Leftist commentary from a mouthy bitch
Well, yes, but not the way they usually mean it. What most people, most non-having-been-raped people mean is, “You have to forgive your rapist.”
What I mean is, “You have to forgive yourself.” Now, let me talk about this one first, and then I’ll talk about the other.
Why do you have to forgive yourself? I’ve been saying all along that YOU didn’t do anything wrong, so what’s to forgive? As much as we (or at least some of us) may know intellectually that rape is never the fault of the victim, and that the rapist is the person at fault, because of all the societal conditioning we have absorbed over the course of our lifetimes, nearly every rape survivor I’ve ever talked to has at some point, if not for the majority of the time they’ve been a survivor, blamed themself for what happened.
“I should have fought harder.” “Why did I trust him/her?” “Why did I go to that party/bar/work?” The second guessing after the fact is amazing. “I should have known…”
I feel pretty secure in saying that every rape survivor has these thoughts. And the hardest thing in the world is to admit that it wasn’t up to you. You didn’t “let” someone rape you, they raped you. You should have known what? That the guy who said he loved you and would never in a million years hurt you was going to hold you down and force himself inside your body? Why the fuck should you have known that? That the guy who said he was your friend, and who spent evenings watching tv and movies with you and holding your hand when you got dumped would then tell you that you OWED him, and would THEN hold you down and force himself inside your body? Why the fuck should you know, let alone expect, that bullshit? That someone would force their way into your house and then your body? That the really nice guy who offered you a ride home would pin you the seat of his car… Yeah, it goes on. But the fact of the matter is: They raped you.
He/She/They Raped You.
Subject – verb – Direct Object.
And that is just what you were to them, an object. An object without a say in what happened to it.
So, yes, forgiving yourself is the hardest and most important part. The person who raped you? Fuck them, I don’t think you need to forgive them at all. Let go of your anger at them, yes. Forgive them, no.
And I don’t find “letting go of anger” to be the same thing as forgiveness. I think that you need to release that anger, because harboring it will burn you up inside. I think that living angry like that forever and ever, amen, will eventually wear you out. At the least, it’s probably going to make your life not very fun anymore. And no one should have to give up fun because of something someone else did to them. I think you can get to a place where remembering won’t hurt quite so badly by letting go of the anger.
And anger is natural. In fact, I don’t think you should even TRY to let go of the anger for, oh, at least a year. Ok, that was a totally arbitrary length of time, but seriously. Expect to be angry, at your rapist, at friends, family, yourself, the police… anyone in any way peripherally related to what happened. And it’s ok. BE ANGRY. I give you permission.
The anger at yourself should go first. Really. It rarely does, but it should. Just keep repeating, “It was not my fault. I did not ask to be raped. He/She/They Raped Me.”
Then work your way out. It’ll come, in time.
The Sainted Survivor
Possibly this should be a second post, but it is related. Trust me.
Now, movies and literature are full of (mostly) female characters who are raped, and who then beatifically forgive the rapist, usually tearfully while gently caressing the rapist’s cheek, and he weeps at the beauty and grace of her forgiveness and is redeemed and becomes a saint-protector of women or whatever.
Fuck that shit. Right in the ear.
What most people mean when they tell you to forgive your rapist, particularly in instances of incest and acquaintance rape, is that they expect you to get over this silly drama of yours so we can all go back to business as usual.
“It will help you heal” they tell you, to forgive this person who forced themselves on you.
Telling people they must forgive their rapist, when quite frankly an awful lot of us are just not capable of it, is cruel. Because on top of all the internalized “I should have done something…” that the rape victim is going through, you’re getting another heaping helping of “Why can’t I be good enough to forgive this person?”
So I find telling rape victims to forgive to be completely and utterly horrible. It layers on more guilt and more anxiety. It’s another way in which we fail, because if we can’t forgive we must be some kind of monster.
Also, forgiving someone has this connotation in our society of telling them that it’s ok, the past is past. I’m not going to hold this against you. Fresh start and all that.
I don’t think this is healthy. At all. Or a good idea. Sexual predators have the worst recidivism rates of all types of criminals. Forgiving gives them a pass. “S/He’s changed! They aren’t that person anymore!” Yeah, well, if I’d THOUGHT they were “that person” to begin with, I wouldn’t have been alone with them, would I? So what makes you think they really aren’t “that person” anymore. Would YOU be alone with them now?
And like I said before, what most people mean when they say “forgive” is “get over it, and act like it never happened.” You may well manage to forgive your rapist, but if you continue to behave with healthy caution toward them, say by never being alone with them, avoiding them in social situations, it isn’t going to be enough for those people urging forgiveness. They don’t want you to forgive, they want you to forget, because until you do, they can’t.