40: change

I love my roommate — everything about her is great. She’s happy, peppy, friendly, genuine, warm and funny. And when I feel like crap, she makes me ginger tea.

Naturally I like it when I notice that I share qualities with those I like and respect. But when me and my roommate’s periods synced today, I wasn’t happy. It’s cute that our pheromones reacted to each other, but as I sat at my desk this morning clutching my mouse with one hand and the chair handle with the other, I felt like Mother Nature was kicking me mercilessly in the stomach.

So I ran all the way home (ok, my fatass rode the train, actually), to meatballs and spaghetti takeout from the local diner and my roomie’s ginger tea.

Later, I sat cloaked in my hoodie on her chair, with mug still in hand, and watched her get ready for a date. She wore a black shirt with the bright-red Banana Republic skirt I gave her on my first week here. šŸ™‚ Cute. She looked dam classy — not just classy, but dam classy — my favorite look. That guy’s dam lucky, I thought.

After she closed the door behind her, I lay in my bed and did a little work. My thoughts began to drift, though, and soon I started surfing the Net. I googled “menstrual synchrony,” and one thing led to another, and suddenly I was reading a Q-and-A column, in which girls kept asking questions int he same format: “Dear Claire, This and this happened … was I raped?”

I knew the answers before I read them, but I read them anyway, just to see how the expert phrased them. It’s important how you phrase them, and it takes certain words to ring truth to sensitive ears. And those victims, whether they know it or not, are very sensitive.

After it happens to them, they look for signs. Constantly. Was it my fault? Was it not. Could I have done something? Should I blame him? Who am I? What am I doing? Where is my self-respect? They look for answers to their innermost questions, and everything is a question. And everything can be an answer. If they perceive their suspicions that it’s their fault to be the truth, they crash inwardly. And stumble externally, punishing themselves over and over again, whether they realize they’re doing it or not.

If they perceive the answer to be “No, it’s not your fault,” a tiny seed of hope is planted in their hearts. I can get better. I can forgive him and move on with my life.

And that’s all they want — their life back, before he robbed them of it.

It’s quite a sad story, all their stories, and Claire phrases her answers gently. “Many people will tell you many things, but I will give you definitions and let you make up your own mind.” She proceeds to define rape, to explain that there are many reasons why victims might not fight it physically, that no never means yes and that silence doesn’t mean yes either. And finally, she concludes, “By the New York State law definitions, it looks like your boyfriend’s/dad’s/best friend’s/date’s actions match what is considered rape.”

Amen, Claire.

If it’s time for a change, then it’s time that rape victims stopped carrying all that guilt on their own shoulders, stopped feeling ashamed of what happened to them and stopped blaming themselves forever. There is NOTHING to be ashamed of! Instead, they need to understand that they are strong for going through what they did, because it’s not easy. Not easy lying there, not easy living through it then and afterward again and again, knowing what happened, dealing with the guilt that the guy and even friends, who feel uncomfortable not knowing how to discuss this, pile on afterward.

But the only way they can get there is this: support. And the only way to get support is to educate everyone else about rape and how commonplace it has become.

It’s time the word is out, because as a humane society, we owe the victims support. First, support from those who know what rape victims go through and the common mindset that follows, and support from those closest to them. It’s important for victims’ healing process, and so they can stop being scared and start speaking out against what boys often do behind closed doors.

My biggest regret is not going to the police. I could have nailed the bastard because I still had bruises that could have served as evidence. But I didn’t. Why? Because I was afraid of what my parents would say, what my sister and my friends would think. And I was afraid that maybe it was my fault after all. And I blamed myself for years about it before finally finding a person who could help me through it and then hearing others’ stories and realizing how similar they were to my own. And finally I was there: I understood that it had never been our fault at all.

For a society that supports equal rights for all and wants the best for its women, we’ve come pretty far: We’re now able to choose from a variety of careers and receive fair pay. But we also have a right to fair treatment from men, and when we don’t get it from them, we have a right to get vindicated. And for that, we have a long way to go.

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About tali2

I am a recent grad of the wonderful English major. Though I don't regret studying English one bit, I realize why my teachers, parents, friends, and imaginary mentors warned me against it: Because it leads you nowhere. But it did give me great writing skills which I hope to continue honing in this blog as I chronicle the tribulations of the terrible job hunt in the terrible job market of NYC. And I hope that my blog reminds fellow unemployed recent grads that you are not alone, inspires some hope within us, while presenting a snapshot of our lives to others who do not share the same self-imposed troubles.
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