You are Not Broken

Trigger warning: rape, molestation, attempted murder. Party.

Before I get into anything else, I feel obligated to point out my own trauma privilege, for lack of a better phrase. As far as I know nobody has ever fucked me against my will. Part of that is the luck of the draw. It was more fulfilling for the people I was left with to punch me and tie me to furniture and choke me. The rest of that is maybe a personality thing. When adults tried to get handsy with me as a child, my reaction was violent and loud. Not good qualities in a potential victim. I realize, however much a person can realize this, how significant the difference between my mother’s boyfriend trying to murder me is to my experience than if he had tried to fuck me. I think a lot of that has to do with the weird way our culture feels about sex, and the unusual power we put on it because of our fear of it. However ridiculous, this is a real cultural phenomenon and I want to say that I recognize that.

I’ve been trying to write this damn blog post forever, but I can never seem to get the wording right. I either sound like I’m trying to downplay the impact of violent and sexual assault, or I’m bragging about my incredible constitution when really all I’m trying to do is address something that’s been bothering me in the way we talk about abuse and assault survivors.

Every time there’s a major rape, molestation or child abuse case in the news, I get really frustrated with the coverage of the victim. Well, I get really frustrated at the initial coverage that usually insinuates that the victim might have been asking for it, and in fact that women everywhere should maybe not be so slutty all the time, causing otherwise honorable dudes to completely lose their shit and rape us all. Or something. (Steubenville, I’m talking to you.) Then after that, I get really frustrated by the well meaning characterization of the victim as being totally, irreparably broken, never again able to feel the warmth of the sun on her face, or the incredibly soft fur of an adorable little puppy.

I’m so fucking tired of the only images of abuse and rape survivors being crying ladies in darkened interview rooms, carefully describing their terror for a “normal” audience at home.

Don’t get me wrong, this type of crime is a motherfucker. It’s not something you just get over, but it’s also something that you can get over in time. If someone victimizes you, that makes you a victim for the duration of that assault. After that, you’re whatever you want to be.

A recent CDC study found that Nearly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the U.S. have been raped at some time in their lives,” and that “nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men experienced sexual violence victimization other than rape at some point in their lives.” And that’s not even mentioning people like me who experienced violence but no sexual assault. For some perspective on those numbers, 1 out of every 50 people is a red head.

So why aren’t we all just crying in a corner and living off the nut check? Because you move on! Terrible things happen, and you are affected. There are bad days and good days, and triggers out here in the real world, but there’s also everything else. It’s not like my friends all want to go to the beach and I have to tell them no so I can stay home and think about my childhood.

My abuse started over 20 years ago, I’m done crying. I’m going to the damn beach. I got shit to do.

There’s a misogynistic expectation that assault only happens to women at the hands of men, that women are the only people weak enough to experience the bad effects of unwanted physical or sexual contact, and that once we have this experience the rest of our lives are stained with the mark of it. That’s bullshit.

Abuse happens to and effects all genders in every different sort of category available. It’s serious shit, but people are strong and resilient and we don’t have to let it define us if we don’t want it to. We aren’t broken.

2 Replies to “You are Not Broken

  1. The “1 in 71 men have been raped” stat from the CDC survey doesn’t tell the whole story. It defines “rape” as the attacker penetrating the victim, which excludes women who use their vagina to rape a man (rape by envelopment) which is counted as “made to penetrate”. The very same survey says “1 in 21 men (4.8%) reported that they were made to penetrate someone else,” which is far more than 1 in 71. Also, the study says that 79.2% of male victims of “made to penetrate” reported only female perpetrators, meaning they were raped by a woman.

    The above, lifetime stats do show a lower percentage of male victims (up to 1.4% rape by penetration + 4.8% made to penetrate = 6.2%) than female victims (18.3%) although it is far more than the 1 in 71 you stated. However, if you look at the report’s stats for the past 12 months, just as many number of men were “forced to penetrate” as women were raped, meaning that if you properly define “made to penetrate” as rape, men were raped as often as women.

    Here are additional studies that show a significant number of female rapists:

    1) This academic study of university students shows similar rates of victimization between men and women:
    Page 412 discusses the results for men and page 414 discusses the results for women. There’s a nice table here that presents the results of this study in a clearer way:

    2) Here’s another study regarding sexual coercion of university students:

    3) Here’s another study:
    The conclusion states, “the evidence presented here shows that as many as 7% of women self-report the use of physical force to obtain sex, 40% self-report sexual coercion, and over 50% self-report initiating sexual contact with a man while his judgment was impaired by drugs or alcohol”.

    Here are some stories from male victims:

    1. It kind of feels like you have this saved in a word doc that you just paste into the comments section of every relevant blog you can find. I mean, I’m flattered that you thought of my post as traffic worthy, but I think that the conversation can be better served than this.

      For example, while I did mention rape statistics, and while they are most definitely biased towards female victims, I’d argue that this is a symptom of the same cultural prudishness and inequality that marks assault and abuse survivors as broken in the first place.

      Therefore, this would be an excellent opportunity to talk about how this phenomenon of being ‘marked’ combines with our rigid definition of maleness and leads to a disproportionate suffering amongst men, especially men who have internalized the gender binary. Because, while male privilege seems to afford it’s citizens an advantage, really sexism hurts everyone in equal amounts. Men, in order to maintain cultural superiority have to live in ever tightening roles which constantly endanger their health and their life, while women and others are allowed, by virtue of our lower status to do basically whatever we want. Normally I would add ‘as long as we don’t challenge the patriarchy too hard,’ but even that’s starting to be something we can engage in without recourse while the straight white man burns in effigy for sins he didn’t commit but that he inherited completely by accident.

      I think that there are a lot of feminists who bristle when men begin to talk about their own rape statistics. It has been my first reaction as well. But that’s not how this should be addressed. Rather than shouting statistics and studies at each other, pointing the rape finger, we all need to work together in this shitty rape culture that allows this to keep happening even as we fight each other to claim the most damage

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