Rape Culture: a starting definition

Rape Culture is probably a phrase on your radar lately and not many people seem to fully understand what it is. I don’t think anyone is advocating that rape is alright or deserved. Nobody in his or her right mind would think it’s all right for someone to rape another human being. Rape culture is the idea, though, that rape can be excused or swept under the rug. It’s the idea that your rapist can get off because he’s a man and such a charge would destroy his career, his dreams, and his very livelihood. I mean, after all, think of the children and all the potential he has. He has such a bright future. He’s such a good man. Or that you somehow deserved it because of the way you were dressed or how you were perceived to be acting or whatever the case may be.

Rape culture is what allows rapists to get away with violence because we’re worried about destroying the perpetrator’s life. It’s the idea that rape is a cause and effect offense. It can’t just happen out of the blue or when you’re trying to get out of it any way you can. Rape culture is what makes you feel like shit after you were assaulted because it doesn’t fit some cookie cutter idea of what it should look like. Learn more about how to define rape culture here and here .

Sexual violence is gray as the clouds on a rainy day. It operates on a spectrum and can’t be defined by one or two experiences. It’s legally broad for that very reason. It encompasses so much different things that it’s next to impossible for it to be specific or encompass one ideal. Rape, sexual violence, and sexual assault are difficult to come to terms with. And they’re especially difficult to report, because we’re so accustomed and trained to thinking that the only people who perpetrate sexual or domestic violence are strangers in dark alleys with weapons or the drunken boyfriend you make excuses for.

So how do we combat rape culture? And how do we create an environment that fosters reporting crimes without fear that they’ll go to trial or at least have some form of adequate legal justice? Sound off in the comments! I’ll be writing more posts about how to fight it in the coming weeks.


So You Want to Get A Rape Kit

Great! it’s unfortunately a long, seemingly invasive process but a necessary item to ensure evidence is preserved and your assailant has little to no room for reasonable doubt. And though I can’t speak from personal experience as I didn’t go to the emergency room immediately, I have pulled information from close friends who did get it done as well as a phenomenal resource known as End The Backlog, an extension of The Joyful Heart Foundation, that is directed at helping end the disgusting amount of backlogged kits waiting to be tested. End The Backlog provides great information of what to expect as well as how you personally can help get more kits tested and put rapists behind bars.

So here’s what you can expect. Go to an emergency room once you’ve been raped and ask for a rape kit to be performed. Likely, it will be done by a doctor or a nurse and can take up to 6 hours to make sure no evidence is left behind as well as that it’s preserved properly.

  1. Whomever is examining you will go over your medical history and you’ll have a physical, during which most of the evidence collecting will occur.
  2. You’ll undress on top of a large sheet in order to catch any lingering hairs, follicles, or other evidence that falls from your clothes
  3. Your clothes will be then tested for further examination and to collect any further evidence.
  4. During the physical exam, any injuries, bruising, or other side effects from the assault will be documented. The doctor will scrape under your fingernails, collect salivia, and swab different parts of your body for further biological evidence that may have been left behind

It is important to know that you can decline any part of the examination and if you’re confused AT ALL during the process, ask for it to be further explained. You can learn more about the process as well as your rights as a survivor at End The Backlog.

Rape kits are definitely a crucial part of collecting evidence for bringing your perpetrator to trial. But they are no means a crucial part of your healing process.

Hotlines to Use

Found yourself in the aftermath of a sexual assault or domestic violence?

Check out these hotlines below! I’ve personally called RAINN & Planned Parenthood for advice, local clinics, and the like. And I’ve had loved ones call the Domestic Violence Hotline. Plus, also included the Trevor Project hotline as well.

RAINN: 800.656.HOPE (4673)

Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Planned Parenthood: 1-800-230-7526  (see more on how I’d use Planned Parenthood in the previous post!)

The Trevor Project:  866-488-7386

I’ll be providing some other resources as well later this week on what to do right after an assault as well!

Some Phenomenal Resources

First of all, were you just assaulted? Call 911. Go to the nearest emergency room and get a rape kit done. I know, you’ve probably heard the stories that it won’t get tested or that it won’t do any good, but trust me. Get a rape kit done, it will help y0u get closer to putting your assailant behind bars. It’ll give you evidence, if he left any behind. And you’ll have a paper trail.

