Just like that Patsy Cline song, I sometimes find myself "walkin' after midnight"--alone. If you're a woman, this is something you are not supposed to do. Ever. Rape is supposed to get you at night, right? Rape is supposed to come in the form of a stranger leering at you from the bushes. What about rape that doesn't happen that way?
I went on a date recently and the man I was out with made a "rape joke." Since I am unafraid to speak my mind, I said to him, "Hey, rape is not funny. Don't joke about it." Then, because I felt like I needed to validate my point more, I told him: "I was raped."
Then I cursed myself and his self for making me bring up the fact that I was raped. And of course, the guy asked me questions about it.
"Oh, I'm so sorry that happened to you. How did it happen?" (This is excellent first date conversation. For sure.)
"It was an ex-boyfriend--he was older than me. I was 17." (What the fuck am I saying?)
"Oh, so it wasn't rape-rape, then." (...)
WHAT? WHAT? What?
Trying to contain my emotions, I breathed deeply before saying: "What the fuck does that mean? Of course it was 'rape-rape.'" He looks confused.
"But, I mean, it was with your boyfriend." (I can't believe this is happening--wait, of course I can!)
"Yeah, and you can be raped by your significant other--it happens more often than the stranger-in-the-bush thing." I got tired. I finally said: "Let's stop talking about this."
I walked home alone trying to shake my feelings of anger, sorrow, and disbelief. I felt (again) that my experience was invalidated. One of the worst things you can possibly do to a survivor is question the truth of their experience. My belly felt full with rage.
I continued to walk home--pissed off and alone. A man was walking towards me, and my feelings of anger quickly turned into fear. I much prefer being angry as opposed to fearful, as being angry has a way of instilling a form of confidence inside of myself--an energy that I can work with.
Everything seems to tighten and shift when you're a woman walking alone night. My fear paralyzed me for the few seconds it took me to pass this man on the sidewalk. You're able to soften a little bit afterwards, but you know you can't completely until you're inside your apartment.
I got home. Breathed. Undressed. Slid under my lavender sheets.
And I did what I always do: I thanked the universe for bringing me home safely.
"If I were a man, would I be so thankful?" We all know the answer to that question.