Who Will Rape Me?

What makes me most angry about the reprehensible, privilege-denying behavior of Michael Moore, Keith Olbermann and their allies in the whole Julian Assange-can’t-be-a-rapist-because-he’s-a-freedom-fighter ordeal, addressed beautifully by Sady Doyle and a number of brilliant feminists in the form of the #MooreAndMe Twitter hashtag? The fact that, in the likely event I am ever a victim of completed or attempted sexual assault, powerful men (and women!) of liberal privilege may not–indeed, very likely may not–take me seriously.

At 27 years old, I have not yet been a victim of sexual assault. But let’s be real: that fact is likely to change. Because one in six women will, in their lifetimes, be the victim of a rape or attempted rape. And I mean, we’re estimating there–sixty fucking percent of rapes are never reported to the police. I’m more likely to be raped than I am to get breast cancer.

But you don’t have to be a stat-wielding, card-carrying feminist to feel the threat of rape in your life. Really, all you have to be is female. All you have to have is some kinda voice in the back of your mind that says, watch what you wear, who you talk to, where you walk, what you say. The question you’re always kind of asking yourself is, Who will rape me?

I jogged to the gym earlier today–I’m still sweaty, actually, because I wanted to sit down and write this before I lost my nerve–in my walkable, historic Dallas neighborhood, and because it gets dark early now, I thought, Better watch out. Not many people around of a Monday. Could get sketchy. I didn’t carry my wallet with me just in case, but I can’t exactly leave my vagina at home. And I thought, ye gods, if I am going to be raped, let it be this way.

Let me be a white, middle-class woman in a long-term heterosexual relationship who is jogging to the gym at 6:30 on a week night, stone-cold sober, in a lovely little historic neighborhood, who is hit over the head in some back alley by some drugged-out crazy fuck with a criminal history who drags me behind a dumpster and beats me senseless before he rapes me. Because then I will not have to apologize for getting myself raped and no one will wonder if I made it up because I was mad, because I was drunk, because I dressed like a skank, because I was a sex worker, because I was in the wrong neighborhood, because I was ashamed, because well, that is just what women do, the silly things what can’t tell the difference between sex and rape.

I was on that beastly stair-stepper-elliptical-machine-thing, and to the beat of my workout, I kept hearing in my head, Who will rape me? I thought of all the different women I knew of who’d been raped, women I knew and women I’d only read about–inspired probably by this Sady Doyle post–and I wondered, fuckinghell, when does this happen to me?

Who will rape me?

Will it be someone I know? Probably. Two-thirds of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. Like, knows knows. A roommate, a buddy, a classmate, a co-worker, a friend-of-a-friend. If you want to expand it out a little bit, at the very least, I’ll probably be raped by someone I at least recognize–73 percent of rapes are committed by a non-stranger. Will it be someone I’m intimate with? Good chance–30 percent chance–I will be raped by my boyfriend or husband. Hell, it could even be a family member. Seven percent of rapes are committed by a relative. And you know what? The person who rapes me probably won’t even think I’m all that special since he’ll probably have raped seven to nine women, depending on what stats you rely on, before he’s ever put in jail. And Chripes, that’s only if I’m a woman–it’s worth saying here, if only because I think some people really don’t believe it, that men get raped. One in thirty-three in their lifetimes.

So, who will rape me?

It might be a prominent professional athlete. When that happens, my motivation, personal life and all former sexual exploits will be analyzed by people who think I should just count myself lucky to have been on the receiving end of famous dick. I might be raped by someone I’m dating. When that happens, I might try to rationalize the whole thing and continue seeing him because I might believe that women in relationships can’t revoke consent. I might be raped by my husband. I mean fuck, in a lot of places and up till way more recently than I’m comfortable with in the United States, it wasn’t even possible to rape your wife. I might be raped by someone I meet at a party where I’ve gone to have fun with my girlfriends. If that happens, I might be told by the authorities that I can’t report my rape because I can’t remember it clearly enough. I might be raped by an abuser who sabotages my birth control or refuses to wear a condom in order to control my reproductive capabilities. If that happens, I might hear from many people that it is only vicious, money-grubbing women who do this and that I can’t be trusted. I might be raped by a famous artist. If that happens, people might say that the quality of his art is too good for him to be a real rapist, and that I probably am blowing things out of proportion. I might be raped by ten or fifteen people outside my school dance while others look on. If that happens, many people will go to great pains to point out that well, I had been drinking. I might be raped by a beloved liberal activist. If that happens, people might post my name and address on the internet so that I can be hunted down if need be, because people might be incapable of believing someone with a great political idea might also not think he had to take “no” for an answer in the bedroom.

