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Who's Calling Who Compulsive? Calling Out a Common Rape Survivor Stereotype

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Submitted by Heather Corinna on Sun, 2010-06-06 14:30

I was one of several guests on a radio show in Baltimore on Friday. The topic of the show was apparently going to be about sex education and social justice, but turned out to be more like fear-mongering and a whole lot of projections around teen sexuality mixed with focus on parents and teen sexuality. I got the impression all four of us who were asked to take part, despite some of our disagreements, were very frustrated with the show and the host clearly asking questions he didn't want factual answers to, despite purportedly asking us to take part to provide just that.

At one point, he asked one of the guests to talk about rape victims and survivors. She said she did not do any work with rape or survivors, but instead of deferring to any of us who had, or just saying "I don't know," she went ahead and did some postulating and guesswork. There were several things she said in a rush of words that bothered me, but one of the most troubling was a statement that rape survivors "compulsively have sex."

This is a very common stereotype. It's one that can be incredibly damaging in several ways. It's also one which has long since been dismantled by rape survivors, people who work in the field as advocates for survivors and educators about rape.

I had to wait a while before I got a chance to respond, since the host accepted what was said at face value. I should mention that with a response like the speaker's, the onus was not just on her but also on the host to defer the question elsewhere or ask that speaker to talk about something that was within her area of expertise. This is one of a couple reasons why I'm not naming names here today out of courtesy. The whole show was so badly organized and biased that I don't want to tar someone who said some uneducated things when I am sure did not say them with malice, and when she may very well take responsibility for them herself elsewhere.

When I got a chance to do some correcting, I was cut off before I could do so well. Part of why I got cut off is that the only chance I got to correct the information was in answering a question about what parents should know per teen sexuality and talking to teens. I think I was also cut off because in explaining some of this, I identified as both someone who has worked with survivors but was also a survivor myself, which I got the impression, made the host seriously uncomfortable. While I was going a little off-topic in making the corrections, not only were they important not to let stand, the information was relevant to what parents should know, and I want to explain why.

Part of what kept getting bandied about was the primarily media-manufactured idea that teens are now having sex earlier than before. In asking all four of the guests -- all sexuality educators, and two of us work with very large, broad sex education groups and have for many years -- if this was in fact true, we all said that it was not, each explaining why. (At some point in the show I was asked to explain what "sexualizing" teens meant, and I regret I did not throw tact to the wind and say "Adults endlessly obsessing about what kinds of sex and how much sex teens are having, especially when trying to insist they're having sex at rates they are not, in order to be provocative for their own notoriety is an example of sexualizing them.")

In the discussion, it began to seem like that the host, just like all too much data on sex as a whole, was not separating consensual sex from rape. The host also used the term "unwanted sex" at some point -- again, just like all too much data continues to do -- instead of saying rape.

One thing I'd mentioned earlier about ages of sexual debut was that when discussing sex and 13-15 year olds, we know from an awful lot of study and work with that population that a great deal of young women that age "having sex" -- having intercourse -- aren't having sex at all. They are being raped.

One third (33%) of sexually active teens 15-17 reports “being in a relationship where they felt things were moving too fast sexually”, and 24 percent have “done something sexual they didn’t really want to do.” More than one in five (21%) report having oral sex to “avoid having sexual intercourse” with a partner. More than a quarter (29%) of teens 15-17 report feeling pressure to have sex. Nearly one in 10 (9%) 9-12th grade students report having been physically forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to at some point. (Kaiser Family Foundation, National Survey of Adolescents and Young Adults: Sexual Health Knowledge, Attitudes and Behaviors, May 2003.)

NONE of that data is about fully consensual sex: most of it is about rape and other kinds of sexual abuses.

