If you are lucky enough to not be 1 of 6 women who experienced it (nor 1 in 33 men), you may wonder why rape is coming up so much now. You might wonder why women are speaking up about something so painful. Why, after all these years? Why some of us now have no qualms talking about our experiences in public but we didn’t even tell our closest friends at the time. Here is your answer.
Years ago, many of us who were assaulted stayed quiet because we thought we all stayed quiet. We didn’t know there was another way. I’m sure you cringed when Weinstein said it was a different time and sex was different. I do more than cringe at that. Not because it’s a lie. Because it’s true. It was a different time, when monsters thought it was just “the way it was” and they could treat women like a worn-out sock and many women (myself included) thought it was just “the way it was” and if I wanted to survive in this world, I couldn’t be a wimp about the slings and arrows that came with it.
Those of us who suffered in silence were trained by life to let it go. Let that sink in. We were trained by life to let one of the most horrible actions you can do to another person just be a memory we file away as a mere addition to life’s lessons.
And I do want to pause here to say it’s not just women. I do remember a few very specific occasions where young men I met stumbled through their early career trying to find a road map to success and got road blocked by one single man in power, one single night that started with hope and ended in violence. And it is crushing no matter gender to see another person dealing with the repercussions of rape. And it is soul crushing to see the surrender to silence.
I dealt with my rape in waves. I didn’t use the word “rape” for about a decade. Even knowing better now, I still look at my rape with a different lens every day, sometimes with clarity, sometimes with the fog of self-doubt and shame. And I mistakenly looked at later harassment as such a tiny crime compared to the initial assault. I hate to say my rape prepared me for Hollywood, but a lot of “armor” we go into the industry with becomes one of the vulnerabilities that pull us out. I used my rape as a ruler against the varying levels of harassment and assault I experienced and saw as an aspiring actor and writer. And this was maybe the mistake in my life I regret most. Because the silence of my rape became silence about rape culture, the culture that allows a man like Harvey Weinstein to do what he does for decades without repercussion.
All my time in Hollywood, I was part of the problem because I was quiet. I make no excuses now. Now I am fully aware that my silence played a part in the cycle. I didn’t tell people about my rape and I laughed off harassment. I dealt with Weinstein-like propositions from lesser power players like bad dates. Sometimes I took the bait. Sometimes I didn’t. And I simply powered through the times it felt a little too much like my rape. And I was proud of my silence on a very base level. I was proud that I took the pain and internalized it. And I was a ticking time bomb because of it.
God. Sitting here writing this, I think this all is before I turned 25. The early/mid 90’s. You know, a little around the “dinosaur” times. That youth and my naiveté was what those men preyed on. I didn’t start learning about options until much later in life mainly because I didn’t talk about it. And the few times I did, I was told I couldn’t do anything about it.
Now to what led me to talk about it.
As I got older and my friends got older, assault was an occasional part of “girl talk.” Because unlike what men may think, girl talk is not always giggly conversation. We talk about the bull shit we deal with daily and either work through it or find a way to laugh off the tension of being a woman. Spend your walks to your car with your keys between your fingers and tell me your girl talk is just about how sexy Ryan Gosling is. The only time I have consciously avoided the topic is around men. Rape wasn’t something I brought up in mixed company because I knew most men in the conversation couldn’t handle it. And again, let that sink in. I didn’t talk about my rape to spare the discomfort of men.
So why talk to all the men now? Why do I talk about my rape to men I don’t even know? Because a few women spoke up and I saw how it empowered us. Now I see that by being vocal, I can take all those moments I want to change in my life and change them for someone else.
We live among rapists. And we need to make that known. To young women and men who need to know if it happens to them or someone they love, they can speak up.
And I don’t want anyone to think this is just Hollywood. You can say it’s a problem “over there” or “in that industry” and you’d be right. But it’s here, too. Your “here.” In the time you read this, three people were sexually assaulted. Not harassed. Not catcalled. That’s in the hundreds or thousands, I’m sure. I want to be clear. Three people were physically attacked by a predator in the last 5 minutes.
If you ask why we speak now, it’s because we couldn’t take it anymore. We couldn’t watch more women suffer in silence with us as example.
And if you know why we speak now and you want to be part of that voice, please find your local rape crisis center. So many organizations are out there for you from emotional processing to criminal prosecution. We are not where we want to be, but our collective voice gets us closer every time. Together, the monsters will be exposed and those of us who suffered will find closure, or at the very least comfort in solidarity.