There have been earthquakes and avalanches tearing down my old trees. Pushing them over like they’re nothing but toothpicks. There have been tsunamis flooding what used to be my home. Now it is just a house that I live in, with rotten walls and moldy water dripping from the ceilings.
But you came to help me fix the dams and fences that once kept me safe. You handed me your broken bricks and cracked windows and we built ourselves a new house, with dirty floors and clean beds. We planted flowers in our garden without a lawn, and fed the singing birds that never ended up coming.
Our house kept falling apart, but we would fix it with the clay that we still keep in our drawers. In our neighborhood without neighbors, we’ve had parties without guests. But we turned up our music and managed to dance without tripping over broken lamps.
One day we will have to move out. Not because we will run out of music and clean sheets, but we know that there will be another earthquake and a tsunami and a hurricane. There are no black clouds yet. The earth is not shaking yet. But in the distance we see the birds flying close to the ground, ready to bring the storm that will destroy the home we love.
Most people that know me can agree that I’m an outspoken feminist. They know that I stand up for women’s rights, try to be politically correct, the list goes on. They know that I love to write or that my favorite color is yellow. They know my face, the way I smile or laugh. To most people, I’m just an average teenage girl. Thank God that’s all I am. What most people don’t know is that this image could completely disappear, tarnished forever in a matter of minutes.
Rape. Already I can sense one of two reactions: fear, a freezing shiver down a spine or bile pushing to the surface, or exasperation, a sigh because this post is going to be one of those posts.
When I think about sexual harassment, I think about the horrifying statistics. One in six girls will be raped in their lives. That means that out of the girls in my grade, at least three of us will get assaulted. One in 33 boys will be assaulted. That’s at least one boy in each grade. Yes, these are just statistics and all, but most of the times that’s all we think about.
Over the summer, I read Louise O’Neill’s Asking For It, a story of a girl named Emma who was gang raped by four boys. At first, Emma is portrayed as self-centered, egotistic, and promiscuous. She is mean to her friends, constantly degrading them.
It frustrated me how rude she was, but as the story went on, the rudeness was actually unmasked as something else, self-degradation. Her entire life she was called pretty, fawned on by boys and envied by girls. She was constantly making sure to cover up, but simultaneously show off. Her mother would always tell her to put on a jacket or a longer pants, while her friends surrounded her with shorter and shorter skirts. She internalized something most girls have to.
Nowadays, the Internet is filled with selfies, pool pics, and photoshoots. Sleek hair and tanned, toned legs become a requirement before sending out an image on Instagram and Facebook. Emma’s world was filled with those kinds of pictures. She went to parties just to say she did, trying to keep up this delicate image of a girl who was respectable but still had fun.
However, that image was tattered when she was raped. She showed up to the party in a too-short dress, drank dozens of tequila shots, and tried a drug a boy gave her. Common ingredients in the recipe titled: She was asking for it.
It’s interesting to think that someone could be assaulted and instantly presume it was the victims fault. Even if she was wearing nothing, her body doesn’t become something to claim, to take advantage of. It’s sad that rape becomes so black and white, either the girl did something wrong or the boy made a “childish” mistake. No one ever gets into the nitty gritty. It’s always “She was asking for it” instead of “She was raped.”
Modern society has a fear around the word rape. People want to mask what that word means, mask the disgusting feelings around it. People hide behind anonymous names, jeering at victims, trying to make it less real. If she wanted to, then how can it be bad?
Louise O’Neill and many other have taken a stab at this ever-present issue, trying to raise awareness. I condemn these brave souls, as talking about rape is so taboo. Rape is an international issue, as this book addresses, and is not just some “feminist issue.” Rapists are let out of prison within weeks, while the victims are left with a lifetime of shame and painful memories.
Rape needs to become an outrage. Homicides are treated with heightened media attention, the deceased becoming a saint in the eyes of the public. Where is that same sadness for victims of rape? Yes, they didn’t die, but a part of them was lost when they were raped. Many are left chained to a life of stolen glances and hushed conversations.
It’s hard for people to talk about rape because they’re misinformed or it simply makes them uncomfortable. Personally, I agree. I would like nothing more than to talk about the weather report or to compliment my friend’s shirt, but sometimes I’m left fearing about out of my friends and me, who’s going to get hurt next? That’s why we need to talk about rape culture. We need to make rape not okay, make rapists see the wrong in their actions, as not to encourage repeated offenses. We need to make rape as scary as being killed, so that young girls and boys can go about their lives with one less thing to worry about.