I read a story today that made me cry.
This doesn’t happen often, and it says absolutely nothing about my level of empathy for people. I am just not a crier. It is neither something I am proud of, nor something I am ashamed of.
My mother didn’t encourage unsolicited acts of emotion or affection when I was growing up, and like any child, I copied my caregivers to a fault. She was my only example of womanhood and for the strength I was taught while she raised me, in am grateful.
I have overcome many obstacles that would have broken a more sensitive person.
But also, being a woman who doesn’t show emotion, in a male dominated world that expects women to wear their weakness on their sleeve, my lack of weakness was a weakness in itself.
Most times, people don’t believe that I am in pain, because my face doesn’t show it. And because I don’t cry, or scream, or ask for help in a pathetic, desperate way, even when I need it, I am not a priority when it comes to being nurtured. Even by people who care about me. I get overlooked.
But this post isn’t about me. I am lucky enough to be self-aware. Or at least self-aware enough to navigate this side of myself, and attempt to fix it, one day at a time.
This post is about the other women who have had to endure horrific things, and then be questioned on the authenticity of their testimonies, because they didn’t react the way raped/abused/offended women act in movies.
I may have told these stories before, but there is a reason I am retelling them.
I have been raped, sexually assaulted, violated many times.
At least Two of those times, I didn’t say no. I didn’t say anything. And I think this was misconstrued as consent.
But silence is not consent.
Silence is shock.
Silence is embarrassment.
Silence is trying to process what exactly is happening.
And sometimes silence is drunk.
Mid 2002, I was in grade 10.
I wasn’t one of the pretty girls. I wasn’t very popular.
A naïve, 13 year old Shana would have done anything to be accepted by the grade ten boys who kept making fun of her. The ridicule was relentless at one point. They were telling my peers how gorgeous they were, and they were telling me how big my head was for my body.
Regardless, I was the typical drama nerd. I wore glasses. I wasn’t in shape, or athletic, I was also in the high school jazz band, before it was cool. That year, I was a lead in the school play – and as irrelevant it is, I will mention that I was a virgin.
An ‘everything’ virgin.
I had been kissed once or twice, but during truth or dare.
After the final night of the play, a group of us went to the after party, at the home of one of the crew. There was alcohol, but I didn’t have any. I only drank way later in life. I was very scared of my mother.
When it was time to sleep, we all laid on the mat, and other sections of the floor. Now, during the rehearsals and performances of the show, I had made friends with a few of the popular boys who had previously tormented me. This friendship felt like an achievement, as if I was gaining their respect. So after months of building a ‘close relationship’ as crew and cast members, I felt comfortable falling asleep next to their group.
As irrelevant as this is too, I was fully clothed. I had gotten particularly close to one of the boys, and when I laid down, and he laid down next to me, I didn’t even flinch.
At some point in the darkness, I woke up. Lying on a cold floor wasn’t exactly conducive to a deep sleep, especially sober. But that wasn’t what woke me. The boy who was lying next to me, had three fingers in my vagina. He had by passed my pant, and inserted his hand into me.
I turned my face towards him. And in the darkness, he didn’t see that my eyes were open. He used his other hand to turn my face the other way. I laid there, frozen. I had no idea what the proper response was to this. All my friends had been fingered before. I didn’t want to seem phony for making a scene. My teenage brain thought that I would be made fun of for being immature. So I laid there, and at some point fell asleep again. When we all woke up later, everything seemed normal. I didn’t speak up because I was scared I had dreamed it. And why would I ‘go on’ about it? I wasn’t a ‘laaitie’, right?
That Monday at school, I stood in the tuck-shop line, and heard laughter. He didn’t know I was behind him, as he told the group of boys that I had let him finger me. He said I turned my face so he could kiss me but he turned my head back because the thought of kissing a goffel like me was unfathomable. I walked away.
He later apologised, saying he was drunk. I hugged him and said I understand. I just really wanted the popular girls to see me hug him. That was the ‘in thing’ to do.
I didn’t cry.
I didn’t scream.
I didn’t report it.
But for years I didn’t feel good about it, but I couldn’t understand why.
Let’s fast forward.
In 2010, I had just had my son, and I was invited to a 21st of a friend I had met at church. I invited my cousin, and was sorted to have a sleepover at her home after the event. We partied. We drank, I vryd with her friend. It was a definite jol. This time I was in a miniskirt, and was decidedly not a virgin. When we arrived at her house, I was so drunk that I had scraped my car against her vibracrete wall. I no longer drive drunk. But not because if this incident.
We kept the party going, against my better judgement and at around 4am I was unable to be a rock star anymore. I went to the room, and passed out. I woke up, and with the light on, my cousin’s friend was in the room with me. I had not invited him. He climbed into the bed and kissed me. I again fell asleep. I remember he tasted like banana. He must have eaten one moments before laying a wet, sloppy kiss onto my open mouth. I was so drunk I kept blacking out. I remember snippets. Banana. Penis. And him rolling off me. During this whole time I said nothing. I didn’t react. When I woke up for real, he was asleep next to me. I climbed over him, grabbed my keys and went home. I never brought it up again. I was convinced that because I had kissed him in front of everyone all night. I had no grounds to complain.
I was the kin who just had a laaitie and the bra was missing. I wasn’t a credible source. Not even to my own assault.
Yes, years later, after much personal growth I understand the gravity of what had happened. I understand the intricacies of sexual assault. I understand a whole lot of shit I wish I understood ten years ago.
People have this understanding of rape as a loud, violent, aggressive scene that provokes an immediate fight or flight response from people. But sometimes, we don’t even know we are being trespassed against. Rape isn’t seen as rape when you accept that you are the inferior. Rape is a mind game, as much as it is an assault of the physical body.
Tell a girl her whole life she’s in competition for the attention of men and boys, and then victimise her for not telling when they touch her against her will. I wonder when will exit this, what was she wearing, why didn’t she say anything dark age.
This blog doesn’t have a point. I think my readers are smart enough to understand from context what I mean. I don’t even have a conclusion. These are my thought right now. And watching the constant slut-shaming, victim shaming and female-shaming is a lot. Even for a strong bitch like myself. Imagine being a young girl, experiencing this world’s ugliness.
This morning, I read a story about three young girls, each of them only 14 years old, who had been raped. Well, to be more precise, two were raped on their way to school. The third, who was menstruating, was used as a surface on which the one girl would be raped. Grown men decided to place a girl on the ground, as a protective layers for their crime. They dehumanised her. She was a bed. A table. A rug. They then proceeded to rape her friend on top of her. Close your eyes and picture it for a few seconds. Feel the horror and shame that this young girl felt.
I bet these girls were in shock. I bet they just laid silently and obeyed the uncles. Because that is what we are taught to do. Maybe not directly, but you know what I am talking about.
There is an expectation that a previously silenced voice will become louder in the face of an injustice. As if people automatically snap out of mental slavery in the wake of tragedy.
Stop telling little girls that boys hurt them when they like them.
Stop teaching us to be wives and teaching boys to run away from the ball and chain of marriage.
Stop telling boys to get laid, and telling girls to protect their imaginary virtue and virginity.
Stop telling us that it is shameful to be defiled by sex, then expect us to shout out loud when we are, especially against our will.
Stop teaching us these things, then expecting us to be confident enough to speak out.
This shit is fucking confusing.