As well, the younger a girl is when she has sex (a statistic which again, often does not separate rape from consensual sex, but just counts any vaginal intercourse as 'sex") for the first time, the greater the average age difference is likely to be between her and her partner. (Abma JC, Martinez, GM, Mosher, WD., Dawson, BS. Teenagers in the United States: Sexual activity, contraceptive use, and childbreaing, 2002. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 23(24). 2004.) When it comes to rape, for victims of all genders, it's most common for rapists to be a male older than the they are, especially the younger the victim is. This is not to say all age-disparate relationships involve rape, but it is to say that many do, particularly for the youngest people.

It's accepted and understood that around one on every 4-6 women are raped in their lifetime, and around one in every 33 men (though in both cases, underreporting is an issue, so both numbers are likely higher, particularly the male figure). Data we have on rape also has long shown us (and plenty of us have the personal experience to know this already) that the rate of rape for people of all ages is usually highest for the youngest people: teens and young adults of every gender are victimized at the highest rates and are at the highest risk of being raped.

  • 1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before the age of 18. and 1 in 6 boys is sexually abused before the age of 18. (Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, 1995-1997, Division of Adult and Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion)
  • Women ages 16 to 24 experience the highest per capita rates of intimate violence--nearly 20 per 1000 women. (Bureau of Justice Special Report: Intimate Partner Violence, May 2000)
  • 17.6% of women in the United States have survived a completed or attempted rape. Of these, 21.6% were younger than age 12 when they were first raped, and 32.4% were between the ages of 12 and 17. (Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women, Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey, November, 2000)
  • More than half (54 percent) of female rape victims were younger than age 18 when raped; 32.4 percent were ages 12–17; and 21.6 percent were younger than age 12 at time of victimization. (Thoennes N., and P. Tjaden. Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings From the National Violence Against Women Survey. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, November 2000, NCJ 183781.)

When someone is raping us, they are refusing and removing our autonomy. A rapist is taking control of our bodies against our will to get what they want sexually and/or emotionally for themselves, and not only when we don't want it, but often expressly because we don't.

After rape, it's common for survivors to feel like that robbery of body ownership and sexual ownership can hijack or co-opt ourselves and/or our sexualities in many ways for quite some time. If we choose to have wanted, consensual sex and have body memories or other post-traumatic reactions, if we find we can't not think about our rape or rapes in some way during sex, you can perhaps understand why we feel that way. If rape or other sexual abuse leaves us feeling like our only value is as a sexual object, you can perhaps understand why we feel that way. If we can't even think about sex we want without thinking about rape, you can perhaps understand why we feel that way. If we can't chose to have any kind of sex without someone suggesting it's merely a compulsion about our rape, you can perhaps understand why we feel that way.

The belief or statement that if we have sex after rape, it is only out of compulsion or reaction to our trauma is one way we are also robbed of autonomy and choice. What that purports is that after rape, for weeks, months, years or ever after, we still are no longer able or allowed to make the free choice to have sex we want when we want it. That kind of statement is yet another robbery of our personhood, and our right to want and/or do the things people who were not raped want or do. It's one of many statements made about rape and sexual abuse survivors that suggest we are all damaged goods, a statement not only biased and ignorant, but unsupportive and damaging. This is one of many ways in which it's not just our rapes themselves that do us harm but the way we are treated by others because we have been raped. It puts survivors in the mode of being perpetual victims, not recognizing the hard work many of us have to do heal, and the strength and force of will our healing process can give us. Frankly, speaking both for myself and the wealth of other survivors I know and have spoken with through my work over the years, once any of us have come through that process, I'm inclined to say we're a group of people who generally are more equipped than most to ONLY choose to have sex when that is absolutely what we want, not less.

The speaker also said sex was "always more confusing" for survivors. That can certainly be true sometimes. But it's important to remember that most of us not only figure it out in time, but tend to have even more clarity around what is or isn't wanted, what is or isn't sex, because we have had an experience which has made very clear what sex is NOT and what is NOT wanted. That's an experience those who have not been abused or assaulted have not had in the same way, and often are more unsure about than we are by virtue of our experience. As someone who has worked in sex education for over a decade, who has had tens of thousands of one-on-one conversations about it with individuals and whose work just never seems to stop piling up, it also seems to be stating the obvious that sex is clearly confusing for a whole lot of people, not just rape survivors.

