It hurts your physical body. It hurt when I was dragged up a flight of stairs at a party and shoved into a dark quiet room. It hurt to be held down by two men and listen to them talk to each other in a way almost identical to that of the recorded conversation that spurred recent public disgust. It hurt every time I sat for days after it happened. It hurt when I saw blood on the toilet paper. It hurt when I threw up every time I thought about it until bile came out into the toilet bowl and how I would dry heave when there was nothing left to come out. It hurt when I would take showers and baths so hot that it burned my skin but I still didn’t feel clean again. It hurt when I strained for hours on end, trying to piece together the missing parts of that night. It hurt when I used to cut myself just to be able to feel something again after I went numb to escape the truth. It hurt my health when I would sleep or not eat for days on end because I couldn’t find the will or purpose. It hurt my brain to fight thoughts of suicide. It hurt to feel already dead.
It hurts your bank account. It hurt my finances for the years of therapy and prescriptions. It hurt my paycheck when I would miss work because I couldn’t function enough to move. It hurt my value of tuition and education when I couldn’t bring myself to leave my room and go to class. It hurt my wallet when I would buy alcohol to try and turn my mind off, when I would buy into useless activities to distract myself, when I bought new clothes and makeup in an attempt of make myself feel like a different person.
It hurts your dating life. It hurt every time someone would dump me because I wasn’t into the sexual aspect of our relationship as much as they wanted me to be. It hurt if I held the truth in to avoid that result, and then couldn’t explain why sometimes I couldn’t stand to be touched. It hurt even more if I tried to suck it up and let them touch me when I didn’t really want them to. It hurt when I did tell the truth and they would see me differently, as used or dirty, or as someone broken, to be pitied.
It hurts your family and your friends. It hurts when they feel responsible in some way like they should have been able to protect or rescue you, and it hurts when there is no way to convince them that’s not true. It hurts when they share your burden of helplessness. It hurts because you don’t want your pain to be their pain. It hurts when you feel like no matter how much they reassure you otherwise, you feel like you cause them shame for being involved in something seen by others as dirty. It hurts when you feel like you have disappointed them by not being able to be happy after all they have done to try and help you. It hurts when there is not a single thing you can say when they ask “what can I do to help?” and they are left wanting. It hurts when you finally work up the courage to talk about it and some either dismiss it as unimportant or some now look at you as broken and delicate, a thing in need of fixing. It hurts when they look at you differently.
It hurts your marriage/relationship. It hurts when your partner sees you upset and can do nothing to soothe you. It hurts when they want to hurt the people responsible but you both know the system is broken and there is no real way to get justice. It hurts when they see you struggling and you can’t put into words how you feel so they too are left feeling confused and in pain. It hurts when they want to hold you and some days you just don’t want to be held or touched. It hurts when you are angry at the real reasons it happened, but you take your anger out on them because they are the only target in sight. It hurts when they try so hard to make you happy but they feel like they failed because some days it is just not possible. It hurts when they can’t connect with you physically because you have built in a protective mechanism to disconnect your body from your mind and sometimes you can’t turn that off. It hurts when you feel like they deserve better, deserve someone whole, someone untainted.
It hurts your ability to live day-to-day, no matter how long ago it happened. It hurts when you have to walk out of a movie theater or skip forward on a show because there is a rape scene. It hurts when you are scared to walk alone at night. It hurts when you get that sinking feeling in your gut when you’re alone with a man in a stairwell. It hurts when you walk past a man on the streets and he looks at you in such a disgusting way, how your skin crawls if he says degrading things about your body. It hurts how often you think about hypothetical situations over and over and over, thinking that if someone held a gun to your head and threatened to kill you if I didn’t cooperate as he forced himself on you… how you would rather get shot and die then to go through it again. It hurts when you’re watching a show, or read an article, or overhear a conversation that triggers old memories and thoughts. It hurts when you are then terrified to go to sleep because you sometimes still have horribly vivid nightmares you can’t control or predict. It hurts when people make fun of “trigger warnings” because they might not need them. It hurts when some days you feel on top of the world and proud, and a single sentence can bring it crashing down for months. It hurts when you lose sleep for days or weeks because you can’t clear your mind of the rage and helplessness at what you and so many others have gone through.
It hurts your heart. It hurts to know that every single female friend and family member you’ve discussed it with can relate because they too have been sexually assaulted and/or harassed. It hurts to know that up to 1 in 5 women have been the survivor of rape or attempted rape and that 1 in 2 women have been sexually assaulted in some way. It hurts that I have been victim to many other instances of sexual assault and harassment throughout my life and it hurts to know I will continue to throughout the rest of my life. It hurts to hear my female friends express such fear, knowing it could happen to them at any time simply because they are a woman. It hurts to see any woman of public status receive rape threats and to know that that somehow makes the person who said it feel better about themselves. It hurts that scaring someone else with the threat of rape somehow makes them feel stronger. It hurts to see how people talk about and treat the brave individuals that come forward to legally pursue their attacker. And it hurts to see all cases end so ineffectually. It hurts to know that if I had been, say, stabbed in a robbery, I would be expected to tell anyone that would listen and I would be taken seriously. It hurts knowing that because my assault was of a sexual nature, it carries embarrassment and shame and is dismissed. It hurts to see people punished for coming forward. It hurts to feel like no matter what you do, there is no real way to get justice because the system is so broken. It hurts that while I am stuck with the consequences forever, the perpetrators may never even think about it again. It hurts that no matter when you come forward, many people will judge you as either just regretting a sexual encounter or as seeking attention. It hurts that they think you would only want to bring it up for some personal gain. It hurts that even years later, I still feel like it was my fault. And it hurts that society reinforces that blame.
