James Landrith offers words of support to a young girl who was not only a victim, but was blamed for being so.
Once again, there has been a rape case involving football. This time it was a young woman in Steubenville, Ohio. Predictably, there has been sympathy for the young men who raped her. She has been bullied, vilified, called a liar, a whore and treated horribly by her neighbors, strangers and people who should have been protecting her.
Oh yeah, victim-blamed too. That is always present. Why does that always have to be present?
This is for Jane Doe. This is because you are not alone. This is because the world owes you an apology.
You’ve been humiliated. You’ve been exposed to the world without your consent in a traumatic way. You were violated. You were hurt. You were victimized. You were blamed for what happened to you. You consumed alcohol and that was used against you by both your rapists and adults who should be protecting you. You must feel hated and devalued as a human being not only for the rape, but for how many of the people who have known you for years have treated you since it happened.
The thing to remember is that you aren’t to blame. Yes, you consumed alcohol underage. Yes, you were drunk. That doesn’t mean you lose your right to self-sovereignty. That doesn’t mean that entitled athletes get to do whatever they want to you. That doesn’t mean that rape should be inevitable. When I was raped, alcohol was involved. The person who raped me while unconscious actually bought my drinks because I was underage. Like you, I’ve been told it was my fault for drinking. Like you, I’ve been told that I must have wanted it.
You were victimized but you aren’t a victim. You changed that when you fought back. You are a survivor now. There is nothing they can do to fix what they did. They took control of you for a night. That’s all they get. You are in control of your future. You get to decide where you go from here.
You will repeatedly encounter toxic people in your daily life who don’t understand. It is entirely your decision how to respond. If the news reports are to be believed, you have plenty of that around you now already. You can educate, you can ignore, or you can cut them out like the cancerous growths they represent. The choice is entirely yours to make. No one is entitled to your time or your justifications. You will understand this by about the 1,000th time you confront such a situation. Proceed how you wish and don’t feel like you have to apologize for any decisions you make in that regard. Your mental health and peace of mind are more important than their opinions or feelings. They don’t get to decide that for you. No one gets to decide that for you.
You can get angry. You will get angry. You have that right. You don’t have to explain it to anyone. You don’t have to justify it. It isn’t anyone else’s business why you are angry. You don’t have to forgive either. If you eventually do, it should be on your terms and because you decided. Your anger is yours to express. Your forgiveness is only for you to decide upon. No one else gets to decide that for you. Period.
You can cry. You will cry. At this point, you’ve probably already cried buckets. Sadly, that won’t be the last you cry. It may happen often for the next few years. You may find yourself several years down the road and it will hit you again. Give yourself permission to feel those emotions when you feel the need. Occasionally, you have to clean them out. That doesn’t make you weak. It makes you human. It has been 20 years for me. I still have to tend to my emotional health this way too.
People will remember what happened to you for a long time. They may look at you strangely or make unkind remarks. That is a heavy burden to carry. It may feel overwhelming at times. To a 16 year old, it must feel crushing. I spoke out publicly about what happened to me in print and video. I’ve regretted it at times. People know what happened to me. A whole lot of people know what happened to me. I got mercilessly victim-blamed for it. It hurts in a way I cannot possibly describe. I understand how that feels. I know some of what you feel now. I know what you will feel going forward. You have the right to feel those emotions. You have the right to believe it is unfair. You have the right to be inconsolable. You have the right to feel whatever you feel, whenever you feel it.
It is okay to feel overwhelmed. It is okay to want it to go away. It is okay to reach out for help when you need it. Regardless of what the less enlightened may believe, you’ve done nothing wrong. People get very brave on the internet about what they say when they don’t have to face a person in real life or use their real name. Please remember that. Their courage is really an extreme cowardice. It is a weak mind who hides behind their keyboard, striking out at people who are far braver than they could ever be in their best moments. In the end, they are inconsequential. I know it doesn’t seem that way now. Eventually, you’ll understand what I mean. For now, please understand that you are not alone.
You can do this. You can heal. You can have a happy and productive life. You can go to college. You can have a career. You can fall in love. You can have children, if that is your choice. You can be or do anything. You really can.
Rape happened to you. Rape doesn’t define you. You get to define you. This and every moment going forward are yours to own.
Please remember that you are not alone. There are millions of women and men who understand how you feel. We don’t know you personally, but we do understand you.
NOTE TO READERS: I have intentionally left out links. If readers want to look at such victim-blaming garbage, they’ll have to search for it. I’m done reading any more of it.