Do some survivors have sex compulsively as a reaction to rape or other sexual abuse? Yes, some do, but so do lots of people who have never been sexually assaulted or abused. Compulsive behavior after assault can also manifest in a lot of different ways when it is an issue. But many rape and sexual abuse survivors don't ever have sex by compulsion.

Of course, it's also possible that just like this host and many others call or see rape as "unwanted sex", that what is seen as "compulsive sex" is instead, yet more rape. Many rape survivors are raped more than once, either because they feel it was made clear they do not have the right to say no, because they have not been able to identity dangers when it can be seen coming, because they have not left or been removed from the relationship in which rape happened the first time or a host of other scenarios. This can particularly be an issue with the youngest victims: girls who were victimized before turning 12 and then again as adolescents (ages 13–17) were at much greater risk of both types of victimization as adults than any other women. (Siegel, J.A., and L.M. Williams, Risk Factors for Violent Victimization of Women: A Prospective Study, Final Report.) Since so many people still think of rape only as stranger-rape, rather than the more common contexts it happens in -- especially to the youngest victims -- where the rapist is a family member, boyfriend, friend or otherwise known person, it can be all the more easy for people who conceptualize rape simplistically to continue to conflate rape with sex.

Why do parents, not just young people, all people, or advocates, need to know this stuff? First and foremost because it's just not okay, wise, beneficial or kind to misrepresent people, and it's particularly shitty to marginalize people who have been already been marginalized by abuse. In other words, everyone needs to know things like this because it's unacceptable to stereotype survivors or other or objectify us further.

Many parents also assume that if a young person says they had sex or is discovered to have had sex that it must have been consensual. By all means, most of the time, that is the case, since the majority of people are not raped. However, that minority isn't minor: it's millions of people. Because of the way people and so much of our culture talks about and treats rape, like calling it "unwanted sex," because of how much victim-blaming there still is, because of how hard and scary it can be to disclose or report rape (of which false assumptions or suppositions about victims are part), and because people generally do NOT want to have been raped, it's not uncommon for people to be very reluctant to disclose rape or to call their own rapes rapes. Many people don't realize how many rape victims don't disclose or report because they worry about being further attacked or "getting their rapists in trouble." Of course, assuming that any sex must be unconsensual just because of someone's age or gender is problematic, too.

If and when a young person has been raped or otherwise sexually abused, it's also vital to do things that will help that person heal. Presenting someone as damaged goods does not help with healing: it just adds insult to injury. Suggesting that wanted, consensual sex must be a compulsion or post-traumatic reaction does not help anyone heal, particularly since part of most of our healing is to get to a place where we can have our own sexual life. Suggesting our minds, bodies and sexualities will never be fully our own is not only false, it also gives us the message that you think our rapists won in taking us, and we can never have our whole selves back. I have had to help plenty of survivors unpack their hurtful internalization of these messages, messages many have received from people and the world around them long after they were raped or abused, over and over again.

Again, sometimes survivors do have sex that is compulsive or reactive. We also want to be sure to recognize that sometimes that's about trying to relive the experience to process it or change the script or other known on unconscious motivations which can be about processing and healing. In other words, even in some cases where it is or appears troubling to an outsider, it may just be where someone is at in their own process, and outsiders should carefully consider the judgments they may make about that, or any way they may pathologize behavior that may not be pathological. Hopefully, people can also start to garner an awareness that judging a rape survivor's sexual behavior can put even more baggage on a person than it can to non-survivors.

A lot of the time, rape survivors of every age are having sex because sex is what we want, because it makes us feel good about ourselves, our bodies and our interpersonal relationships, and for the whole range of reasons people who have not been raped want to engage in sex.

