Being a rape survivor
20 January, 2012 § 11 Comments
Hi everyone. I’m Ben Lehman. I’m a rape survivor. I was raped by my maternal grandparents and some of their accomplices multiple times between the ages of 4 and 10, in a systematic and calculated way. Resulting from this, I have PTSD and chronic mono-polar depression.
I want to talk about rape in this space, and the really fucked up way that our culture deals with it, so it behooves me to talk about my own experiences as a rape survivor. There are two reasons that it so behooves me: one good, and one bad.
The good one is that I want to talk about theories and structure of rape as a personal crime, a social institution, and a cultural concept, and thus in the interests of honesty I should be clear about my own experiences so that we can analyze and discuss how my own experiences have led to my ideas about rape, as well as biased my views about rape.
This is important, and I want to come back to this over the course this discussion, which I’m hoping will be ongoing. I’d really love to have an audience willing to go “ok, Ben, but you’re biased because of your experience in such-and-such a way” because, lord knows, I’m not going to see all my own bias.
The bad reason is that, because I am not the ideal rape survivor, I need to use my own experiences to justify my privilege to talk about rape at all. We have a cultural tendency to question, doubt, and undermine rape survivors who don’t fit our ideal (young but sexually mature, female, pretty, virginal, “broken” by the experience, depressed by not acting out violently, white, attacked with force by a stranger). I meet some of these, but not others, and thus I’m pretty consistently belittled and dismissed in discussions about rape. This has happened to me so consistently, and so many times, that I now feel like I have to prophylactically but my “talking about rape credentials” forward before I can even begin to discuss it.
To be clear, this is bullshit. Rape is a human problem, and a widespread one. Everyone, from every society and in every class of our society, has skin in the game about rape. Even if you are not a victim or a perpetrator, chances are very high that you know someone who is one or both. Even if, by some miracle of statistics, you don’t know anyone immediately affected by rape, you are no less deserving to talk about it, because you have likely been threatened with rape. The threat of rape is used widely throughout our society as a means of enforcing gender, racial, and social norms, and I find it hard to imagine someone living today who has not experienced threats of rape to “keep them in line” somehow.
I want to use this space, in the future, to talk about this. But first I want to make sure it’s okay to talk about. First let me show you my credentials, and yours. This is a place where everyone gets the right to talk about rape, the right to be right or wrong about it.