By: Katrina, Austin
“It is your choice to report”, that is what everyone says. Your choice. But there is a tone to it that says otherwise. A judgement in their voice, in our society. A lack of understanding about why you wouldn’t want to, why you cant. A perception that you don’t report because you are weak. “You don’t have to tell the police, that is ok too!” they say as they lie through their teeth. You can always tell. It is your choice, but this is what they really mean:
It’s your choice but: THERE IS NO HOSPITAL BILL COVERAGE FOR THE ONES WHO DON’T
It’s your choice but: NO CRIME VICTIMS FUND FOR YOU
It’s your choice but: REPORTING WILL MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER
It’s your choice but: GOING TO THE POLICE IS A HEALTHIER PATH
It’s your choice but: I WON’T UNDERSTAND YOU FOR NOT REPORTING
It’s your choice but: WHY WOULD YOU PROTECT HIM?
It’s your choice but: HE COULD DO IT AGAIN IF YOU DON’T
It’s your choice but: THINK ABOUT THE GIRLS YOU COULD PROTECT
It’s your choice but: IF YOU DON’T THEN MAYBE YOU ARE LYING
It’s your choice but: YOU WILL BE JUDGED FOR NOT REPORTING
It’s your choice but: I WILL PRESSURE YOU TO MAKE THE CHOICE I THINK IS RIGHT
It’s your choice but: REPORTING IS WHAT THE GOOD SURVIVORS DO
It’s your choice, but if you choose what they don’t want, get ready to defend it. There is no understanding for the victim who stays quiet. How could they understand after all. They don’t understand that your world is no unhinged at the seems. They don’t understand that everything you understood before, you can not comprehend now. They don’t understand how skewed the judicial system is against survivors. They don’t understand how terrifying it is to even tell your story the first time, let alone over and over. They couldn’t possibly understand. To them, it is black and white:right and wrong:good and bad. People will try to take away the choice. The only choice you really have. They don’t understand that to you the choice isn’t to report or not, your choices have become to report or to stay alive. It’s your choice, but they won’t make it sound like an option with their voices full of judgement.
You don’t have to report but only because they can’t force you.
You don’t have to report…i guess…
By: Lib, Toledo, Ohio
In a Criminal Justice course I learned that one in four women have been raped, harassed or otherwise molested by a stranger, but more often an acquaintance, within their lifetime. Out of the women I know personally one grandmother, two cousins, five sisters (including a blood sister and a blood aunt) and myself, have been the victim of non-consensual incest, acquaintance rape, spousal rape, and/or molestation and likely all of us have been harassed by men or crowds of men on the street. One in four is not an accurate figure for me. Women as victims of someone else’s sexual desires are my norm. I see their faces regularly, but missed the crimes perpetrated against them and myself because these instances go often without a voice.
When I first began to talk about my molestation I did so in a way that betrayed the damage left on my psyche. I had not been penetrated with a foreign object, a finger nor had my related attacker violated my womb with his penis. He touched. He craved, he thought, he touched, and he used, but what I had been taught about rape did not include visual assaults (the way someone looks at you, or being flashed), forced embraces, kissing, nor having someone almost a decade my senior carefully stick his hands into my underwear to appease himself. The fact that he didn’t want to “hurt” me physically doesn’t change that I was nothing more than a blow up doll for him.
Everything ever written about my body was researched, and documented by someone else who never bothered to consult me. So I had no words to voice my attack with. “For it is men who dictate that the penis must be present, armed and ready, to penetrate, and it must penetrate before male laws can consider that harm was done” (Perez).
I don’t know if this is the case for other victims of molestation, but the greatest pain for me was not the act, it was the ripples after and the silence before that allowed my naivety. Molestation was not new in my family. My grandmother before me had dodged an attack by one uncle when another uncle came home early. My play sister (as they say down south) who is also my aunt had been raped by her ex-husband when they were still wed and I, a toddler, often kept in their home. My cousin had also been attacked sexually, the details of which are fuzzy because she still can’t really speak about it. She refers to it as “when what happened to me.” Despite this history, I learned all of this after the fact. After my anger upon realizing my step brother was a repeat offender who violated my younger sibling as well as me, allowed me to tell others he was not a good man—no matter how attractive he was and how sweet natured he appeared—I learned that more women that I knew shared my pain, than not.