Once more with feeling, all survivors of rape do not behave the same way, just like all survivors of concentration camps didn't, all survivors of other hate crimes do not, all people who have been mugged do not, all veterans of wars do not. Just like many other kinds of trauma, not only are all rapes different, all of the people who survive them are different, as is our process in reacting, healing, surviving and thriving.

A post over at Shakesville sums this up so well:

There is no such thing as a “typical” response to rape. Immediately following a rape, some women go into shock. Some are lucid. Some are angry. Some are ashamed. Some are practical. Some are irrational. Some want to report it. Some don’t. Most have a combination of emotions, but there is no standard response. Responses to rape are as varied as its victims. In the long term, some rape victims act out. Some crawl inside themselves. Some have healthy sex lives. Some never will again."

It's important for everyone, including parents, to understand the manufactured myth of the "right response" to rape, or the way victims are "supposed to act" is myth and is dangerous. Just like the idea that if someone isn't crying or angry after rape they haven't been raped, the idea that if someone is having sex -- either of any kind, or in ways or frequency arbitrarily considered acceptable or not -- or isn't tells us who has been raped or who hasn't, who is healing or who is not is also false. Ideas or statements there are right or wrong ways to behave, sexually or otherwise, post-rape leave many victims feeling unable to disclose or report as well as unable to either heal or be recognized as having healed; as a whole person, like anyone else, not as some kind of one-dimensional person who is but merely as someone who got raped, an idea that suggests we our rapists didn't just rob our personhood while raping us, but forever.

Sometimes, being careless or clueless about any of this will hurt our individual feelings as survivors and make us feel crappy: that's not acceptable, but most of us can and will deal, even though it sucks (particularly since we're often all too used to it). Some survivors can't deal with that, and it sets them back in or keeps them from healing. But the effect can be even more serious and far-reaching than that, because statements like this, especially broadcast widely and with a voice given any kind of authority, also can enable rape and the continued maltreatment and dehumanizing of survivors.

Be careful how you talk about us, especially if and when you haven't shared our experiences or done any work yourself to really listen to us as a large, varied group or haven't done a whole lot of homework in reading the work of those who have, and those who have collected sound data on rape and rape survivors. If you're asked about rape or rape survivors and you're talking about your personal experience, qualify it as that. If you're talking about rape or survivors as a group with no experience, personally or professionally, then either refer people to those who have that experience, to sound sources of general data like RAINN, or just say you do not know. If you want to know or speak about what our experiences have been like? Ask us. We're right here, willing, wanting and able to speak for ourselves, needing you to allow us to do just that by not speaking for us.

If there's a common compulsivity in all of this, it's the habit of non-survivors or uninformed speakers to speak with bias or ignorance about survivors. Foot-in-mouth disease when it comes to talking about rape victims and survivors is long-established and epidemic compulsive behavior.

I want to wrap this up with something a lot of survivors and thoughtful people who work with survivors know, but a lot of people don't realize.

If and when you have been raped or sexually abused in some other way, when the time comes that you can experience consensual, wanted sex, that in and of itself -- even if the sex isn't all you wanted it to be, whether or not you get off -- can be a profoundly liberating, healing experience. It is watershed to have positive, enjoyable and reclaiming experiences about parts of our bodies or selves that were traumatized, just like it's a huge deal for someone who had an injury they were told meant they'd never walk again to find themselves walking. Tangibly experiencing and clarifying that rape and sex are radically different things is huge. Having a wanted, consensual sexual life is not only of the same value to us as it is to everyone else, it can also help send our hearts a clear message that no matter what others say or intimate, we are NOT damaged goods, forever cursed to be sexual objects or dysfunctional sexually or interpersonally; that no matter what happened to us, our bodies and sexualities are still absolutely our own, by our choice, within our control and for our own pleasure and joy.


thank you

Sat, 2013-11-16 18:54

Thank you for writing these incredibly compassionate, understanding pieces. These are the words of comfort, validation, and compassion we want to hear from loved ones who are often ill-equipped to respond to us in a way that is helpful. Thank you for being the voice that I have needed to hear for many years now.

