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A man raped me seven years ago.

I was left traumatized and suicidal and with a complex linguistic decision: What should I call myself?

For a long time, I avoided using the terms rape "victim" or "survivor." I simply said, "I was raped" or "a man raped me." But the experience of being raped forced its way into my identity, not just my history.


It comes with the territory of writing publicly about my rape, of speaking openly about it. I am a woman; I am a writer; I am a rape ________.

Victim? Survivor?

I started where I always start: Google.

I typed "rape victim vs. survivor" into the search bar. After reading just a few articles, it became clear that the correct term — or at least the most search engine optimized term — for myself was "survivor."

Survivor is empowering and strong. It rolls off the tongue in a way that "victim" does not. My jaw relaxed, though I had not realized I was clenching it. I knew what to say. I had the words.

I didn't think to question those articles then, and in the years since, I've heard this particular message of empowerment repeated over and over again. It's a mantra of sorts: "We are not victims; we are survivors."

I've watched many who've experienced sexual violence articulate these words: many of the hundreds of women who spoke out against Larry Nassar; leaders in the #MeToo movement; sign-bearers at protests and at the Women's March.

Scrolling through news stories and watching YouTube videos on autoplay, I began to feel misrepresented.

Was I the only one who felt like "survivor" didn't accurately sum up my identity?

Beneath this question of terminology, there is an implication that we start out as victims, but we outgrow that label as we "triumph" and move past the immediate aftermath of the crime. Survivor implies having survived the recovery process.

Though the physical pain and rainbow of bruises did eventually fade, the impact of my rape never really did. I stopped doing a lot of things in the wake of the rape — traveling alone, going on runs outside, dating. Though eventually I was able to get my life back, I lost years to fear, to post-traumatic stress disorder, to hiding. Those years would've been different had I not been raped. I would be different had I not been raped.

For me, survivor sugarcoats the reality of rape.

Survivor tells an ultimately hopeful, inspiring, empowering story. Look at us, thriving despite violence. Survivor is easier for people to hear. It is more comfortable than victim. Victim reminds people of violent acts and brutal realities. Survivor makes them think of rousing music and impossible courage. Survivor is the story of sexual violence that the media, the public, wants to hear.

I don't know a single person that has experienced sexual violence and thinks they're better off for it. The act and aftermath of sexual violence is not oriented around the potential light at the end of the tunnel. 94% of rape victims have symptoms of PTSD, and 13% attempt suicide. Rape victims are up to 10 times more likely to abuse drugs. It's not all empowerment and #MeToo rallies and harrowing news stories with "happy" endings. It's not all inspiration.

My friend once told me "surviving rape made you brave and strong." But that's not true. I was brave and strong before somebody raped me. The rape made me afraid, made me cower on the gray-carpeted floor of my bedroom and avoid being touched, even by close friends and family, for years. I don't think I became stronger because of the rape. I think I simply got back to my baseline — brave and strong.

Conventional wisdom tells us to "get out of the victim mindset."

As if there were a stigma associated with the term "victim," and "survivor" seeks to evade it. Are victims of other crimes ashamed to have been victimized? Maybe. But there is a particular and particularly egregious stigma associated with sexual violence.

I refuse to feel ashamed of what was done to me. The shame of the act is not mine; it is on the one who perpetrated the crime. My rapist may never be punished, but he will always be guilty. The language I use to talk about sexual violence should place the spotlight on the fact that another person perpetrated a crime against me, and we do not call the victim of a robbery a "survivor."

I do not want to be the focus. I want the crime to be the focus. I want the criminal to be the focus.

When we hear the term victim, we think about the crime and acknowledge its perpetrator.

We know who these people are, though they are rarely imprisoned. My rapist had dark curly hair, a rough beard, and sharp fingernails.

When we hear the term survivor, the perpetrator is erased. Empowering victims, linguistically or otherwise, won't stop rape. There are survivors of a fire, a natural disaster, or a disease. Sexual violence is different. It is not an unstoppable pandemic. It is not a blameless illness. There is always somebody who bears the blame.

