I sometimes take a good-sized chunk of time to do nothing but look back on the weeks when I was directly in contact with My Rapist.
The weeks where the only thing I feared more than his next text was no text at all – because no text at all would’ve meant that he’d finally done it, and the next morning someone would find his body dangling in the ravine.* The rope was there; a thick, coarse one with a perfect noose tied at one end. True to his chemistry-major roots (or maybe it was math – he switched so often) he’d done the calculations precisely, somehow procured the exact amount of rope needed for a clean break. He shoved the page of notes at me, dappled with flecks of rust-red from the last time I’d been late and he’d taken a disassembled razor to his neck. It was all there, neat little lines of numbers showing me that he knew exactly how to die.
Hanging is not a pretty way to go. People claw open their own throats trying to get air.
And I had no guarantee that he was the only one he’d take with him.
I look back, and I still don’t know what I should have done.
I can think of nothing that would have made me a better person.
I can think of nothing that I could have done that would have been worse than what I did.
There was no clear path, no Should or Shouldn’t, no escape from the crushing, suffocating subjectivity that kept my options simultaneously too many and too few.
This is why I cannot tolerate it when people say that they know what I Should have done.
Apparently, to friends and family of survivors, hindsight is not only 20/20, it’s fucking binocular vision. Within minutes or hours of your telling them, they’ve concocted the perfect scenario in their head of exactly what you Should Have Done and Goddamnit, Avvie, it’s Obvious, Why Didn’t You?
They imagine it playing out like a movie, because to them, that’s essentially what it is. They literally cannot insert themselves into the mindset of someone whose choices are not a fucking game or an abstraction. I think most people have yet to realize that life does not have a “load last save” option; they see victims’ past choices not for what they were (something that, against all odds, kept them and other people alive and intact to present day), but a series of imperfect decisions that led to a less-than-picture-perfect outcome. They think there even is an outcome, because they can’t wrap their minds around the fact that this is not done and over. There are ripples, there are aftershocks, there is the fact that their rapist is still living half a mile away, unmedicated and unsupervised and still raping, still hurting.
They cannot imagine trying to make a choice between their own safety and other peoples’ in an uncontrolled, unabstract environment where there is no such thing as a guarantee (or even the possibility) that everything is going to be okay.
The worst is the You Should Have Told Me.
I got that one from my best friend, the first person I told.
I didn’t know if you’d believe me. Where would I have been if you hadn’t believed me?
Godfuckingdamnit, Avvie, when have I ever not believed you? Tell me that.
Absolute confidence on his part. If I had just told him – tried to tell him – everything would have been Fine. Nothing would have gone badly, could have gone badly. He would have kept me Safe, he would have made everything Okay. Asserted over and over and over. I was Wrong for not telling him, it was Shortsighted, it was Bad, it was Stupid, it was the Wrong Reaction. I should have told him as soon as I got a bad vibe, the second it looked like things could have gone badly. I would’ve never been raped at all. Somehow things would have worked out.
A week ago, I was talking to the same friend.
I don’t know if I like [mutual friend] as much as I used to.
What makes you say that, Avvie?
I feel weird around him. He said he hates women. I don’t…I can’t trust that. It’s a red flag to me. A big, red flag. Men who hate women do Bad Things to them.
Exasperated sigh. That’s a hefty accusation, Avvie. You shouldn’t go around saying things like that. It’s not Right.
He ended the conversation after I’d apologized enough.
My Rapist hated women. My Rapist told me that I had to earn respect from him, because he would never give it freely. He hated women because he hated his mother, hated them and loved them and feared them. He loves – he loves – to see them ashamed and afraid, because then he is the strong one, he is above them, he is Man.
This is not my subjective interpretation of the situation. These are things he’d told me.
And what if I had told my best friend about that? About so many of the things that frightened me about My Rapist, when I first started realizing that he had issues, before he raped me?
Would he have said that’s a hefty accusation, you shouldn’t go around saying like that?
Because we are not in the perfect world he sees whenever he tells me what I Should have done. We are in the world where people don’t want to hear these things, the world where no one wants to believe that their friend, their lab partner, their classmate, their roommate is capable of anything Like That.
In other words, fuck anyone who wants to guilt a victim for Not Telling. Because we knew. We knew what you’d probably say, or do. We knew what the consequences might have been. We knew, and you didn’t, and you couldn’t possibly have, and you still don’t.
We knew we were playing for keeps, that any decision – no matter how politically correct or morally right or ideal – could have consequences. Big, permanent, fucked up consequences. We knew, and we didn’t tell you, and if you think you Deserved to know, then…well, that right there is enough to show that you didn’t. You didn’t at all.
Fuck you for the fact that you’re more willing to judge based on what a victim Did Not Do than based on what a rapist Did Do.
Hindsight is not 20/20. Hindsight is not binocular vision, or microscope vision. Drop your self-asserted omniscience and be happy that, if the victim truly is something you care about, his or her actions were at least enough to ensure that s/he survived to be telling you this story in the first place.
*Photo credit to here