Thank you so much

Wed, 2011-06-22 16:55
Boy born a girl

I have been struggling with being blamed for my rapes. For being alone, outside too early in the morning. For being at a party. For trusting my boyfriend. I've felt guilty and haven't seemed help for any of this because, up until now, I've felt I deserved the pain I though I'd inflicted on myself. After reading this, however, I feel so much better about what was done to me. I now feel the need to get emotional help because I know I did not do this to myself. They did this to me. I no longer feel responsible for I did nothing wrong and for this I thank you Heather. Ive read a lot of your articles about rape and I'm starting to feel it's time to begin healing. Thank you so much for sharing so much with us. You've made a huge difference in my life.

Thank you

Fri, 2011-06-03 10:08

I think the most poignant aspect in your whole article came in these lines:"Having a wanted, consensual sexual life is not only of the same value to us as it is to everyone else, it can also help send our hearts a clear message that no matter what others say or intimate, we are NOT damaged goods, forever cursed to be sexual objects or dysfunctional sexually or interpersonally; that no matter what happened to us, our bodies and sexualities are still absolutely our own, by our choice, within our control and for our own pleasure and joy."

THANK YOU for saying those things, especially because there is so much stigma around rape, sex, and rape's aftermath. For a long time after being raped, I felt irreversibly damaged and somehow misplaced among my peers and society's perceptions of sex and what is acceptable and what isn't. It's taken me a long time to understand and accept that sex and being intimate, as well as the level I choose for my own personal life, is my choice and this doesn't make me, or any other victim or survivor, less of an individual, partner, and woman. What happens to you in life helps shape you, but it does not define you.

Thank you so very much.

Thu, 2011-02-24 22:14

I was abused by my father as a child. Although I have been to therapy and largely feel OK, one of the reasons why I do not feel comfortable talking about my history is because so many people have such horrible stereotypes of sexually abused and/or raped people. You have succinctly described how screwed up this mentality is, and I have never before read an article that summed up how society as a whole manages to shame victims with these kinds of stereotypes.

I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. You will never know how much this meant to me.

Thank You

Fri, 2011-01-14 22:46

Thank you for writing this, Heather.

I see...

Mon, 2010-12-20 13:54

So, the conclusion is that every victim/survivor of rape is different, right?

You know, I've heard a lot about feminists saying 'rape is about power and dominance' and the other part saying 'rape is about uncontrolled lusts, etcetera'. I think that if a person rapes someone, the reason is simple: the person doesn't care whether the victim wants the sex or not. Rapists and sadists are simply defined IMO as 'people who don't give a shit if the victim they are torturing/raping is getting mentally and/or physically hurt'. These people have a low level of empathy (strangely, a lot of autistic people have a low level of empathy, but you hear rarely about an autistic rapist) BUT they also mostly have a low level of moralistic sense. I think there are people who know that rape is bad, but still they do it. But that doesn't justify their actions.

We mustn't blame the victim. But I've went to this discussion on some Asexual forum, someone said there: 'blaming the victim is different than saying to the victim that she's responsible'. And then... those people use metaphors like 'if someone left his door open, and he was robbed - the robbers will still be blamed, but the owner of the house will also be responsible - NOT blamed, but responsible'

But... I disagree on that (too bad that the topic is old...). I mean, I've read this story from a Dutch girl that stopped her bike when a man asked her the way. And while explaining the way, she's getting attacked by him and raped. I can't understand why it's her responsibility. 'Yes, don't talk to strangers,' But I believe that these chain of events can happen everywhere. The only difference would be that the person who's asking the way IS or ISN'T a rapist. I mean, people have asked me the way, and I wasn't raped by them. HOW can a person know that a stranger or person he/she knows is a rapist, an none/anti-rapist or a would-be-rapist? I think that a person must do he/she thinks is right -> 'Do what your gut tells you... something like that'

But... what did you meant with 'that no matter what happened to us, our BODIES and sexualities are still absolutely our own, by our choice, within our CONTROL and for our own pleasure and joy'???
I mean, no person has 100 percent control over his/her body, right? Because, if a person has 100 percent control over his/her body, he/she can't get raped right?

