What Does Your Hollywood Version of Rape Look Like?

She treads water. Much like a drowning victim.

Photo credit Aimanness Photography, (Creative Commons)

At the start of every summer I see videos like this one start making the rounds through my friends via social media. Videos and articles that detail for people the dangers of drowning. They remind everyone that drowning, in real life, doesn’t look the way Hollywood depicts.

In the movies, or on television, when someone starts to drown there tends to be a lot of thrashing, waving arms, and garbled screams for help. After all, how else would the lifeguard or hero know to dive in for the dramatic rescue?

In real life though, drowning tends to be silent. Very little splashing and rarely any screaming, because the victim’s focus and energy is on surviving.

People pass around the video to remind others, especially parents, to be watchful and vigilant around water. Because if you’re thinking you can keep an ear out for screams, you may be too late.

Despite this, people tragically drown every year. What’s odd is that when it happens, you never hear or see people asking any of the following questions of near-drowning victims, families of drowning victims, witnesses of drownings, or anyone else involved:

  • Did the victim want to be swimming?
  • Didn’t the victim choose to be in the water?
  • Was the victim having fun, splashing around in the water, just prior to drowning?
  • Did the victim scream?
  • How loud?
  • Did the victim make it clear to all nearby witnesses that he/she was drowning?
  • If the victim was rescued, did he/she immediately sue the party responsible for the body of water in which he/she almost drowned?
  • If not, why?
  • If time passed prior to suing, how much?
  • Why did the victim wait to sue?

Sounds ridiculous, no? Who would ask such questions of a person who’d been struggling just to stay alive? Fighting to get to safety.

We don’t ridicule drowning victims, or near-drowning victims, for not making it clear that they’re in danger.

So why do people do it to victims of rape, assault, battery, forcible touching, etc?

Is society operating under a similar Hollywood-induced delusion that those types of attacks look and sound a certain way?

Not every rape looks like the one from the movie The Accused, violent and brutal, with screaming and fighting, scratching and gnashing. There often aren’t witnesses. There aren’t always bruises.

Sometimes, the victim was enjoying herself prior to her attack. Chatting with the very man who later attacked her. Maybe even flirting. She may wake up with only a specific soreness letting her know something happened she wasn’t fully conscious for.

Or maybe she walks away without a bruise. The only sign that she’s been forcibly groped is the invisible, internal shaking that won’t relent. No matter how much she silently repeats to herself that it will be okay.

Maybe she keeps her mouth shut because she needs her job. So she pretends for as long as she can that his dick against her leg is always accidental.

She treads water. Much like a drowning victim.

One whose method of survival others wouldn’t think to question.

We need to keep in mind that word, victim. A victim is a person harmed, whether by the twisting tide of the sea or the twisting fingers of an attacker.

In either instance, the victim deserves more from us than a cynical interview that calls their every move into question just because what they survived doesn’t match our Hollywood version of the event

This Is What It Feels Like To Be “Grabbed By the Pussy” By Someone You Know

Photo by Gage Skidmore

It doesn’t feel like sexual assault. Not right away. Because I knew those two guys.

I’d seen them almost every single day of my life since we started in Kindergarten together. Here we were in high school. So yeah, I knew them. I called them friends.

At first it feels like flirting. You find yourself in a room alone with them and they’re chatting, just the two of them. You take a seat and sit quietly until they start talking to you. You look up and find their eyes on you and their smirks so familiar.

They tell you how cute you look today and you blush a little and feel embarrassed because neither one of them has ever said something like that to you before.

It starts to feel like teasing when they zero in on the leggings you wore that day. When they start asking what the leggings look like against your ass if they were to lift your shirt and have a look. They wonder aloud to each other if they could see the outline of your pussy if you just lifted your shirt for them.

You think they’re just being jerks now and roll your eyes. They keep engaging you in conversation and you still think it’s all jokes and teasing, even as they start moving. Even as they get closer.

You even giggle when their fingers start pulling at your shirt. Tickling under the hem. The giggle sounds ridiculous to your own ears, that high nervous one you hate, and you hop up to move away. Still thinking they’re being ridiculous and playful.

It still doesn’t feel like sexual assault when you turn and realize you’re in a corner and they’re walking toward you, one on each side. You don’t have the sense yet to feel nervous, because you know these two guys. Have known them since Kindergarten.

You think this is still a game and that the fluttering in your stomach is from having so much attention on you. You’re young and naive and brainwashed enough to think this is just how guys are around girls. They get loud, and show-off, and grab.

A lot.

But the fluttering starts to feel like dread when the two guys don’t stop coming at you. When they walk all the way up to you, one on each side, so you feel sandwiched. When they pull at your shirt and one grabs your wrist and your shirt is up high enough now that your skin feels the breeze coming from the air conditioning vent above your head.

You still don’t think it’s assault, though. That isn’t the word that comes to mind in that moment. No, in that moment, when their hands seem to be everywhere . . . on your side, and brushing the underside of your bra, and on your ass, and then . . . yup . . . grabbing your pussy . . . the word assault doesn’t come to mind.

You wonder if you’d get in trouble for screaming. You wonder where your voice went because the general physical area from which your voice emits feels very dry and all you can manage to get out is an occasional breathy no or stop.

You wonder if you really know these guys at all and if they’ve changed over the years or were always like this and you were never unfortunate enough to be alone with them before now.

Even when you manage to push one away, and they’re laughing at you as you pull your shirt down and the teacher who was stuck on the phone in the office next door walks in, you don’t think assault.

You just quietly take a seat and smooth down your hair. You pick up your viola and start your lesson next to your teacher, all the while your heart hammering because when you glance up at them . . . they’re still smirking.

No, you don’t think assault. But those smirks no longer look friendly. Or even recognizable.

You don’t think assault, but you make sure, for the remainder of your time in high school, that you’re never again alone with either one of them. Especially if they are together.

You must not really believe it assault because you never tell on them. Never admit what happened. You convince yourself it was just flirting. Just boys being boys. They didn’t do any lasting damage, right?

I mean, the worst thing they did was just grab your pussy through your clothes.

So here’s the deal . . .

If you’re still defending that sick piece of shit, and still voting for him, and still thinking that his words have no bearing on how he’ll be in office, look around you.

Look at every woman or young girl you know and love.

Go ahead.

Look your mother in the eye. Your daughters. Your best friend. Your wife or girlfriend. Your sister. Your play partner. Your business partner. Your co-worker that you joke is your spouse because she’s the shoulder you lean on at work. Look at your grandmother if you’re lucky enough to still have her around. Your niece. Your cousin. The woman who rings up your groceries.

Even if you yourself are a woman and still defending that douchebag, take a good long look at the women around you.

They’ve been grabbed by the pussy.

It’s happened to at least one of them, if not most. They’ve been touched in a non-consensual way and talked themselves out of the word assault.

Because the guy who did it was a friend, was a co-worker, was kidding, was flirting, etc.

Now tell her why you think this fucking waste of space assbag of a human being should lead our country. Tell her his words don’t matter and won’t affect how he’ll lead or the person he’ll be in office. Tell her it won’t matter that girls and boys around the world will hear the disgusting things he says.

Go ahead. Tell her.

You’ve said it to Muslims, Mexicans, Latinos, African-Americans, immigrants, veterans, the mentally ill, women in general, but you never had to look them in the eye. Those are abstract concepts to you, I’m sure.

Tell HER. Then let me know how you still sleep at night.