May 14

The shame we feel

Trigger warning for today’s post as it discusses my childhood rape.

I want to talk about shame. Shame takes many forms so I could go all over the place but today it is one very specific kind of shame.

The shame a rape victim feels.

I was quite young when my step father raped me. The first time I felt pretty confident that it wasn’t my fault. With every subsequent invasion I became more certain it was. The years didn’t make it any easier. As my memory failed the more sure I was that I was somehow to blame for my rapes. As horrible as it sounds I kept asking myself if I liked it that first time. I kept asking myself did I come back for more?

The shame was exacerbated by the fact that my rapes were swept under the rug. I was taken away rather than the predator who committed them.

The shame was solidified by:

The therapist who point blank told me I had no other choice than to be traumatized.

The next adult to sexually assault my not yet fully developed body.

The fact that I still had to see him. Even to this day I hear him utter the words “I love you.” and I feel that shame.

I had to actively fight against it but I didn’t start out fighting. I started out cutting. I started out looking for ways to blame myself. They weren’t hard to come by. Doesn’t take long, fucking around, teasing, pushing those boundaries before a reputation starts getting whispered.


I was one. I still kind of am one. But then I was a slut for all the wrong reasons. I didn’t fuck because I wanted to enjoy sex. I fucked because I wanted to die. I wanted to find that part inside me that made them hurt me. I wanted to prove it was my fault. The morning after the first time I had PIV sex, the point I had defined as “losing my virginity”, I swallowed two bottles of pills. There was a monster inside me and if fucking couldn’t bring her out I needed to kill her.

Meeting Jarreg brought me out of that spiral of shame but it wasn’t easy.  Over 15 years into my recovery from my rapes, I felt the whole weight of that shame the moment I fell in love with Nissa. Just like I was 14 years old again.  I am not sure it ever fully goes away or if I just learn better ways of coping with it.

Shame is common amongst rape and sexual assault victims. It varies in strength and presentation but fucking hell do we feel it.

Why did I wear that?

Did I lead him on?

Why did I walk that way home?

Could I have screamed louder?

There are usually people lining the block, waiting to blame us for our rapes but nothing they say hasn’t already been considered. We lived a whole life being told that women must behave certain ways lest someone attack us. We already know it is our fault. We knew it was our fault while it happened. So you telling us it is our fault only fuels our self shaming fire.

It still stings. Sometimes we feed off it to the point it kills us.

That same shame is why many of us do not report. The fears that our shame will be placed on trial, held under public light, scrutinized forces us to closet our rapes. Our survival comes before justice. And if we don’t report we find yet another way to blame ourselves.

What if our rapist hurts someone else?

That blame, that shame can be the worst. I feel it all the fucking time. Every time my children exist in the same room as my childhood rapist, I feel it.  I am screaming inside as they say their goodbyes and hug him, “please fuck don’t love this  horrible man.” But I can’t say it aloud. I have been shamed into silence.

Sometimes we need to break that silence. Maybe we can’t go to police. Maybe we need a safe place to break it. Maybe we vent in 140 characters or less in a hash tag on twitter. Maybe we go to a therapist.

No matter where we go, we don’t need to be shamed for talking about it because I promise we have given ourselves plenty of shame already.

A couple of weeks ago commenter Anna reported her victimization to a rape counselor. I don’t know what training someone like her counselor goes through but I know that ze couldn’t have been paying attention. If nothing else every counselor who has training in sexual assault and rape really ought to have some clue how much we blame ourselves for our horror.  This one might have known but still Anna walked away from that session with the shame of not reporting hanging precariously over her head.

This is wrong. I wasn’t sure how to talk about it. It is so important that we fight this shame all the time but I feel it too. I hate this scared little girl inside me that won’t report my stepfather’s rape. I hate that I have convinced myself that he has no access to children unsupervised so not reporting is tolerable.

I don’t need anyone making me hate myself more. Especially not someone there to help me.

Anna doesn’t need that either. This counselor didn’t remotely consider how fucking dangerous reporting can be for us, especially for Anna whose trans woman status makes reporting risky fucking business. This counselor chose to ignore our own shame and place one more burden on her shoulders. Instead of walking away with another tool to survive, this counselor gave Anna another judgement to seek penance for.

