Like many Ohioans, the Steubenville situation has been much on my mind lately. Before the rape and the media coverage everywhere, Steubenville didn’t mean anything more to me than a place where we once had orchestra contest. I was a young high school girl then, like the victim, and had my share of drunken nights, as I certainly have had since.
When I was around her age, I went to a party and a very upstanding upperclassman from a well-to-do, widely-respected family (i.e. not like my family in any way) offered to “walk me home” from the party because I was a little tipsy and it was kind of far, and I didn’t feel comfortable riding with the person who brought me because she was drinking as well. We were about halfway to my house and stopped in a park to swing on the swings, as big kids will sometimes do when nobody is watching and expecting them to act bigger than they really are. When we got off the swings, he started kissing me, and at first I was flattered, you know, because he was from a Big Family and everything, with a Lot Of Money, and I kissed him back. He soon became more than insistent and despite my protestations, started trying to rip my clothes off, right there in the park. I was (and still am) a pretty loud and strong chick but this guy was an athlete and he had managed some partial clothing removal after pushing me to the ground. I finally started hollering, got a good kick in, pushed him off me and ran into the woods. I sped through the woods in the dark and out the other side, where I could see he was still standing in the park, confused and drunk himself. Probably wondering what had happened. I ran the rest of the way home and never spoke to him again.
Years later, I would not be so lucky, as I was drugged, and didn’t come to until things were almost over. I will spare you the additional details. For now.
Those of you who know me and read this blog know me to be a strong woman. A loud woman who stands up for things she believes in. Not the type anyone would think would ever be a “victim” of any stripe, or be involved in more than one emotionally abusive, and one very physically abusive relationship over the years. Guess what? There are women being victimized all around you. I never pursued charges against anyone as I’ve never thought I could win in court. A few character witnesses for the defendant stating they’ve seen me drink or flirt or run my loud mouth and that would be the end of it. I don’t need the humiliation, and have exacted revenge in other ways when I felt it necessary. I could have BEEN that girl in Steubenville. And where I grew up, nobody would have taken my side. I learned this when they sided with my high school boyfriend, who beat me up in the parking lot of the fast food restaurant where we both worked, slamming my head into the telephone pole in the parking lot in full view of the customers and the manager. I was written up “for being in uniform” when it happened.
My post isn’t about me. It’s about all the other women I know who have similar stories, including those who have been taken forcibly against their will by their own boyfriends and husbands despite saying stop or no or trying to fight them off. It’s about the people that look askance at the victim, saying, well, maybe she shouldn’t have been drunk, or maybe she should have worn something differently, or said something differently, or somehow stopped existing as a person that gets in the way of men doing whatever they want whenever they feel like it.
This is wrong, and we all know it. Boys can be raised not to be perpetrators of these kinds of acts. They can be raised to speak up when they see something going wrong. They can be raised to respect women and think they are awesome, and to feel comfortable shouting that it’s not ok to treat women like garbage. Don’t leave it all up to women to make changes to accommodate men, to watch how much they drink and to protect their drink while having it, to be careful where they walk, to watch their mouths or whatever else someone thinks a woman should have done to prevent some man from doing something to her that he does not have the right to do.
Look around you, at all the women. Do you think you know what a “victim” looks like? Sounds like? Acts like? You are looking at a lot of victims every day, and you don’t even know it.