About andrea grimes

Andrea is a journalist living in Austin, TX. She has a master's degree in anthropology and did her thesis work on gender and stand-up comedy. Seriously. Also, she has a bunch of cats. Three of them. Is three a bunch? Discuss.
This entry was posted in mooreandme, sexual assault and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

50 Responses to Who Will Rape Me?

  1. Thefremen says:

    Thing is, doesn’t matter if your chances are 1/33 or 1/6 it can happen to anyone, and there is no profile for a victim/survivor or rapist. I know personally, if I had gotten out of an abusive relationship I could be some dude who doesn’t know what it’s like in the least, and doesn’t have to worry about explaining, perhaps not impaired, but different, sexual function and the absolute need for boundaries.

    But you’re right, can happen to anyone, in any circumstance. It has nothing to do with what the victim does, and everything to do with what the rapist does.

    (by the by, it sounds like an enviable position but it is REALLY hard to explain, as a dude, why it is impossible/really really difficult to orgasm through coitus)

  2. Stef says:

    Awesome work!

    You might also enjoy this blue milk post.

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  4. scubanurse says:

    I love this post. It makes the issue so real, and so understandable.
    this must have been hard to write.
    Thanks so much.

  5. Mike says:

    “I’m more likely to be raped than I am to get breast cancer.”

    Jesus. This is a great post.

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  7. Mish says:

    You rock. I was thinking about this too, until it already happened, and it was someone I called a friend.

    Funny that.

  8. Jen says:

    Dead on, thank you so much for this moving piece. May there come a day when this never has to happen to anyone. But I don’t know, as far as your “let it be this way” line of thought: wondering whether the drugged out crazy fuck beating you senseless and raping you will leave your body somewhere that your parents might find it is maybe not preferable to any other situation. And let me clear something up–even the historical neighborhood, 6:30 p.m., white, middle-class girl will still have the defense attorney making reference to her sexual history (as detailed in a SANE exam mere hours after the rape) in front of a jury and the entire courtroom, including her parents. She still has to apologize.

    It’s all equally ugly in the big picture.

    • Excellent point, Jen. And to this I add: rape victims in Dallas county did not have access to SANE nurses until spring of this year. That’s right–there was no SANE program in THE ENTIRE COUNTY. And only one hospital was authorized to submit rape kits into evidence.

  9. boosted on twitter. great piece, as always.

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  11. M says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this. I think a lot of time is spent looking at how we– women– can “prevent” rape , and getting empowered about that, and so on. And I think all that’s really great and needs to keep being done… but we also need to tell the truth about how it is to live in the world the way it is, just like you did here.

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  15. Cait says:

    This is a brilliant blog post, I’m sharing it with all my friends. you use statistics in a way that doesn’t sound overbearing or condescending (as can happen).

    Thank you so much for putting this out there.

  16. Melissa says:

    Thank you for writing this, Andrea. I loved reading it and was personally touched by it. While I cannot say that I’ve been “raped” I have been sexually assaulted. I’ve lost a best friend over it who refuses to believe me (it was her current bf) and thinks I made it up for attention – much like you mentioned in your article. First off, why the f*ck would I make up something that horrible? Even though we had been drinking, what he did was wrong and I thank you for writing this for all women out there like me who may still be struggling with what has happened to them. Drinks or no drinks, assault/rape is assault/rape and it is wrong. I look forward to following you and reading more of your posts. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  17. K says:

    This is absolutely fantastic. The paragraph following “Let me be a white, middle-class woman…”, as awful an image as it paints, sums up all of these issues:

    I was sexually assaulted, and my best friend was raped and did everything right – reported it immediately, took a rape kit, etc. The guy still walked with no punishment. A more heartening, but rare, story is this one: An Uncommon Outcome At Holy Cross. I wish more schools had as detailed a sexual assault policy as Holy Cross. There’s a lot of grey area and I think it stops many women from speaking up, because they don’t know if their experience matters, despite the fact that it felt wrong.

    As M stated above, a lot of focus concentrates on empowering women, but ultimately it’s a two-way street. There’s a sense of entitlement that needs to be shut down in these “men.” I wish there was more detailed rape education in place and that it was covered both in a group setting and split up male and female, like the typical health classes on puberty. I think if more curriculums also focused on the educating men, like Men Can Stop Rape, maybe dangerous behavior would have less of a chance to emerge.

    Women should be able to walk in public without that lingering fear of being attacked. Women should be able to flirt, date, and drink without worrying that anything they do, say, or wear could be construed as leading someone on or “asking for it.” It took me three years before I could feel comfortable enough to socialize with men again. I worried so much about being taken advantage of that I feel like I missed out on a great deal of regular college experiences.

  18. Helena Rorschach says:

    “At 27 years old, I have not yet been a victim of sexual assault. But let’s be real: that fact is likely to change …. one in six women will, in their lifetimes, be the victim of a rape or attempted rape ”

    Without wishing to diminish the point of your article, these statistics mean that 5 in 6 women – the overwhelming majority – will not be the victim of a rape or attempted rape.

