Survivor, not victim

Dedicated to the Richmond High rape survivor, Jane Doe
I wish you peace and strength. You are a warrior.

When I was a sophomore at Cal, I became a Peer Health Educator with the Rape Prevention Program at Student Health Services. With my colleagues, we presented workshops in dorms, in the living rooms of sorority and fraternity houses, in co-ops. We talked about gender roles, boundary setting, and stranger and acquaintance rape. We led discussions, facilitated role plays, offered advice, fielded questions. It was one way of contributing to ending the war between the sexes, a theme which I often explored in my poetry and in my Op-Ed column, Mujer Hollering.

Back then, I did think of rape victims, not survivors. The survivors I knew were wounded, some more than others. I remember a friend whose poems dealt with her experience and that of others. To some, she was a running joke. They knew her attackers socially; they couldn’t be rapists. To others, she was a one-trick pony. Talented poet, yes; a broken record, that too. I felt sorry for her. She seemed trapped by her ordeal, unable to trust people, unable to forgive herself or her attackers. I began to wonder if she was going mad with anger and grief. I distanced myself from her after a while, even as I feared for her future.

I wonder where she is now, who she is now, if she has found a support network. I hope she has found friends who recognize that she is a survivor and that she has found a way to live her life, in spite of the horror she endured.

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