By Marissa M. Gray
There are certain moments in our lives which invariably separate us from ourselves. For years, we are left scraping the ashes of ourselves back together. Rape is one of these moments. I experienced this horror firsthand. I am a survivor of child sexual abuse at the hands of my father and of gang rape. As a survivor, or warrior as I say, I found immense solidarity with Emily Doe, the victim of Stanford Rapist, Brock Turner. Though I never met this courageous young woman, her words reflected my own mute misery. We are bonded in the agonizing glue of shared experience.
Thus, when I saw the Stanford Rapist, cloaked in his polo and his privilege, stroll out of prison, I experienced a series of emotional shockwaves. I clung to the belief that, had I only mustered the courage to bring my perpetrators to the police, I would have been vindicated. My perpetrators would be imprisoned, and I would, finally, be free from the terror of sharing one more atom of oxygen with the men who had taken so much from me.
However, after the Stanford Rapist’s untimely release, I was struck by a realization; my perpetrators’ freedom is not my fault. Certainly, I should have reported my assaults. However, reporting rape does not ensure justice will be served. I would have faced some rigorous examination, nearly as invasive as anything they did to me; and for what? Three months in prison? That is less than a single semester. This case brutally proved that we, as warriors, live at the mercy of a system which devalues our stories, and dismissively minimizes our pain.
All warriors, then face the double-edged sword of victimization, from our perpetrators and the system which places their well-being above our misery. Our rapists made us believe we had no control over our bodies, and the system reinforces our helplessness. Contrary to the Stanford Rapist’s smug callousness, rape is not “twenty minutes of action.” It is a ruthless crime that harms the body and tortures the minds of its victims. We never forget our abuse; those scars are woven into the fiber of ourselves. To deny our hurt is to deny the breath in our bodies. From our mental prisons, there is no three-month-good-behavior-deliverance. Our bodies have been hijacked, and we cannot “rape-splain” away our insecurities.
In the midst of my heartache following this case, I recall the temerity of the Stanford victim, and I find the hope necessary to continue the struggle against rape culture in its many incarnations. I hope that every survivor who has spent a night in trembling-terror, wishing they could slough off their stolen-body, know this: we survived. This was NEVER our fault. Though we’ve endured tragedy, that tragedy need not be our identity. We are infinitely more than the nothing the Stanford Rapists of the world, and the culture which tacitly endorses them, made us believe we are. Emily Doe, we are with you. You are never alone. Together, we fight on.