I just want to go and shake this counselor. I want to make hir aware of how wrong ze is. See the thing is, that there is nothing illegal or immoral about not reporting. Yes reporting might somehow cause rapists to get caught but it does not mean that victims are morally obligated to martyr themselves for future victims. If Anna’s rapist hurts another person it will not be Anna’s fault. The fault lies in Anna’s attacker and the societal structure that makes reporting sexual assault as comparably invasive as the original victimization. If reporting didn’t cause us more shame, if we didn’t have to worry about the horror experienced when we report, it still wouldn’t be ok to blame someone for not reporting one of the most horrible experiences they have ever gone through.

Rape is wrong. Not reporting your rape is not wrong.

Learn which one is appropriate to shame.



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  1. 1

    I have no words. Your stepfather belongs in prison, and frankly it’s criminal that you in particular are still forced to interact with him. I don’t know the details of your situation (again), but I can infer a lot of them from other people’s stories that I know. Once again, to the extent that assurances from a relative stranger on the internet can help, you (and your friend Anna) are entirely blameless here. The blame rests entirely on your attackers and to a lesser extent on society in general for the long-term victim blaming that goes on afterwards. IMO, both the therapist you saw and the counselor Anna saw sound as though they should be drummed out of the profession entirely. There’s no excuse for that level of incompetence.

  2. 2

    I’m sorry. It wasn’t your fault. AT ALL. I don’t understand people who would blame other people for something so terrible that happened to them. In an ideal world, we could report every terrible thing we see or experience but often we can’t for our safety. Also, a lot of rape cases don’t get prosecuted for a variety of reasons even if they ARE reported and private schools and colleges often do the best they can to sweep it under the rugs when they happen there. The family dynamic thing is also something to be considered, and makes it even harder to tell. In Anna’s case, her trans status might have even made it dangerous for her (as you said) and sometimes reporting can be dangerous for other reasons. I hate it when people act like reporting is always the answer to things, because it isn’t. I’ve never had this happen to me, but I’m so sorry it happened to you and Anna.

  3. 3

    Im that Anna…

    I still don’t really blame the councillor. I brought the guilt to my session. I am good at blaming myself. This wasnt my first unwanted sexual encounter. I dealt with childhood assault too. A family member who figured out my gender issues and used that to get close to me and abuse me. I wanted what he gave me in validation but I loathed what he took from me. I blame myself for wanting part of what he gave. I also 100% know that he did it to someone else. Another family member, someone I love. I loathe myself for allowing that.

    With the more recent sexual assault I was again looking for validation. Someone who found me attractive. A man who wanted to be with me. I said no and he hurt me. I still feel I put myself there. My friend told me I was stupid to get in the car. I can’t tell him he was wrong. I was. I also again didn’t report. I have nightmares every night that he hurts someone else. I don’t sleep very well these days.

    On one level i’m a commited feminist. I know that no means no. I know that a child cannot consent. I just can’t process that internally. Lot’s of people mean well but don’t help. They offer me tips on how I could have been safer. I already know how stupid I am, I don’t need it reinforced. They don’t all tell me I should report but I see the frowns when I tell them I didn’t. Inside I feel the shame and guilt.

    I just want to know I am worth something. I don’t want to have to wait months for proper therapy. I just want to sleep at night and not hate myself when I look in the mirror. I just want it not to have happened.

    1. 3.1

      No matter how loud or how many times I say it I know that you will continue to feel twinges inside that this is your fault. It never goes away. We only learn to cope with it, to manage it. I still need to say Anna: It isn’t your fault. If as a child you went to the family member and said “fuck me now” it wouldn’t be your fault because children cannot consent to sex. Children cannot know the full implications to sex. The family member who hurt you is at fault for hurting someone else. Not reporting is not wrong. Raping/assaulting a child is wrong. Child rapists have a distinct knack of finding our weakness. They understand the many vulnerabilities of children and use them against us. They are predators. We are their prey. We cannot blame ourselves for acting like prey because being prey is not wrong. Being prey is just our way of trying to find a way to survive. Surviving is not wrong.

      Your more recent assault is also not your fault, Anna. I don’t care if you went into that car and you were half way to sex with him. The instant you said “no, I can’t do this anymore,” he should have stopped and respected your wish. I have been halfway through sex with an acquaintance and decided I no longer felt comfortable having sex with him. I lied and said my head was hurting and he stopped. I am unsure if he would have stopped had I told him the truth. It does not matter. People are capable of stopping sex and people are capable of stopping anything leading up to sex. When a person says “no more” it is up to their partner to stop. Being a slut isn’t wrong. Being a “tease” isn’t wrong. Walking down a dark ally isn’t wrong. Wearing sexy clothes isn’t wrong. Fucking for money isn’t wrong. Wanting to feel validated isn’t wrong. Wanting to feel beautiful isn’t wrong. Not respecting the word “NO” is wrong. Rape is wrong. He was wrong.

