Revolution #277, August 12, 2012

¡Goodbye Shame!

The following was first published at and is being reprinted with permission of the author:

I am angry, but I am done with the shame. I did nothing wrong. There is nothing I did that made it happen. There is nothing I could have done to prevent it. I am done with the shame. I have spent my entire life blaming myself, and finally I am done.

At just 7 years of age I experienced a series of sexual assaults in which I was forcibly restrained and molested, given a cookie to keep quiet each time. I still turn down cookies to this day.

At 14, I was taken advantage of by an older friend who I trusted, they made me feel dirty. I blamed myself for both of these tragedies; playing back the assaults in my mind mining for mistakes I must have made. I learned to not trust males, especially older men.

On my 15th birthday I told myself I was bigger, nobody could hurt me, and that the past was behind me. At this point I began to say that I no longer blamed myself but every night I still laid awake, wondering what I did wrong, what I could have done differently.

Throughout this whole period, I was confronted daily with the realities of this society. Whether an aggressive demand for my phone number, an unwanted groping, or a lewd comment about my body, it all felt the same, it all felt wrong, and it all gave me shame. But I reassured myself that these daily shame fests were the only alternative to the helplessness of the physical assaults I had endured.

I’m now 16, and earlier this year I (yet again) was violently assaulted. I was invited to a college party, accepted, and attended with excitement for such an experience which was sure to be cooler than the weekend of any of my high school peers. I went with a friend and we were in joking around about all the drunken idiots at the party. He invited me back to his dorm where I could wait for my ride in peace. I declined though, since after all, my ride was on its way, and I am very careful about trusting males. I was still sitting on the counter when the door tore open. “Oh! I was just leaving” I explained with a smile attempting to vacate the premises before getting puked on. Everybody was really drunk, but he wasn’t, he knew what he was doing. He wouldn’t let me past though. He shut the door, put a finger to his mouth, and that’s when I knew...

By this point I knew the routine. I didn’t even bother to scream, nobody had ever heard me anyway, so I just cried. Tears rolled down my face and the phrase blared in my mind, “What if I had just left with my friend? What if I had worn looser pants?” I was blaming myself as I was being raped. Shame filled my mind, my heart, and my soul.

It took me a while to really process what happened to me, and when I finally did I was blaming myself. Why didn’t I scream? Why didn’t I try to stop it? What was I doing at a college party? And what was I doing wearing what I was? If I didn’t fight back was it rape? Why was my 7-year-old self willing to fight, but not nine years later?

There was only one person who I had originally told about this last assault, and they were really important to my healing. When I told them these questions, the look on their face helped me to realize that what happened to me was not OK. What happens to women every day is not OK. Not logically. Not ethically. Not morally. It’s not OK in any way. It’s so horrible and without rationale that along with other victims, I searched for one. It was really difficult for me to accept all the atrocities that happened to me without reason, so for a long time I blamed myself. I am saying it now, and finally I believe it: WHAT HAPPENED TO ME WAS NOT MY FAULT. There is a reason though, a reason that many people ignore, and that reason is simply our culture. We are to blame our rapists and the culture that creates more.

Our capitalist culture of constant commodification creates rapists through the corporate controlled media displaying half-naked women to sell various material goods, the violent porn in which women are systematically dehumanized in an industry that shapes many people’s ideas of what sex should be, the fathers who hi-5 their sons for “getting over” on pretty girls, and the words that dehumanize women for being either too sexual or too modest. Our culture creates rapists every day. A culture that creates rapists has no right to dominate. I’m still angry, and I don’t think I’ll ever be free from anger, but I am done with the shame. Together we can bid farewell to shame completely and build a culture that does away with shame and stigma, instead focusing on building people up. We have an obligation to build that culture before a whole new generation is shaped and shamed by it.

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