“It Obviously Wasn’t Assault If You Chose To Stay With Him/Tried To Work It Out” (Spoiler Alert: I Disagree With That Idea)

May 5, 2017

This is a narrative that’s out there in the world…

Over half(!) of rapes in this country are perpetrated by intimate partners. So rape within the confines of some type of relationship is kinda common (within the statistics of rape).

And it’s exceptionally annoying to me that people act like if you stay with the person who rapes you that all of a sudden, they didn’t rape you then.

There are a million reasons to stay with someone. But the way you react to a trauma, or a wrongdoing, or just anything doesn’t change the truth of whether that thing happened.

For instance, I got into a car accident in high school where a girl totaled my car. She ran a red light. (I think she was on her phone.) And the car was irreparable. And she got out of the car, she was practically in tears apologizing, telling me over and over how sorry she was.

And I tried to calm her down and assure her everything was gonna be okay. “Look, I’m fine. I’m fine. You didn’t hurt anybody. It’s gonna be okay.”

Because I nicely and calmly talked to this girl, and tried to be helpful as we called our parents and such… does that mean she didn’t total my car? Did she only total my car if I’d immediately gotten out and started screaming obscenities at her? The car was obviously totaled. It was right before everybody’s eyes.

Reactions to things don’t make those things not true.

If your significant other cheats on you, and you find out, and you decide to stay with them anyway for whatever millions of reasons you do, and you mention to a friend how much it hurt your feelings when that happened, or how you’re having trouble trusting your significant other again after that, does it make sense for your friend to say, “Well, he obviously didn’t actually cheat on you, because if you’re willing to stay with him, there’s literally no way he cheated”?

I know that I’m always saying “let’s take rape seriously,” and, “it’s more than just some type of tiff within your relationship.” And I do mean those things. And I do think we should take it really seriously. But even if it is a problem larger than relationships, it doesn’t erase that relationship part. It doesn’t change the fact that you might still care about this person and originally think maybe you could work past this. (And some people do!)

And I’m not making a case that people should or shouldn’t. I’m also certainly not making a case that I did the right thing in trying to stay and work things out. (Seeing it now with hindsight, I didn’t.)

I’m just saying this idea that your reaction to something – if it’s too nice, or it’s too calm, or it’s too whatever – negates the truth that the thing happened just seems really not right to me.

I'd love to hear from you! So whaddya say?