Tuesday, June 3, 2014

XXI

I usually don't group blog posts so close together chronologically because I simply don't have time most days. However, something caught my attention today that I want to write about: rape culture. I addressed this in a previous post, but like it has been for so long, the "rape culture" is still an issue. After Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old who went on a stabbing rampage after reportedly suffering too many rejections from women he wanted to date, a hashtag on Twitter (#yesallwomen) gained popularity and is still trending today. Unfortunately, most men that have responded to this hashtag make it into a joke and brand the majority of their gender as sadistic animals that will take what they can from women, and laugh about it. Rape is NOT a joke. I honestly don't know HOW many times I have to say it for the truth to sink in: I'll fight it until it goes away, and if that means until I die and pass the torch to someone else, then so be it.

Rape culture is telling a boy it's okay to feel the way he's feeling; it's the girl that needs to "cover up" or dress less like a "slut". Rape culture means guys in my class joking about "double negatives" when a girl says "no" twice (she shouldn't have to say it TWICE). Rape culture means telling someone who has been genuinely violated and assaulted that it was their fault, that somehow they lack value for being stripped of their dignity by force.

 I shouldn't be stared at like I am a zoo animal for going out in short shorts and a tank top. I shouldn't be told I'm asking for it when I go out in a dress, that, by the way, comes just above my knee and doesn't reveal cleavage (I shouldn't have to explain that, either). I shouldn't be asked by my own father if I "did something" to encourage the catcalls and whistles. This is what the #yesallwomen hashtag is about: changing the worldwide perception of how men should treat women.

The truth is that while I have an amazing man I'm proud to call my boyfriend, I consider him to be a "luxury". I don't mean that I'm objectifying him: out of all six guys I've dated in the past, he's the only man I've dated. The way he treats me shouldn't be such a rare thing, but it is. Today's "rape culture" has most boys convinced that women are sex objects. If you do one thing today, make a trip to Twitter and read through the #yesallwomen hashtag.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

XX

Wow. I can't believe I've reached the twentieth post already. It's been a really tough journey from the beginning of my ordeal with Theo until now. These past few months have been incredibly difficult, as if I'm going through some regression in healing. Sometimes it feels like old wounds are so easily opened up with the most trivial and insignificant things, and it leaves me feeling vulnerable and alone, like I need to hold on to someone or something to save myself from drowning in crippling trauma. I find myself slipping into that dark chasm of fear, anger and regret more often than not and have to constantly remind myself that these scars will not go away or heal easily. In fact, they may never heal.

 Some time last week, I was gripped by the worst anxiety attack I have ever experienced. My heart was pounding, my chest was tight and I couldn't breathe. My thoughts were racing, I was nearly in tears as my mind ran out of my control. My boyfriend, Tanner, happened to come visit while I was in the middle of the hellish episode. I couldn't articulate what was going on: couldn't verbalize the destructive panic tearing me to pieces. Usually I had been able to physically talk myself out of the episode, tell myself all the good things I had going for myself and crush the irrational thoughts as they grew, but not this time. I'd lost control, and I was pathetically trying to pretend, to no avail, that there was nothing wrong. I had to be strong for my son, for Tanner, but the act shattered within minutes of Tanner's arrival. He was unconditionally patient for a good portion of an hour, but, as some of you may know, it's no easy task to try and talk logic to someone who is paralyzed and so far gone like I was. I kept dwelling on the awful things Theo made me do and everything I'd struggled with during my time in Washington. Tanner finally lost his patience and asked me if I would ever face the anxiety; if it would be him, me and Theo for the rest of our lives. It sent me over the edge, which is what we both needed to snap back to reality and realize that it was just us and my beautiful son--the child who is practically Tanner's own.

Although harsh, his words got me thinking. I bitterly regretted falling that far, losing my mind to panic, even though it was mostly out of my control. A few days later, I found a sign that reaffirmed Tanner's guiding words: a rubber bracelet engraved with the word "survivor". I put it on and wore it, knowing in that moment that the rape and sexual trauma I experienced will always be a part of me, but I don't have to let it define me. The word "victim" now seems so weak. I know there are women out there who are fighters, survivors: I've met people who had gone through similar or worse experiences: all over the spectrum, just trying to survive and pick up the pieces. We all lay claim to the Phoenix inside us: living and dying in the fire of what happened to us, each time growing stronger and more glorious than before--a truly marvelous transformation. Whatever we have to do to survive, we do: we fall only to rise again.

Monday, February 17, 2014

XVIX

Rape is an incredibly traumatizing event to anyone and shouldn't be joked about. I wanted to expand on this topic, as I introduced it in my earlier post. I am fully aware of modern culture and how it breeds the opinion that rape can actually be funny: but those who have survived through it know differently.
 
I take classes at my local community college as I hope to become a paralegal and one day, a lawyer. There are several excellent professors and I enjoy taking classes from them. However, I want to address one disturbing event that happened in my Evidence class.

My professor was lecturing us on the rules of evidence, which I find incredibly fascinating, but after a tough week of recurring nightmares and flashbacks, this particular class was the last lecture I wanted to hear: Rape Shield Laws and related topics. There was virtually no warning as we launched into the discussion. For the most part, it was unbiased and sensitive towards rape victims. The lecture gradually shifted towards the problems of filing charges against rapists in civil court (where you're entitled to monetary compensation), versus the smarter option of a criminal court.

