George Will thinks that women who have been the victims of sexual violence have a special status and that we embrace it.
I would hardly classify the shame and guilt I experienced after being molested by a family member special. More than a half century later, I still live with it.
Embrace it? I spit on it. It took me years and some disastrous relationships to learn to function in a healthy relationship because of what happened to me as a child.
More often that not, victims of childhood sexual violence grow up to become victims of adult sexual violence. Because the victim of this crime is told by society to be ashamed, to feel unworthy of respect.
Things you think protect us actually do us more damage. Why shouldn’t my name be used? If I was beaten with a baseball bat, people wouldn’t even ask if I wanted my name withheld. But because I was the victim of sexual violence, I should feel ashamed to have my name used in public.
The inference is that I somehow caused my relative to molest me. Perhaps I cast a sultry 3-year-old glance in his direction. Maybe it was the short dresses I wore or the fact that I had the audacity to be alone in a room with him.
I can still see my chubby little fingers closing around the quarter he gave me — hush money. I can still remember feeling dirty and knowing I would be punished if I said anything. The abuse continued for years.
I didn’t say anything to anyone until I was in my 30s. My sister challenged me. He had tried it with her too, but she got away from him. She was saucy enough to tell his secret; I was not.
Once, a year or so after our conversation, my sister asked why I was being so open about it.
“Maybe you shouldn’t tell people,” she said.
I’ve spent many hours in front of a mirror telling myself I was the victim of a crime and I have nothing to be ashamed of. I still don’t always believe it.
Being a victim of sexual violence changes you. We are more likely to have depression, to overeat, to abuse alcohol and drugs, to have unsafe sex, and therefore to contract STDs, and to become victims of abuse.
When we report the sexual violence, we’re always asked why we were walking alone at night or why we wore those shoes or that dress, as though it’s our responsibility to quiet men’s “natural urges.”
In our rape culture, we blame the victim, while too many men go on thinking we’re here to fulfill their desires. If we resist their come-ons, we must be “frigid” or lesbians. There’s this sense of entitlement among some men that says we’re here just for them. If they desire us, they’re entitled to take what they want because we wore those shoes or that dress or we went into a bar alone.
Back when the Kennedy kid was accused of rape, the young woman was ostracized for taking off her pantyhose before a barefoot walk on a beach, while no one said a word about the young man taking off his socks. And it should be pointed out that taking off one’s socks is not the same as “Come hither.”
So, violence is done to us and we are blamed.
Breaking free from that is difficult at best. It takes an incredible amount of work on ourselves to begin to feel worthy of respect.
If you think that’s a special status, fine, as long as you understand the special thing is that we survived it.
If you think we embrace it, think again.
Perhaps if you had been raped your understanding would be different. But I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, Mr. Will, not even you.