Grey Area Rape

Yep, I am saying it: Rape is bad

Ok, so everyone would say rape is bad. But how do you define rape? What about that “grey area” where you don’t know if it’s rape or something else? We would all say that the stranger danger, they had a knife and I have undeniable proof that something awful happened to me, was in fact rape. But what about the rape where your best friend moves in on you in a moment of trust and vulnerability? What about the rape where you have been drinking, wore “that” black dress and went to “that “party? What about all of the scenarios when we question ‘was that rape’?  Is there a ‘grey area’?

Every advocate, survivor, feminist, psychologist, lawyer, officer, judge, and person would say that rape is bad, always. But do we practice what we preach? Too many times I hear survivors tell me how they were blamed: for being touched by that person; for losing their sense of self; for being taken advantage of; for the decisions that someone else made. Why do we continue to put the blame on the person that only wants to be heard, supported and told the most simple of words: “I believe you.”

Let me use my story as an example. When I was young, my cousin sexually abused me. That sentence alone is strange, foreign and uncomfortable to say. But who is to blame for this abuse? Who would you believe? Easy answer.

From my family’s perspective there was a 13-year-old kid who claimed their 22 year old, white, religious, straight A student, no-record, son/nephew/grandson committed this crime. So, who would you believe? Not such an easy answer now.

Would you believe me or would you ask me if I was sure? Maybe I was exaggerating? Maybe I misinterpreted a friendly gesture? Or maybe I was lying to get attention?

Well in this case, it was a 50/50 split. Meaning 50% of the people in my life who had said that they loved me, cared about me, and would protect me were now saying “um, well you see there is this grey area rape thing, so I think in this situation I am going to have to take his side on this because it is too hard to say ‘I believe you’ because that would mean admitting that something bad actually happened.”

The key words here are “in this situation….” Why is there ever a rape that has an asterisk next to it? The answer: there isn’t.

Believe it or not, even at the age of 13, I understood that the words I said had serious consequences, not just for myself, but also for the rest of my family. I would have never said those words except I needed help and NEEDED my family to believe me. Surviving what had happened to me meant that the people around me had to take on the responsibility of believing what I said. Questioning me and asking, “are you sure” was demeaning. Would you ever ask a person that was in a car accident, “Are you sure you were just hit by a car? Or did you just imagine it?” By questioning a survivor you are taking away the last thing they have, their words.

No matter what happened for the situation to occur, the moment someone decided to take advantage of another person emotionally, physically or sexually was the moment something went wrong. There is no grey area. So the next time someone has the courage to tell you their story (which is never easy, I promise) start off by responding with these three very simple words, “I believe you.”


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