What I’ve Learned About Rape from Serena Williams

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by Eris Zion Venia Dyson

Late last night I read Serena Williams’ comments in Rolling Stone on the Steubenville, Ohio rape case:

“Do you think it was fair, what they got? They did something stupid, but I don’t know. I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you: don’t take drinks from other people. She’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember? It could have been much worse. She’s lucky. Obviously I don’t know, maybe she wasn’t a virgin, but she shouldn’t have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that’s different.”
  1. Rape is your fault if you’re 16 years old girl.
  2. Rape is your fault if you’re drunk.
  3. Rape is your fault if your parents didn’t teach you not to take drinks from other people.
  4. Rape is your fault if you’re too intoxicated to remember it.
  5. Rape could possibly be your fault if you aren’t a virgin.
  6. Rape isn’t a position you should put yourself in.
  7. Rape is only a problem if you were “slipped something” …that’s different.
The rape and sexual assault of women in this world has been a tactic of war and control since the beginning of time. Our bodies politicalized. We as women are constantly guilty for being women, for being beautiful, for being afraid, for being drunk, for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Search for one woman that was “asking for it” …and you’d have a snowball’s chance in hell. Williams’ statements hurt plenty of us to our core.

We live in a world where we question the attacked instead of interrogating the attacker. When other variables are added like student-athletes, socioeconomic status, or race… it becomes shame storm for women and girls who shouldn’t dame to even share the same social space with males if they don’t chose to comply. As women we are given the daunting task of reminding the world that our vaginas, breasts, and backsides aren’t to be infringed upon without consent. But yet here we are again defending our bodies, brains and hearts from the other half.

And when a woman utters statements like this… we are particularly perplexed because one ought to assume that this gender construct we’ve been forced to live in should offer up some understanding; even if Williams’ had never been on the receiving end of assault or rape. Silly me for making the assumption that she’d champion us in this fight towards equity. For every woman who has ever revealed their rape/molestation/sexual assault/domestic violence to you, there are several more who keep that story tucked far away from sight just to walk through this earth with the hope of feeling some sense of normalcy.

We carry these burdens with little to no relief. We look our attackers in the face (sometimes every day for years on end); we watch them have children of their own while praying they never have daughters, we forgive them in hopes of forgiving ourselves. We have nightmares, flashbacks, and get ridiculed for having trust issues. But we’re “lucky” right? As Williams said… “It could have been much worse.”

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