I’m crabby today. It’s a good day, I slept pretty well other than the nightmares, and I think I started the day in a pretty good place in spite of them. Still, I’m irritable. Hormones? Maybe. Too be fair, though, I have something ugly on my mind a lot since December and it hurts me to think about, but I am no longer allowing myself to ‘avert my eyes’ from the mess in my head.

Rape.

There. I said it. It’s a word. It has meaning, and frankly the meaning is not up for re-definition.  It should be easy to understand, easy to define – and easy to accept how common it actually is, and have the decency to be appalled and wonder why we allow it to go on.  I am angry about all the damned arguing about ‘the nature of rape’ by people trying to save a buck on legislation intended to curb it, or provide needed resources to victims, or worse still by rapists trying to rationalize or excuse their particular variety of sexual transgression. I’m so sorry (sarcasm) it’ll be expensive to help all those victims – how about fixing that? How about fewer victims? How about ‘rape is not ok‘?

Sure, I’m a rape victim, too. I’m sorry to sound so commonplace about it, but if you’re shocked by that, perhaps it would be a good idea to find out just how common it is – even in the U.S.  It’s probably easier on the heart to contemplate the overwhelming horror of rape used as a war strategy to terrify and weaken a population, rather than to consider the prevalence of military sexual trauma – rapes committed by soldiers against other soldiers, or marital rape (yes, it’s real, and no it isn’t ok), or child sexual abuse, or… yeah. All rape. None of it acceptable. Funny thing – in the abstract it’s pretty hard to find people to support and condone rape. Go ahead, ask around, I’ll wait…

I haven’t found a lot of people interested in going on the record as ‘pro rape’, myself… but as a rape victim, it gets weird really fast as soon as the reporting of a rape begins.  In my experience, it actually doesn’t matter how heinous the rape, or how violent, or how ‘obvious’ or how vigorously resisted… the hideous vicious questions come fast, questioning whether it happened, maybe it was a misunderstanding, was it consensual? Then the reminders that accusations could ruin the life of the rapist… Do rapists get anything but support?  Not very many rapists go to jail for it, or so it seems to me.

It’s on my mind because I am a victim of military sexual trauma, and I am being encouraged to submit documentation for disability compensation.  It is surprisingly difficult, and extremely painful, to have to put the mental energy into the paperwork, to have to consider it, event by event, in detail – names, places, timelines, details. The pain is enormous and I feel very alone, even though I know rape is so common I could likely just walk up to any woman I see and find myself in conversation with another victim.  I don’t want to share the pain.  I don’t want to taint my relationships with the details, or put poison into the consciousness of my loved ones.  But I have to think about it, and I have to write about it, and today it is making me very cross with the world…

I love sex, personally, and I’ve managed to remain very sex positive in spite of having a rape history, but balancing my libido, my every day sexual needs, with these feelings about this topic… I feel confused and vulnerable, and I don’t know with whom or how to talk about that.  There are a lot of people who suffer from the odd notion that women who love sex can’t be raped, or are somehow less entitled to be protected or offered support when it happens to them. There have been a lot of times in my life when it was made pretty clear to me that because I enjoy sex, value physical contact with my partners, take pleasure in pleasure, that I’m less deserving of consideration if I’m raped, or less trustworthy if I report it.  The message often seems to be ‘why didn’t you just like it’? As if there’s no difference, or as if my will and desire and consent don’t really matter. Or perhaps I should just cut the rapist some slack, since I’m ‘used equipment’ – after all, what did I lose?  I want to shout “my body is mine, I get to choose!”, but I know damned well no one is listening, and plenty of people making actual laws don’t even believe that my body should be my own to control. Read the news. I feel angry and powerless every time I think about being raped.  I hate admitting that; it feels like the rapists won.

Sometimes it just all feels like too much to bear.  I feel like I ‘just want to go home’ – like a child, going to a safe place in Daddy’s arms, during a scary storm… but there is no ‘home’ to go to that escapes this, and there are no ‘safe places’, and there is very little understanding in the world about this sort of crime, the effect it has, and the message we send to women when it is tolerated or excused.  So… I have something ugly on my mind, and it hurts, but I guess it is time to really deal with it, after all these years.  I teeter on the edge of just turning away from it, every day, and pretending it isn’t real, but that hasn’t worked so far, I’m still broken.

I need to paint… but I am terrified that any of this might hit canvas and make it somehow more visceral, more real. I actually don’t want to share this pain… it seems cruel. I am afraid, too, of what I reveal to myself… it shames me in some small way. Art should not be cowardly.