After a couple of hours he drops me off outside my residence. He asks me not to call the cops. We don’t kiss as I get out.
When I wake up my panties are drenched in blood. My vagina is tender, and when I move it scratches inside of me. I have to wear a pad to class.
After lunch, I tell my friends what happened. They think it’s my fault. They don’t say it, but they don’t say that he did anything wrong either. Obviously. I went willingly, I was drunk. I only said no after I was naked. What a complete idiot I was to expect him to respect my boundaries. No one ever mentions the word ‘rape’. I also thought it was my fault. For days, weeks, I wandered around campus, feeling completely drained and numb. I found myself wondering whether I was still a virgin or not. I had no idea. I found myself unable to trust anyone, not just men. Didn’t he say I could trust him? Doesn’t that mean that it was my fault?
A few weeks later we go to a party at Simonsberg and we see him there. I turn to walk away as my friends go and say hi.
Rape has only been seen as a social problem since the 1970s. Before that, it happened at home but there wasn’t much anyone could do about it. Rape’s only been publicly recognised as something wrong for the last forty years.
Before that, it was something that women let happen. It was something that was simply a part of life. In a rape-supportive culture, when a women does certain things, she is consenting to sex. Therefore, if the man rapes her, he cannot be blamed. So, if a girl gets drunk, or wears provocative clothing, or goes to a guy’s apartment, she consented to sex and cannot get raped. The thinking is that men will never be able to control their sexual urges and all women are the subjects of their desires.
I only realised four years later that what happened to me was rape. This incident had haunted me into doing my thesis on rape during my honours year; in the psychology community they call research, “me-search”. I know a lot of people wouldn’t define what happened to me as rape. This guy, he’s not a bad guy. He’s not an evil rapist. He completed his degree. He is engaged. He will probably get married and have children. Maybe he’ll have a daughter. And he’ll love her and she’ll love him and think that her dad’s a hero.
He is not a pathological rapist, but he did hurt me. I know there are thousands, if not millions, of smart, educated South African women out there, denying exactly the same hurt to themselves, saying, “It wasn’t really rape. Like you know, not rape rape”.
It wasn’t rape because you know him, you still know him.
It wasn’t rape because he didn’t beat you up or hurt you physically.
It wasn’t rape because you didn’t struggle enough, you didn’t actually scream or say the word “no”.
It wasn’t rape because he’s your boyfriend or husband.
It wasn’t rape because you liked him.
It wasn’t rape because he’s not evil.
It wasn’t rape because your friends, your family, your community didn’t say it was.
It wasn’t rape because you’re scared of him and what he’ll do to you.
It wasn’t rape because it happened to you.
Guess what? If it was sexual, and you didn’t want it to happen, it can be classified as rape. In these situations, you don’t “cry rape”. In these situations, recognising the hurt that a sexual experience left you with is a scary and brave thing to do.
Obviously, no one can make you say you were raped if you don’t believe you were. That’s for you to decide. But just to get real, rape is happening to you and me. A lot more than we would like to think.
In South Africa, people are tired of rape. We have “rape fatigue”. We don’t want to talk about it anymore. We don’t want to hear about it anymore. We’ve reached and surpassed our point of saturation. In fact, we kind of just wish the whole problem will go away without us having to do anything about it. Like a really big pimple. South Africans have developed apathy about rape. Talking about rape is passé. There are so many new, more exciting social problems to concentrate on. Rape is no longer the “it” topic. So, for the time being, let’s just move on with life. I know André has.