catharsis

Upon waking up from a series of disturbing dreams last night after my previous post, I had something of an epiphany. I figured I’d share, since I need to get it out anyway.

I have come to the realization that I have an intense fear (not sure if it is rational or irrational) of being raped. A very intense fear. It is deeply rooted in my experiences with men and supported by the continuous sexual harassment that I face.

The first time that I dreamed about being raped, I was dating a guy who put a lot of pressure on me to partake in certain sexual acts. He essentially forced me to give him oral sex – not physically, but by constantly nagging me about it and making me feel guilty for not wanting to do it. Eventually he made me feel so bad that I did it. This was technically my choice…but if he hadn’t pressured me I would not have done it. I realize now that this “not-rape” deeply upset me and violated me. But somehow, I did not break up with him. We continued dating, even after a major betrayal of trust, and then he had the gall to suggest that we have sex. At one point I thought that I was ready, but then I realized that I did not trust him after his dishonesty to me, and could not trust him. I told him this but he still pressured to me have sex with him when we were alone. Another red flag that I somehow missed. Thankfully, I did not go through with it and lose my virginity to someone whom I deeply mistrusted. But when I look back on these experiences, it is clear to me that the pressure he put on me deeply upset me and instilled a kind of fear and mistrust. And consequently, I dreamed my first dream of being raped.

One of my best friends has been raped. Hearing her story and seeing how it affects her has made rape very real for me. I know that it can happen and does happen, and this scares me. I would argue that my fear is very rational in this way.

Every time I am harassed on the street, every time a guy wants me to get drunk or high with him, and anytime I feel that my body is attracting unwanted attention I become enveloped in fear. Even something as simple as being hit on by a stranger scares me. I am afraid to talk to guys that I do not know, especially when I am alone. Don’t get me wrong – I know that all males are not the same. I strongly believe this and I know many guys who reject male dominance through violence. But when my harassment and “not-rape” experiences pile up, it is difficult for me to trust many men. Again, there are definite exceptions. But the fact remains that we live in a culture in which women – and others, as anyone can be a victim of rape – must live in fear of assault. And this is a major problem. Not only do we live in fear, but we are also afraid to tell our stories.

I should not have to feel this way. No one should. There are countless men who never report being raped because they cannot face the societal implications. Unreported rapes and “not-rapes” are almost more of an issue than actual reported rapes, because the legal definition is very exclusive. It is a blatant insult to humanity to assert that rape is not a problem. And anyone who denies the patriarchal foundation of our culture is living in ignorance.

But I digress. I have gained self-knowledge through this realization and my commitment to advocacy has only grown stronger. And this is only the beginning.

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