courage

Sexual Assault Is Not Your Fault

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Ashley

Ashley is a twenty-something southerner with a love of all things bookish and wordly. Her ultimate dream would be to sit out on the beach with a pen and paper, writing out her novels to the music of ocean waves. In the meantime, she's an editor and writer with a passion for human rights and publishing.

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When I was 16 years of age, I quickly and horrifically learned how harsh life could be. See, in my small southern town, everyone knew one another in some way or another. Sure, there was gossip and bad blood between people, but things tragic and horrible rarely touched our citizens. What I also learned was how untrue all of this was. Instead, the things that went on behind closed doors were not spoken of. We didn’t know about them, but that didn’t mean nothing happened.

sexual assault, violence against women, rape, the indie chicks, the pixel project, statistics on sexual assault

I went to a July 4th party when I was 16, and I drank underage (gasp!). That, however, was the extent of my crime. Further, I had one or two cups at tops (a small amount compared to the following years when I chose escapism methods to deal with my pain). I went to this said party with friends – there were strangers in attendance, of course, but I did not go alone. After that second cup, I suddenly felt as though I were out of my own body. I was crawling, not entirely lucid, with little understanding of what was going on, but I was not drunk. I know for a fact, now, that I was drugged. I was taken to a bedroom “to sleep it off”, as my friends were told. We were all innocents having a good time, not knowing what would go on behind closed doors.

sexual assault, strength, courage, the indie chicks, shakespeareSome people would say, and they did, that I shouldn’t have been drinking at all underage. True, as it is illegal. But that does not give anyone the right to rape. Being drunk, even underage, is not consent. Being drugged, even when drinking underage, is not consent. Perhaps someone would like to blame the way I was dressed, as people often do. They like to think that if a woman is dressed less slutty, it is less likely to happen to her. That is false. As a 16 year old girl, I dressed in jeans and t-shirts most of the time (maybe a baby tee at times, but still). Yet it happened to me. It took me many years to finally stop blaming myself. So now it angers me when a victim is blamed by others for what happened to her. These stigmas are in place to enforce victim-blaming and to further engrain rape culture into our society, which also causes the victim to doubt and blame herself. I am here to tell you – there is absolutely no reason for rape. Rape is wrong on all counts, no matter how a woman is dressed, is drunk, is high, or even if she was interested in the man who raped her. When no consent is given, no sex should occur, plain and simple. Until recently, even the definition of rape by the FBI would exclude what happened to me – because I did not fight back. I was in and out of consciousness because of a drug that was slipped to me, so I clearly did not give consent. And yet, some would say my rape did not count as “real rape” (what the hell does that even mean?)

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  • http://www.katoninetales.com Kat

    The fucking ignoramuses who claim that a woman who dresses a certain way, or acts a certain way such as getting drunk is asking to be raped insult their own stupid asses because this is basically saying that all men are rapists are heart and it’s only by women behaving or dressing in a way that won’t provoke them that they maintain control.

    Wrong, you motherfucking assholes. Yes rapists tend to target women who dress provacatively or act “loosely” because they are an easier target (it’s easier to assault a woman wearing a skirt than jeans and boots) and also because society is more likely to condemn the victim for not behaving in a so-called socially acceptable manner rather than the rapist for BEING A FUCKING RAPIST.

    • http://chaosandwords.wordpress.com/ Ashley

      This is true. They do not realize that the argument that a woman somehow asks for this in the way she dresses is actually an insult to the male gender. Do they not have self-control? Sorry – a mini skirt does not provoke the ‘rape’ part of a man’s brain. Instead of teaching women what to do or what not to do in order to not get raped, we need to teach “DON’T RAPE”. Simple, right?

      It’s easier to condemn the victim for what she could have done to prevent the attack than face the real problem – which are the rapists. I mean, women get raped constantly in cultures where they show hardly any skin. Here in the US, however, they use this as an excuse. It is completely backwards and makes no sense… and it’s avoiding the TRUTH. Thank you so much for sharing my anger on this topic. It is time we take a stand and discuss how rapists are the ones who should be blamed… not the victims.

  • Courtney Renfro

    I agree with you 100 percent. My family are very religious. My aunt told me one time, based on how I was dressed, you are asking to get raped. There is no exuse for rape to happen. I do not care how you are dressed. If you did not consent it, it is rape. The woman in New Delhi did not deserve to die. I am appalled. It is unforunate in our society, that they view rape as your fault. The fault is the people who committed the crime. Thank you for posting this article.You are very brave. You should not be blamed for this. The rape was not your fault.
    That is horrible, what happened to you. I am sorry.

    • http://chaosandwords.wordpress.com/ Ashley

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I can understand how it feels to be told that you are asking to be raped if you dress or act a certain way. It is totally ridiculous. Being raped is NEVER the victim’s fault. The New Delhi situation (another bus gangrape occurred shortly after the first one) is terrible and heartbreaking. However, I do hope that finally this is being paid attention to and that change is coming. It took me a long time not to blame myself, but I do realize that it’s not my fault now. I am so glad you liked this article and again thank you for reading, commenting, and saying such kind things.

      • Courtney Renfro

        You are welcome . Thank you for addressing this issue . This is an important issue . Rape is a crime . The victims do not deserve it .

  • Sara

    What an incredible post, thanks for your courage in sharing your story. The culture we live in, and unfortunately it’s a global one, is still unfortunately one that often finds blame in the victim, and even more unfortunately its emphasized if the victim is a women, was drinking, was dressed a certain way, was known for promiscuity (which don’t even get me started on the double standards on that one). You are 100% right is saying that no action or inaction is ever sufficient to lay any blame on the victim. Although there are certain things that women can do to protect themselves somewhat (like avoiding sketchy dark alleyways at night, or in your case having friends with you) they are 1. never fail safe and 2. never a cause for blame if someone didn’t do these things. I wish more people would be willing to come forward with their own stories, or simply to support some of the organizations you listed above.

