Once again, my least favourite holiday is rapidly descending upon us, like a giant squid on the verge of attacking an innocent sailing ship. Already, every business I go into is decorated with nauseating pink and white, and every one of my coupled friends seems to be urgently feeling the need to behave in a fatuous and utterly repulsive fashion while I stomp, muttering through my days. Love is in the air, they say, and spring has sprung.
I say spring this, monkeyhumpers.
So that’s why I was pleased to see this article in the Chronicle today, talking about teen dating abuse. I wouldn’t have minded a discussion of dating abuse in general, actually, but I suppose this is a good start: while everyone is blathering on about the wonders of love, the Chronicle is pointing out that love can indeed be a battlefield at times: a vicious one, in which people are severely hurt.
Domestic violence and sexual abuse are serious issues in the United States. Most of us know someone who has been a victim of abuse, assuming we haven’t been abused ourselves. Yet we live in a repressive sort of society where these issues are buried under the carpet and no one wants to address them, especially when surrounded with the miracle of love.
I have always been a firm believer that there is no excuse for domestic violence, ever, and reading this article threw me back to middle and high school, when teachers and students alike ignored the very serious problems that were going on all around them. Most victims of abuse drift in a world of alternate reality, afraid to discuss what happened to them or to seek help. Despite being covered in bruises, their friends accept vapid excuses about falling down stairs or bumping into cabinets.
People were afraid to talk about what was happening to them. A valid fear of rejection, mockery, or being dismissed.
I was having a discussion last night with Peaches and Cap’n Raspberry where we were talking about the prevalence of rape in American society, including the FBI statistic about one in four American women expecting to be raped in her lifetime.
“That’s insane,” the Cap’n said,” why are we not doing anything about this, as a society?”
“Well,” I said, “most rape victims are afraid to come forward about what happened to them, and don’t want to deal with the trauma of a trial.”
“The trial can be as traumatic as the rape itself, in a way,” Peaches chimed in.
“Right, but I mean, we could do something, as individuals, about rape.”
“Really? Are you sure about that?”
“Hell yeah,” he said, “I would be furious if I knew one of my friends had been raped. I’d be exacting vengeance.”
“Well,” I said, “some of your female friends have been, and they didn’t tell you.”
“But why not,” he said.
“Because the majority of rapes in America are acquaintance rapes,” I said. “It’s someone you know, a friend, someone you think you can trust. Sometimes someone very close, a best friend. And when you’re raped, you are afraid to go to your friends, because you know they won’t believe you. ‘Oh,’ they’ll say, ‘so-and-so is a great guy, he would never do that.’ And you learn to just not say anything at all.”
“But that’s bullshit,” he said, “I would do something.”
“Really,” I said. “Let’s say I came to you and said X
There was a long and awkward pause.
“Yeah,” I said. “Not so easy now, is it?”
“But…but that’s…I mean, he would never do that, I mean, he’s incapable!”
“Right, and that’s why women don’t tell people when they are raped, because of exactly that response.”
“But I would believe you,” he protested. “I would. I mean, if you came to me and said ‘
I shook my head at him sadly.
“You see,” Peaches said, “this is why women don’t talk about it, because most people have exactly that response, that ‘this person is a great guy, he would never do that’ response, and they refuse to believe reality. Rapists can be charming, sensitive, loving people who are well liked and respected by their friends. Rapists can be trusted and adored, and women don’t want to get into the trauma of a he-said/she-said battle, so it’s easier to just…not say anything at all, you know. Just…try to get over it.”
So there you go, readers. Just try to get over it.
If someone around you is being hurt, step forward to support them. If that means going against your “friends,” do it, because friends support each other in need. Watch each other’s backs, don’t stab them.
If you know someone who looks like he or she might be a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence, talk to them about it. Make it clear that you care about them, and want to help them seek assistance, if that’s what they want. Maybe they don’t…maybe they just want someone they know to be there for them. But for the love of Pete, don’t ignore it, brush it away, or pretend that it’s not happening. It is happening, and it is a harsh and miserable reality.
Abuse can take many forms, including verbal and physical. When you see someone behaving wrongly, speak out. When you see a girl verbally abusing her boyfriend, talk to him about it. When you see a man being rough with a woman, seek her out later and make sure that she is ok. Love should only hurt when you want it to.
Most areas have domestic abuse and sexual assault hotlines. They are free to call, and counselors are happy to talk with victims about anything and everything. They can help you make plans to escape, if you need it, along with children and pets. They can help you file suit or get a restraining order. If you aren’t yet ready to do this, a counselor is always there to just talk with you.
Do not stand by, for those who remain silent are part of the problem.
The national rape hotline is: 1.800.656.HOPE
The national domestic violence hotline is: 1.800.799.SAFE
Either can transfer people in need to a local hotline: if you are a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, you can talk confidentially to counselors. If you know someone who is a victim, counselors can show you some ways to help them.