You are adored by the world, thousands of Americans watched the 2012 Olympic Games in awe of the 4 foot 11 girl who was achieving so much for our great nation. I too, was one of those spectators. I watched in awe of how well you moved and the strength in your body. I celebrated with my fellow Americans when you won gold and truly represented your country.
It can not be an easy feat being a young girl with millions watching. You are not given the opportunity to mess up and later grow from those experiences. Instead, you are scrutinized and put under a microscope that can detect even the tiniest of microbs that look suspicious. For this I am sorry. I will not pretend to know what this feels like from the perspective of a young woman in the spotlight. But I do have experience with being under the microscope of a different sorts.
I am a survivor of rape. Everywhere I turn these days, I see more and more women coming out with their own stories of sexual harassment and assault. I can hardly get on Twitter or Facebook without seeing a new case coming out or someone telling these survivors why it’s there fault that these tragities have happened to them. What you said is no exception. Yet, I would like to challenge what you said with my own story, instead of bashing you for a mistake you made. When I was 19, I was at a beach house with friends when I was raped. You hear beach and you might thing that I was wearing a bathing suite and you would be wrong. It was cold that night. I wore a red give blood t-shirt and Nike compression capris. I got drunk hours before it happened, but by the time it did happen, I was no longer drunk. I said no hours before it happened, but could not find the words to say it again when it actually did happen. I’m not saying this for your empathy, I’m saying this because I hope that it might be of a learning experience.
While it is not my fault that I was raped, it is also not your fault that you said what you did. I blame many factors, but primarily I blame the society that we live in. We live in a society where it is easier to blame the victim than to believe them. Maybe in a sense it is to make us feel empowered, like there is something that we personally can do to keep us safe from becoming a victim ourselves. Sadly, this leaves the ones who do become victims with a magnitude of shame. It leaves thoughts like, “if I had just worn less provocative clothing,” or “if I had just screamed for help,” when really all that needed to happen was for the rapist to not rape.
I will not forget that you did publicly apologize, and while I will not say it was completely invalid. I will say that it is easier to say sorry out of pressure than it is to say sorry out of true remorse and understanding. While your apology will suffice some, I doubt it will suffice survivors. I cannot speak for all of them, but I am angry. I am angry that you’re raised in a society that has brainwashed you into thinking and believing these things. I hope that one day you will understand that a survivor is never at fault. I hope that you come to this conclusion through logic rather than through experience.
Gabby, you may never come across my little piece on a little blog on a little place in this world. But if you do, know that I will not blame you.