    You haven’t been raped … and that fact is not likely to change. It is unlikely to change. You are 5 times more likely not to be a victim than you are to be a victim.

    It’s upsetting, then, that you spend your life wondering who will rape you. The fact is, most women go through life without being raped, and the overwhelming majority of the men you are wondering about are not rapists and never will be.

    So the answer to your wondering is probably nobody will ever rape you, or even try to.

    In the meantime, imagine what that attitude that you carry around is doing to your view of men.

    • Thefremen says:

      I think it’s a perfectly healthy view of men though. The vast vast vast majority view capitulation as consent, view fucking/fucked as just the natural order of the world. The Assange sentiment of “why were they in such a tizzy over condoms?” is really fucking common amongst men.

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  20. Rey Fitzgerald says:

    Excellent article, only one small issue. While I understand the point, I’m really uncomfortable with someone saying “it wasn’t even possible to rape your wife”. It was absolutely possible to rape your wife, it just wasn’t legally acknowledged as possible.

    “Without wishing to diminish the point of your article, these statistics mean that 5 in 6 women – the overwhelming majority – will not be the victim of a rape or attempted rape.”

    As the author pointed out, the majority of rapes are unreported. All of the women I know in my personal life who have been raped/sexually abused never reported. The majority of the women I know have some story of being sexually assaulted in some capacity. No one really has any idea just how many women will be raped, but I’m more than willing to bet that the true number is much higher than 1 in 6.

  21. DD says:

    I was victimized at 20 years old by a young financial analyst, well-liked and intelligent, who just happened to believe that it would be fun to have his “first go at it” with me unable to move, make a sound, or have a say. When I tried to talk about it to friends and family, I was met with cold shoulders, blank stares, and lost a BFF (similar situation to Melissa) in the humiliating and eye-opening days that followed. To this day, I regret never reporting it, as the experience changed my faith in other people… I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. All women need to be alert to the signals of a potentially deteriorating situation, how to sensibly protect herself, where to turn for help, and better yet, how avoid them altogether.

    Your writing is feisty, inspiring and gets right to the point. Keep up the good work.

    p.s. For commentators ready with the offensive comebacks and character criticisms: this is a personal blog. If you don’t like the post, close the page and move on.

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  23. lorus says:

    The mysogyny of coverage/responses to the Assange case is an important reminder that the ‘left’ and ‘liberals’ often fail to extend that ‘liberalism’ to women (unless it refers to a right to sexual freedom that fulfils male fantasies and is unthreatening).
    In Britain, the court case of a former socialist MSP(Member of the Scottish Parliament), Tommy Sheridan reinforces that. He was just found guilty of commiting perjury during a civil libel case. The civil case revolved around stories printed in a British tabloid ‘news’paper that he had engaged in group sex, visited a swingers club and had extramarital sex. He won the civil libel case, but has now been found guilty of lying during that case. Aspects of both cases are disturbing, in terms of the way in which female witnesses (including those who apparently were his sexual partners) were treated by Sheridan (who represented himself in court in both cases). They were mad, they were liars whose sexual history made them liars. The wider social media debate focused heavily on the role of women in the case. Supporters of Sheridan have demonised female socialist MSPs who refused to lie under oath to support Sheridan’s case (he admitted to colleagues that the ‘news’paper story was true) – they are ‘witches’ and ‘bitches’, and the woman he had an affair with is a ‘dog’ (why would a guy like him have sex with her?, etc.). It should always remembered that whether from the left or right, sexism and hostility towards women is the norm not the exception.

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  26. mt says:

    Using the survey you’ve quoted, the risk of being ever raped for a statistical American woman over 25 who has not been a victim of a rape yet, disregarding all other factors, is less than 3% (or ~1 in 36). Your risk of being raped is not 1 in 6 anymore because the vast majority of rape victims are youths.

    While such incidence is still unacceptably high, it’s quite unlikely for you to become a victim of sexual assault – your chance of dying off pneumonia is about the same.

    Helena is right…

    The probability of being diagnosed with breast cancer sometime during the rest of your life stays at ~12% (or ~1 in 8). Unlike rape, breast cancer is much more likely to happen to mature women.

    While it is tempting to use ‘hard’ statistical data to beef up a narrative and support opinions, misquoting and misinterpreting the facts weakens the argument.

    John Allen’s Paulson’s ‘Innumeracy’ provides a readable account of similar troubles with data interpretation.

    • teetotal says:

      well, lucky me then! Having been raped at 46! Does that prove I’m still desireable or is there someone who identified me as being vulnerable. Someone who was trying to pass himself off as a sexual healer, but still controlled by desires he can only identify as ‘seduction’. How much particular opprobrium would I have to endure if I made that one public then?

