This is for those that victim blame, make excuses, or deny the existence of rape culture. This is for the Men’s Right Activists (MRAs) that believe rape culture is a myth perpetrated by a feminist agenda.
Walking down the parkway with my best friend in our small neighborhood was about the only past-time that a six-year old kid had in this subdivision. We walked over the wood-slat bridge, as we had done a hundred times before together, careful not to get splinters in our hands from the railing. As we approached the end of the bridge two neighborhood boys blocked our path.
They were the same age as me. The neighborhood had already branded them problem children — The kind of children whose parents could be heard yelling, or even worse in my neighborhood, a child with only one parent. It is a similar story to thousands that have been told before: a small town, with no secrets, where everyone kept their doors unlocked, even open during the summer times.
The boys had the same brown hair styles that had been loaded up with gel by their moms. They had similar shaped faces, curt expressions, and brown eyes. I remember them vividly. I was wearing my favorite ruffled shorts and pink t-shirt. It was my summer uniform. My friend was in her usual dress, her long hair in plaits. We were on our way to the park, we just had to get around these two.
It’s not like they hadn’t done things like this before, everyone knew they liked to antagonize people. So we confidently made our way down the path to press through them, but that proved to be more difficult than we imagined.
We went to walk around them, only to have our passage continuously blocked. They laughed. It was the first of many times in my life where my stomach would be uprooted by the actions of the opposite sex.
My friend was much taller than they were, I was a considerably easier target. As we tried to make our way around them through a patch of grass they grabbed me. I laughed, it was just playing.
Then, I was on the ground. One of the boys was behind me, holding my arms above my head. He wasn’t just holding them, he was pressing them into the ground with all of his weight.
The other boy sat on top me.
The games that boys play.
“It’s not funny,” I think that’s what one of them said to me. It’s difficult to remember exactly. He was heavy.
I always laughed when I was nervous.
I let out another yelp of laughter.
He shook me.
I tried to get up.
“Hold her,” instructed the young boy on top of me.
“I am!” The other yelled back.
I’m sure there was more said, but I don’t remember it. I don’t remember why they were so mad at me, or what I did to upset them. I do remember how angry they were. Did I do something wrong? Did I get them in trouble? This had to be my fault.
The boy on top of me grabbed my face with one hand, held it tightly.
He reached his other hand back.
I knew what was coming.
I jerked my head to the side.
The punch landed on the right side of my head.
It made my ears ring, my eyes teared. There’s not much else I remember, but soon after the boys ran off. Laughing.
My friend ran over to me. I got up from the grass. It had wet my back and legs. I wiped grass off of me.
I held my ear. It was still ringing.
“We are going to go tell his parents.”
“No. No!” I started to cry.
“I don’t want to get them in trouble.”
When I did tell on them. The neighborhood kids labeled me a tattle-tale. Nobody wanted to talk to me then. I got them in trouble, I was no longer able to be trusted.
Boys will be boys. That’s how boys show their affection. That’s what young girls are told, as they are chased around the playground. As their hair is pulled in the classroom. As they are prodded by the young hands of their peers. Girls learn from a young age that our boundaries are malleable. They shift and alter depending on who we are around. From a very young age we start with the casual acceptance that our boundaries are not as important as a boy's. So why as an adult should I expect to feel any differently?
See, what society has taught me is that the football player is more valuable than the 16-year-old girl. The football team more important than the person claiming abuse. Society has taught me that should a violent rape occur, we should swiftly forgive those that have joked or openly mocked the victim — they were young, they made a mistake, they were intoxicated. We make excuses for them, because the reality is too difficult for us to face.
Every day women, persons of color, or those who do not identify or fit into the strict labels that society has given them, are told what to do. If I am raped, I better scream and kick, otherwise it’s not rape. If, as a young male student, my female teacher abuses me, I should count myself as lucky that I received attention. If I am transgendered, well, most of society fails to acknowledge my very existence, who am I to tell of my abuse then?
The truth is, no one among us has the authority to tell any individual what the right way to respond to a rape or abuse. Everyone responds differently. But so often, we are silenced before we can even begin to speak (through stigma, peer pressure, fear).
That’s why millions of us stay invisible, quieted by our own fears, peers, family members and leaders of the community. The ones who tells us not to ruin someone’s life over a "misunderstanding." It’s the Jenna Marbleses who are more than happy to tell us that when we act like "sluts," people will hurt us, thus implying that we deserve it. It’s the Todd Akins that tell us our rape isn’t legitimate. It’s the men that yell at us on the street, who tell us to smile more, the perfect strangers who tell us that they’d love to fuck us.
This is what rape culture is. It is the abeyance of our own well being to protect those our culture has decided matter more.