V-Day

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.  Many people will be celebrating with their loved ones, giving and receiving candy and flowers, and feeling generally warm and fuzzy.  While part of me would love to join in on the love fest, I have decided to write about the other date that falls on February 14th - V-Day.  For those of you who have never heard of this, V-Day is a global activist movement to end violence against women and girls inspired by Eve Ensler’s play, The Vagina Monologues.

Critics of V-Day are angry that there are people who want to talk about Domestic Violence on a day that is supposed to be about relationships and love.  To them I say – until domestic violence is no longer tied to “relationships” and “love”, I will continue to talk about it.  I think Valentines Day is the perfect day to talk about this issue.  It is a time when women and men should examine love and relationships and either cherish having found a man who isn’t abusive, plan on how to escape an abusive relationship, or try and help someone who is being abused.

So for my V-Day blog post, I am going to tell one woman’s story of abuse as a tribute to this day.
(Note:  The man in this story is NOT Luc)
“Mr. GQ” and the loss of innocence:

I remember the first time I saw him, he looked like he had walked right out of a GQ magazine.  He was tall, dark, handsome, and very well dressed.  I had arrived at the party early and the only person I knew hadn’t arrived yet.  Though I was super confident, I was also shy around guys.  I was 22, had just graduated from college, and only recently moved away from my entire family.  While I had dated in college, I was still a virgin.  I was waiting for “Mr. Right” or “Prince Charming”.  I still believed in fairytale romance and hoped to one day be swept off of my feet.
Mr. GQ flashed me a smile from across the room.  Initially I looked behind me because I thought he most certainly couldn’t have been looking at me.  A few minutes later, he was standing in front of me asking me for my number.  Over the course of a couple weeks, we went out on several dates and things seemed to be going pretty well.  I told him I wasn’t interested in sex before marriage and to my surprise he seemed cool with that.  One day, he invited me over to his place to watch a movie to which I accepted without a second thought.
Upon arrival, he led me into his bedroom.  I remember asking him why we couldn’t just watch the movie in the den like normal people.  He made up some excuse about the main television being broken and having an annoying housemate.   A couple of minutes after the movie started, he handed me a drink.  Things went south quickly as he moved to taking off my clothes.  I protested and reminded him that I didn’t want to have sex with him.  He told me to be quiet and that it would be over quickly.
I remember feeling confused and scared.  Why didn’t I feel normal?  I felt like I was fighting to remain conscious and I kept blacking out.  Was there something in the drink?  As he forced himself on top of me, he didn’t care that I was pushing him off trying to make it stop nor did he care that I continued to say no.  I felt like a rag doll and he looked like a robot on auto pilot.  After it was over, I was in shock.  I felt dizzy and wondered if this was really happening or if I was going to wake up from this nightmare.
I never called him again.  I went through the next several months wondering if I was still a virgin or whether I could even call that rape since I had agreed to go into his bedroom.  I chose not to report it, because I knew that it would come down to my word against his and I had gone to his room willingly.
The Aftermath:
The woman in the story was 22 year old Cappuccino Queen.  I was raped the first time I had sex.  I don’t talk about my first time, nor do I look upon it with the same fondness that I imagine some women who planned it might.  Until recently, I didn’t even want to consider what happened to me as rape.
Ever since my son died, many people have told me how strong I am.  I wasn’t strong as a 22 year old woman.  I was scared and I let a rapist go free to rape others because I was too afraid to report it.
Almost ten years later, I met Luc (a different guy that Mr. GQ and clearly even worse).  After having lived through such a terrible experience in my 20′s with Mr. GQ, I believed that maybe I had just met someone nice and charming who was actually Prince Charming.  Right after I had Prince, this man I had believed was my Prince Charming (Luc) raped my 19 year old sister.  After learning what he did to her, I wanted my sister to report it.  I didn’t want her to feel the shame that I feel now – ten years from now.  After my sister reported the rape, however, I learned a very scary and painful lesson.  Unless a man jumps out of the bushes with a ski mask on, beats you to a pulp, and its all caught on a retail surveillance camera, you will be lucky if the rapist sees any jail time – you will be lucky if it isn’t turned on you.
Having been a victim myself of this violent crime, I am here to tell you that women don’t report rape for the hell of it – out of anger – or for revenge.  Rape is not a black and white issue and not all rapists jump out of bushes with ski masks.  It takes a very strong woman to admit that she has been raped and EVERY report needs to be taken seriously.  In our country, criminals receive the benefit of innocence until they are proven guilty.  When it comes to rape, that often means the victim is seen as guilty until proven innocent.
Recently, the Washington Post reported about what happened to me and my sister after my sister tried to remove the man who raped her from the streets.  I am certain that instead of being appalled at what occurred, at least one person commented on the article about how awful it is when women report rape falsely.  I am willing to bet that people who jump to the conclusion that the report was false have been in situations themselves where they have committed acts of violence against women.  These people fight fervently to make it seem as if women run around the streets crying rape at the drop of a hat.  This just doesn’t happen.
The man who raped my sister was not an innocent man.  Having potentially escaped the law in several murders, and then after raping a woman not even half his age, he became emboldened.  He felt above the law because he had been.  Then, he went on to kill an innocent child for money.  I can almost guarantee that the police officers who didn’t want to believe this man could possibly be a rapist have still not learned their lessons.  I am willing to bet that these same officers will continue to charge victims and allow criminals who commit acts of sexual violence to walk free.  They will do this because our system allows it and  encourages it.  When  a victim is further victimized by the system – authorities are never punished for getting it wrong.  In fact, the officer who arrested my sister after my sister had been raped was promoted soon after.
This week – I encourage you to celebrate love and cherish healthy relationships.  While you’re receiving flowers and chocolates, however, please also think about the work that still needs to be done in this country before women are truly equal and before we are all truly free.