It would have been a typical day in my tenth grade Health class if we did not have a visitor that day.
I remembered looking at her confusingly as I tried to figure out why she was there. After she introduced herself and where she worked, she read a story to us…a story about a sophomore girl who went to prom with a senior guy who she had a crush on. As you can expect, she went on talking about how he persisted to pour drinks for her and how many drinks she ended up having that night. They went to somewhere private and he started to take her clothes off. She hesitated, said no, but they ended up having sex that night anyway. Another rape lesson, I thought.
After the story ended, she told us to organize ourselves and pick a table according to how strongly we feel about whose fault it was. The tables were arranged as “entirely the guy’s fault”, “mostly the guy’s fault”, “both parties’ faults equally”, “mostly girl’s fault”, and “entirely the girl’s fault”.
Majority of the class sat on the table that labeled “entirely the guy’s fault” with some disparity among other table, except for one table. The table I sat on was for “entire the GIRL’s fault”…and I was the only one.
The guest then devoured me with questions about why I felt so strongly that it was the girl’s fault. What I remembered is that other tables were not being asked the same questions I got asked. Regardless of how unfair I felt, I explained to her with my best knowledge of what I had been taught my entire life on the subject: if a girl is raped, she asked for it. Here is a background story that might help you understand my view a bit. I was born and grew up in a conservative small town outside the U.S., and I had only been in the United States for less than two years when this all happened. All my life I have seen how media and parents taught us that a good girl will not dress “slutty”. She will not speak to guys in a flirtatious way. A good girl will not go out with a guy alone, and if there is any alcohol involved, she is definitely the one to blame for no self-control. Therefore, if she had an unwanted sex, it is all her fault for not following those good-girl-guidelines. I was taught that sex is a natural thing for guys and they will always find ways to sleep with you…and girls are responsible for making sure that the unwanted sex situation does not happen.
So, I took my stance on this subject firm and proud I categorized myself as “a good girl” and blamed the girl in the scenario for losing her self-control.
There were many things happened in class that I did not understand. First, why did the guest asked me so many questions for saying that it is entirely the girl’s fault? Why did people on the opposite end were not being asked anything. I did not understand why there were so many people at the “entirely the guy’s fault” table. Moreover, many guys at that table seems unwilling to be there, as if they were there because it was what you supposed to choose. I also did not understand what I did wrong by speaking up for what I had been taught and for being the “good girl”. I did not understand why I was attacked like that.
I discovered answers to the questions I had that day during my years in college. I heard, witnessed, experienced similar situations. I learned that what she/he was wearing or how many drinks they had doesn’t matter. I learned that without a yes, it is a no. I learned that this subject cannot be taken lightly as the experience is not forgettable, impossible to forget, and the recovery takes years if not a lifetime. Most importantly, I learned how our education, media, and society have been “preventing” the issue by focusing on the wrong spot. They said that the more cleavage you show is like the closer you hold the meat in front of a shark; you cannot expect it to refuse and swim away. Well, guess what? Men have brains and they are capable of thinking and acting responsibly if they want to. They are not sharks and will not act out of instinct and eat the meat just because it is in front of them.
Now that I understood everything that happened that day, I felt deeply sorry for my action. Blaming the girl that day was not only disappoint the guest presenter and my teacher, I hurt my fellow classmates. I don’t know how many girls and guys in the class experienced sexual assault or know anyone who is a survivor. I cannot imagine how much damage I have done to my friends’ feelings with a small action in that Health class. How many people did I blame as a byproduct of my action and make them even more guilty for what happened to them? They were all my friends and I ruined them…I am sorry.
I know that I am not perfect, but I try to do my best to not hurt anyone else intentionally. If you are reading this as someone who feels that rape happens because the victim was asking for it, I beg you to give people a chance to explain to you. You will see things the way I see it now.