Do you know what it’s like to sit across from a teenage girl and tell her that what she experienced was not her fault, no matter how many drinks she had, no matter how stupid she feels for getting into his car, that the fact he raped her while she was slurring “No,” is not her fault.
Because I do. I know what that looks like, feels like, sounds like.
Soft crying usually. Not a lot of noise except the sound machine outside my door.
I’ve already kicked the parents out because obviously there is more to the story then what they are willing to say in front of Mom or Dad.
There is always so much tension when the parents are present. They leave and it’s like a weight is lifted, the kid breathes, and tells me the truth. I don’t know when that happens. When the line is so clearly drawn between parents and kids.
So the parents are outside the door while their child tells me about a night when they….drank too much, got a ride home with some one they thought they could trust, stayed overnight with a friend with an older brother or friends of the older brother…the stories are all the same and the girls all feel the same. They feel ashamed, guilty, and alone.
They all say “I know it was my fault…I shouldn’t have…” I let them tell their story. I sit quietly and hear the whole thing. I don’t hand them tissues. I let them just cry it out all ugly with mascara dripping if they are wearing any. There are tissues in front of them on the desk or table but they never reach for them.
It’s like I’m not even there sometimes. They are remembering the night, the moments, the pain, the afterward, and how it sometimes took them weeks or months to even acknowledge that what happened qualifies as rape.
I wait for them to reach a closing point in their narrative. They usually look up at me, with trepidation. Fear. What am I going to say? Think? Do?
I always hold their gaze. No looking away. Got to maintain eye contact. I have an excellent poker face. So while on the inside I am screaming to find the little shit that did this to them and tear them limb from limb, on the outside I am composed. I use their own language to say something like, “To be clear. I mean very clear. It’s not your fault.” They always try to interrupt me and say “But I drank” or “But I got into the car” and I interrupt them and say something like, “You got into the car because he offered to drive you home. Because you needed a ride home, he was a friend of a friend, and he should have kept his dick in his pants. Just because you were in his car did not give him the right to pull over and rape you. That’s fucked up. It’s also illegal. You are not wrong. None of this is on you. There is a code in society that we can trust other people not to rape us when we are intoxicated or in their car. Don’t own this responsibility. It’s not yours.”
I always talk about pressing charges if they want to, but I don’t pressure them. I tell them we have to tell their parents at some point, especially depending on their age and the perpetrator, some times I am legally obligated to tell their parents and DCF.
I’ve had a hard time coming up with a blog post recently because this topic has been on my mind. This topic of our girls our teenage girls taking responsibility for boys, teenage boys who are unable to keep their penis’ to themselves. What the everloving fuck.
It’s horrifying to me. As a mom of boys it’s horrifying to think my son’s would ever do that to another human being. But boys are doing it. On the regular and girls are swallowing down the hurt and pain and remaining silent because they don’t want to “snitch” they don’t want to be called a “liar” and they don’t want to go through it all again.
I want to reach a day where I don’t have so many girls on my caseload with silent rape histories. Rapes that they and myself and a man somewhere out in the world are the only three people in the world who know about it. I want to reach a day when boys are not rapists who get away with it.
I want boys to be taught to not rape women.
Perhaps we as a society just think boys and men know this intuitively. Clearly they don’t. Clearly there needs to be overt conversations with boys who will become men about never having sex with a woman or girl when she is saying No. Never have sex with a girl who is intoxicated and can’t consent. These are simple rules to live by.
Instead of all the girls on my caseload, where are the young men? Where are the rapists? Protected by wealth, parents, and race. The perpetrators of the majority of my cases are white, middle to upper class, boys of wealth and privilege who if there are charges pressed will have a team of attorneys to make sure it is expunged from their adult record.
To change this it would require a major overhaul of our discussions with boys and girls, men and women, about sex, consent, and rape.
For now, I sit with and I hear their stories. I help them rebuild themselves. I help them heal. I carry their pain and I see their tears. I support them during police investigations if they choose to pursue it.
But some days it’s too much to carry. Some days the stories add up and weigh me down. Yet even then I can’t zone out. I can’t call out of work. I have to be there for them. For their stories. For their trauma’s. For their healing.
That’s what it is to be in psychiatry. To be there. To watch broken girls build themselves into strong bold young women. Even when it feels like too much to bear. Because in those moments I have to remind myself that they lived it. That their trauma is more than I could ever imagine. That the retelling of it to me is nothing compared to the actual assault.
But what I’m really thinking about at the end of the day is that I want to raise my sons to be good men. I want all parents to raise their sons to be decent, kind, respectful men. That I want the rapists to stop raping. Because if we focused on the rapists, and not the victims, we would have empowered women and respectful educated men.
To all the young girls out there. It’s not your fault. You are not alone. Don’t take your life because you were raped. Tell some one. Talk about it. Cry ugly tears. Press charges. Take the control back, give the the shame away where it belongs, and live. Because there’s no greater moment than when you can rise up and give death the middle finger because you choose to live without fear.