Though I prefer it, I avoid using the word "victim" when writing or speaking.

I use the word "survivor," the word the #MeToo movement wants me to use, because I want the movement to succeed. Common language is important to unification and a consistent message.

But when I'm alone with myself, I know my truth. Yes, I survived, but I am a victim of a heinous crime.  

Mostly, though, I wish I did not have to spend time worrying about verbiage. We need to get to a place where language can be more nuanced, more telling, and more personal. We need to be able to speak our truths however we want to articulate them, to fully own our stories and not just donate them to the cause.

This story originally appeared on The Lily, a subsidiary of The Washington Post, and is reprinted here with permission.

Images provided by Pacifico

Making waves in the best way

True

At last, summer is here. And for many people, that means it's time for heading to the beach and maybe even catching some waves. Surfing is a quintessential summertime activity for those who live in coastal communities—it’s not only really fun and challenging, it’s also a great way to celebrate Mother Nature’s beauty. Even after a wipeout, the cool water mixed with warm sunshine offers a certain kind of euphoria. Or, you know, just hanging back on the sand is plenty fun too. Simply being outdoors near the ocean is its own reward.

pacifico quiksilver beach cleanupLet’s protect the places where outdoor adventure happensAll photos provided by Pacifico

However, it's well known that our beautiful beaches are suffering the consequences of overcrowding, pollution and littering. What was once a way of playing in nature is now slowly destroying it. And of course, this affects beachgoers everywhere. The sad truth is—without taking action to preserve all the natural joys the earth provides, we will eventually lose them.

But there is hope. Two popular brands that both have roots in surf culture have teamed up to help make trips to the beach a more sustainable pastime. The best part? You don’t have to know how to hang ten in order to participate.

Pacifico®, a pilsner-style lager originally brought to the U.S. by surfers, and Quiksilver, an iconic apparel company loved by both surfers and beach goers alike, have created a brand-new range of clothing and accessories with sustainability in mind.

Take a look below. These threads are great for all kinds of fun in the sun, without compromising the environment.

pacifico quicksilver beach cleanupsReady to make some waves

The collection launches on July 5 and includes tees and woven shirts, boardshorts, hats, flip-flops and a special beach towel and tote bag. The unique collaboration features the vibrant, colorful designs that are the hallmark of Quiksilver combined with Pacifico elements, created to make a positive impact.

Each item has been thoughtfully curated to minimize an environmental footprint and protect the outdoors. The hats, for example, are made from NetPlus® by Bureo®, a raw material created from South American recycled fishing nets. Additionally, the board shorts are made from recycled plastic bottles, and tees are made with 100% organic cotton. Pretty rad stuff, to put it in surfer lingo.

The prices on these pieces are equally rad, ranging from $28 flip-flops to $60 boardshorts.

In keeping with the sustainable ethos and protecting the places we play, Pacifico and Quiksilver will celebrate the products’ launch by hosting two beach cleanups. The first is on July 5 at Sunset Point in Malibu, California, from 4-5:30pm, and the second is on July 9th at Deerfield Beach in Florida from 8:30 – 10:30am.

pacifico quicksilver clothing lineCleaning up and looking good while doing it

Theses beach cleanups are open to anyone over the age of 21 who’s ready to have some fun while taking care of nature’s playground.

Those who can’t make it to the beach (bummer, dude) don’t have to miss out on all the fun. The new collection will be available on July 5th at www.quiksilver.com/mens-collab-pacifico. And even if you don’t surf, never plan to surf, have no desire to even be near a surfboard, rest assured, the apparel is still cool. Plus sustainable choices are always good fashion.

Our planet provides us with an endless supply of beauty and adventure. But without more mindful actions from humanity, its natural wonders will eventually diminish. Fortunately Pacifico and Quiksilver are making it easier than ever for people to enjoy the great outdoors without jeopardizing it. That’s a wave worth riding.

This article originally appeared on 09.06.17


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