Fill in the Blank: "What if she was your own _____?"

2013-09-10 14:09

I would like to start off by saying that this was a very difficult article for me to write. I had to delve into the unpleasant experience of a dear friend which was only brought to my knowledge  nearly six years after it took place. So if I sound a little frustrated and upset please bear with me.

Also for those of you who believe that swearing reduces the credibility of one’s opinion, I suggest you do not read any further, cause this rant may get a little ugly.

Once upon a Saturday night, my friend Viola* and her house-mate Lily* went out for a night on the town. Like any, true, party-rocker, they boozed up and swayed to the music. Little thought was given to the hangover they were likely to suffer the next morning.

During the course of the evening they met up with two men. One had been romantically involved with Lily for a few weeks, and the other was a friend of his whom both women had only met briefly a couple of times. Let’s call him Clive*.

Their joll eventually progressed to a point where Clive’s friend suggested that they all head over to his place. Lily enthusiastically agreed as she was keen for a bit of a romp that night.

Viola on the other hand was exhausted and  verging on the black-out zone of drunkenness. However, not wishing to be a buzz-kill, she agreed to tag along. Clive followed suite.

Viola slumped onto the sofa soon after their arrival, as Lily scampered off with her beau for a passionate session in the bedroom. Clive sat himself  on the floor opposite of Viola, staring at her in a way which made her uncomfortable. The only sounds which could be heard were the faint, ecstatic moans floating from the bedroom.

“Would you like a massage?” Asked Clive

Despite her intoxicated state, Viola was well aware of her vulnerability in the presence of a man who was twice her size and practically a stranger to her. There was something about his manner which intimidated her, and because of this she politely declined.

“Oh come on,” he challenged, “It’s only a massage! I won’t bite! Why are you so uptight about this?”

As he continued to nag her, she felt her resistance weaken until she finally agreed. She did not consent because his persistence somehow brought her to the magical realization of suppressed lust within her (as some pick-up artists would have you believe), but because she was exhausted and frankly just wanted him to shut the fuck up.

With slurred and broken words she insisted that the situation must not escalate beyond the massage, because she was tired, uninterested,  and wanted nothing more than to sleep.

She rolled on to her stomach while he positioned himself on the edge of the sofa. As his hands moved up and down against her back, her eye-lids grew heavy and her surroundings dim. Before she knew it, she passed out.

When she came to, she was lying flat on her back on the floor. Her skirt was lifted, and her knickers were nowhere in sight. Clive was on top of her with his jeans unzipped and thrusting into her. In her confused and disorientated state, a swarm of thoughts raced frantically through her head:

“Wow! Um what the fuck? I sooo did not bargain for this. Is this dude even wearing a condom? How did I let this happen?”

After a few moments of attempting to make sense of the situation, a wave of nausea washed over her. She closed her eyes and lost consciousness again.

This story was told to me two weeks ago. Naturally  I was disgusted, horrified, and enraged. What could possibly induce someone to physically take advantage of an unconscious human being like that?

I cannot say I know the answer for sure, but my best guess is that men who decide to fuck drunk and unconscious women are either ignorant of what constitutes consent, closet necrophiliacs, or just practising the ancient art of putting a woman in her place!

Of course, my first reaction was to shake her by the shoulders and ask her why the hell she kept that night a secret for so long. Her response was nothing I had never heard before, but still tragic all the same.

“Well I was in denial, and I honestly did not want to believe that such a terrible thing had happened to me. I guess I didn't want to come to grips with the anger and frustration some victims feel when they become aware that they have been violated. Because of this, I held myself partially responsible, thinking there were ways I could've prevented the incident from taking place. It was only after analysing all sides of the coin over the years that I came to the harsh realization of how I had been exploited.”

Now do you know what we have to blame for this? Fucking rape culture! Yep it does exist, and is generously fed by the lovely, patriarchal tendency to excuse boys for their urges, and label girls as the temptation upon which such urges are unleashed.

Because of this justification, many predators will not even realize their status as such, or that what they have done and continue to do is violation of other human beings.

In the case of my friend, she said that the morning after the assault, Clive sent her a text saying how much he enjoyed their night together and that he felt himself falling in love with her! I'm sorry.  What?

What’s really scary is that Clive is not the only man of his kind. These men are the product of an environment which dismisses their crimes as the provocation manly urges.  They  are integrated into all circles of society, and in many cases are closely linked to their victims before the assault takes place.

Do you honestly feel that sobriety and modesty keep you safe  and beyond the clutches of rape? Think again!

I, along with seven of my female friends, have either been raped or sexually assaulted in some way. And surprise, surprise, I was sober, and ten years of age when my little incident took place.

I also cannot begin to count the amount of times I have seen lewd photographs of ex-girlfriends and unconscious women posted on the internet. Or heard men loudly joke about the use of duct-tape and seeking out the drunken birds on the dance floor. Many of us have grown numb to these shocking manifestations of ill humour, and this indifference only makes the problem more acceptable.

