I heard an interview recently with a woman who had been raped and what she felt like afterwards. She said she was afraid of telling anyone because she felt ashamed for having been raped. I didn’t understand. As a woman I understand rape is frightening, but I don’t understand the shame. No, I have never been raped, which is probably why I haven’t the slightest clue about it.
These stories appear in the news and in magazines often enough where I have thought about them several times over the years. While I don’t understand rape, I do understand myself. I don’t think I would feel shame. And I don’t think I would feel guilt, per se, but I would feel responsible. In fact, I would probably feel like it is so much my fault that I would never even call it rape. Surely I had done something to deserve it, so it must have been consensual. Yes, I am pretty sure that is how my mind would work. Yet, in the process of blaming myself, I, in a way, make it seem innocuous. Think about it, in absorbing responsibility, I turn a most terrifying act into a miscalculated mistake. No, it wasn’t rape, it was just a poorly thought out one night stand. Problem solved.
While I may never feel shame for it, the blame would never cease. Even if I turn rape into a “bad decision” it simply becomes my decision. And I would never be able to stop asking myself “what was I thinking?”
Obviously everyone is different, women process experiences and events differently, and I would cope with rape in ways others would not. And I comprehend their methods no more than they would mine. However, what I absolutely never understood was the male perspective in the matter. Every article you read will tell you it is not about the sex. Fine, but then what is it about? The power? I am a fairly tiny woman, and most women, with few exceptions, are smaller than men. So, a man can overpower a woman half his size. Good for him. Forcing someone to physically acquiesce to demands does nothing to their mind. Physically conforming out of fear does not alter thought. Nothing alters thought. So from this perspective rape is nothing more than a hallow show of power over a physically weaker creature. Congratulations.
I guess these are the parts I don’t understand – the power on one end, and the shame on the other. And while I understand they are inexplicable psychological processes, I don’t get it. And if getting raped is the only way I will figure it out, well, then I don’t want to know.