I Have Nothing More to Say About Rape
I’m sick of trotting out the details of my assault to try and enlighten other people.
TW: Sexual Assault, Victim Blaming
I wrote about assault when Kesha’s song “Praying” came out. I wrote about assault when Terry Crews reported his groping. I wrote about assault when I got in touch with my abuser’s most recent victim, and traded war stories with them and was shaken and disturbed by how much his violence had escalated. I wrote about assault when the Aziz Ansari accusations came to light and countless people wanted to tear “Grace” apart. I wrote about assault when Al Franken was accused.
I wrote about assault whenever a woman told me that I needed to toughen up. I wrote about assault when people wrung their hands over rapists facing consequences. I wrote about assault when a prominent University in my area attempted to discourage the use of trigger warnings in classrooms. I wrote about assault while a student of mine was in the midst of pressing charges against their rapist. I wrote about assault when I realized a man who raped me had died.
I wrote about assault when I received hate mail for writing about assault. I wrote about assault when people demanded that I recount my own experiences in greater detail, demanding that I “prove” I had been assaulted. I wrote about assault when I remembered an encounter with a much older friend, who had made me feel terrified without ever realizing it. I wrote about assault when the Weinstein accusations reached a fever pitch. I wrote about assault when I realized one of my favorite directors looked the other way every time Weinstein’s attacks happened.
I wrote about assault in my fiction and nonfiction and in blog posts and in Facebook posts and in Twitter threads. I talked about assault with friends and annoying, bloviating guys who thought they were my friends. I wrote about assault every single time a new high-profile accusation came to light, and every time a backlash inevitably followed. I wrote about assault each time someone told me they were so stunned to hear just how bad my abuser had been, with a tone that sometimes implied they didn’t believe all of it, because they couldn’t see it.
I wrote about assault in the comments. In the threads. In private messages. In DMs. I talked about assault over vodka cranberry juice. I listened to a guy ponder whether or not he had ever assaulted somebody while we ate tater tots and drank Shocktop. I wrote about assault on my Tumblr. I told my family about my assault. I told two therapists about my assault. When one of my therapists was dismissive and told me that I should stop ruminating and should just try to wash the dishes more fucking mindfully, I wrote about assault and kept writing about it.
I have written so much about assault. I have unpacked so many traumas, trotted out so many gruesome details. People have called me all kinds of encouraging and discouraging and dismissive and condescending and genuinely loving things. Hundreds of thousands of people have read my writing. Hundreds upon hundreds have commented, asked questions, sent emails.
I am not sure any of it did a lick of good. I’m not sure I can keep doing it. I’m not sure I have another fucking thing to say to an audience that will not learn and will not stop demanding that I share more while also attacking me for anything that I do share.
I wanted to write something about assault in light of the Kavanaugh accusation, but I can’t seem to do it. It’s not for want of a new angle — I can always find some way to make meaning. I am good at unspooling words. The problem is my will, and my faith.
Every attempt at discussing assault that I have made has resulted in me receiving insults, probing questions, invasive remarks, misgendering comments, and condescension. I engage, sometimes, with the people who seem genuinely confused, but often they rapidly reveal themselves to have been playing dumb as a rhetorical device. I push back when someone says hateful, ignorant things, but it never seems to make an impact on the person’s future willingness to be hateful. When someone challenges me or other survivors, I marshal evidence and reason to the front lines of the battlefield, only to find that my opponent has turned tail and run off to their own camp, to revel in a victory that they seem to actually believe occurred.
I’m weary. I am filled with contempt.
And it’s not just the ill-intentioned ones who leave me broken down. Sometimes it is the people who think they are on my side, too. The feminist women, usually white ones, who refuse to honor my gender identity, and refuse to acknowledge the ways in which they might be complicit in the abuse of other people. The men who want to provide helpful advice for how I could have avoided rape nine years ago. The distraught fathers desperate for suggestions as to how I can prevent their children from ever being harmed. The survivors who are stronger than me, or perhaps just more brittle, who are insistent that it would be for the best if I would just grow a fucking spine. The despondent victims who want me to read long, disturbingly detailed accounts of their assaults, who need a therapist and a support group but would prefer to turn my inbox into one.
I keep trying to give what I can. But I’m running out of things to give.
Is there some detail of my assault that I could share that would make Christine Blasey Ford’s doubters pause for one fucking second and consider that they are not the central fount of human knowledge about what consent and violation are like? Is there a way that I could explain sexual coercion that would convince the blessedly ignorant that it is a process that actually occurs? Can I write about my rape(s) convincingly enough that someone, anyone, just one guy out there somewhere in the comments section, will be brought to fucking heel?
I have tried, I really have tried. I’ve explained what it’s like to dissociate during trauma, I’ve illustrated how a coercive person can wear your reserves down, I’ve explained that an assault begins as soon as someone makes it plain that your consent does not matter to them, I’ve mentioned the specific acts that have been done to me or which have been coerced out of me, and I’ve talked about what it’s like to be shattered and triggered in the wake of such experiences. I’ve tried to make the connections to current day events as clearly and explicitly as I possibly could. And so have thousands of other writers who have survived similar events.
And we are still here. Louis CK and Aziz Ansari are back on tour, Charlie Rose is getting a new show, another rapist may end up on the Supreme Court, and every legacy publication of note has run at least one article about the extravagant prejudice of the #MeToo movement.
The good times were so brief. I thought people wanted to listen. I was willing to lay myself bare to make listening easier. All I got out of it was a lot of annoying, entitled emails and a ton of secondary trauma and the ache of trying to carry a responsibility too heavy for my hollow shoulders.
I cannot fix this. I can’t make anybody listen. It was naive and grandiose to think I could.
But I still wish I had more details to unpack. I wish I had more to say. Maybe if I did, it would somehow be the magic thing to make somebody out there grow a fucking spine or a heart.
But I’m out of things to say about rape. And nobody out there is entitled to a single additional fucking syllable from me.