This then causes victims to feel guilty about something which was not even their fault to begin with, and thus the silence prevails allowing many perpetrators to get away scott-free.

Predators who go unreported (trust me, there are many), carry on living their lives as if nothing wrong ever occurred, all the while feeling slightly more entitled to help themselves to the bodies of other women against their will.

Behold the fruit of moronic ignorance! Read it and fucking weep!

Society often appears to be defensive by nature. So rather than take proactive action against sexual violence toward women in the form of educating our young men on what constitutes consent, we wait until shit gets real, and only then do we make a noise.

And even then, what we say is the same old shit: “girls be careful”!

How about: “BOYS DON’T RAPE”???

Why are we as women told to worry for our own safety, while sexual predators are encouraged to roam around freely exerting their physical superiority whilst hiding behind the boys-will-be-boys bullshit?

In most cases, a drunken man can rest easy with only the possibility of a blazing hangover the next morning. Perhaps his mates will scribble obscenities all over his face. But will they rape him? I don’t think so.

However, we as women must take precautions by watching our drinks, having a buddy system, and not getting too intoxicated in public. What sets us apart from men that we constantly have to worry about what someone else may decide to do to our bodies?

Tell me how does getting plastered make a woman deserving of non-consensual sex with a man she has absolutely no desire for? What gives men the right to not take no for answer? The logic in this blame-game is astounding!

This pattern of holding women accountable for what is inflicted upon their bodies, is not just restricted to their adult lives. Such standards of femininity are preached to young girls as well. Especially those who live in a countries which harbour a religious, modest, and repressed culture.

I  remember when I first moved to South Africa how much I was cautioned to wear long trousers each time I went for a bike ride around the block. After ten years of living in a country which contained no shortage of bare-breasted beauties on every coastline, I found the urgent insistence to keep myself covered a little odd and extreme.

Today, it makes me angry! Why? Because the enforcement and glorification of modesty as a feminine virtue, is a method fuelled by patriarchy  to keep women under submission. Many women truly believe that their modesty makes them superior to other women, and as a result feel little to no sympathy for their sisters who have been victimized.

What they fail to realize is that no matter how careful a woman is, she will never be safe until society, education, and the law instils in young men that the physical exploitation of women is wrong and not to be tolerated under any circumstances.

The belief that defensive precautions increase the safety of women is utterly ridiculous and naïve. Especially when these frightening figures reflect the state of sexual violence in South Africa:

"Of all the matrics (high school graduates) in your class, one third have been raped!" says a public education announcement on Talk Radio 702, referring to statistics that estimate more than 30 percent of girls have been raped by the time they are 18."

"It seems there are few places for South African girls to be safe: Many are raped in their homes by a relative or family friend; many are raped at school, often by teachers; only a quarter are raped by someone they do not know."

"In South Africa, statistics say someone gets raped every four minutes. Only 66,196 incidents were reported to police last year and their investigations led to only 4,500 convictions."

"If data for all violent assaults, rapes and other sexual assaults against women are taken into account, then approximately 200,000 adult women are reported as being attacked in South Africa every year. The real figure is considerably higher, since most cases never are reported."

So while we're on the topic of precaution,  maybe us smouldering temptresses should stop living as normal human beings and break off any form of contact with men in our acquaintance - including our own relatives. Perhaps we should make homes for ourselves under rocks because the mere presence of our vaginas is apparently too much for some men to handle.

Honestly, if I were a man, I would be deeply insulted by the assumption that men have no control over their penises and bodily urges. Placing full or  partial responsibility on a victim insinuates that men are no more intellectually-inclined than rabid baboons. Not a very flattering comparison by any means.

The amount of indifference and tolerance toward this issue is downright sickening. We only make a scene in extreme cases where a victim is killed or severely injured by a stranger. But why are we not grabbing this suffocating weed by the roots?

Why are we not educating boys from a young age to be thoughtful and accountable for their actions?

What breaks my heart is that I know some men and women will say I'm overreacting, and others will place the blame on my friend who happened to be drunk on the night she was violated.

But would you say the same thing about a child who has been raped on her way home from school? What about the granny who sat quietly knitting at home just minutes before an assault took place? Was she also tempting fate with her actions? Was she too being a provocative little tease?

People, we seriously need to start feeling  more empathy for those who have been violated sexually. There is no excuse for rape. Whether the victim is sober or intoxicated makes no difference. The perpetrator should always be held accountable and punished accordingly.

We need to encourage victims to survive their trauma and break the silence surrounding this issue.

So next time anyone feels tempted to place blame on the victim, I urge you to take a moment and  ask yourself this question:

"What if she was my own mother, daughter, sister, or girlfriend?"

(*The real names of persons mentioned in this article have not been used.)

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