Rape Culture Will Not Trump All

I’ve been very much against Trump since day one. I will never support someone who is a bigot, racist, or predator — regardless of party or policies.

What’s really irked me during the last few of weeks of the election coverage is the widespread rape culture. Regarding Trump’s “locker room talk” or his sexual assault victims, it’s all normalized. We have become desensitized to not only these crude behaviors but the language about them.

So What’s Rape Culture?

By definition, rape culture is, “the ways in which society blames sexual assault victims and normalizes male sexual violence.” This isn’t about the 50 Shades of BDSM (which is all consensual — signed contracts, to be specific). This is about unwanted sexual attention, harassment, assault, abuse, and violence.

I have shared my countless experiences being sexually harassed in Chicago — walking and running, in the daytime and nighttime, on the streets of downtown Chicago and on-campus, in the workplace, and even by Chicago’s police officers. Contrary to some of my male counterparts’ beliefs, this is not to brag about getting “hit on.” It is not desirable to receive attention as if I am a sexual object. If anyone does desire this attention, then they are unfortunately influenced by the rape culture that exists. More than being a daughter or a sister, I am a human. I am not an object.

I would argue that all women are sexually harassed at some point in their lives. As much as it makes a woman’s skin crawl, as much as it keeps them up at night doubting themselves and questioning what would have happened if they had acted or dressed differently, it is normalized.

You could argue this “locker room talk” makes women uncomfortable, but is not dangerous. Still, it is dangerous that this language promotes and leads to sexual violence.

From My Experience

I have been raped on two separate occasions, and experienced attempted rape on another. It’s my first time publicizing this, but given that one in five women are sexually assaulted while in college and one in five women will be raped at some point in their lives, this shouldn’t be that shocking. During your college years, 20% of the girls you encounter will have been sexually assaulted, whether that is being groped or having experienced attempted rape, and throughout your entire life, 20% of the women you meet will have been raped. With our normalized rape culture, it shouldn’t be shocking to hear that I have been raped… right?

No, I never submitted a crime report for either incident. But then again, more than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault. This is normal.

If your blood is not already boiling at these statistics, maybe it’s because you don’t understand why so many victims (female or male) do not come forward about the assault. After all, there are people still assuming that Trump’s alleged victims have only come forward now for their 15 minutes of fame. In fact, even Trump has claimed that.

Forget Your Fame

As the daughter of a private practice defense attorney, I have grown up witnessing my dad defend clients, which include murderers and rapists. I have seen how long trials can take, with nearly eternal continuances. I have seen how even in a small town, people spread any bit of gossip instantly and consume it voraciously.

Before I was raped two years ago, I was not as strong as I am now. After it happened both times, I knew I never wanted to come forward about it, for many reasons. For one, I was embarrassed. I knew it happened to others, but not me. I was the perfectionist and the person who had it “all together.” I was already struggling to find my inner confidence, and it made me feel even weaker, and I was ashamed of that. Among many other poor coping mechanisms, I tried to brush it off. Then, it happened again. The externalities are for another another day and another post (don’t forget that 81% of women report significant effects like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), but I never wanted to admit it to myself, let alone an officer.

No Responsibility, No Problem

Another reason I never came forward was because the oppressors didn’t think they did anything wrong. When the guy first attempted to rape me, I thank my best friend for getting me out of the situation and my sister for immediately driving to pick me up. When I called him out on it, he told me it wasn’t true and that I remembered it wrong. He never did own up to his assault.

Following both times I was raped, the predators texted me afterwards wondering when we could “hang” again.

If I think that these men won’t own up to their actions, and that if I do fight them on it in court, it will last months if not years, I most definitely do not want to report them, even if that meant I were to get “revenge,” or my 15 minutes of fame from a high-profile case.

Although I suffered a lot for over a year and I am now proud to be the strong woman that I am today, I am not proud to be a sexual assault survivor. Just as rapists don’t want the scarlet letter of “registered sex offender” branded on them for the rest of their lives, I do not want to be deemed a survivor. Because of rape culture, it makes me feel weak and deserving of pity, which I do not want or expect from anyone.

So What?

Nevertheless, I am stronger now and I want to prevent this from happening to any other men or women. Rape culture may be normalized, but it is not okay. We shouldn’t be brushing it under the rug. Sexual violence is more than a domestic issue, as it is even worse globally. Not only does rape cost more than any other crime, but it’s easily fixable.

In this crazy world, we often feel like there isn’t much we can control. We can’t control how foreign powers or even terrorists act towards us. We can’t control how the global economy affects us. (We can reduce our carbon footprint!) But, we can control how we allow our sons, our brothers, our friends, and our peers to treat others. It’s on us.

But How?

I honestly don’t care if you’re progressive or conservative, Democrat or Republican, black or white, religious or atheist — we must stop letting important issues go unresolved. Sure, a presidential campaign may be about policies and party majorities, but our country is, more importantly, about the values placed on the human life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These topics aren’t easy to talk about and they never will be, but the best thing we can do to stop normalizing issues like rape culture is to start talking and start acting on our words.

I encourage you to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Be brave, and above all, be compassionate. Life’s too short and too difficult to be otherwise.

(Of course, the topic of sexual assault applies mutually to both men, women, boys, and girls, but, it is far more common for the victims to be female, and I am writing from my own perspective.)

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