The R Word

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Rape. Hilarious, amirite? Many a comedian use it as a punch line. My own sister used it to comically describe her first gynecology appointment. Having never had sex yet at age eighteen, one can understand that it’s an uncomfortable situation. However, using the descriptor “rape” is quite an inappropriate exaggeration for one’s first gyno visit.

It happened over ten years ago but I still have trouble saying the word. Rape. The mere thought of saying the word sends chills down my spine, my shoulders bow, and I feel like whatever is in my stomach is coming up.

Ironically enough, the initial reason I had that reaction was that people told me that’s what happened to me except I didn’t feel it happened enough to me to use that awful word.

Growing up, when I was exposed to rape, either in an article I read or in a P.E. class, it was a horrific event. A young girl was brutally raped and beaten by a gang of men who left her in an alley to die. She spent weeks in the hospital recovering and many years after in therapy to learn the tools necessary to deal with the implications of those who had their own deep seeded issues and took it out on an innocent female bystander.

That’s not what happened to me.

No, I made a series of decisions that led to a situation in which I did not intend to be. I lied to my parents about where I was going. I went alone to meet a boy I’d only met that day. I drank at age 16, only having had my first drink roughly a year before. I was in no condition to say no when he started prodding me. And by the time I was yelling in pain, he was like a boulder on top of me: push as hard as I might, there was no moving him from where he was.

I knew the probability of a girl reporting her rape was tragically low. I vaguely remember thinking that was ludicrous, if something that horrendous happened to you how could you not report it? Unfortunately, now I know.

Based on what I’d been exposed to as to what rape meant, rape had not happened to me.

If anything, like many a statistic, I thought it was my fault. I told no one. I made the Planned Parenthood trip by myself, and when the doctor put two and two together, I lied and said it’d all just happened so fast but that I was fine. And that’s what I went with for ten years.

I’m fine.

That was one of many lies I told myself. Being a naturally independent person, I adamantly believed I could handle every implication by myself. And on the surface I could. It wasn’t until a particular boy got to know me, one who was pursuing a degree in psychology, that I was found out.

He saw right through me.

He told me things he saw which were so beyond my comprehension I still have trouble believing him to this day. At the very least, those signs he was reading started to get me thinking. I started analyzing certain reactions I had in specific situations. When I was challenged, when I was pinned down, when I was made to feel small. More often than not, a viscous, terrifying anger resulted. So terrible that that very same boy, who I’d begun a relationship with, was scared of me, along with a few family members.

Although we are no longer together, for very good reasons, he did introduce the idea of therapy to me. The first and second times I tried therapy I did so very hesitantly. I lied to my therapists because I didn’t want them judging me. I was still young and didn’t realize the true point of therapy.

It wasn’t until I hit a startling low during a girls trip that I realized I’d hit rock bottom emotionally and needed serious help. So I did what any self-respecting woman would do.

I turned to the Google.

PsychologyToday.com has a wonderful function where you can search for a therapist in your area who has certain attributes. I found Leslie, who was open to using Skype, located in my city, and, most importantly, stated assuredly that she did not judge. I knew she was my woman, and boy was I finally right this time.

Only on one occasion did I look forward to seeing her. Every other time, I dreaded it and tried to think of the most legitimate excuses to canceling on short notice and not having to pay the late cancellation fee.

Because the truth is therapy sucks.

It’s hard. She made me think and remember and mull over what it all meant and how it affects my life today. I’d spent years pushing this stuff under the rug and she had the audacity to air it all out! But after nine months of once a week sessions, I felt I was finally in a good place.

I wasn’t fixed and I’ll never be fixed.

But I learned so many things about myself that will help me for the rest of my life. I learned I had PTSD and because of that, certain situations triggered me. I also learned about triggers! They are these wonderful things that you never see coming and can pop up in any situation that might throw your brain back into reliving the very moment you acquired your PTSD.

But instead of taking the woe-is-me route and feeling justified for having ripped someone in two because I’d been hurt ten years ago, I learned certain mechanisms to aid in dealing with those situations. And because of wonderful, blessed Leslie I now have the tools to handle situations in which I may be triggered.

Given the above, given that my situation wasn’t a brutal attack but still had the ramifications of affecting my life every day, where does one find comedy? In reality, it’s the exact opposite of funny. It’s a very serious event that can maim someone emotionally and/or physically for the rest of their life and making a joke of it hurts that person further.

What’s more is that it desensitizes the issue to those listening to a comic’s shtick. They laugh along because it was witty and the punch line was delivered effortlessly. So to the comic who tells the rape survivor to relax, that it’s just a joke, it’s not a joke. You’re perpetuating the acceptability of the act, you’re an accomplice, and telling others to stop being so serious is your way of placating that voice in your head that’s shouting 

THIS IS NOT OK.

Because it’s not. It’s SO not. And if it ever happened to those comics who joke about it, which I would wish upon no one, they wouldn’t think it’s so hilarious either.

So please, when you’re making a joke, be sure it’s actually funny. There’s nothing worse than staring back at a bunch of people in stark silence because your rapist joke fell flat. Well, perhaps one of those people educating you on how dense you happen to be would be worse, but why would one waste depth on someone so shallow as to joke about rape?

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