Yes Means Yes, No Means No
I was raped — there it’s out in the open. It happened a few months ago after I had dinner with one of my best friends. I had no reason to feel unsafe around this person. He was someone that I completely trusted.
Rape is a strange thing and everyone’s experience is unique, so here is my experience.
I thought rape is something that happens to other people. I carried (and still do) pepper spray in my purse and held my keys between my fingers when I walk in parking lots — all of those things that they tell women to do to prevent rape. I did those things and I was still attacked. The truth is most attacks happen by close friends, family and former significant others.
If you have never gone through something like this, it is impossible to understand the process of healing — nonetheless I’ll try my best.
While I was being attacked, I rationalized what was happening to me. I tried to make sense of the attack so I decided I was supposed to be there and that I wasn’t being raped — as if I wanted what was happening to me, even though I never consented. Despite all of this, I managed to rationalize what was going on: I rationalized to survive.
Rationalization of the attack lead me to blame myself for it. Why didn’t I fight harder? Why didn’t I scream for help? Fortunately, this didn’t last long because denial and distraction came next.
School and work became my solace. I went on to get straight A’s in both of my summer classes. Drowning myself in work and school helped distract me from thinking about the attack and helped me to find value in myself again. If I do things with value, then I must have value.
When I was attacked, I lost my personal sovereignty. There are few things we have in the world to control and our physical selves is one. Being raped took that control and that sovereignty away from me.
Currently, I’m trying to find my value and heal. It’s a long process and quite frankly, I feel like I am wandering around lost half the time. Often times, I feel isolated but I have realized through speaking out I am not alone.
Since becoming more open about the attack, I have had friends and people I barely know come up to me and tell me “I was attacked too.” I realize that I don’t have to be alone and neither do other survivors. The other thing I’ve learned is that violence against women is depressingly underreported. Current laws are ambiguous and college campuses are notorious for brushing assaults under the rug, leaving survivors on their own.
This week, the “Yes means Yes” law passed. This affirmative consent law applies to all California institutions that receive state aid and redefines consent within those institutions. With affirmative consent, both partners need to be able to consent and then must actually consent. This specifies the definition of consent and will allow schools to proactively handle incidents of sexual assault.
I was a huge advocate of the law before my attack and continue to support it. Hopefully, there will be more resources for survivors to gain justice.
The passage of “Yes means Yes” allows us as a society to have a discussion about consent.
If your potential partner is asleep, drunk or inebriated in anyway; that is not consent. If you need to bargain or argue with your partner to have sex; that is not consent.
Victim blaming is the idea that a victim is responsible for the actions of a perpetrator. With most other crimes, the victim is not put on trial but with rape they are scrutinized just as much if not more than the perpetrator. These attitudes make it hard for survivors to report and go through with prosecution of their rapist.
No one EVER asks for “it” –– why would anyone want their personal sovereignty and value invaded? If the person is walking down the street drunk and naked, they are still NOT asking for “it,” so keep on walking.
Sexual assault and domestic violence on college campuses has been a major issue that has garnered a lot of attention lately. I have heard horror stories about survivors seeking justice in Berkeley and Columbia, just to name a few. To my fellow survivors who are seeking justice: I stand in solidarity with you.
I fortunately have not had the experience that many of my fellow survivors have faced. UCI has many great resources for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. UCI Police Departments treated me with respect, the Counseling Center has helped me process what has happened and the Campus Assault Resources and Education (C.A.R.E.) office has helped connect me to resources both on and off campus to help with my healing.
If a friend or family member has confided an attack to you, understand that everyone’s experience is unique and their path towards healing and thriving is a process that takes time. Acknowledge that you can never understand what they are going through but empathize and support.
So, here I am: taking ownership of myself. I survived, now it’s time for me to thrive.
Katie Licari is a fourth-year literary journalism and political science double major. Please send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org