In an effort to get writing more frequently, this blog will no longer solely be categorized and concerned with solely videogames. If that is not to your interest, I apologize.
N.B. Content warning for rape.
This post went up on the Escapist yesterday (further content warning for rape). It took me a while to read, though once I got past the first page, it went by at a rather brisk pace. What caught me off guard is that the first page has references to worrying about being HIV+, and concerning one’s self with AIDS. I wrote about part of the story of my rape and how it lasted for years, but there are a few memories that are more present than others. What has shocked me over the years is finding out which ones.
The first is the FBI being at my doorstep one day. Matt, who died in prison last year, had been apprehended while crossing state lines to supposedly have sex with a minor. I say supposedly because it was entrapment by the FBI, though that entire situation still confuses me. What proceeded was my family having most of our computing devices taken away, confiscated so they could examine them for any incriminating evidence. This included the family’s computer, and the one they had built for me (along with Matt’s—he was an IT person).
It would be a year before any of it was returned, and only after we got in contact with our senator and had him look into it.
Meanwhile, it was a long year of dealing with the government. In my post on Kotaku (and here), I detailed how the state made me feel like a heathen. Someone unworthy. On top of that, I had to go under a lot of medical examination for ‘legal purposes.’ It was very odd to be forced to disrobe in front of strangers and have them poke and prod my body and its orifices—in many ways it felt akin to being raped anew.
Then, after that was done, my mother took me aside. I had learned what HIV/AIDS were when I was in second grade, and as I watched television, it was hard to escape notions of it. It never dawned on me that it was described as solely a ‘gay’ disease until I hit my teens. My mother told me I was going to have to have my blood drawn for an HIV test.
What I felt at that moment was a constriction in my throat, as if some rubbery mass was threatening to cut off any attempt at every swallowing again. Due to poverty, family issues, and slowly realizing I was gay, the four years prior to that had already been a harrowing experience. To think that I might then be HIV+? It was a little overwhelming.
Then there was the more insidious part. My father left the military when I was ten. It had created a rift in the family, as he refused to go look for a job. My mother, being a German citizen, was refused most jobs to which she applied, though she took whatever she could find. Money quickly ran out, and it created an entire mess. Matt entered the equation, and to my mind, he was helping out family with quite a few of our bills. He also slept in my room.
In my mind, for years I created a scenario where I had to keep silent because he was helping the family. I did not want my family to suffer because I rid ourselves of Matt, so there were quite a few issues with considering my rape (sometimes while I slept) necessary to keep my family economically afloat.
Then there was being gay.
A person I dated wondered aloud to me once: “Are we gay because we were molested?” It took me aback. There was little question in my mind that my rape and molestation had nothing to do with my sexual orientation, though it did complicate matters of how I felt about the entire ordeal. Matt had other victims, and they, to my knowledge, are all straight. I’ve only ever spoken to one at length, and I know what he went through with his sexuality is quite different from my own.
While I never questioned whether or not my sexuality was altered, I did question for a long time if I would be able to have sex with another man in my future. It took a few years to broach that topic, but that is no longer a concern. Further, while I know everyone who is sexually active should get tested for HIV/AIDS and other STIs, my first times going to get tested were anxiety-ridden affairs.
No, what I found out is that for me, the act itself is not the issue (something for which I feel fairly fortunate?), but everything surrounding rape. The trivialization of rape victims’ accounts. The need to point out that being raped ‘made’ me into a different person (read: gay—or, you know, a superhero). It is sitting in public transportation, reading Yes Means Yes, and starting to cry as I read this passage by Latoya Peterson.
That day in court was the day I fully understood the concept of being raped twice—first during the act, and then later during the court proceedings. That was also the day I realized that telling someone about my not-rape would have netted a similar, if not more dismissive response. I had no evidence of the act, no used condom wrapper, no rape kit, no forced penetration.If the defense attorney was attempting to sow the seeds of doubt in the face of indisputable evidence, what would have happened if I had chosen to speak up?
It’s being able to have a sex life not haunted by my rape, but to have everything surrounding it be a potential trigger.
Which is why I found talking about it useful; a means to recognize what was happening to me, and to gather that information for others. I have had multiple male friends come to me over the years, confiding in me their own rapes, just as deeply ashamed as the female friends who’ve done the same.
There was even the case, while I was at Wabash College, where I knew a young man was raped. He came to me, and I talked him through it. Part of this included asking him if he wanted to report it. I even went to the president of the college, discussed the matter, and was assured the guilty party would be expelled. He acted surprised that I would even ask the question, but my own experiences dictated that I had to ask. The president wanted me to name the person right then, but I decided to first check with the victim—did he want to do this?
When he said no, I felt equally frustrated and relieved. This would be a young man who would at least not have part of that experience; the rapist would go free.
When I discuss rape culture (and I use the first-person here because I am solely speaking for myself), this is what I am talking about. How everything surrounding this is a potential trigger because our society is grounded in such a way that I felt helpless in the name of an uncaring, hostile system.
I couldn’t speak for years, so I find it odd that I now so often do speak about it. Because it’s important. Back then? I couldn’t speak about how it made me feel like I was prostituting myself, because we don’t discuss money like that. I couldn’t speak about how I was worried about my fears of having a healthy gay sex life, because I was already being called fag all the time. I couldn’t speak about the legal proceedings, at times because I was threatened with gag orders, or because my family didn’t have enough money to get consulting on how the district attorney’s office was treating me.
Whenever I meet another rape survivor, my reaction is to let them speak if they want. It is also watching to make sure I don’t treat rape as a character-building exercise. As the Escapist article pointed out, it’s not. It changes one? Yes. However, the nuances that this requires are not something a marketing blip or somewhat odd quotations from a designer (looking at you, Tomb Raider) can address. Because it isn’t just the rape that has to be considered. It is everything surrounding it, and how it changes your life.