“To not have your suffering recognized is an almost unbearable form of violence.”
[Trigger Warning: Rape]
“Why did you not report him and lay charges against him?”
The question led me into a valley of silence. I could either give the automated and well-rehearsed answer that I have always given; or, for the first time, speak the hidden truth, the truth that has always been silenced. But I finally courageously dug out the depths of my once tormented mind and said, “I blamed myself. I felt responsible for my own rape.”
Probing further, my friend asked, “Did you feel like you led him on?”
At that particular moment, I felt the shame and guilt rushing over me, like it did the morning after it all happened; but I had to break the silence. I had to free myself with my own truth, and I could no longer deny it. That’s when I eventually replied, “Yes. I felt that way.”
I know my silence is not unique to me. Whenever we speak about rape my heart bleeds because I am surrounded by countless womxn who tremble at the thought of admitting that they were raped. We tremble because society constantly blames us for our own violations. We have witnessed how womxn before us, who spoke out, were (are) constantly taunted “you were asking for it”; and we end up carrying society’s victim-blaming and internalizing it to a point where we as the victims question if we were really violated and we end up really blaming ourselves. We the innocent victims are made to feel ashamed of being raped while no condemnation is hardly ever directed to the guilty rapists. The order of the day in our patriarchal society is that womxn are questioned on why they were raped, while the men are never demanded to take responsibility on the raping because somehow the womxn surely did something to be sexually violated.
“What kind of world do we live in which asks the killed to beg for mercy while the killers are allowed to run free? We show more disgust and contempt at murdered bodies than the murderers themselves.”
As womxn who have been sexually assaulted, we become messiahs for the men who violated us, we feel the need to be the ones who bear their sins, and take the blame. We bleed and from where they pierced us, they find salvation for their toxic masculinity. Our blood seems to cover the sin of their fragile masculinity. And we wallow in shame, screaming to God, “Father, why have you forsaken me?”
And at that moment, the world really feels like the loneliest place because nobody will ever understand the burden we are carrying; because at that instant we are not just carrying the pain of our violation but we also walk around with the guilt of the guilty, the ones who violated us. But why do we feel shame, why do we the innocent ones feel guilty? What kind of world do we live in which asks the killed to beg for mercy while the killers are allowed to run free? We show more disgust and contempt at murdered bodies than the murderers themselves. Twisted isn’t it?
Men sin against us and yet countless of times we are the ones pleading for forgiveness, saying instead, “Father forgive us, for we know not what we do.” We feel the pain. We bear all the shame and guilt while they go unpunished. These men that we bear sins for never give an apology but arrogantly turn around, taunt us, tell us that our violation is our own fault. Endless justifications of “ifs” and “buts” are the only forms of insincere apologies we will ever hear from the rapists, because to them and the whole of society, we are at fault. As the victims, we will always be the guilty ones, we will always be the ones to blame for a man’s violent sense of entitlement to our bodies.
But we know deep in ourselves, we are never to blame. We are never to blame because we live in a society where men violate us but they become the victims and we become the guilty. As womxn we are told about different measures to take to avoid getting raped but hardly do men get told not to rape. We speak out about our assaults and we are accused of tainting the man’s image; but who weeps for our bodies which these men taint?
I know my rape story is not mine alone. If we were to really open up to each other, we would discover that many of us womxn have been violated by the men we trusted- our brothers, our fathers, uncles and friends. But the guilty have the loudest voices, drowning out the silent ones- the innocent ones. I pray that one day I may have the boldness to share my story, to help more womxn come out and find justice. But most importantly, I hope that society may finally see the urgency to combat this rape pandemic and protect those who are violated; and perhaps one day, every girl and woman may finally fearlessly speak out whenever a man violates their bodies.
Strength, love and light to every one of my sisters who has endured through sexual assault. You are not alone!