By Callie Otto, Choice USA intern
Her name was Rehtaeh Parsons. She was a survivor of rape who was shamed, harassed, and denied justice. She went to the authorities, but they wouldn’t bring charges against her rapists. The police said it was a matter of “he said, she said.” Two years later, Rehtaeh committed suicide. Anonymous, the same hacktivist group that blew the whistle on the Steubenville rape crew, is once again taking things into their own hands. And I approve.
The official statement from Anonymous says, “Our demands are simple: We want the N.S. RCMP to take immediate legal action against the individuals in question…We do not approve of vigilante justice as the media claims. That would mean we approve of violent actions against these rapists at the hands of an unruly mob. What we want is justice. And That’s your job. So do it.” If the police don’t comply, Anonymous is threatening to release the names of the boys involved.
I know that many people won’t agree with my stance because, after all, this is a rape culture we’re living in. They’ll say there’s no evidence. They’ll say it’s not fair to release the names of Rehtaeh’s attackers because they haven’t been proven guilty. They’re going to do the same thing that drove Rehtaeh to her death: blame the victim, make excuses for the attackers, and deny her right to justice. Because, after all, this is a rape culture we’re living in.
I approve of what Anonymous is trying to do because I can relate to Rehtaeh. I was in her shoes.
I’m a survivor of sexual assault.
This is something I kept as my own little secret for 10 years. It was my fault. Should have said no. Nothing I can do about it now. I’ll just pretend it never happened.
I remember being in therapy in middle and high school. I never told my therapist because I knew she would have to report it. I didn’t want to report it. The idea was terrifying. It was my fault. Should have said no. Nothing I can do about it now. I’ll just pretend it never happened.
I was embarrassed. Ashamed. What would my family say? Would anyone even believe me? Was it really rape if I never said no? So does he deserve to be punished for something I technically didn’t tell him not to do? It was my fault. Should have said no. Nothing I can do about it now. I’ll just pretend it never happened.
So I tried my best to push the memories away. I prayed, I ignored, and I experimented. For 10 years, I just pretended it never happened. Except it did happen. And as I’ve become an adult, I’ve spent enough time psychoanalyzing myself to know how much it has affected me.
I’ve finally come to accept that this happened to me. I told a few friends, eventually told my family, but that’s it. Because that’s all I could do, well legally. Not only was I hesitant to report my assault because it was a “he said, she said” story, and because I’ve read about and known enough rape survivors who have been completely ignored by their respective justice systems, but, also, I’m from Wisconsin, where the statute of limitations allows victims up to six years to commence prosecuting rape. Looks like I missed the boat on that one.
I’ve tried to find justice for myself. I would fill my head with ideas just to calm myself down. I’m sure he regrets it. He probably didn’t know what he was doing. He didn’t mean to hurt me. He’s just too embarrassed to apologize. Maybe he forgot it happened.
I remember seeing a picture of him graduating college. Everyone was so proud of him. He was going to South America in the winter to help children in poverty. What a fine young man he turned out to be, huh?
That was when I lost it. I spent 10 years blaming myself, denying that my rapist was a rapist because I live in a rape culture that tells me it was my fault. This jerk screwed me up so bad and he won’t ever feel a single ounce of guilt for it. He won’t have that memory in his head for the rest of his life. He won’t ever know he hurt me. He won’t ever know he did anything wrong. What a fine fucking young man he turned out to be.
I needed revenge. I fantasized about what I would do. I would go to the hardware store, buy some spray paint, and that night I would cover his house in bold red, I RAPED A CHILD. But I didn’t. I would run the risk of getting myself in trouble. I didn’t need him taking away any more power from me than he already had.
I approve of Anonymous taking things into their own hands because it’s a step toward ending rape culture.
It would be great if our justice system worked the way that it should. If statutes of limitations for prosecuting rape were similar to other violent crimes. If more than 5 out of every 100 rapists were actually convicted. Unfortunately, rape is just too easy to get away with.
Anonymous’ threats might not be what we would typically consider the most moral of actions, but they are doing it in the right way. Demanding justice. And if we demand enough justice, action will be taken. And if action is taken, people will realize that rape is actually a very, very big deal. And if people realize that rape is a big deal, they won’t continue to brush it under the rug.
I’ve realized that the best way to take back my power in my situation was to become an advocate. That’s my justice. To talk about my experience. To talk about my situation. To help other survivors to not feel so embarrassed, ashamed and alone. I’m lucky to have found my own justice, despite my rapist facing no legal penalty. I’m saddened that Reteah won’t be able to find the peace that I have found.