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Yeah, this is my second post on rape. The first was mainly financials and politics, but this one will be a little more emotionally-grounded. It might be a little too “real,” so before you read, prepare yourself.

You’ve probably seen it–the image of the college senior toting her extra-long twin size mattress around campus. You’ve probably thought well, she’s made her point or wished that she’d stop drawing attention to herself. There’s a highly held precedence in which rape victims are shamed and punished, beyond the act itself. I’m here to tell you something. Being raped is shameful and punishment enough.

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“Mattress Girl” Emma Sulkowicz is accused of attention-mongering and receives hate mail daily, blasting her public display and shaming her further. Her rapist’s lawyer even claims that she is lying just because she enjoys the attention. However, Sulkowicz dutifully points out: “People assume just because you’re getting a lot of attention, it’s all good attention…”

Mattress Girl says she didn’t want the title or the fame. However, she isn’t alone in the publicity surrounding unsolved college rape cases. Alexandria Brodsky of Yale actualizes the problem. “I’ll just never believe a school’s reputation should be prioritized over the safety and equality of its students—which sounds uncontroversial, but was very much counter to what we heard from classmates and alumni.”

Rape shaming is not a new concept; rape victims have repeatedly been blamed for putting themselves in dangerous situations, leading on their rapists, or not fighting back hard enough. Often, drinking and short skirts are laid to blame for rape. One nameless victim was doxxed online and was harassed, with some claiming that, due to a picture of her dancing with her rapist, “[the sex] looks consensual…” The biggest problem here is that “no” is ignored. Regardless of gender, race, or any other demographic, rape is simple. But, the “no means no” campaign is not simple for some people, it seems. They just don’t understand.

University prestige and reputations are stripped when rape allegations come down, especially when the universities are highly prestigious and reputable to begin with. However, the rape culture is prevalent, and in my years at the University of Kentucky, rapes were commonplace, and I was warned day in and day out by my mother not to walk on campus alone. I briskly walked the long trail from the library to my car in the moonlight, my mom on the phone and my keys in my hand, willing myself to my car incident-free. This fear is common. Living in a world that shames and blames victims for a prevalent rape culture is dangerous and misunderstood; being raped is even more debilitating.

Even outside the university spectrum, the rape culture is staggering. The twitter hashtag #beenrapedneverreported spread like wildfire; secrets rang out across the social media site. Some remained behind their shame; some plastered their stories across the site like an open book.

Some memorable tweets include:

@AntoniaZ – It was 1969 when, if you found you were the only girl in the rec room and no parents were home, it was your fault. #beenrapedneverreported

@AntoniaZ – 1970: My friend’s friend from out of town “forgot his wallet” in his hotel room, it will only take a minute. #beenrapedneverreported

@daphnesimone – He pushed me on the couch and said: “you can’t say no, you’re my girlfriend.” – I cried all that night. Many after. #beenrapedneverreported

@IndigoIndigone – 2001: “Stop crying. You’re my wife. I own you. You can’t rape what’s yours” #beenrapedneverreported

@RaavynnDigitaL – #beenrapedneverreported because I saw what happened to people who reported in the military.

And finally, the kicker:

@MauveDinosaur – How many women are typing #beenrapedneverreported tweets to cancel/delete them before posting. What you are seeing is tip of iceburg.

Really, rape isn’t something to hide behind. It doesn’t matter what clothes you were wearing. It doesn’t matter if you were drinking. It doesn’t matter if you went home with him. It doesn’t matter if you’ve slept him with before, or if you’re dating. You said no, and that should always be enough.

By the lax definition of rape, I was raped my freshman year in college. I was at a New Years’ Eve Party at a friend’s house and had been drinking. I went home with an ex-co-worker of mine, drank a little more at his house, and we hung out for a while in the living room, discussing whatever was on TV and his hobby for brewing craft beer. I went back to his bedroom willingly, but finding the military man’s gun on his nightstand (I feel compelled to make sure it is understood that he never used the gun on me. It was just a fear tactic, or maybe it was just his normal storage spot. But it was very effective in shutting me up.) and a ridiculously large box of condoms next to his bed (I didn’t even know they made boxes that big. Surely they would expire before using that many? There had to be hundreds.) gave me cold feet.  I resisted verbally, but not physically. What could my 105 pounds really have on his 180? 200? But “no” didn’t seem to mean much to him. When he got tired of trying to penetrate me vaginally, he instead had me perform oral sex on him, with the taste of the latex condom ever-present on his body.

To this day, the smell of latex makes my stomach churn and my head spin. The nausea creeps up my chest and settles in the back of my throat; my blood runs cold through my veins. He took me home that night and I immediately burst into tears the second I walked through my front door. I was upset by the situation but I didn’t quite grasp the reality at first. Actually, it took me many years to admit that it probably was rape. Instead, I built this mountain of self-blame. I danced with him at the party. I was drinking. I don’t remember what I was wearing, but it probably wasn’t totally modest. I went home with him. I kissed him. I went back to his bedroom. I didn’t scream. I didn’t fight. I didn’t run. And, if I reported him, it would ruin his military career.

I don’t actually have a twitter, but here is my tweet for you:

The gun stopped me from running. His reputation stopped me from reporting. The smell of latex never goes away. #beenrapedneverreported

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