Like I’ve said before, I’m not a very Good rape victim. Survivor. Whatever. I generalize, I hold grudges, I don’t cry when I’m supposed to, I self-blame long after I should have let someone believe they’d talked me out of it, I masturbate, I let myself get dragged along with society’s fetishization of virginity, I engage in almost obsessive behaviors in an attempt to find out where my rapist is and what he’s doing. I get upset at all the wrong people. Lots of things.
Here’s another part to that.
I ran across this website today. I was not comforted. I did not take solace in the earnest, powerful messages from other survivors and the courage it must have taken for them to show themselves along with their stories. I did not come away heartened by this show of solidarity and hope.
No, that website fucking pissed me off.
I came away with one big, angry, raincloud thought:
Gee, I’m sorry I’m still not fucking INSPIRATIONAL enough.
To be fair, this is not that website’s fault. This is something I’ve had stewing somewhere in the region of my spleen for months; probably since last August, to pin it down correctly. It’s something I resent pretty heavily: this notion that, as a rape victim, I need to come out of it some beautiful, vibrant, changed person. If life hands you lemons, make lemonade! Bloom where you’re planted! Look! On! The! Bright! Side!
You know what, fuck that. I hate feeling obligated to end my story with “but I am a strong and powerful woman!” or “but I FORGIVE my rapist, because he made me stronger and I don’t regret who I am today!” or “it made me realize what’s so important in life!”. I’m not trying to give myself license to be some sadsack who does nothing but mope and throw woe-is-me into the conversation at random intervals. I like optimism as much as the next person. Hell, I personally think that the abuse I endured as a child bettered me in more ways than one: it taught me empathy, reminded me that people are more important than things, and opened my eyes to the world long before most of my peers got to know what real life was like. It’s not that I don’t understand how to take things on the chin.
I just don’t appreciate being pressured into taking my rape as some sort of fucking opportunity from god. It isn’t. It was a thing that happened, and it sucked that it happened, but it did. And yeah, it made me stronger. It made me stronger in the way that a steel-toed boot to the jaw makes you stronger. Sure, you’ll get the wires off and the bones refuse eventually, and you’ll probably come out of it with some great perspective on the meaning of pain and how to care for friends who are healing. But at the end of the day you’re still gonna be missing some teeth, and damned if your smile is ever gonna look the same again.
I guess the deeper reason this really gets at me is twofold. First and foremost, because I think it sort of implies that a rape victim is inherently flawed, dirty, incomplete, or unacceptable unless he or she turns it into some kind of spectacular metamorphosis. I know that’s obviously not what anyone means to imply, but to me at least, the insinuation is there. Maybe that’s just me. Remember: I am not a role model.
Second of all, though, it almost seems like it’s asking for us to gain naivete post-sexual-assault. As though we’re somehow unenlightened if our reaction to a seemingly random, very brutal, and extraordinarily violating and dangerous act by someone we likely trusted (whether a stranger or someone we knew) is a certain amount of lingering anger or fear or bitterness. I am not saying that forgiveness is naive, or that learning to trust again is naive. Those are both things I have a hell of a lot of respect for. What I do think is naive is being pressured into re-conditioning ourselves to dismiss our gut feelings (rational or not) because society says that we have to do so in order to become a big, beautiful snowflake of specialness. In order to become the kind of rape victim that someone will respect and admire.
And I am pissed off that there doesn’t seem to be anywhere, even within the communities designed to support victims, that I can escape this notion that we as victims/survivors/people need to change into metaphorical butterflies in order to be acceptable after what we’ve been though.
I am being unfair. I am being extraordinarily unfair. But you know what? In a lot of ways, that’s what this blog is for.