Creative Corner: “Listen Closely”

Taylor Rupp, Columnist

You wonder why we do not speak. You wonder why it took so long. You furrow your brows and squint your eyes with your skeptical looks. Why you ask, for you do not believe. If you listen closely you might be able to see, why people behave the way they do. Motivations are not always clear; they are often muddled by fear. Fear of others, self, and society often prevents us from being free. Safety is staying trapped in ourselves.

Perhaps it’s the ignorance, yours and theirs. Did that really just happen? There’s nothing wrong with that right? He’s my boyfriend. She’s my girlfriend. My husband. My wife. Only in 1993 did every state recognize that spouses could violate. We think they couldn’t stop themselves. That never works because it leads us to know that they are a monster who happen to have two heads—theirs Comedy and ours Tragedy. We were children, no older than ten, who trusted our friends—our friends, who were older and smarter role models. Friends who told us to keep secrets out of shame, and we wanted to protect them even though they had hurt us. How were we to know it was wrong when no one told us what to fear? How can you believe us when we don’t believe ourselves. We think it was nothing too bad—it was only a kiss, a touch, a slip. We question the intent—their day was bad, they felt lonely, they pitied us. Shouldn’t we be grateful that someone found us attractive? Shouldn’t we be bragging about the experience? Why don’t we feel clean then?

Perhaps it’s the shame. How could that happen to us? What did we do wrong? Were we leading them on? How much did we drink? How were we dressed? Was it our fault? It must be our fault, but what did or didn’t we do? We trusted too much. We trusted the people around us to be understanding. They are our friends. We thought they would take us home. What if they tell? It’s blackmail material that we didn’t commit. It was a good date who begs to be let inside, who doesn’t stop until they have permission to inch inside the door. Our reluctance means nothing. We have been seeing the same person for five years and one night “no” isn’t enough. They try to control us, to use us, to seduce us. We want to run, but where to go? Out, out, out, anywhere but here. Who would believe after all that time…? We escape. Nothing happened to us this time. We can tell no one of a crime we feared. Survivor’s guilt lets us know that we could have had it worse and lets us know that we are even less valid than other victims. When everything is internalized, externalizing creates a terrifying truth.

Perhaps it’s self-preservation. You see, we will always be called liars, no matter how much time has gone. Grieve a month, a year, or five years and the outcome is the same. We pursue a conviction and our lives are even worse. Talk to the lawyers; talk to the media; talk to your family. There are further threats of rape and even death made against us, making us relive our already unpleasant past. They say we are ruining the rapist’s life; what a bright future they have. They do not think of the life that the rapist has abused. There might be more allegations if our struggle was worth it, if the culprit spent more time in jail than they did in the courtroom, or even if the culprit went to jail at all instead of receiving probation. The punishment for the victim is too much for such little punishment for the perpetrator. It is easy for us to see who is valued.

It’s always been like this they say. Yet, we weep thinking of the respect for women from the Spartans, of the overthrown matriarchies, of the power we have to carry life. We have no Goddesses. Kali cannot crush if no one believes in her. Even Ma’at starts to question what we consider justice. Artemis knows our fear, and Persephone knows our predicament. Lilith scoffs, unable to express her scorn. Eve sobs as she is blamed.

You wonder why we do not speak. You wonder why it took so long. You furrow your brows and squint your eyes with your skeptical looks. Why you ask, for you do not believe. You don’t listen closely. Why don’t you believe?