    • http://chaosandwords.wordpress.com/ Ashley

      You are absolutely right – this problem is global. Rape culture is very much ingrained in our society, which includes victim blaming. And yes, the double standards are astounding! That goes into slut-shaming as well, when a woman is healthy and expresses her sexuality, she’s deemed a slut. It’s degrading and terrible that she cannot have the same sort of sex life as a man without being called names or have her worth scrutinized. There are definitely ways women should protect themselves (because unfortunately we have yet to reach a point of blaming the rapists instead). However, a woman can do all the right things and still get raped. I hope to encourage others to voice their stories and opinions, as this is such an important topic. Victims feel as though they can’t come forward without every action being scrutinized and pulled apart in order to blame her for what happened. I hope we can change this stigma. Victims deserve to be heard and believed. I feel these organizations play an imperative role in helping to make this happen. Thank you so much for your support and comments!

  • http://www.accordingtojewels.com Jewels

    Ashley, I am SO happy that you chose to share your story and your strength with us. Just reading the comments and knowing that you’ve touched people is amazing. I’m blessed to have never known the horrors of sexual assault and commend you for finding strength in a horrible situation.

    • http://chaosandwords.wordpress.com/ Ashley

      Thank you for your kind words, Jewels! You’ve been incredibly supportive since I approached you with this topic, and I am so glad I chose the IC site to share this experience. It’s been empowering for me, offering me more strength for this discussion. I am glad I’ve been able to talk about this subject with others. here!

  • http://www.fantasydatinggame.com/ Suzanne Casamento

    Wow. Your story is very powerful. I love that you are using your horrible experience in such a positive way. Cheers to you for being so badass!

    • http://chaosandwords.wordpress.com/ Ashley

      Ah, thank you so much for your kindness – it means a lot! I am so glad you took the time to read my story. :]

  • http://katybkatydidnot.blogspot.com/ Katy B.

    Ashley – Thanks for sharing your heart with us. Unfortunately, rape culture is so prevalent in society that young people are raised to blow things off enough to desensitize them as to what it is genuinely “right” and “wrong.” Anyone who is not a sociopath should know rape is WRONG.
    I can’t count the number of times I put my younger self in compromising situations like yours, almost always involving alcohol. Except I was luckier than you, by random happenstance, that nothing bad happened to me and am so sorry about what happened to you.
    Keep being so strong, woman! You are an inspiration to others.

    • http://chaosandwords.wordpress.com/ Ashley

      Oh my goodness, I have been overwhelmed by all the kind words in this thread. Thank you for your comments! I am relieved we are at least understanding and recognizing the prevalence of rape culture – through knowledge, we have the ability to change things.
      I admit I had a hard time forgiving myself for drinking around strangers, not watching my drink, the whole lot – but I was also sixteen, out to have a good time. Sure, I could have been more responsible, but that does not warrant rape. Nothing warrants rape. I think the more we teach that, the better off we’ll be. Better awareness of resources and facts go a long way. Women are taught to be more careful in order to not get raped, but it’s incredibly sad that this is what we teach females instead of crediting accountability to the rapists.
      Thank you again for your comments! I’m so glad you took the time to read this.

  • Marisa Lyon

    Wow Ashley. What an amazingly powerful piece. Thank you for being so brave and sharing these intimate details. And I could not agree with you more. Rape is inexcusable. There is not one circumstance that comes even close to making it right. I applaud your strength to turn things around and fight back. I’ll be checking out the Pixel Project myself and would love to possibly help out with them in the future as well. Thank you again for sharing. I’m so glad I got to read this piece.

    • http://chaosandwords.wordpress.com/ Ashley

      Thank you, Marisa. It means more than I could ever say to finally write out my story and have it accepted by others. I hope to see a change in our world where rape is no longer excused and to see the rapists blamed rather than the victims. Please do check out the Pixel Project! They are an amazing organization and are pretty much always looking for volunteers. Every effort counts, and volunteering is a great way to make a difference. Thank you again for your comment. I’m so glad you found this piece meaningful.

      • Nancy Resnick

        Ashley –
        Up until recently, I’ve only written about rape in my journals; volumes and volumes of poems, stories, scenarios and feelings involving this topic. Seeing your courage and reading the support on this thread shows that people know we are not defined by what happens to us, we’re defined by what we do about it.
        I value your words. I nodded my head so many times while I read your post I felt like I was a bobble head doll on someone’s dashboard! I wish I could laugh off your words. I wish I could use my humor as a defense mechanism to push away these feelings I have about sexual assault, but it’s not funny.
        I hope people that read these posts, will re-read them enough times to want to do something about it. Thank you for your honesty and giving us a chance to think, act and above all, to recover

        • http://chaosandwords.wordpress.com/ Ashley

          Nancy, first let me say I am sorry for what happened to you. I understand your pain as well as the struggle to move on with your life with that burden. But you are absolutely right – we are NOT defined by it. Second, thank you so much for your kind words. I’m so glad you found commonality in my words and story, demonstrating that we won’t be silenced for we are not the ones who should feel shame. My hope is that more and more people do want to do something about this terrible crime. Thank you for sharing, Nancy. Your words mean a lot.

  • http://www.buckaroobarbie.blogspot.com/ Elizabeth Brannan

    Thank you so much for writing this. Honestly.

    • Ashley Sapp

      Thank you for reading this, Elizabeth!