Have we always been a species that defined a woman’s body as property?
From a young age, I grew to understand that women were expected to not only forgo ownership of who they were, i.e., taking on a husband’s last name, but there was a foreboding realization that women have spent eons as chattel in a man’s world. The patriarchy that rules most societies defines women in a negative and demeaning way. I’m not saying this is an always and everywhere thing, but I will approach this concept in describing my viewpoint from the aspect of rape and rape culture.
Rape is not a newly growing crime; it’s just that we are more aware because of the growth in technology that can bring news to us faster, and with more detail and description. I’ve had conversations with women that have been the victims of sexual assault and inevitably the bottom line is this:
Women must learn how not to be raped, yet men are not taught not to rape. The burden of not being violated lies with the victim. The reasons for such violations inevitably fall into the laps of the victims for one reason or another – what they were wearing, how much they drank, going out alone, leading a man on, and so forth. It’s as if our legal system has a built in failsafe switch to protect rapists. After all, in recent cases, Judges have determined that a rapists life should not be ruined over such a minor indiscretion.
I remember when my father came back from Vietnam the second time. He was not the same man. His level of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder had him crawling across our living room floor with a knife between his teeth, seeking out the enemy. I was terrified that he might mistake me for that enemy and kill me. I was 13. He got a little better over time, but it was a part of our family life until my parents got divorced.
There are warriors walking among you, women, victims and survivors of sexual assault, traumatized, living in the midst of a society that does not realize how rape culture triggers severe episodes of PTSD. I stood in a room years ago with six women. We somehow ended up on the subject of rape. By the end of that conversation, we were stunned to find out that five of the six of us had experienced some kind of sexual assault. I felt such a sense of sadness.
I was 17 the first time. Though I may not crawl across my living room floor with a knife between my teeth, I live in a constant state of fight or flight, a constant state of preparedness for the possibility the guy walking behind me in the parking lot might be waiting for the right moment to attack, a constant state of trying to understand how someone can believe my body belongs to anyone but me. In this year of 2017, I find it hard to accept that we have not progressed beyond such heinous acts of aggression and that our legal system has not enacted laws to punish the horror of such crimes.
I’ve made a promise to myself and every woman I’ve met, that I will always fight for the belief that a day will come when a woman’s body is sacred and anyone that defiles it will be severely punished.