CONTENT WARNING: rape and sexual assault mention.
What's it about?
What does it take to get people to talk about rape without shaming or blaming the victims? What does it take for a rape survivor’s story to be heard?
What'd I experience?
Stet begins with Erika’s interview on MSNBC in regards to her article on a horrendous case of rape that occurred on a college campus. The unseen interviewer asks Erika if she had contacted the boys involved in the case, the ones who committed the crime, to which Erika responds, “...What could they say?”
I agreed silently from my seat in the third row. What could a person who felt they were entitled to another person’s body say if they were accused of rape? I assume that they would deny they did it, or twist the story into one of consensual sex. But from my painful years in high school writing argumentative essays, I knew that one needed to acknowledge both sides of the story to avoid immediately being labeled as biased.
The editor of the magazine had pushed the story onto her but Erika didn’t want to put out another “rape story.” I clenched my jaw during the casual exchange they had over the supposed excess of rape stories. I don’t think you need to personally know anyone who has been sexually assaulted to know that rape cases aren’t just statistics spewed out on charts and graphs.
Unfortunately, I know an alarming amount of people who have been sexually assaulted, each story is revolting in its own way. Each of these individuals deserve justice, but may never receive it for the same reasons many girls mentioned in Stet never file a police report: The fear of hearing “They were asking for it” or “What were you wearing?” or “Maybe you shouldn’t have been drinking.” These statements fail to realize that sexual assault cases consist of people who were wronged, they didn’t know this was going to happen to them. And they have to live with the aftermath forever-- which is something Erika already knew from her own experiences.
When it seemed like the story wasn't going to be pushed forward, Erika revealed that she had been raped during her undergrad. I suspected she was making it up for the sake of getting the editor’s attention, because earlier she had told him that she'd never been raped. He thanked her for sharing what happened to her, and she said that she had made it up. She said she wanted to see how he'd react if it had happened to someone he knew-- although her pained reaction when he leaves the room suggested otherwise.
I can't believe it took that reveal for the editor to understand how important that story was. Regardless of whether or not you personally know someone who has been raped, I believe that you should still be able to recognize the horror of rape. But Erika, also being a survivor of rape, seems to emphasize just how common these cases are.
I’m thankful there’s a show like Stet that shows that rape can’t just be reduced to the before and during. There’s an aftermath to consider as well. The assumptions people can make, the victim-blaming that so often occurs, the ease of a rapist’s ability to cover up their crimes, the euphemisms used as placeholders instead of addressing rape for what it is-- Stet addresses it all.
It made me realize that victims of sexual assault might need more than an “I’m sorry this happened to you,” or an “I’m here for you,” and that saying “It’ll get better, easier,” sounds more like wishful thinking than a guarantee. They deserve justice, they deserve to know that they did nothing wrong, and above all, they deserve an end to rape culture. I think we all do.