think the conversation would have been allowed to happen if the woman teaching the lesson hadn’t been married to someone who committed incest. She told me later that when I made my first comment about why the Families Can Be Together Forever doctrine, that unanswered her prayer to know how to address the issue, without being released from her calling. I was happy to be the one to start the conversation, but sad that she feared losing her calling, if she shared her story.

  5. Jen,

    The Facebook comment is still blurry. Could you email it to me. I would happy to transcribe it and post it as a comment on this thread.

    I personally don't TELL women or young women to report their rape or incest. What I DO tell them is what their options are, and I offer to help them get information about their city, state or county authorities. If they aren't close to me, and they want someone besides family or current friends, I use my network of contacts to find someone in their area who is a survivor and willing to go with them.

    On the other hand, if they aren't ready or able to deal with "the system," I don't push them too. When a young woman knows her attacker, it can be even more difficult.

    There are two things I do tell new victims, or victims who are new to understanding and interpreting their experiences as rape, assault, molestation, incest, or a combination of them (and there are almost always more than one trauma, sexual or not) that the women, children or teenagers are dealing with.

    First, I help them think about who their "safety people" are going to be. We talk about who is the most supportive, who are the people they will need to ask for help, what to do if someone responds inappropriately, and how to tell what happened to them.

    Second, I tell them to make a tape that describes what happened to them. I tell them to make the recording when they are with someone they trust. The recording is important whether you are going to the police now, if you change your mind and want to go to the police later, or you never go to the police. Legally this can be helpful, but much more important is the ways it can help with sharing the information with others. The helpfulness of a recording can help "you" tell your story to people that it would be too painful to tell yourself, or for the many people who are terribly triggered by recounting their experiences, it gives you the chance to share what is too hard to stay on that particular day. (That is part of why I copied a post from the other blog. I find writing down the details, especially about the details about the church, so I try to use previous writings as often as it is appropriate.)

    There are lots of things that I work on through the process of mentoring, but finding safe people, and making a safety contract with them is the MOST important thing for someone in the immediate crisis of rape. We lose too many young women to suicide, accidental overdoses, and self harm. That risk is almost 1000 times higher than 1 year after the assault.

    Rape victims need to be told it is not their fault. They need to see that people survive and eventually have happy lives so that they don't lose hope. They need to know where they can find resources or people who can help them get connected to resources. Most of all, they need everyone around them to NOT blame them, or say stupid things like, "If your rapist isn't convicted, then you consented after the fact."

    Thanks for being brave and willing to share your "righteous indignation." I often get frustrated with (blank) is as bad as rape" statements. I was once asked to rank the "bad things" I had survived.

  6. Jen - your Guest Post went up today on my blog. Here is the address!

    I don't have a button for someone who has had their poetry or weitinh on mu blog. I was guest posts to be proud of the fantastic job they did, and to share tgat succeds!! When I have one, I will definitely let you know!

    Until then, you can see your post at