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  28. Thefremen says:

    I just started reading “The Gift of Fear” it’s a really great book written by a man who lived through years of abuse and has worked with everyone from rape victims to presidents who have verifiable threats against their lives. It gives you a lot of good advice about how you can read people and understand when they may do you harm in the future, whether it’s the far future or immediately.

  29. Lara Emily Foley says:

    Brilliant piece Andrea. Just absolutely brilliant. The same thoughts go through my head every day, I just have accepted that it might happen, in fact not just might but probably will happen one day. Thank you so much for posting this and letting me know that I’m not alone in thinking about this.

  30. Liz says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. I really appreciate it.

  31. Sharon says:

    Reading this article made me realise for the first time in 40-odd years that a chunk of my brain is occupied by a well-honed self preservation instinct which I have never really thought about before. Wherever I am and where ever I go, it checks out men and their behaviour. If I’m out on my own at night, it keeps me away from low walls, bushes, alleyways, obstacles and unlit areas, and monitors the proximity of anyone else who’s around. Whenever I go into a room for the first time, it makes a note of all the exit routes. If I start to feel at all uncomfortable in a situation, it tells me to get out (to the detriment of my dental health!)

    I can trace this back to when I was 12 years old, when I was molested by a man on the outskirts of some woods when I was out playing. The man was a colleague of my father’s. I was rescued by my 15 year old brother before things got too nasty. On the way home, my brother made me promise not to tell anyone because it would cause too much trouble. ‘What sort of trouble?’ I asked. He said, ‘Dad will kill him. Then he’ll get jailed for murder.’ The thought of what this would do to my mother was enough to convince me, and I have never spoken of it since.

    I have been watching my back ever since, though, and not out of fear for my own personal safety, but out of fear for the ‘trouble’ it would cause, the hurt and distress it would put my family through. There must be millions of women and girls all over the world who have kept quiet about all sorts of abuses for the same reasons. In the eyes of Wikileaks’ supporters, the two Swedish women seem to be guilty of telling when they should have kept quiet. How dare they give the authorities an excuse to arrest Saint Julian? What about the greater good? Happily for women everywhere, the two Swedes are not scared little girls. I hope Assange is extradited to Sweden and made to answer the allegations properly.

    Thank you, Andrea, for putting your finger on an under-represented aspect of female (and male) thinking, and writing about it.

  32. C. A. says:

    “…because people might be incapable of believing someone with a great political idea might also not think he had to take “no” for an answer in the bedroom.” — brilliant! Thank you for this!

  33. marco jones says:

    Sad to hear about all the rape cases. As a man I can assure you that I would never rape anyone, it would be barbaric. I would think most men feel the same, but it only takes a few bastards to cause alot of damage.

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  36. Janis Havershad says:

    Interesting article. It really helps to show how you always have to be “aware” and never really know when an attack may occur. Although two things I want to mention. I am dissapointed that you did not mention female rapist. Several of my Bi/lesbian friends have been victims of rape/assault by current and former partners. Nothing against your article but I feel that we can’t be silent about any form of rape or sexual assualt. Women can be, and are, sexual predators.
    My friends, the two that reported the assualt, were told that it was impossible for a woman to commit rape or sexual assualt and treated as if they were insane. The LBGT groups on campus turned from supportive friends to rabid mobs out to make my friends and thier friends lives hell. Both transferred to different colleges because of the experience.
    Personally I feel that the more we treat everyone who is the victim of sexual assualt, female and male, as what they are, the victim of a sexual assualt, and treat the perpatrator of the assualt, male or female, as the predator s/he is, than more of the population will work to elimintate sexual assualt in all it’s forms. More support from all segments of society and less acceptance of the behavior.

  37. Maria says:

    This is such a great post.

  38. david says:

    “Seven percent of rapes are committed by a relative. ” think that’s a typo- seventy, perhaps?
    In my culture (far from yours, but probably similar) the nature of this statistic is primarily rape of a minor by an older male authority figure (father, uncle)- so predominantly a different form of evil than those you fear.
    Having said that, i believe a statistically smaller likelihood doesn’t make it less reprehensible- I just like to focus my fear and loathing where it is most appropriately directed.

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  44. curiousman says:

    “you don’t have to be a stat-wielding, card-carrying feminist to feel the threat of rape in your life. Really, all you have to be is female.” or male, http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/men-outnumber-women-among-american-rape-victims/
    not a bad article, but a bit sexist…

  45. curiousman says:

    “you don’t have to be a stat-wielding, card-carrying feminist to feel the threat of rape in your life. Really, all you have to be is female.” – The majority of rape in the U.S. is reckoned to be perpetrated against males, also I am a male and have been sexually assaulted more than once.
    No one gender owns rape, and to say so is sexist

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