Now, I understand that there are women out there--a small minority, mind you--that cry rape to get out of prostitution charges (just an example) or simply do it out of malice and greed. But everyone who's been through something like what I have knows that most people that bring charges against their rapist are bravely doing so, to put him behind bars: not for money. With this said, you can understand why the next question from my professor's mouth stunned me beyond words. He began actually joking about being "raped for money" and even asked the class if that was something we would even think of--still cracking jokes. What disgusted me even more is that the class joined in--I had to conceal my anger when someone said "depends on who it is". Upset past the point of saying anything, I stayed silent, but now I know that was a mistake.
 
Trivializing something as serious as rape through a joke is not only insensitive but inappropriate. As a victim of rape I found some of the professor’s remarks to be callous towards anyone who has experienced what I have--or worse. I was not attacked in an alley by knife or gunpoint; I was not fondled or otherwise sexually assaulted by a family member or raped by a stranger while I was passed out drunk. I am a victim of sexual and psychological abuse, from someone I once considered my boyfriend.

This monster stripped me of my virginity and innocence and denied me any chance of having a normal life. I was raped in public bathrooms, forced to give him oral sex. He made me grab his genitals in public while several members of the general public had turned away. He treated me like nothing more than a sex toy on a leash. I could call him possessive and controlling but that would be a grievous understatement.

Let me ask you the question my professor posed, with a grin on his face, to the students in his evidence class. Would you get raped for money? Put yourself in my shoes: laying half asleep in a soaking wet tent, when all of a sudden, a man so much stronger than you climbs on top of you and attempts to anally rape you. But the horror doesn’t end there: you turn over to stop it and you find this man masturbating over you, and you try to get away, but can’t, trapped there until your attacker reaches orgasm and ejaculates all over your breasts and face, making you swallow his sperm. He makes you swallow every time he forces you to suck on his penis, in fact. Would you go through any of that for money?
 
For several days I have thought about the subject and how to best write something about it without sounding like I'm ranting and raving, repeating what we all know but forget or disregard. Rape is not a joking matter, and no one should ever joke about the devastating, life-shattering violation that so many women and men endure every year.

When people joke about rape like it is something trivial or something they can exploit in media for entertainment and not education, it makes me feel victimized yet again. I also felt that I was wrong in experiencing those emotions: was I too sensitive or reading into it too much, and by feeling victimized, was I letting my victimization get too far under my skin? After much consideration I realized that this was also a facet of modern culture's view on rape. Do we constantly have to be worried about being viewed as so sensitive and vulnerable, so lacking in strength? We are survivors and warriors, constantly fighting an uphill battle with not only society but our own minds.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

XVIII

I have never been one to want to admit that the ordeal I went through "got to me" or left deep, ragged scars in my mind. It's been almost two years since I left Washington and was raped and abused by Theo Keyes. I can hardly bring myself to call him a man because he only is one in the loosest sense of the word. Human being would even be too kind. Lately, the horrors he forced me to go through have replayed themselves whenever I lay down to sleep. This past weekend, the thought of dreaming terrified me. I would see his face again and feel what it was like to be violated--over and over in graphic detail. Already emotionally drained from other personal issues, Sunday, February 2nd, was my breaking point.

In a completely unrelated event, I burned myself cooking, and it was the last straw for me. My wonderful boyfriend, Tanner, was over and I ran upstairs to conceal already flowing tears. After a rather long cry session, I tried cleaning myself up in the bathroom and used a makeup remover that had the consistency of lotion. This is where I had possibly the worst flashback to my days in Washington.

During one of my frequent periods of homelessness in Bellingham, Theo had demanded that I had sex with him. Once again, because I was too sore to have actual intercourse, I was forced to give him oral. Before he reached orgasm, he pulled away and began playing with himself above me, ejaculating all over my face and chest. The only thing I remember is feeling something hot and slimy splattering me in my eye. I remember wiping it off and having my eye swell almost to the point of closing. Theo did not apologize or even ask me if it was okay to bathe me in his sperm beforehand.

 While experiencing this in my head, I tried getting the lotion off my eyes as quickly as possible, but the damage was already done. I was almost in hysterics--breathing to the point of hyperventilation and crying loud enough for my dad to come into the bathroom and give me a hug. He reminded me of my son, who just turned 1, and all the other wonderful things I have going on in my life. It provided temporary solace and reminded me that I am truly blessed to have a support system like my family and my boyfriend.

Writing about my experiences seems to both help and hurt at the same time. I maintain a Twitter account (@heatherfisher19) where many times, I have voiced my opinion on rape and the culture that breeds the opinion that rape is a joking matter. Anybody with this train of thought is ignorant and should turn their attention to blogs and stories like this to re-educate themselves. My situation, in comparison to others, is probably much less damaging than others who have been raped or sexually assaulted. I know that through the pain of writing this, I will hopefully reach other people who are struggling to survive with the harsh reality of their situation so we can all bond together for support.