The Titty Tax

This is going to get heavy, but I promise it will get better. Just probably not today. Unfortunately, this isn’t even an article about bras.

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For anyone who pays attention to American news, this has been a triggering couple of weeks. Victim blaming has reminded many of us why we stayed quiet in crucial moments. The credibility of those brave enough to speak has been called into question because the women were young, drunk or both. Anger has made me shaky and hot. Then freezing. Then hot again.

I am a survivor of sexual abuse, harassment and rape. All these things happened on more than one occasion, and I never reported any of them to law enforcement. In almost all of those instances, I felt that I shared part of the blame. I gave myself reasons for this. For instance: I didn’t fight back hard enough (even though fighting at all made the agony worse). I was asleep naked (as if that were an invitation). I had been too close to the perpetrator. I was related to the perpetrator. I hadn’t bought myself a lock for my bedroom door.

Add these to a culture which, where I lived, shamed women who were not virgins until they married. My ‘greatest gift’ was gone. I was used. I was that chewed piece of gum held up triumphantly in sex ed to the rhetorical question, ‘And who would want a chewed piece of gum?’ I’d chewed my boyfriend’s gum once, trying to get a raspberry pip out of my teeth. It fell apart in my mouth. No one wants chewed gum.

And yet, telling my mother that I had chosen to have sex was easier than telling her that I’d been forced. It carried an air of rebellion with it, a rejection of the religion that would now reject me. Months later, when I told her the truth, she didn’t want to hear about it – but she did  ask me questions that put me on the back foot. Was it the first time I’d had my clothes off around him? Why was I alone with him? Was it still going on? Rather than feeling supported, I believed that I’d had a hand in my own rape. Never mind that I’d bled for days afterward, or that the stress nearly made me lose my mind.

Not every girl’s ‘loving family’ is ready to give her agency, especially if the family religion belittles anyone without a hymen. Best keep it quiet.

But back to the present day. I write this after Christine Blasey Ford provided testimony filled with vivid detail, including the increased volume of a stereo when two men closed her in a bedroom with them. Her silencing was the most frightening thing for her. She also spoke out knowing that it might not make a difference.

Throughout the internationally reported ‘pre- and post-hearing’, the phrase ‘ruining a man’s life’ has been bandied about with particular abandon. As if barring a man from sitting on the Supreme Court ruins his life (not that he’ll ever know). Moreover, this attitude ignores the women’s lives that have been ruined by male entitlement. The hours of therapy we have paid for, the silence, the learned helplessness, the loss of confidence, even the inability to show complete love to our chosen partners – these are the tax of being a woman with a past of compromised safety.

Blaming women for not reporting their own abuse is fairly standard these days, usually accompanied by the implication that future victims are on the first victim’s head. However, the low rate of conviction (or even belief) also begs the question – which of us are worth protecting, and which of us are to be left without justice, our credibility compromised by our own vulnerability? Within this framework of partisan justice, is it any surprise that so many of us stay silent?

One thought on “The Titty Tax

  1. I really wish I could give you a hug right now. ❤ I'm so, so sorry and heart broken that you've experienced all of this.

    "Blaming women for not reporting their own abuse is fairly standard these days, usually accompanied by the implication that future victims are on the first victim’s head. However, the low rate of conviction (or even belief) also begs the question – which of us are worth protecting, and which of us are to be left without justice, our credibility compromised by our own vulnerability? Within this framework of partisan justice, is it any surprise that so many of us stay silent?"

    (This is going to get personal, and may be upsetting. Don't read if you are vulnerable right now, and I'm sorry if I'm stepping out of line by commenting on my own experience here!)

    This is something I've really been struggling with lately as I've been feeling a lot of pressure to report a nearly 11 year long relationship that was marred with sexual assault and abuse almost from the start. The guilt of feeling like if I don't report it and he does this to someone else, it will somehow be my fault, but knowing that the chances of anything coming out of making the report other than the trauma of having to relive it (and probably not being believed), makes me terrified of going through with it. It makes me sick just thinking about putting myself through that.

    In the past, I have gone through the ugly process of reporting intimate partner sexual assault and abuse, and it ended up creating secondary trauma in regard to the whole experience. The case was thrown out due to lack of evidence, without the perpetrator ever even being brought in for questioning or any of the witnesses (of the domestic abuse that had also gone on in that relationship) ever being contacted. Even though this was a person who had also tried to kill me, I was left with no protection, to the point where this man has been able to live across the street from me for years and there is nothing I can do about it (other than move, obviously, which has been difficult, though now I'll hopefully be able to do so within the next year). With all of this in my past when it comes to reporting such a crime, it makes it even harder to see the point in going through this process again. The last time made me feel so unworthy – unworthy of belief, of protection, of safety, it even made me feel as though my life weren't worth fighting for. I don't know if I can put myself through that again.

    I'm not writing this to try and discourage anyone from reporting sexual assault, harassment or abuse, I just wish that the systems for handling these reports and cases (worldwide) were better, that they would change and actually protect us, instead of working in the favor of the abusers. It can be so hard to speak out when you see time and time again that the deck is stacked against you. I'm not surprised at all that so many of us stay silent, I'm just incredibly sad for all of us. I'm sad and I'm angry.

    Sending you so much light and love. If you ever need to talk, I'm here for you – I don't always check my email on a daily basis, but you can email me any time and I promise I will respond. ❤ Keep fighting and remember you are never alone.

    Like

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