By Leeanne Stoddart
Saturday, August 25, 2012.
This morning I wept for about half an hour and then I emailed my first love. I wanted to thank him for believing me when I told him that a friend of mine raped me. Even though I know violence and vengeance and vigilantism are wrong it made me feel good that he threatened to hurt the man who hurt me because I knew he wouldn't threaten violence unless he believed I was telling the truth. I’m not saying he was the best boyfriend in the world, over our five-year relationship we had our share of arguments and I blamed him for the vast majority of them. However he was the best boyfriend a 17 year old, recently raped girl could have. Being only 17 himself he showed extreme maturity. He was very gentle with my emotions and went out of his way to make sure that my subsequent sexual experiences over the next few months/years were positive ones.
After I emailed my first ever boyfriend I emailed my parents to thank them for being the best parents a 17 year old recently raped girl could have had. They too believed and defended me without question immediately.
In the last week or so I’ve had to deal with some terrible memories coming back to me, but what has also come back are memories of the months that followed and how I was in a family and an environment and a relationship where I was nurtured and protected. I am so incredibly grateful for that. After 14 years it was a complete revelation to be able to see the positive side, to realise I was in such a safe place for healing.
Among the symptoms of rape trauma syndrome are self-blame and the belief that no one will believe you. Current events (Todd Akin, John Willke, the Julian Assange case) have brought up how we as a society respond to rape victims. Trying to qualify the word ‘rape’ (date rape, statutory rape, incest, “legitimate” rape, “forcible” rape) takes away some of the word’s power. Rape is rape is rape is rape. ‘Forcible' is redundant, the definition of the word includes the concept of force. What they are basically saying is that most women are lying about being raped.
John Willke’s reaction to rape victims getting pregnant is like drowning a witch to prove that she's not really a witch. Well she's dead now, but at least we know she wasn’t a witch. She's pregnant, a shame the father of the baby is someone she hates with every fibre of her being but at least we know she wasn't ‘legitimately’ raped because women's bodies have ways of 'shutting that whole thing down'.
It's not less scary to be raped by someone you know, presumably there was a level of trust there that is now broken and that relationship is gone and can well damage the relationship that you have with mutual friends/family members. I'm not saying it is worse than the stranger jumping out of the bushes that all girls are taught to be afraid of I'm saying it's the same thing and there is a loss. What these commentators, politicians and media pundits do not understand is that the way we, as a society react, to rape victims does not make people feel safe to name rapists, to press charges, to go to trial. What rape victims need more than anything is to be believed and supported.
Leeanne Stoddart hates writing bios about herself and prefers to write poems about people she loves, fantasies she has, and her hair. She is Birmingham, UK-based and grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. Her collection of poems Unrealistic Expectations and Other Poems, has just been published.