I'm not trying to insult you, but I'm just wondering. What I do know is that life can't always be controlled: some times, things happen to someone in which the person had no control of it - just like sexual assault/rape. I mean, the myth that revealing clothing triggers rapists IS BULLSHIT! Rape doesn't happen because you made the wrong choices, but it happens when some loser wants to rape you. Nothing in this life is predictable.

However, as an idealist, I strive and I wish for a world where men and women are truly equal... at least where my friends are... Since my classmate killed himself this year, I've been worrying about my friends, beloved ones, more than normal. Because (and I guess you are going to insult me for stereotyping rape victims) I'm afraid if one of my friends is getting raped or very tortured by someone, that they will become potential suicide victims. I don't want my friends and my family to suffer. I want to support them, to protect them. I want to believe that a rape survivor can get over her/his rape, but... I've read all these stories by teenage girls and guys that they were raped... I'm just afraid that if a friend or beloved one of mine is getting mentally tortured through rape or something else, I will lose that beloved one. I want them to be happy, I want them to be strong, I want them to have JUSTICE! Sweet mother of god knows that I'm pissed off at governments, like in the Netherlands, that rapists are not getting caught. I want to believe in justice, that it exists. But I guess... I just hope that a victim of rape/sexual violence can make the best of her/his life, just like my grandmother.

BTW, have you heard about 'Yust Jell Fire!' ?


Wed, 2010-10-20 08:01

dear heather, i was sexually assaulted when i was 4 years
charges were not pressed because he was a family friend
i was later brought up in care and subsequently adopted,
my adopted brother started sexually assaulting me when i was
14 and raped me soon after. there was nothing i could do about it
my adoptive parents simply would not have believed me,
i left as soon as i realized i did not have to stay shortly after my 18th birthday.
i have always felt that there is something overtly sexual about me to attract
these encounters an am wary of men as im worried they see nothing
more about me than that. for years i did use sex as a way off getting recognition
or acceptance it took me ages to realize i was doing it.
im 35 now and have been celibate for the last 2 years,
i simply have not met anyone but maybe one day i will trust
someone again. im much more in tune with myself now
but it took a while.
thankyou for your assertive and confident article.
its very refreshing.

"One third (33%) of sexually

Sat, 2010-10-02 03:11

"One third (33%) of sexually active teens 15-17 reports “being in a relationship where they felt things were moving too fast sexually”, and 24 percent have “done something sexual they didn’t really want to do.” More than one in five (21%) report having oral sex to “avoid having sexual intercourse” with a partner. More than a quarter (29%) of teens 15-17 report feeling pressure to have sex. Nearly one in 10 (9%) 9-12th grade students report having been physically forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to at some point. (Kaiser Family Foundation, National Survey of Adolescents and Young Adults: Sexual Health Knowledge, Attitudes and Behaviors, May 2003.)

NONE of that data is about fully consensual sex: most of it is about rape and other kinds of sexual abuses."

I don't think it is appropriate to take such a broad definition of "rape" and "sexual abuse", much of what you are talking about is in fact the awkwardness and inexperience associated with early sexual encounters. Part of being in a relationship is being willing to compromise and sometimes do things you don't want to do because your partner wants to do it and you want to please them. Allthough it may be something you don't particularly want to do, or do at that time, it doesn't make it rape. The only time it is rape is when force or threat of force is used.

You may not think it is

Tue, 2010-10-05 13:25
Heather Corinna

You may not think it is appropriate, or that it must be about "the awkwardness and inexperience associated with early sexual encounters." You may also think that, "Part of being in a relationship is being willing to compromise and sometimes do things you don't want to do because your partner wants to do it and you want to please them. Allthough it may be something you don't particularly want to do, or do at that time, it doesn't make it rape."

