I don’t know to whom to address this note. I am a twenty-five year old straight white cisgendered female and I am sick of feeling hopeless. Most days I can go through my day and ignore the truth, but then there are days where I watch something or read something and it throws off my whole day. Today it was “Til it Happens to You” by Lady Gaga who paired up with Hunting Ground which was a film about rape and sexual assault on USA college campuses. To see “worthless” written on that woman’s arm in the video is to remember how it feels to be powerless and helpless on the subway when some guy is rubbing against you and you don’t know what to do. It is a slap in the face and then icy numbness and disconnect because you know that when you reach out for understanding and empathy you’re going to find nothing.
I remember undergraduate and being teased/laughed at/belittled by a friend because I asked him to walk me somewhere at night because I was afraid of being raped. “Everything always ends in rape for you” he said to me. Yes, it does. I am lucky because I have ONLY been harassed. I have only had my ass slapped. I have only had one guy pull out his dick and masturbate to me on the subway. I have only been rubbed up against once in the subway. I have only been street harassed. I was not one of the one in five women who are sexually assaulted in college, but I have been coerced into having sex when I didn’t want it by a partner and I have been objectified and leered at and felt small and vulnerable.
I feel scraped out by the knowledge that a high percentage of rapists do not think they have done anything wrong, do not even know/consider what they did rape. That what I am wearing right now – fully professional – could be twisted into a reason for I am hollowed out knowing that my fears are funny and stupid, or just completely unfathomable to the majority of the population from which I will be selecting my future life partner. How many times have I tried to explain these fears and phantom pains to a male and been rebuffed either by callous disregard or angry rebuttal because he is not a rapist? Too many. Those reactions stop us from talking which means the other side cannot ever hope to understand or empathize.
So please, know that when I tell you I am scared, when I worry about going out at night, when I tug at my skirt, or cry about being harassed, I am not looking for you to take the blame. I am not asking you to end sexism and rape culture or find the person and lay down a beating. I want you to ask me if I am okay, to ask me if I want to talk about and, if I say yes, to then actually listen to me. I want you to ask me if I need a hug and, if I say yes, hold me as long as I need it. I am not attacking you. I am asking for empathy and care. So know that this is not about you, it is about me. Shelve your reflexive, knee-jerk defense of “it wasn’t me” and “I don’t do that” to ask me if I am okay and to hold space for me. You can’t fix this, but you can help me feel safer for a minute or two and give me hope.