What Do You Say to Someone’s Rape Story?

SlutWalk NYC October 2011 by  David Shankbone

SlutWalk NYC October 2011 Shankbone 28 by David Shankbone via Creative Commons v2.0

TRIGGER WARNING: THIS POST DISCUSSES SEXUAL ASSAULT AND RAPE.

Because I author a New Age blog I tend to come across a lot of other blogs, books and videos about the topic as well. Every now and again I’ll stumble across someone with anti-new age sentiments. Sometimes it’s simply a New Ager who doesn’t like the label but embraces new agey concepts. Other times, it’s someone who was seduced by Satin, saw the light, was saved by Jesus, and is now declaring that the New Age Movement is the One World Order foretold in Revelations that will one day bring upon the end of the world as we know it. (Satin works through tofu, meditation and Coexist bumper stickers, just so ya know.)

Normally I don’t give anti-new agers much thought (haters gonna hate) but this one woman’s story was so sad, it really had me thinking…Not about whether the New Age Movement is evil, but rather about just how many women have been sexually abused.

This woman experienced a terrible trauma when she was molested as a child and then later when she entered a violent relationship. She didn’t explicitly say, but it sounded like she was part of a commune or had several friends who identified with New Age beliefs. It also sounds like that social presence was there most or all of her life. I don’t want to talk about her comments in this post because I want to talk about rape and sexual abuse first. I don’t want to focus on why the concepts that were devastating to her are so beautiful and helpful to so many people and end up missing the point I want to drive home.

It is frightening just how many women have been raped.

Two days after I watched this video I was driving home in my car thinking about it. It occurred to me just how many women I know have been sexually assaulted…Raped… Violently raped.

I’m a Gen Xer. Our generation is defined by its heart and compassion, its passion for tolerance, equality, and justice. I think it was high school health class that first addressed sexual assault and what to do if your friend tells you she’s been raped. When I got to college, more classes…more preparation… more “how-to help a friend who’s been raped scenarios”.  I was an orientation leader and an RA so I’m pretty sure I rolled played the scenario at least on an annual basis. It’s only now that I’m 36 years old that I realize just how many women have told me their rape story.

I’m going to share some of my stories here because I’m just one person.  If all these women told me they were raped, how many more are there that haven’t told me. How many do you know?

The first time I was too young and unprepared to handle it. A friend of mine showed me terrible scars across her chest. We were maybe 14 years old. She told me she has been attacked by a boy (or maybe more than one) in the park outside school. I advised her to tell her mom other than that, just tried to show compassion. Truthfully, I didn’t really believe her. The scars were real, but I thought then, and still do think that she was cutting. That they were self-inflicted. It’s just a gut feeling. I don’t know if she was raped, but we got ourselves into some pretty scary situations as teenage girls. She may have been sharing something important with me. I was just too young and afraid to follow through.

As a resident assistant in college, I worked closely with the On-Campus Housing Office and grew close with administrators and staff. I had put in 3 years working often side-by-side with the director of housing. She is one of the most inspirational, amazing women I know. I still speak with her almost weekly. It was our big training weekend (my third time going through the process) when she stood up in front of the auditorium full of newly recruited RAs and told us that some years before, she had been attacked while outside running, was dragged into the bushes by a stranger and was raped. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She spoke about how the incident affected her. How she lived in fear, never learning who her attacker was. How she struggled with her weight as a result of the trauma she had survived. She also made one hell of an impression talking about bullying and teasing people for their weight and how their struggles may be the result of unimaginable pain. How it has nothing to do with will power, or putting down that Oreo. I never bullied anyone, but her confession that day changed me.

A few years later I moved to another big city and was putting in a lot of overtime as I tried to prove myself as a competent young professional. was talking with a coworker about the Second Amendment and gun ownership after a young guy in my apartment building was killed outside our home after what police suspect was a botched robbery. He told me that one of the higher-ups in our firm carried a gun in her purse. She had been pretty open about her attack but I hadn’t been at the firm long enough to know the story at that point. I didn’t get a lot of details, but I understand her attacker was also a stranger. She carried a gun so it would never happen again.

The story that hit closest to home came on the day following my bachelorette party. Several of my girlfriends spent the night at a mutual friend’s house. The next morning when I woke, one of my friends came into my room and told me she had been raped a week or two before. Her husband traveled and was gone weeks at a time. When he returned they would often have big parties, hit the bars and enjoy lots of social time together. Her husband had met a guy and hung out with him a few times. They didn’t know him well. One evening her husband was gone on another trip she bumped into the guy (either in the neighborhood or he stopped by, I can’t remember.) He asked if he could come in for a drink and because he was sort-of friends with her husband she obliged. He drugged her. She said she remembered being about to pass out and he moved her to the bed. He pulled down her underwear and she blacked out. She woke up the next day to find a condom wrapper but no condom. She went to the police and they did nothing. They took a report and that was it. She told her husband and gave the police the phone number he had for the “friend” but it was a disposable phone and was already out of service. I couldn’t believe that in California…in the United States of America a woman could be raped and the police did nothing about it. Sadly, I think it’s because she is Mexican. If I (a middle-class white woman) was drugged and raped in my home it would be on the fucking 5 o’clock news and there would be Facebook groups and Crowdfunding websites established to find my attacker. All I could do is sit with her. All that training, and preparation, and roll playing goes by the wayside. The only thing I could remember was, “She feels powerless. Don’t make her tell anyone. Don’t make her do anything. Don’t make her feel re-victimized.”

I think that’s what happened to the girl in the video. She was re-victimized. I don’t think there is anything dangerous about the New Age Movement, but I think the people in her life talked too much. I think they forgot that the people around us are not hypothetical. Some of them, more than we think, have walked through great darkness. We need to be mindful of what we say and how it may affect the people around us. The people we love. Women are being raped. A lot of women.  I guarantee you know someone who has been raped to. Maybe no one had told you, but they are out there. Show them all love. Show them all respect. Show them all compassion. ∞


Here’s the original video that started this whole post.

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