Erin McCamley

I was raped my freshman year of college, reported it that night, and then went through a grueling, terrible, 9-month investigation. During this 9-month investigation, I was asked questions like “What were you wearing”, “How much were you drinking”, “Why were you walking by yourself”, “Are you SURE you didn’t flirt with him?”, and my personal favorite: “This group of boys saw you walking with the alleged rapist and they say you looked willing. Why would they say that if it weren’t true?” They also repeatedly said things like, “He feels really bad,” and “he was crying in his interview.” I said, “Well, um, that’s good, because if you do something awful you should feel terrible.. And also, guess who feels worse about me being raped? I DO.” It blew my mind that they wanted me to pity him. Because of a technicality, my rapist got off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist and I had to see him every day for the next four years. The technicality was that one of the things I said in my statement was that he unhooked my bra and proceeded to feel my breasts. Because I didn’t specify that he felt my breasts “under the bra”, it was just considered inappropriate touching and not assault. I said, “Why would I specify that he unhooked my bra first if I didn’t mean that he was feeling them under my bra?” And the investigator said in an irritated voice, “Well you didn’t say it, and we can’t assume anything.” The rape itself was traumatic of course, but the trial process afterward is what shattered my life and will affect me negatively as long as I live. It taught me that the college cared more about their reputation and sweeping things under the rug than about me; that my body and PTSD were worthless and unimportant; that even when a victim has the courage to step forward and report what happened to them (which is rare), they will suffer worse treatment than if they had just kept quiet; that our culture is filled to the brim with rape apologists who perpetuate rape culture, and that because of them, rape will continue shattering lives–because while the rapists are the only ones to blame for the rape, the rape apologists are the ones to blame for the continuing cycle of rape. Without consequences for the action, why on earth would the action stop? And the thing is, I get it. I get why people blame the victim. It’s because if it’s somehow the victim’s fault, then it can’t happen to you, right? Because you’ll dress appropriately, and not drink too much, and never walk alone at night. Distancing yourself from the victim by making it her or his fault keeps you safe. Journalists remarking casually that the 10-year-old child who was gang raped by a group of 20-year-old men was “dressed more like a high schooler than a 5th-grader” are just trying to understand why those men could do something so unthinkable and disgusting. So I get it. But I don’t care. Rape happens because rapists make hundreds of choices (you don’t just jump inside another human being with no rational interference or decision-making process just because they’re in a skirt, in case you weren’t aware) and because then society shields and protects them. None of these attackers end up in jail, and even when they do, it’s for approximately 10 seconds. So victim blamers, stop trying to protect yourself and start thinking about how we can change society. We are society, you know. All we have to do is change ourselves.