How many rape survivors do you know? I remember hearing that one in four women are raped. I happen to know lots of women; none of whom had been raped, so I found that statistic hard to believe. Imagine how surprised I was to become that one out of four. Equally surprising was the number of women who then confided in me that they, too, had been raped. So, how many rape survivors do you know? Where I once would have answered, “zero,” now I say, “at least five.”
After you’re raped, people give you teddy bears. I got three. Putting that in writing makes it seem very strange—be physically violated, get a stuffed animal! Joking aside, I truly appreciated the sentiment. I was especially touched by the gifts from people I didn’t even know, like a dream catcher from my Grandma’s neighbor. One of my sisters said, “My friends all want to do something for you, but what do you ‘do’ for a rape victim?” Well, I can tell you what not to do: Don’t ignore it. I remember sitting in front of a pile of Christmas cards and wanting to write, “You jerk, you didn’t even ask me how I was after you knew that I was raped!” It doesn’t take much. “How are you doing?” would be fine. (If that’s too hard, please write the person a letter!)
My sister recently told me that I am the luckiest person she knows. “Real lucky,” I thought, “does she forget I was raped?” The next day, a friend I’ve known for years told me that she had been raped in college. (Change my answer to “at least six”) Hers was a date rape, her attacker now climbing the corporate ladder. She didn’t tell her family and struggled with it for years. I reflected on my own situation. My attacker had a knife—and I wasn’t killed—my attacker was a stranger—and he was caught and jailed—I have a great support system and the husband, children and home that I’ve always dreamed of…maybe my sister is right.
*first published in SAFE of Hunterdon's March 2004 newsletter