Women do not talk about sex in the way we should. As Carla Trujillo notes in her work “Chicana Lesbian: Fear and Loathing in the Chicano Community,” we “are commonly led to believe that even talking about… sex is taboo” and so we talk about it as if its something that magically occurs, and when it’s one sided, something the victim perpetrated or should forgive the attacker for. The later part contributed to one of my after effect shock waves.
When I lost it at a family gathering and shared with my grandmother that I had been attacked she told me I should “knock his block off” if he tried something now, and pray that God would forgive him. I laughed hysterically. She was more concerned about his soul in the afterlife, than she was about mine in this life.
The situation with my father was worse. When I first realized why I couldn’t stand my step brother, recalled the molestation and blurted it out in front of my father, the latter’s reaction devastated me. First he didn’t believe me, or maybe just didn’t want to because my violation said something to him about his parentage. Then he “talked” to my step brother about it. Negotiated me like I was a vehicle that had been scratched in a collision, and they were exchanging insurance information to guarantee compensation. I had to corner him (my father) for him to even discuss the issue with me, and surprise, surprise he couldn’t say “molested”, “touched”, couldn’t name the crime, nor keep his promise to talk to my sister about what happened to her (the very thing that would have redeemed him in my eyes).
My mother, was lost. She didn’t know what to say or do for a long time, and hurt me with unintended comments during those four hour Lifetime movies depicting the middle class family molestation secret. She’d say without recalling “if I ever found out your father was molesting you, I would probably kill him” then she’d suddenly remember, as I did, that my step brother who had, was alive, untouched by her, not even approached, and still occasionally visiting our home. For the most part I was left to deal with what happened to me like it was something I did to myself, and I believed it was.
One of my play sisters, the mother of the sister who encouraged my adoption of people, was date raped when she was fourteen. She shared this information with her daughter, but the communication was not enough to prevent the fear that terrorizes women into dependance from infecting her little girl. Her daughter, my little sister, suffered from a side effect of this fear called “can’t say no.” When she was fourteen she slept with a guy, perhaps before she was ready, because she wanted her first experience to be mutual. Whenever she met a guy or girl and intimacy of any kind was initiated, if they wanted to continue she would not say “no”, even if her mind, heart, and body were screaming “no”, and she may have said “yes” even if they were fine with “no”. One day she told me she was pretty sure she was raped when she was sixteen. She blocked out her attack, and is still not completely sure what happened to her. A little later she told me she was sure she didn’t say “no” to anyone she was intimate with, because she never wanted to be forced to have sex. My sister didn’t realize she was raping herself. That if she meant “no” but didn’t say “no” it didn’t change what was actually occurring. It was no longer a violent rape, which she wanted to avoid, she’d turned it into a psychological rape and was now the perp violating herself. The belief that talking about sex is taboo leads us to, as Truijillo states, “hate our bodies and… possess little knowledge of them” and thus by extension, ourselves and our own self-worth.
On a crowded subway somewhere a young woman is being violated by a man rubbing his penis against her. That happened to me on a bus. On a street a twelve year old girl is being raped by a man’s eyes–that look men say is a compliment, but would themselves fight over if another man or an unwanted woman cast it on them. My sister has been receiving these looks since she was ten. Gloria Anzaldua’s work reconstructing the history of Native female deities, discussed in chapter three of Sonia Saldivar-Hull’s book Feminism on the Border encouraged me to contribute to the documentation of my own her-story, since history tends to erase women’s contributions, and makes us objects in the world and in our minds. It’s time that women do the research and the documentation. It’s time for us to make up the laws regarding our minds, hearts, and bodies. I have already opted to be an authority on me. I hope others will join.