The Impact Of Rape {TRIGGER WARNING}

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To change rape statistics we have to start with giving voice to every rape victim we know and we have to make sure that men are a part of the conversation.

rape victim

The Facts About Rape Culture Is a Conversation That Belongs To All Of Us

Campus rape statistics are disarming. The image of fresh-faced kids having the best time of their lives juxtaposed to such a violent crime against women is startling, if not (sadly) shocking. On VProud there is a fascinating conversation and video about the pro rape dynamic among men pointing out that if we want to change rape culture, men need to be a part of the conversation. We can't just teach our girls how not to be raped, we need to teach our boys how not to rape. Mother and author Katrina Anne Willis reflects on this topic from the lens of someone who has been there. Please note that her essay may be triggering for some, but if you can, please read her words. They are beautifully written, stunningly impactful, and shockingly filled with hope. This conversation belongs to all of us.

—The VProud Team

campus rape statistics

Open Doors

By Katrina Anne Willis For VProud

            I shouldn’t have held the door open. In hindsight, that logic is crystal clear. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. I’d been to the campus safety classes, was certified in self-defense, had listened to all the warnings from my well-meaning family and friends. For that matter, I shouldn’t have been out jogging so close to midnight. Alone.
            But the evening was beautiful, and I was young.
            I smiled at him when I held the apartment complex door open. We walked to the elevator together.
            “Which floor?” I asked, pushing the number two, wiping the sweat from my brow.
            “Wherever you’re going,” he said. And then I saw it. The glint of the knife in his hand. I heard it, too. The sinister edge to his voice.
            This is not happening.
            But it was.
            My fingers shook as I untied the apartment key from my shoelaces
            Don’t let him in. Scream. Run. Do something. Don’t open the door.
            But I opened the door.
            In those situations, reason doesn’t always rule. I was just twenty. I was invincible.
            And yet, I wasn’t.
            The rest of that night comes back to me in shadows and half-memories. The physical pain paled in comparison to the fear. The death threats whispered in my ear while our stranger-bodies met against my will. The scent of sweat and fetid breath. The cool of the knife on my throat as dark promises were made.
            Don’t die. Don’t die. Do whatever it takes to stay alive.
            If only I hadn’t held the door. It was, after all, locked from the outside for a reason. College campuses built in an extra layer of security. It made our moms and dads feel better about setting us free to test out our newly-developed wings.
            But I was a door-opener at heart. I was a hand-extender.
Want to talk? Want to play? Want to be my friend?
From the instant my toddler feet hit the first playground running, red curls bouncing, there were no strangers in my world. I could not imagine living a life with arms crossed, eyes averted, head turned away in disinterest. What kind of existence would that be, after all? What kind of world would we create if we chose not to engage with one another, not to hold hands and offer hearts?
            If I hadn’t held the door open, though, I would have spared so many tears. Mine. My mom’s. Those were the worst. Mine, I could easily wipe away. Hers? They were seared into my mind, burned into her soul. They became a permanent part of her, changed her forever. She was angry. Vengeful.
            Now that I’m a mother, I understand. I know we can survive whatever life hands directly to us, we mamas. But when our children are threatened, hurt? Whatever tragedies befall them are magnified a million times in our overprotective hearts. Give it to me, to me, always to me. Spare my babies.
Now I understand.
            For many years after, I kept my doors closed and locked. I lowered my eyes, quieted my voice, lost more than a bit of faith in humanity. It was no way to live. In giving up that kind of power, he won again and again and again. And he was never meant to be the victor.
            Even now, every once in a while, when my husband runs his gentle hands across my neck – right there – I remember. And I flinch, just a little, although I know full well those particular fingers would never, ever do me harm. My mind remembers. My body remembers, too.
            I am who I am today because of every single moment in my past. Each experience shaped me, formed me, defined me. The happy and the sad and the joyful and the terrifying helped paint the complex landscape of my life.
            Today, that life is full of love and laughter and friendship and promise. I have a kind and faithful husband who was an intimate witness to what that one evening inflicted on my heart and on my soul, and he still chose to love me. For better, for worse. Together, we have four whip-smart, witty, irreverent teenagers. I have irreplaceable friends – soul mates, mentors, wine-swilling partners, soft places to land – who lift me, support me, sustain me, complete me.
They all came in through an open door.
What if they’d come to my door and found it closed, locked? Where would I be without the kindred spirits who have embraced me, who have let me hug them back, who have guided and nourished me? What might I have missed if my curtains had been drawn?
So, I had one bad, unwelcome visitor. He gave me one life-altering night.
And I’ve had a lifetime of mind-blowing happiness and gratitude and abundance.
I’ll choose, always, to hold the door open.

katrina willis vproud
About the author: Katrina Anne Willis is a wife of one and mother of four. An author and essayist, Katrina’s first novel, “Parting Gifts,” will be published by She Writes Press on April 19, 2016 and is currently available for preorder here. Katrina was recently featured in both A Band of Women’s 2014 “Nothing but the Truth” and Her Stories 2014 “My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends” anthologies and was named a BlogHer 2015: Experts Among Us “Voice of the Year.” When she’s not reading, practicing Pilates, or pouring a glass of Cabernet, you can find her at her blog, Facebook, and Twitter. Join Katrina's honest conversations on VProud.

Join This Honest Conversation

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