The opening lines of Tracy Chapman’s song, “Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution” have been running through my head for a couple of days now as this blog post percolated.
I need to talk about a tough topic, a dark topic, shrouded in secrecy and shame and fear and anger. But I don’t want to be dark. And so I’ve wrestled with – how to begin, and where to go…
Then I found an old letter I wrote to my newspaper back in college and I remembered, “All the darkness in the world cannot put out the light of one small candle.” (Robert Alden)
I realized, I can be a light. I can help bring a revolution.
Luckily, I am not the only one who wants to.
Rape has been a pretty prevalent topic lately. It’s in the news. (Thank you Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin, Paul “Rapists can sue their victims” Ryan, Richard “Rape is something God intended” Mourdock, Rick “Rape babies are a gift from God” Santorum, Phil “Todd Akin is right” Gingrey, Newt “Get over it” Gingrich, Linda “Emergency Rape” McMahon, Stubenville, OH and Notre Dame among others.) It’s happening in our towns and states. It’s coming up in conversation. The silence has been shattered.
So now… Now it’s time to change the way we talk about it.
See, when I was in college my town was going through a “rape epidemic”. Seriously. They called it that. Now, you’d think that if a well known, popular college town was going through a rape epidemic, the people of that town would… ya know, do something about it. And they did.
They held classes on campus to teach all the girls how not to get raped!
Ta-da! Problem solved!!
Or, er, not.
See, the rapes didn’t decrease. Instead what happened was that rape victims suffered from an extra layer of “victim’s guilt.” They had been taught how not to get raped, and yet, here they were, rape victims. Many of them couldn’t stop wondering what they had done wrong, what rule of not getting raped they had broken.
It didn’t matter that they had been wearing baggy pants and a baggy sweatshirt at 3pm in the afternoon in public while the men around them were safe running around in tight jogging shorts without shirts. That was okay for guys to do without expecting someone to violate them. It was different for girls. If we showed ankle, we might be asking for it.
I kid you not.
My sophomore year of college, a 67 year old woman was raped in her home. Her crime? She was selling her house without a realtor. How dare she! Didn’t she know better?
That was my breaking point. That was when I snapped. I fired off a letter to the paper when they responded to this horrific crime (the rape, not the selling of a house without a realtor) by publishing yet another updated list of things women should do if they didn’t want to get raped.
The new list included the following rules for women:
Do not answer the door if you are alone in the house.
Do not sell your house without a realtor.
Do not walk alone. (Note, it doesn’t even specify “at night” or “in a mini-skirt” Just straight up, don’t walk alone. EVER.)
Don’t go to parties where there might be males.
Don’t go to bars alone, always bring a trusted male friend with you.
Don’t trust your male friends, a large number of rapes are date or acquaintance rapes.
The list went on. And on. And on.
I wish I was kidding.
So, my letter to the paper turned this sickness of preemptive victim blaming on its ears. It placed the blame where it really lay – with the rapists.
I offered my own rape prevention rules. For men. My letter was never published.
It included such controversial rules as:
1. Masturbation is okay
2. Remember, in a week no one will remember you didn’t get laid Saturday night, but no one will ever forget if you become a rapist.
3. When in doubt, assume the answer is no.
4. If she REALLY wants it, she’ll tell you.
5. No always, without exception, means no.
6. There are two things you REALLY don’t want to be in prison. A rapist is one of them.
7. Sex isn’t everything.
There were a few more, but you get the idea.
A decade and a half ago when I wrote this letter, in the midst of a rape crisis that claimed hundreds of girls, it was too revolutionary to publish. But now, not only do I have a blog where I can publish anything I want… I am also not the one who thinks that rape prevention needs to target rapists, not victims.
The best part? It’s working. Unlike the victim blaming tactics of the *hopefully* past – it turns out that targeting the actual perpetrators of the crime, and reminding them that what they are doing is a bad idea, does work!
I’m not holding my breath yet that this trend will sweep our nation. We have a long way to go in America (See list of rape apologists above) but there is hope. As more and more of us speak out, we can change this culture where rape is considered a normal rite of passage for women, to one where it is seen as the aberration it should be.
We CAN raise our children to not be rapists, rather than to not be raped.