TW for discussion of being a rape survivor.
I have a friend who was recently raped. Right now, at this stage in her recovery, her primary response is compassion for her rapist: during the rape, he’d acted in ways that struck her as signs of an untreated mental illness. She’s going through a difficult process of convincing his friends to get help for him, without disclosing her rape (she doesn’t want to turn this into a referendum about whether she’s a lying whore) and without having to contact him herself.
And her boyfriend is like “why the fuck do you care? He raped you, you shouldn’t care about him” and had to be persuaded not to go over and punch the rapist in the face.
A lot of people feel the need to police the way survivors react to their rape. I mean, a lot of us have enough Rape Culture 101 to know that, say, a rape survivor choosing not to prosecute doesn’t mean they were Not Really Raped. But even then I think a lot of people think that survivors are supposed to sob in the shower and feel dirty, or shout “kill all rapists!”, or never have a moment of doubt about whether the rape was somehow Their Fault…
Hell, even this blog post might do it. Because I know there are people who would have read the story of my friend above and been like “see? That’s how you’re supposed to respond to a rape!” and set up that level of compassion as somehow Right and Moral and Showing That You’re The Bigger Person and shame survivors that don’t. Which is the exact opposite of my point. Compassion for her rapist is just what’s right and healthy and healing for my friend, right now, at the stage she’s in in her recovery. It is absolutely not ever a requirement for other people.
Sometimes survivors are angry– at their rapist, at the rape culture, at people who could have helped them and didn’t, at the world, at God, at themselves. Sometimes survivors are depressed. Sometimes survivors are afraid; sometimes they’re prickly and set up boundaries you might think are unreasonable. Sometimes survivors take risks that might be unwise. Sometimes survivors like or respect or even love their rapist. Sometimes survivors hate their rapist’s guts. Sometimes survivors are suicidal. Sometimes survivors aren’t really affected by their rape. Sometimes– shit, think of a reaction to a rape, it is probably something that someone has done. All of those happen, all of those are valid responses, and it is absolutely not the job of other people to be like “you have to do X or you aren’t doing survivor right.”
I worry, sometimes, about the legitimation of survivors’ anger in social justice communities– which is awesome and empowering and necessary, given a world where survivors are so often robbed of the right to their anger– setting up another bullshit standard for survivors to live up to, of being Properly Angry instead of Properly Sad or Properly Compassionate or Properly Broken. I worry about it giving permission to people to white-knight about beating up rapists rather than listening to the individual survivor about their needs.
I just want to say– to survivors, and to everyone else dealing with trauma or badbrains or anything else– whatever you’re doing, it’s okay, as long as you aren’t hurting anyone else. Whatever you’re feeling is okay. There are no standards to live up to, except for your own health and happiness. Don’t worry about giving credence to stereotypes or whatever bullshit. Just do what you have to to stay alive.