However, not only do I, and we as an organization, strongly disagree, in most areas, the law and experts on healthy relationships and healthy sexual interactions do, too.

Rape is not only recognized as such when physical force or threat of such is involved. In most areas the law, and also advocacy organizations as well as psychological associations, recognize coercion and other emotional abuses around sexual activity as sexual assault.

Certainly, sometimes some of what is in the cited segment above is NOT about sexual abuse or assault. However more of the time, it is -- particularly if and when anyone involved does not feel able to, or that they have the power or agency to -- say no without fear, and that's not merely our own opinion. Additionally, legally and practically, consent is recognized as being about only doing things someone DOES want to do. And from the perspective of healthy, satisfying sex for everyone, anyone who has had sexual experiences where everyone involved very much wanted to do everything involved, and had those where anyone or everyone did not, usually knows that there is a profound difference.

Thank you so much.

Wed, 2010-09-08 18:36

I was sexually assulted two years ago, and I never told the police or my mother, in fact, I didn't tell anyone until a year after it happened. You understand that I'm not forever damaged, and that my sexual choices are my own. I knew that telling someone would hurt me more, with the way everyone would treat me, so I've kept it to myself and a few very close friends. I'm healing, and though I can never repair the damage fully, I'm getting better, week by week, month by month. This is the best most supportive and truthful article I have read on this subject, and I can never thank you enough.

Thanks again.

Wed, 2010-08-25 16:51

This is the best article I have ever read on sexual abuse.
I was 'sexually abused in some other way' as a young child but have never really opened up about it because
1) I didn't want people to think I was 'damaged' in some way
2) I thought it was unfair on 'true' victims to label myself as a victim

I see now that actually I was believing some of the stereotypes out there, and just believed I was the exception to the rule.

But now I realise I'm just like every other victim, I've dealt with it the best way I knew how.


Thu, 2010-07-22 20:14

I was molested when I was 4 years old by my cousin. I like to think it didn't affect me a lot, but I sort of thought of myself as "soiled" or "damaged" in some way. This article changed that. Thank you for helping shift me a little in the right direction.

The term "rape"

Sat, 2010-07-10 08:13

I noticed throughout this article that you used the term "rape." Most states have changed their laws to reflect thinking that concludes the term is too emotionally loaded, too imprecise to promote clear thinking. Shouldn't we use the term "sexual assault?" The sexual futurist community needs to step away from the witch burning terminology and promote clarity of thought here. We can still make our points without resorting to such tactics.

What tactics?

Tue, 2010-07-13 19:46
Heather Corinna

I don't use the language I use as any kind of tactic. I use the language I use both because it means what I mean, and because in this entry, it was the word used to talk about all of us who are survivors.

For those of us who have been raped/sexually assaulted, it's usually pretty darn precise, and I don't think those of us who are using it are unable to think clearly while we do. I also don't think any term for rape and assault is ever going to be unloaded to survivors or for those who understand the impact of either, and have an issue with nonsurvivors (should that be the case with you, my apologies if I presume incorrectly) telling us which words we should be using. If you are a survivor who does not like the word rape and feels better about using the term sexual assault, I support you in that.

I don't see anyone burning any witches here, and comparing what we call a sexual crime and assault with language that means that to the brutalization of women based mostly on their sex and their actual or perceived nonconformity is pretty beyond the pale in my book. Especially since in both cases, we're talking about purposefully and knowingly harmful attacks, most often to women and children.

I have no beef with either term and don't choose to use either for any kind of political purpose or agenda. I don't know who "we" is here, but in my book, I'm down with and respect whichever of the available terms any given survivor wants to use for what happened to him/her/hir. I have no idea know what the sexual futurist community is, but a) rape isn't usually about sex, especially for a survivor, and b) I'm pretty sure I didn't sign up to be a member of that community.

