I’ve never been raped.
Why? Because I’m lucky.
Nothing more. Nothing less.
I’ve been groped on more than one occasion. I’ve been followed by men in a car late at night. I’ve been harassed on the street, and more than once not been certain it was going to end at “harassment.” A friend and I once found ourselves in a shared taxi with two men who tried to convince the driver (in a language they shared and we barely understood) to take us somewhere they could attack us (the driver physically pulled them from his car). I once discovered that my gynecologist was no longer in business – because he had raped several patients.
I am a woman, and I live in the world. This is what living in the world looks like, if you happen to be a woman. If none of that becomes rape? You’re lucky. Nothing more. Nothing less.
And while I might not have been raped, I know many women who were. Some more than once. Some when they were children. Some by people they believed loved them. Rarely, but occasionally, by strangers. And this is just the people I know.
I also spent five years as a rape counselor at the Tel Aviv Rape Crisis Center, where I learned just how tenuous my status as someone who had never been assaulted is. One of the most famous cases we handled involved a young woman and her date — a well-known musician. They got to his place, and after saying yes, she said No. She said no so vehemently, with such certainty, that he had to tie her up to complete his rape. And yet some people still wanted to blame her.
The other day, as all of Egypt poured into the streets to celebrate their victory over tyranny, CBS correspondent Lara Logan was separated from her camera crew, surrounded by a large group of men, and then brutally and repeatedly assaulted. She was saved by Egyptian women and Egyptian soldiers, and CBS reports that she is still in an American hospital.
When Twitter got wind of this, folks went nuts. Some want to blame Middle Eastern culture, or Egyptians generally. Some say the rapists were hired goons, unrepresentative of anything remotely related to those who participated in the Egyptian uprising. Some have actually managed to blame Logan, and one man who should have known better made light of her fate and suggested it would have been “funny” if Anderson Cooper had been raped, too (he’s since apologized, so I won’t link).
But the simple truth is that the only culture that is responsible for this is human culture.
In far too many minds, all over the world, a female human is little more than an outlet or repository for male wishes or power (take a look at ABL’s post, below). Rape is regularly and consistently used as a weapon of war. Rape is regularly and consistently used as a method of control.
But rape is also just regular and consistent. Men rape for no reason other than that they think they can get away with it — all the time, every day. Doctors rape, clergymen rape, husbands rape, boyfriends rape, employers rape, “dates” rape. Sometimes they employ tricks and ploys and intoxicants in order to convince themselves that what they’re doing is not (as Whoopi Goldberg so memorably put it) “RAPE rape” — but if she said no, or couldn’t say no, or was too afraid to say no? It’s RAPE rape. It’s all rape.
And lots of times, rapists don’t even bother to convince themselves. They wanted a vagina, and there was one in the room. They wanted to bond with their boys, and a vagina walked by. They wanted to show that bitch, or prove their worth, or relieve themselves, or take what any man in his right mind would take. RAPE rape.
Like most crimes, rape is a crime of opportunity. You don’t drive across state lines to pick-pocket — you go down to the corner. You don’t get on a bus to find women to attack — you attack the ones who are there and handy. Most of the time, those who commit sexual assaults do so within their own communities. Often within their own families.
Men and boys are also raped — every day — and that is at least one reason why that one tweet was so beyond-the-Pale wrong. No rape is ever funny, and the particular suffering of male victims is one with which we as a society have yet to grapple.
But men and boys, as a class, do not grow up and live with this fear, this threat, across the world and across cultures. This is women’s lot, and it falls on all of us.
I feel such pain and sorrow for Ms. Logan — not only did she survive this horrific attack, but her story is now public property, to be analyzed and picked over by all and sundry, people who have never met her and never will.
But her story is not as rare, or as easily dismissed as random violence, as so many would like it to be. Would wish it to be. And until we — humanity — admit that, millions upon millions of women and girls will be raped and assaulted year in, year out.
I’ve been lucky so far. I pray to God my daughter will be, too.
UPDATE: Melissa Bell, a blogger at the Washington Post, wrote a very good, brief response to the reactions to the attack on Ms. Logan, including some important statistics. Please click through and read the whole thing.
A 2008 study by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights found that 83 percent of Egyptian women and 98 percent of foreign women experience public sexual harassment, from groping to assault.
Here’s why this story is not just about Egypt, either:
In 2000, in New York’s Central Park, an assault similar to Logan’s occurred during a parade. Seven women were attacked. In the United States. Attacks occur everywhere, every day. Again and again.
The assault did not happen because Logan was a reporter in a dangerous country. It did not happen because that country happens to be Muslim. It happened because sexual assault occurs every single day to women everywhere in the world.