I’m 16 and playing Quarters with my friend, her brother and cute guys I’ve never met. Quarters is a drinking game where you bounce a 25 cent piece off of a table. The aim is to have it land in someone’s glass. When it does, the person needs to chug their drink.
The cutest guy gets the quarter into my glass; I just refilled it with orange juice and vodka. I chug it and realize there’s too much cheap vodka in there. Disgusting! Things seem fine until they aren’t.
We’re in my friend’s basement. Our parents are best friends (lucky us) and they’re hanging out upstairs. We go outside to get some fresh air. One of the guys tries to kiss me and I dodge it. He’s cute but has a girlfriend. I don’t need the drama. We go back inside. I go to the bathroom and everything goes dark.
My parents are standing over me, visibly upset. They inform me that I passed out. When was that? They relocate me to the main floor’s bathroom to keep an eye on me. I lay my head on the toilet seat. It’s cold and cosy. I pass out. They wake me up (hours later?) and tell me it’s time to go. I can’t walk; my father is holding me up. He sits me down on a bench and tells me to put my shoes on. I tell him I can’t. I puke on the floor and in someone’s shoe. The car ride home is horrible.
The next few days are filled with talks of rape. My brother is upset. My father is furious. He tells me I need to be more responsible. I don’t believe him. It’s unfathomable, these guys wouldn’t rape me. They’re nice kids. Who would rape an unconscious puking drunk girl? I’m naive.
FROSH week! The party for first-year students at Universities around the country. My roommate and I want to enjoy the festivities. We’re excited. We head over to the concert. Is that Metric playing? Awesome. We meet two guys there, they seem nice enough. My roommate gives them our dorm address.
Later the guys show up at our door. I’m home alone. I let them in. They ask where she is. “She isn’t here,” I say. “No, I don’t want to hang out.” They move in closer and are now standing in my bedroom doorway. I tell them to go. They don’t. I yell at them, “Get the fuck out of my room! NOW.” They leave. I’m relieved. It could have easily gone the other way.
Last winter, my husband gave me walking directions for this feminist event. He said, “and then you just walk through the park”. I laughed. Walk through a pitch-black park at 6 PM? You’re funny. Never. He didn’t think about it, because it’s not something he needs to worry about.
I’m lucky that I’ve never been raped. But I still fear it. I want to stop hiding, stop carrying my house keys between my knuckles, stop taking detours, stop crossing the street when I see a man walking towards me.
A matter of education
When I was a teenager, my dad’s friend would “joke” around, “You let her wear that short skirt? If I had a daughter, I would make her wear a snowsuit year-round.” If he and my dad worried so much about it, why didn’t they do anything to prevent it? Why didn’t they tell the people they know not to do it? The only thing I’ve seen them do was to warn me to take care of myself.
Everyone’s afraid that their daughters might be hurt. No one seems to be scared that their sons might be the ones to do it. – Clementine Ford, Boys will be boys
The responsibility can’t be on women to “protect themselves” and “avoid bad situations.” The problem is that our culture is teaching us that rape is normal and it’s women’s fault for being so damn attractive. Don’t blame the victim. We aren’t bringing rape onto ourselves.
A lot of people don’t realize how common rape is, because their definition of it is too limited. Rape isn’t just getting beat up for sex by a ravenous stranger in the night. Most rapes are committed by people we know and trust. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) demonstrates that only 7% of rapes in the USA are committed by strangers of the victim (rainn.org).
It is estimated that 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner (not including sexual harassment) at some point in their lives. – UN Women, Ending Violence Against Women
35% of women worldwide? That’s over 1.3 billion women! That includes your friends and family who will carry those scars forever.
We need to change the narrative and educate everyone about what rape is and how to stop it.
How can I help?
We need to teach society and new generations about rape and consent. It seems like common sense, but it’s not that simple. By not talking about it, the problem just spreads and festers. By shaming victims, we keep them silent. By telling them it’s their fault, we erase them and teach them that they should have stayed locked up in their basement if they wanted to be safe.
How do we stop rape culture? By talking about it.
Get informed. Know that rape happens all the time and not just to cis-het “women”. “Every 92 seconds another American is sexually assaulted.” (rainn.org) And that’s just in the United States. There are different and equally shocking statistics in every country.
Here’s a list of things you can do to help:
- Educate yourself.
- Educate kids about consent.
- Believe rape. Don’t deny it and don’t joke about it.
- Tell your own story.
- Report any form of sexual violence or harassment to the police. They might not always believe you, but the numbers will speak for themselves.
- Seek help.
- Jump on the ethical porn train. It’s way hotter.
- Participate in slutwalks and take back the night events.
- Be a proud feminist. Join the fight against toxic masculinity.
In the German café where I am writing this article, there’s a card above the toilet paper with a number that women can call to seek emergency help if they are victims of sexual violence or experience fear of sexual violence. It’s free and anonymous. These services are great and we need more of them, but I do hope for a future where we don’t need to hide numbers in toilet stalls.
Extracurricular reading: More ways and information on how to: