I was raped on my 16th birthday. But I ingested the alcohol that marred my decision-making skills and lead to a man putting his penis inside me, despite me clearly telling him that I did not want it to happen. So it must be my fault.
My story plays out like countless others. I was at a party and peer pressure took over. Despite being raised to have immense respect for alcohol and its effects, my judgment slipped. I had vodka for the first time in an attempt to avoid being vindicated as an outcast. After years of manipulating my personality and appearance into one that was “socially acceptable”, I was finally in a position to be accepted by my peers.
In the morning, I felt like I had downed a bottle of anaesthetic. I had limited recollection of what had happened – and couldn’t be sure if a condom was worn or not. I was terrified to tell anyone, for fear that I would be perceived as “stupid enough to have a one night stand” or as “a slut”. I went to my minimum-wage job, dishevelled and hollow and popped out on my lunch break to get the emergency contraceptive pill. Something that a 16 year old girl should never have to do alone.
I was shelving items in a deserted aisle when it hit me. All I remember is sobbing, before my confused manager found me. She asked what was wrong and, too choked up with snot, I simply muttered the words “I said no”. A mixture of recognition and shock immediately filled her face. But I was told to buck up – that it happens to the best of us – that at least I would think twice before drinking around men ever again.
And that’s what resonates – the suggestion that I would think twice before drinking around men ever again. Was I to live my life feeling constantly threatened in every social situation where I was drinking alcohol? But the suggestion that it happens to the best of us? What the actual fuck? It’s this comment that caused me to go through high school genuinely thinking that our rape culture was some fucked up rite of passage for teenagers.
I eventually told my school counsellor – she was sympathetic, but never accepted that the incident was a crime. She saw it as a drunken oversight on my part. But I now know that it was not.
Taking a drink from someone is not an invitation for them to penetrate you. I distinctly recall saying the word “no”. And yet, after some heavy petting and a bit of “convincing”, there I was – being penetrated. To this day, I wish I was strong enough to say something – to report it. Oh, the wonders it may have done for my mental health to have closure on such a life changing incident.
What I constantly question is whether or not he even knows – to this day – that what he did was wrong. Because, while I don’t approve of being blamed for being raped, I also struggle to blame him. For he was only perpetuating behaviour encouraged by the society within which he resides.
This Roast Busters saga resonates with me, but no part more so than what two Radio Live hosts – Willie Jackson and John Tamihere – said yesterday in an interview with a young lady who called in to discuss the experience her friend had being raped, and shamed into thinking it was her fault.
A woman who was simply standing up for her friend’s right to not be raped after having a few drinks – was told that the Roast Busters bragging about their sexual encounters with drunk women was simply “mischief”. How are we as a society expected to understand that it’s not okay for a young woman to be raped and filmed in a position of vulnerability and intoxication, if the very people whose opinions we value in our mainstream media are so distorted?
I’ve heard it a thousand times – but I have to say it again – start questioning the attitudes towards sexuality that are instilled in our young people. It’s not necessary to sexualise women in the media and portray men as masculine fucking machines with no emotion. Teach respect for sex – reiterate that it’s a consensual activity – and shouldn’t be pursued after the first time the word “no” is uttered.
To the victims of the Roast Busters – it’s not your fault. Come forward. Help us to change rape culture in New Zealand.
If you or someone you know needs assistance or support, there are services available
(Image: Untitled from Chicago Slutwalk 2011 – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 licensed photo by Kristen Althoff)