      Anna, I know you want to survive. If he hurts someone else, it is his fault. He is the monster. Not you. You just want to live. To sleep at night without nightmares. Reporting is helpful but not reporting is not immoral. Talking about our rapes puts our minds often in the same vulnerable position as we were during the assaults. People cannot fault you for not wanting to feel that way again. They can try, but since it isn’t your fault, they would be wrong.

      If others want to complain about people not reporting tell them to go and spend sometime reading the Twitter #ididnotreport hashtag. Tell them to change a society that makes reporting rape almost as invasive, and sometimes as dangerous as rape itself. Tell them to change the rape culture that protects rapists above victims.

      Anna, not only were you “not wrong” in this matter, I am going to say in some ways you are on the other side of neutral. You found a way to survive. That is “right” in my book.

      To report or not to report is a personal choice we make. Our rapes, our assaults happened to our bodies. To coerce a person into reporting is a violation of our autonomy. There is a difference between supporting a person who chooses to report and blaming them for not reporting in the first place. Those who consider themselves our friends/therapists/police should learn to make that distinction or they risk increasing the shame we already feel inside.

      Anytime you want to talk Anna. I am here.

  4. 4
    Ashley W.

    It is not the victim’s fault. EVER. I know that feeling though. All too well. I do not talk about this much. I’ve only had two distinct instances.

    The first, I was 11. I had been skating at the local hangout and my BF (also cousin), M was there. She asked if I wanted to stay the night. I called my mom and she was cool with it. So I went home with M. He father is a drunk. He also had some drunk friends over that night. I knew that H, M’s older sis had told us to lock the bedroom door. We had asked her why, but she wouldn’t tell, just said to make sure it was locked. So we did. We went to sleep soon after. We did not, however, lock the bathroom door that was connected to both the hallway and the bedroom. H ended up sleeping with her mom that night. In came one of her dad’s friends, who was REALLY drunk. He proceded to do things and talk to me. And told me not to say anything or I would wake everyone up and they would be mad. I had a chance to escape when he said he needed to go to the bathroom quickly. That’s when I ran to M’s mom. She proceded to yell at him and stuff, BUT she didn’t make him leave. The next morning when my mom came, I told her what happened. She was furious. She took me to the local sherriff’s dept. and proceeded to tell what happened. The deputy didn’t do anything. They said because the guy was drunk and didn’t fully rape me, that they couldn’t press charges. That’s when I lost faith in our justice system.

    The second time I was 14 and it was with the first boy I ever kissed. We were at his house, playing video games when we started to make out. He had me pinned about halfway through. He wanted to go further, I didn’t. I said no. He thought it was a hard-to-get game. It all happened very quickly. I cried the rest of the time I was there. My mom came and got me soon after (as scheduled) and I didn’t tell her. I did worry about being pregnant because I was late by 2 weeks after it happened. I guess it was just the stress I was under. I didn’t tell my mom until after I had lost my virginity (willing). She had guessed that I was having sex and that’s when I told her what had happened 2 years before. She didn’t understand why I hadn’t told her. I had felt the shame from it because I thought I had given the thoughts for him to go on and do it. I realized a while back that I didn’t, that he was like every horny teen but was really aggressive with what he wanted.

    These fears and thoughts and shame came flooding back to me two years ago when I was in the same apartment with a friend when she got raped. We had both been out partying and went to these two guys’ apt to hang out. She nearly died (in my mind) because the guy choked her to the point of her passing out. It was to keep her from screaming. Instead of taking her down my own road (of the past happenings) I took her to the hospital. There were some issues later on because the guy was actually a marine.

    I think I have actually been able to live my life without thinking about what happened in my past everyday. I do think about it often though. I don’t really have any advice for anyone on how to move on. It was my own healing process. I did go through a phase of being wild. I did have a few friends say that I was being very precarious. But I got through it. It’s possible to see the other side of the fence. I got to that side soon after I started dating my now husband. He helped me get through a lot of things in my head. That I’m not just a piece of sex meat. That things can be taken slowly. That love can definitely be felt in other ways than just sex. That I am truly a beautiful person, inside and out.

    That’s all I got to say.

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