It hurts everyone. It hurts that we are part of a society that teaches you to just keep it to yourself. It hurts that people see and hear these stories and dismiss it as “natural”. It hurts that anyone finds such degradation and dehumanizing as anything but unnatural. It hurts that they are so blind to the connection between “just talk” and actions. It hurts to feel so frustrated, to scream out how wrong it all is and feel like no one is listening. It hurts that people don’t realize that just because something is commonplace, that does NOT validate it in any way. It does not make me hurt any less to know how many men have talked like that or acted like that. It makes me hurt more. It hurts that people don’t acknowledge that if something is wrong, it happening in great frequency does not make it any less wrong, it makes it more wrong- that we do not do anything about it when we know how widely it is hurting people. It hurts to be treated as inhuman, as an object simply put there to satisfy someone else. It hurts to have people of authority saying things about harassment or assault like “if you can’t handle it, just quit/leave” or “don’t put yourself there begin with”, that it is an assumed part of our position in life simply because we were born with certain biological parts. It hurts to have people in power making all the decisions about our bodies. It hurts to have people of great influence saying these horrible things and making others of the same mindset feel empowered, justified, and encouraged. It hurts to read or see the rare news story about rape or assault and have people say “how could this happen?”, for them to not understand exactly how something like that happens. And it hurts to see such a news story completely forgotten about by the next day. It hurts that many men think similarly to the perpetrator and egg them on until it escalates to a horrific end. It hurts that other men who don’t think in a predatory way don’t often speak up and contradict those in the wrong, that those men who do think differently are discouraged and harassed. It hurts that there are men who have experienced this same unfortunate experience and they too feel like they are not safe to speak up about it.
It hurts our future. It hurts to ignore it. It will hurt all current and future women if we do not try and make a difference now, to leave things as they are for future generations to be abused. It will hurt all current and future men if we do not try and raise them to think differently, to stand up for common decency and respect others human lives. It hurts that people do not want to challenge the “boy will be boys” mentality, that they do not see the harm it perpetuates. It hurts to see how hard women have fought throughout history to try and gain respect as human beings, just to see all that work go to waste and to feel like we have slipped back centuries. It hurts to not demand more. It hurts to see how a lack of empathy and respect such as this is mirrored in other aspects of human behavior. It isn’t possible to fully understand what it is like in another person’s shoes but it hurts that people disconnect and ignore so completely, it hurts that people don’t even try. A man cannot understand what it is like to go through life as a woman, a white person cannot understand what it is like to be black, a civilian cannot understand what it is like to be a veteran, a straight person cannot understand what it is like to be gay, a cis person cannot understand what it’s like to be trans, a healthy person cannot understand what it is like to be disabled, a financially secure person cannot understand what it is like to live in poverty, etc. But it hurts to just dismiss an entire group of people, or even one person, who is different than yourself and say their discrimination and pain is “just the way it is, those are the breaks”.
It hurts ME. I am one individual that helps make up the many and it hurts to be glazed over because it may be easier to ignore it all. I am doing the best I can to live each day at a time like anyone else and it hurts when I am treated like I don’t matter. It hurts to feel invisible and ignored. It hurts when someone says I “shouldn’t take it so personally”. It hurts when someone says rape culture shouldn’t “hurt my feels” or “violate my safe space” when I see it in everything around me. It hurts when I am treated like I do not have the right to my own feelings, like I have no right to be disgusted. It hurts that I am told to ignore something that happened to me years ago when it can still hurt so much today. It hurts that even if someone can’t possibly understand my position, they don’t even try to have compassion that someone is baring their soul and their pain. It would still hurt even if I wasn’t personally a survivor of rape, I could still feel the pain of it existing in the world, hurting so many others. It hurts when someone doesn’t realize that even if you have different views, you can still find a way to be supportive if you truly care.
It hurts that I am being told I shouldn’t post this. It hurts that I’m scared to make this post public so that others can share it- because I know what can happen to someone who speaks out. It hurts to see how rape culture has shaped some of the closest around me, it hurts to feel that disappointment. It hurts that it seems to be asking too much to just be able to say “it’s not okay” that things are like this and accepted as such- and to expect the same of others. It hurts that I am told I am stupid or naive to want more out of people, that I should just accept the disgusting way things are just because that’s how it’s always been. It hurts that people attack the need to even discuss it, the basic desire and fight for people to find happiness. It hurts that all I want is to be heard when I say IT IS WRONG. IT IS NOT OKAY. IT NEEDS TO CHANGE and instead of supporting me in something I feel strongly about, something that is incredibly important to me, I am getting it from many sides to just keep my mouth shut and shove it back down where it belongs. It would hurt me to do that. So I refuse. I will say it again and however many times I need to for it be acknowledged: