Asking For It?

TRIGGER WARNING: RAPE

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.

How?

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.

Photo Credit: cornflakegirlmusings.com

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.

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Just A Thought

Every day when I wake up, I find myself thinking about things that may be important to me at that moment; if my hair is straight, how my skin looks or if my outfit is figure-flattering… but in all honesty, all of this is irrelevant.

We spend so much time focused on the things that make us temporarily happy like looking skinny or driving a nice car or having the most likes on an Instagram picture, but why does any of this matter? What is the purpose?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy social media and feeling confident and purchasing nice things, but what REALLY matters? That is my question.

I feel like we focus too much on the superficial, rather than the necessary.

I am speaking from watching family members and friends suffer through the horrifying effects of cancer, Crohn’s, and Alzheimer’s, not through personal experience of these diseases; but when your health, your life, your comfort is threatened, all of those factors change.

You begin to focus on your comfort, your happiness, your health… unfortunately, the reality check came because of the diagnosis of an illness, but that’s when you start to realize what is sincerely important.

I experienced a drastic change in my health two years ago after I experienced a surgical complication, and I remember how things changed.

For a while after that surgery, I remained in a mood of distress, in constant physical pain. But through this, I was able to realize how strong my primal instincts were; I remember those feelings dynamically, and they will never escape me.

After reading an article surrounding the effects of cancer earlier this evening, I remembered how I felt then and reevaluated how lucky I am now.

This article hit me right in that spot that nobody wants to be touched, the one where your throat swells and your eyes throb and you breathe deeply to stop the emotions you are feeling from consuming you.

Now when I wake up in the morning, I will look at myself and think about how lucky I am to be alive, to be healthy, to be eating my breakfast, to have a family, to have a roof over my head, and to have each of the opportunities before me that I do.

I am happy, I am healthy, I feel terrific.

 

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Family.

This weekend, my Mom came down all the way from Santa Cruz to see me and take me out for the weekend. I was counting down the days until I could see her, and when she finally got here, it was the best feeling ever.

Each day, whether it is on purpose or not, I think about my family. My mom, dad, brother, and sister. All of them cross my mind at some point during the day. Even if we are fighting or haven’t talked in a while, I always think about them no matter what.

Before I came to this school, I guess I never realized the importance of family. I took them for granted more than I even like to admit and I did not pay them enough respect. But being away from them for so long has lead me to truly appreciate all of my family in every single way.

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All of the things my parents have done, whether they have been good or bad in my perspective, have been for me, my sister, and my brother. Looking back, I cannot say I would have had them do anything differently. Of course, in some of those moments, I thought I absolutely hated them because of some decisions that were made or rules that were enforced. Some punishment seemed like the end of the world. But my parents had a much different perspective than me, of course – they did things that they believed would be best in the long run rather than short-term.

Time spent apart from my family was, at first, something that I really enjoyed. And to some extent, I still enjoy it. But a larger part of me realizes that in the past years, I have not spent time with them the way that I should have. I spent more time complaining about what we didn’t do and things that didn’t go my way that I have not cherished the memories with them.

And, even though friends can be considered to some people family as well, there are only those few people related to you by blood that are truly of the utmost important. No matter who you spend the majority of your time with, or who has been the most prominent guiding figure throughout your life, family is the root of your existence. Family is the reason that you are on this earth. Family should be the most important thing in each and everyone’s life. They are the people that have made you who you are.

I will never take them for granted again.
Who knows how much longer we have left?