An Open Letter to the Guy Who Made That Rape Joke

Dear Guy Who Made That Rape Joke,

I don’t know who you are, or what your name is. I don’t know where you’re from or what you do. All I know is that, to me, you’re “Guy who made that rape joke.” Specifically, “Guy who came up to me in class, tried to flirt, and made a rape joke.”

“Damn, that exam just raped me hard," you said. I didn’t crack a single smile, couldn’t even pretend to be amused for you. Are you proud of that?

I can’t necessarily blame you for offending me. You're just the product of this rape culture that we live in. You might know rape culture as “that thing that crazy women feminists keep complaining about.” But it’s as real as cancer is a deadly illness. You wouldn’t have made a cancer joke now, would you? Like, “Damn, that exam almost killed me like cancer does.” No, because it’s not cool to joke about cancer – but it’s somehow really cool to joke about rape.

Just think about it. If I asked you in that moment why that was funny, what could you possibly say to convince me? “Oh, it’s really funny because I compared the really difficult exam that I failed to rape, an act where one person takes away all the power and choice from another person. It’s funny because they’re the same.” To you, rape is hilarious.

But that’s because you don’t know. You simply don’t know. You know that torture is bad and cancer kills because you’ve seen it in the media. Movies that you watch and news that you see, they feature heartbreaking stories of cancer patients and ex-marines who survived. Yes, they all have remarkable stories that deserve recognition. But what have you seen about rape? You might have heard a statistic here or there, like “one in six women have been sexually assaulted,” and somewhat understood how terrible that is. But have you ever watched a rape survivor talk about his or her experiences and how they survived it? Maybe if you had, rape wouldn’t be so funny anymore. Maybe you’d know that rape actually happens, and it causes more damage and suffering than you know.

Well, here’s your lesson on rape, coming from someone who knows too well what it means. Rape doesn’t just stop at the rape itself. I wish it did, but the aftermath of my rape was just as devastating as the act itself. It’s been a hell of a time. Even though writing is what I do best, I can’t convey with words what it was like for me and for those who love me to watch the sh*t show that followed my assault. I wake up every morning dreading the inevitable anxiety that will follow me to class and work. I no longer feel safe in most places, forced by an irrational fear to constantly look over my shoulder. I face a strong disillusionment with the world, and the goodness of others no longer is a truth I believe in. Panic attacks wreak havoc on my mind and body, and I grow more and more physically exhausted because of a physical sickness I cannot control.

My body betrayed me by recording my rape, the fear I felt and the hopelessness that followed. It continues to betray me when I relive the worst event in my life through flashbacks. Every day I’ve fought guilt and shame for what happened to me, because of the attitudes of people like you. It’s been a year and a half, and I’ve accepted the fact that this will be present for the rest of my life.

Even though this is an extremely condensed version of my story, I hope you know now that rape is real. I hope that if you knew that this was our reality, you wouldn’t have made that joke, not just to me, but to any other person. I hope that you would’ve held your tongue, because I’ve already had someone shatter my faith in human kindness and consideration, and I don’t need you to remind me.

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