One Woman’s Truth: Rape Exchange

[Content Warning: discussion of rape and emotional aftermath.]

Recently we asked you all to voice your truth. We provided an anonymous space to do so, because we know it can be incredibly hard to do.

Our friend and long time reader Andi recently shared a powerful, profound truth on her blog, The World 4 Realz. In her post, Andi says,

I wrote “Rape Exchange” in the middle of the night after reading a poem about another girl’s experience. The poem itself — “Rape Joke” by Patricia Lockwood — is staggering in its powerful display of emotions held in check, its tongue in cheek approach, and its {dare I say it?} sense of humor.

Click here to read her original post in its entirety, and followup.

Kel and I asked her if we could share it here because we both found her truth-poem incredibly moving, and because we know she’s not alone. 1 in 6 American women have been the victim of a completed or attempted rape. I think that number is probably higher, because 60-95% of rapes are unreported. And I know that she’s not alone because it’s happened to me too.

One change I think most women would want to make is to have a world without rape. Before that can happen, we need to be able to have the messy, uncomfortable conversations about how and afterward and oh no, you too? In that spirit, here is one woman’s truth:

Rape Exchange

I wanted to write about my rape.

My rape. Mine.

As though it’s an item that belongs to me.

Hello, I’d like to return this rape, please.

It seems to be broken.

This isn’t a gem I’d like to own.

I can’t even give it away,

Because to whom would I gift this treasure?

Hello, would you like a piece of rape?

I baked it fresh, just for you!

But really? My rape. Mine.

I have to hold onto it

And keep it

And own it forever.

So I wanted to write about this object.

But then I read another poem,

And she said it better than I ever could.

I felt both validated

And stupid.

Validated because,

Hooray! I’m not the only one!

Others feel this way, too!

Stupid because,

  1. I just got excited that someone else was raped.
  2. My writing will never be evocative and rich and deep with meaning. Not like hers. Her rape reaction is better expressed than mine.
  3. Her rape was real.

Did you see how I did that?

Her rape.”

It definitely belongs to her.

And her rape is better than mine,

More “valid,”

More cut and dry.

Since rape is a thing now,

An object,

An item,

I wonder if we could switch?

Hello, I would like to make a rape exchange.

My rape for yours.

She might actually go for it.

Her rape sounds like it was a lot more painful and forced.

Mine wasn’t that bad,

As far as rapes go.

If you’re going to be raped,

You want your rape to be lacking in blood and tears.

Sometimes I wonder,

“Was it really rape?”

Because it didn’t hurt.

And because I went into the room willingly.

And because I was drunk.

And because I didn’t mind having sex with the first guy.

And because I hated myself anyway, and didn’t care what happened to me that year.

And because by the time I realized there was more than one guy, it was too late to say no.

And because I was too surprised to shout, “Stop!” which is what you’re supposed to do when you’re being raped.

And because I laughed, since the whole thing was so surreal; I mean, honestly, who rapes people? That’s just ridiculous.

And because they didn’t even act like they were doing anything wrong, so maybe they weren’t.

And because I got dressed with all of them watching, and then I walked out of the room.

And because I wasn’t shaking or scared or upset or sad; I wasn’t anything; I was nothing.

And because I didn’t realize yet that it was rape.

And because I didn’t tell anyone, since it wasn’t rape.

And because I saw the guys around all the time after that, and we always smiled and waved and exchanged pleasantries, and if it was rape, we wouldn’t be all chummy with each other, right?

I can’t remember when I realized it was rape.

It’s not like suddenly my rape walked up to me and announced its presence.

It was more like a growth that became itchy and annoying over time, until eventually I realized I had a mentally cancerous cyst, and it couldn’t be popped, so it got all infected and had to be lanced, and sometimes even now it swells back up again.

The rape itself was fine; the emotional aftermath was the bloody part.

So that’s why I want to trade rapes.

Her rape didn’t come with questions and doubts.

Her rape was definitive and fits in a box with perfect labels.

My rape is kind of clumsy and rusty and awkward and comes with glances that slide sideways because people aren’t sure how they should look at you once they know:

  1. You were raped.
  2. But maybe you weren’t.

If I had to rate my rape on a scale of one to ten,

I’m not sure what number I would go with.

Is it wrong to wish my rape was a perfect ten?

If it fit all parameters, and qualified as legitimate,

Would I sleep better at night?

Probably not.

Would it be easier to discuss?

I don’t think so.

Would people stop with the victim-blaming?

Nah; I blame myself, so why shouldn’t you?

Regardless of how it went down, despite the fact that her rape was way better than mine, I will always hate that it happened, and that I didn’t stop it from happening to the next girl, and that it took so long to recognize it for what it was: my rape.

So I won’t bother with requests for a rape exchange.

I’ll just box mine up myself,

Put it back on the shelf with all the other miscellaneous oddities I’ve collected through the years,

And be content with what I have.

My rape is mine.

It’s not the best rape on the market,

But it’s the one I’m stuck with.

Andi Brunett

Andi-Roo (@theworld4realz) can be found at http://www.theworld4realz.com/, where she rants about the “arbitrivial” nature of human beings, begs for Coke, and attempts to embrace social media. Currently at work on her first novel, Greene Market, the anti-fracking Andi-Roo lives in Ohio with her husband, two kids, a polydactyl, and a shark.

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3 Responses to One Woman’s Truth: Rape Exchange

  1. Amazing. I’m fortunate that I have never experienced rape or physical abuse as so many of my sisters in the world have. At least not so far in my life.
    But my best friend did many years ago. We’ve been friends for 40 years and she didn’t tell me until just a few years ago because she couldn’t talk about it. Self loathing and self blame are both big ol’ suitcases that she is unpacking and hopefully – finally- learning to leave behind.
    Reading this beautiful expression helps me to understand just a little bit what she’s thinking and feeling and helps me to be a better friend for her.
    Thanks for sharing this.

    • Tracy Richardson says:

      Your friend is lucky to have someone like you in her life, Rebecka, someone who is willing to try to understand the effects of things not personally experienced. Like your friend, most of mine have no idea, and those that do don’t know much.

      On a happier note, I absolutely love your phrase, “sisters in the world”. I may have to borrow that! :)

      Thanks for letting us know this was helpful to you.

    • Your response is exactly why I was so pleased that Tracy & Kel wanted to share my post here. Thank you for your compliments. I hope your friend is able to find healing, and I am glad she can lean on you for that.

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