Taking responsibility for rape

A young woman was raped in Chico last Thursday night. She is a friend of a friend, a young woman I happened to exchange pleasantries with at a local bar several hours before she was attacked. We bantered for an hour or so, yelling loud over thumping ‘80s rock and ‘70s disco, swaying in our seats to Abba’s “Dancing Queen.” She is a student at Chico State, a transplant from somewhere south of here; she wants to be a teacher. She is a bright, highly educated young woman, not unlike many others I see around campus each day. I had almost forgotten about her until my boyfriend reminded me of her a few nights later. “Do you remember that girl,” he asked, “the one you talked to Thursday night?”

“Of course,” I replied, “the teacher.”

“That’s the one,” he said. “She was raped.”

When she decided to walk home from the bar several hours after I left her, a young man she had met that evening offered to escort her to make sure she “got home safe.” They walked the short distance, and when they got to her house, he asked to use her restroom; she allowed him in. The bruising from his fists and the memory of the assault are still fresh on her body. The rest needs not repeating; it is sufficient to say that her attacker brutalized her, both emotionally and physically.

But the attack is not over. We live in a society where women are objectified, where men are taught to expect sex, where it is OK to take what you want, no matter what the ramifications to others. We teach our daughters to be submissive, our boys to be aggressive; we are still trying to emerge from the shadow of Barbie doll perfection, G.I. Joe masculinity. We have been teaching our little girls to take responsibility for their lives and boys to do everything they can to escape the consequences of their actions, and we have succeeded. Just look at the statistics behind teen pregnancy in California. Or look, for example, at the young woman who was raped Thursday night in Chico.

You see, this bright, beautiful, highly educated young woman, still bearing the scars of her attacker, refuses to seek medical attention and refuses to report the attack to police. She blames herself for her attacker’s actions and probably, deep down, actually believes it. Her torment will live on, furthered by her own inability to seek help, to face her attacker, to see him behind bars, where he belongs. She will suffer because we, as a society, have taught her to suffer with this injustice.

If you are not saddened, let me tell you something: You should be. If you are not sickened, wracked with waves of nausea, let me tell you something: You should be. If you are not galvanized to stand up, scream, "This is wrong!" and fight for this woman and all like her, let me tell you something: You should be.