Thank you

Tue, 2010-06-08 23:38

I wish we had looked at sex and consent in the same way when I was a teen (30 years ago). I think having a voice might have made recovery and a healthy sex life easier. OTOH, I got lucky and didn't die as a result of what happened to me or my reaction (which was to give in to unwanted sex because it seemed safer and less mentally scaring than full on rape).

But our media needs to do better on this now. It's been 30 years and we still don't get honest coverage or discussion. It's disheartening and depressing that so little has changed.

alumiere (

Wonderful Article!

Tue, 2010-06-08 22:57

Wow, what a wonderful article. Two of my brothers and I were sexually abused as children, but only one of my brothers told my mom. Suddenly it was as if he was broken, or dirty or something. My other brother and I refused to talk about what had happened to us because of this, and not wanting to have this public shame on us. Now I'm 25 and when I read your article, suddenly a light went on in my head and your ideas make so much more sense to me, about the stereotypes of rape survivors. I didn't realize that this was a negative stereotype - I thought that it was just how things were. I feel informed and empowered. Thanks very much for this wonderful article. It leaves me with so much to think about!

Thank you so much! I'm an

Tue, 2010-06-08 22:18

Thank you so much! I'm an on-campus advocate for survivors of sexual assault, and I was shocked to realize just how many people calling our hotline had been abused when they were children. We really emphasize several of the points that you've made so well-- there is no one response to rape, and we want the survivor to take completely control over her or his decisions and actions. Great piece!

Ditto on the thanks

Tue, 2010-06-08 15:07

Thank you! I've recovered from all issues arising from my assaults, but I can't tell new consensual partners about them because without fail, they think I'm broken or something. Like I'm not having sex because I like to fuck, but because of some psychological need. Absolute bullshit.

Thank you so much for this

Tue, 2010-06-08 12:23

Thank you so much for this post. You found the perfect words for how I feel. Breaking this stereotype is really freeing because it lets me view my sexuality as a part of me that I have absolute control over, and yes being raped has influenced my sexuality in the past but it doesn't impact it negatively anymore. I hate it when people I am close to who know that I was raped assume that every issue I have, even beyond sex, goes back to my rape. Thank you for using your voice to say: it's not always true!

Thank you so much.

Tue, 2010-06-08 10:31

Thank you so much.

Great Post!

Tue, 2010-06-08 08:14

Thank you, Heather. As someone who has been sexually abused from a young age... I've been listening intently to the (sometimes horrible) things people say about those who share our experiences.
When I disclosed the abuse, my mother said something along the lines of, "I'm afraid you're going to become really promiscuous or shut down towards men forever!" This was so very messed up, on so many levels. So now my sexuality, from here on out, has become only the subject of fears and nightmares? My sexuality is forever pathological? Wonderful! Just as you said in your piece... that hurt a great deal because once more, it took the ball out of my court and assigned more power to the abuse.

People feel the need to make blanket statements about all kinds of things to give it more meaning when they're uneducated. Again, thanks for this article. Rock the fuck on! \m/

Thank You.

Mon, 2010-06-07 19:16

So much. It is so incredibly moving to me, so important to me, as a survivor, for a survivor to write about rape, and about surviving. There is so much that disgusts me, that perpetuates our rape culture, and enables further assault and abuse, about the typical "rape" dialogue. Thank you for not employing, and in fact dismantling, that dialogue. Thank you.

Thank you for writing this

Mon, 2010-06-07 15:24

Thank you for writing this article. It is the first time I have read something which highlights the strengths of survivors. "We're a group of people who generally are more equipped than most to ONLY choose to have sex when that is absolutely what we want, not less." For me this is very true, and so critical to how I am rebuilding and shaping my sexuality. THANK YOU.

Thank you, Heather!

Mon, 2010-06-07 17:30

This is so great. I especially appreciate your critique of what exactly "sexualizing teens" is.

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