I followed the rules and I still got raped

Yesterday, Jessica tweeted a section of a blog post that really hit home for me. It touched on how women are raised to behave and how those social standards are applied to unwanted sexual encounters. It said:

If we teach women that there are only certain ways they may acceptably behave, we should not be surprised when they behave in those ways.And we should not be surprised when they behave these ways during attempted or completed rapes.

Women who are taught not to speak up too loudly or too forcefully or too adamantly or too demandingly are not going to shout “NO” at the top of their goddamn lungs just because some guy is getting uncomfortably close.

Women who are taught not to keep arguing are not going to keep saying “NO.”

People wonder why women don’t “fight back,” but they don’t wonder about it when women back down in arguments, are interrupted, purposefully lower and modulate their voices to express less emotion, make obvious signals that they are uninterested in conversation or being in closer physical proximity and are ignored. They don’t wonder about all those daily social interactions in which women are quieter, ignored, or invisible, because those social interactions seem normal. They seem normal to women, and they seem normal to men, because we were all raised in the same cultural pond, drinking the same Kool-Aid.

And then, all of a sudden, when women are raped, all these natural and invisible social interactions become evidence that the woman wasn’t truly raped. Because she didn’t fight back, or yell loudly, or run, or kick, or punch. She let him into her room when it was obvious what he wanted. She flirted with him, she kissed him. She stopped saying no, after a while.

The original full blog post which was posted back in 2009 went on to say:

It’s a rude fucking awakening when a woman gets raped, and follows the rules she has been taught her whole life — doesn’t refuse to talk, doesn’t refuse to flirt, doesn’t walk away ignoring him, doesn’t hit, doesn’t scream, doesn’t fight, doesn’t raise her voice, doesn’t deny she liked kissing — and finds out after that she is now to blame for the rape. She followed the rules. The rules that were supposed to keep the rape from happening. The rules that would keep her from being fair game for verbal and physical abuse. Breaking the rules is supposed to result in punishment, not following them. For every time she lowered her voice, let go of a boundary, didn’t move away, let her needs be conveniently misinterpreted, and was given positive reinforcement and a place in society, she is now being told that all that was wrong, this one time, and she should have known that, duh.

I had never seen this particular post before yesterday but it hit so close to home for me I had to share it. I’m a survivor who can relate to every single word of this. I was a rule follower. I was “lady-like.” Polite. Well-mannered. Or whatever description you want to use to describe a woman who thought my respectability would save me from unwanted encounters especially when it involved a man who I considered a friend.

I know now that this is the greatest lie of them all.

Every single day I regret not screaming, kicking, punching, scratching and yelling NO! at the top of my goddamn lungs. And every day I know that I couldn’t because the me of four years ago didn’t like to make a scene. The me of four years ago was a rule follower.

The me of today says fuck all the goddamn rules, speak up, stay safe, and if possible work every day to change the conversation and the rules.

Join the Conversation