Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I Was Raped T-Shirt Not A Statement Of Victimhood ...

... but a statement of fact that is not up for debate with all those who declare that they are -- or should be -- the final arbiters of what is and is not "real" rape and who was and was not raped.

Maybe that's why those 3 words are causing such a fuss around the Internet.

I was raped.

Not, I was raped because I trusted the wrong man. Not, I was raped because I walked home from school alone. Not, I was raped because I left my drink unattended. Not, I think I was raped but when I told my best friend what was done to me she called me a liar because no knife or gun was involved.

I was raped.


If you weren't then it is you who should be careful about the message you send to those around you when you talk about those who disclose having been raped or who are trying to help those who have been raped. Any barbs directed at Jennifer Baumgardner or Heather Corinna of Scarleteen from those who do not claim these 3 words have a self-serving sting to them which may cause those you care about the most to feel the sting of your words as if they were directed at them.

You don't know which of the people you care about could claim those 3 words but has not -- yet.

Here is a revealing paragraph from the New York Times:

Still, as Ms. Clifford walked out the door, intending to wear the T-shirt to pick up her preschooler around the corner, it was easy to worry on her behalf about the other mothers’ reactions. Would they assume her son’s mother was deeply damaged, not just by the information displayed on the shirt, but by her choice to announce it on a pale pink T-shirt?

This worry indicates how ingrained the shut up message directed at rape survivors is in our society. Smart and rational rape survivors are supposed to carefully guard their secret unless they are being brave by cooperating with law enforcement. If you don't shut up about rape or don't only reveal what happened to you in hushed tones then you are suspect.

This makes the image of the open safe relevant and an act of rebellion.

This also indicates how ingrained the message is that those who have been raped become lesser human beings because of the trauma they suffered. Often this message is packaged in statements of empathy when they are really statements of diminishment.

My rapist didn't ruin my life or taint me forever, he caused trauma which nearly got me killed and which will be with me forever. There is a huge difference between these 2 results.

Revealing the truth without apology does not in reality indicate that the wearer of that shirt is deeply damaged -- meaning irrational and therefore untrustworthy -- it simply indicates a fact that shouldn't be shocking considering the statistics.

When I begrudgingly came out as a rape survivor in 1996 through a newspaper headline which read, "New Author Writes About Date Rape From Experience" I thought I'd have to move out of town to escape the negative reactions I'd get. Instead, I heard, "Me too." over and over again. By listening to their stories I began to see patterns in how rapists rationalized their crimes.

The dangerousness of coming out as someone who has been raped is what should have all of us concerned and dedicated to eliminating this danger.

For the men who recoil at the thought of seeing a woman you know wearing such a bold and truthful statement maybe this statement makes the impact of what you have done or what you excuse more real than you want it to be.


As long as you refuse to see this reality you will do nothing to help change it.

For those who are accusing Baumgardner and Corinna of being rape profiteers, where is your similar accusation against those who have written books which deny most rapes by labelling awareness efforts and rape statistics to be nothing more than rape hysteria?

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 12:04 AM   4 comments links to this post


At April 08, 2008 12:01 PM, Blogger Mary Sunshine said...

A powerful post, and 100% true.

The women who buy and wear these shirts are incredibly courageous and strong.

At April 08, 2008 1:46 PM, Blogger Debs said...

Thank you, Marcella, once again, for saying it so well. x

At April 09, 2008 2:56 AM, Blogger lost clown said...


At April 10, 2008 2:47 PM, Blogger JENNIFER DREW said...

Very astute Marcella concerning the fact books published claiming that acquaintance rape does not exist do not receive virulent responses saying such claims are false. Instead the media promotes these claims as 'factual and evidence based.' But of course reason is male sexual violence against women must never, never be accepted instead denial, denial and yet more denial.

This campaign is a very important one because it dares to force society to listen to some of female survivors of men's sexual violence. Hence the reason for such misogynstic and vitriolic attacks upon the organisers of this campaign. Society doesn't want to hear the truth which is increasing numbers of males are accepting belief they are entitled to rape and sexually abuse women and girls simply because they are male. Before anyone claims 'but men are raped too.' Yes they are but it is other men who rape them and the vast majority of rapes are and continue to be perpetrated by males on females not the reverse. Men who are concerned about male on male rape know what to do campaign about male on male rape and hold men who commit rape to account. That would be a good start - holding men who rape accountable.


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