Why I Will Be Marching
One day last year I got a call from my best friend, studying abroad in Australia for a year. She was so distraught she couldn’t talk, could hardly breathe. Eventually she could speak enough to get the story out. She’d woken up in a strange hotel, with torn clothes, bruises and no memories past 8 pm. All she could remember was being out with some friends; at one bar she had started talking to the man who she was later seen on CCTV with. She had no memory of leaving with him. She didn’t know how she’d been so drunk as to forget everything. Nothing added up.
It seemed clear to her what had happened, and she reported the man immediately. The police, however, didn’t want to know.
They told her that without his word saying that yes, he had assaulted her, they couldn’t take it any further: it was his word against hers, and she had clearly been blackout drunk. Even if that was out of character for her. Even if it was highly probable she’d been drugged.
After a few weeks of being told this she started to believe it; that it was all her fault, that she had been asking for it.
I am marching because I want to tell the world that drinking does not mean you are asking for it. The way our dominant culture characterizes and discusses rape is clearly warped: how is it that we would think it okay to take the possible perpetrator’s word over that of the victim in such a case - to such an extent that they refuse even to investigate it?
This was not the first time my friend had been sexually assaulted. I can only hope it is the last.
At least six of my very close friends have been raped or sexually abused. My friends are strong, and wonderful, and they will survive. They are also fighting for recognition and a redefinition of what sexual assault and rape mean, and where the blame lies; but that doesn’t make what happened to them any less horrible and life-altering.
I am marching because I love my friends.
I am marching because short skirts and low tops are not open invitations.
I am marching because no means no: regardless of what you are wearing, regardless of where you are, or whether you’ve had a drink or a toke or a hit. No means no whether its your friend, your boyfriend, your husband, or a hook-up at a party.
I am marching because I believe we have the right to have sex as we please, to dress as we like and to enjoy our sexualities; but we also have the right to say STOP and to be obeyed.
I am marching with the hope that by raising our voices we can effect some change in the system that lays the blame at the victims feet in a way that sanctions, rather than discourages, rape.
I am marching because society needs to start realizing the real scale of rape and sexual abuse and addressing it head on by not only teaching Don’t Get Raped but also teaching DON’T RAPE.
I am marching because my best friend still thinks that her rape was her fault, because the authorities never looked into it, and because it will always haunt her.
And that is not okay.