It was the second week of my sophomore year, there was a substitute. Again. But he was a different substitute than before, he wanted to do something new and different, because he was only going to be there for one day he wanted to have a little experiment on our adolescence. He took out a book and started asking either or questions. Like what’s a better color red or blue? What food is tastier, italian or mexican? What’s better hot or cold? Who has it easier, Men or women?
Not only in that one sentence did he undermine our ability to respond in an applicable manner he took away the calmness of the conversation, this one question turned the room bright red. Of course the boys said boys have it harder and the girls vise versa. Neither willing to listen to the others reasoning. I knew this was an insane question to ask high school students, because the fact of the matter is, we were in a privileged high school, out of the highest 2% in america, and whether or not male or female, we had easy lives. Yet no one had an opinion they came up with themselves, every voice was one i had read from an internet source, not one voice i had heard was their own. Then I decided to raise my hand, not really feeling that i deserved to. I whisper just loud enough for the classes awkward silence to hear me say “women have it hard because we have to walk the streets fearing the possibility of men dominating us physically” half the girls in the classroom were shocked and alarmed that i said this as they did not have the same fear as i did. My fear was rare to this school district. My opinion was a minority, actually, Opinion was a minority. Then this substitute teacher all high and mighty ready to just fill our empty cup called a brain with crazy thoughts and ideas, even has the audacity to undermine my thought. He says “Sure, that can be true, men are larger and have more muscles than women, but I imagine not many women live in fear everyday of being raped. There is also a simple solution to that problem, don’t walk down a dark street at night or don’t go in areas prone to rape. Don’t put yourself in those kinds of situations.”
He had made a joke out of 1 out of 3 womens real life horrors, acting as though only strangers who are in rape prone areas or on dark streets at night were rapists. I understood that this was incredulous at 15. I understood that this was incredulous at 12 when some boy took away my ability to say no. It did not matter what i was wearing, it did not matter if i was asking for it, it did not matter if it was dark or in a rape prone area. Rape happens because people let it happen and society brushes it off as if it were a class experiment. People hide rape under their carpets, tuck it away deep into their fridges, force it to the bottom of their backpacks and act like it is not there, it will always be there making your heart heavy and pulling down on your back like an anchor. Rape is real, its not something that only happens in the projects. It happens in the highest 2% of America’s schools and politicians and teachers act as if it’s not a serious problem. Millions and millions of times have i told myself that it was my fault, and that i was dirty, and that for some reason i messed up somehow so much that i deserved to have my virginity, and my dignity and my own grip on what was my body taken away from me because it was all my fault. That how intoxicated i was that night had a correlation to how guilty i was. But the fact is. I didn’t rape myself. I was raped. No matter what the court, the politician, the ex boyfriend, the teacher, the drunken neighbor says, it was not my fault. Because of progress, we will look back at all of the people who had a chance to fight for their right to feel free in their own skin without judgement and praise this, because there are those out there voiceless who have had their rights taken away by someone who is undeserving of it. There are those out there who do not have a book to write in, a hand to hold an ear to confide in. But i pray that in this future we call forever something will be done for all of those voices that go unheard.