Some of the best resources I’ve found over the years have been RAINN, which stands for Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network. They have a hotline that’s open 24/7. You can reach it at 800.656.HOPE (4673)  as well as an online chat line and a ton of phenomenal statistics and other resources. I called them the day after I was raped, just to have it validated by someone. They didn’t judge me and the first thing they made me realize is that it is and will not ever be my fault.

Another great resource is Planned Parenthood. They answered questions about emergency contraception as well as tested me for STD’s and gave me a pregnancy test when my period was late, even though I had already taken Plan B twice after the fact. Find your local Planned Parenthood here. They also provide great resources of finding therapists who specialize in sexual violence as well as can provide follow up check ups, STD tests, and more. Planned Parenthood is a great resource for no judgement and great information as well.

Some great communities are also The Joyful Heart Foundation, run by Mariska Hargitay of Law & Order: SVU fame, and Surviving in Numbers. These groups are dedicated to specifically helping sexual assault and rape survivors know that it’s not their fault.

Finally, though it sounds strange, social media can be a great resource as well. I Am That Girl is a great way to share stories and learn more. Check out Tumblr and Facebook pages that are similar to what you’re looking for and you’ll be able to find someone with a strangely similar story to yours. I’ve written about my own experiences here and here.


What’s the Why?

Ever since I started talking about my experience with sexual violence, I had what felt like herds of people over the years come to me with their own stories of what happened to them. And they always asked – how did you start healing? What resources did you use? where can i find more people like us? Truth be told, I didn’t have a good answer for them. Which is why I wanted to create Dear July. I found the most poignant stories that I resonated with were personal stories and letters to attackers that survivors wouldn’t dream of sending, like the Brock Turner letter in 2016.  I saw the power in actually sharing these stories with others not only in hopes of reaching someone but in also understanding what happened to us. These letters understood that sometimes self-destruction is a necessary part of the process so you can get to a point where you know the only way to go from there is up. Because of these stories that were shared, t Dear July started actually getting some traction as an idea. These letters said everything I needed and wanted to say – it got me thinking, how many other people are out there, wishing that they could say something to their abuser or their attacker or what have you? What would you want them to know? What would you want yourself to know and understand about what happened? And what would you need to know before you felt like you could really start healing once & for all? Hopefully, this is a place where some of your questions can start being answered for yourself.

Words are powerful stuff. They can hurt, wound, and even destroy. But they can also help, restore, and build. I wanted to create Dear July as a starting point for people going through sexual violence and starting the healing process. I want it to have real stories from real people, showcasing the nuances and intricacies of sexual violence.

All this is all great and powerful, but you’re probably still wondering What’s your why? Why is it important to create a community to lift up sexual violence survivors and to let them know what they went through is real? Because I want them to start healing, their way. And healing only starts when you realize that why yes, what happened was in fact real and does not in any way diminish your shine. 

My why for creating this is to show that this kind of violence is heartbreaking, gut wrenching, and incredibly destructive. But it doesn’t always have to feel that way. And it starts with admitting it, whether on paper or out loud, happened to you. But you won’t let it define you. And hopefully this why can help you find yours as well.


The Name Dear July

So why the name Dear July? I know I’m going to get this question at least a few dozen times in the future so might as well make a post about it. In July of 2014, right before I moved into a dream studio in LA, I was drugged and raped on a first date with a rocket engineer. Literally, he works on rockets that go into outer space for a living. And besides being raped, which was horrible in of itself, it wasn’t even the first time I’d been sexually assaulted by someone I thought was reputable. I’d been assaulted by an ex boyfriend when I was trying to break up with him and I had a sheriff molest me when I was ten. Then there was my first boyfriend who would grab me until I bruised if another boy talked to me or even looked at me. Or shove me down onto the ground and kick my shins for disagreeing.

And this isn’t even accounting for the numerous times I’d been followed late at night or to my car by a strange man so that he could ‘make sure I was safe’. But this time in July was different. I fell apart and I was incredibly self-destructive. But deep down inside, I knew it’d be the last time I took my safety for granted. And I started writing again, a series of letters to both myself and to him; fully knowing I’d never send any of them. But the weird thing about letters and writing is that soon, you start feeling yourself start to heal. I wrote about the experience to admit it happened out loud here and the changes I saw at the one-year mark. It wasn’t until then that I realized just how powerful words can be and how monumental it can be to read that somebody else you know has gone through the same thing. That what you went through, no matter how gray or complicated it seems, is real and valid.


But I came up with the name because in July of 2014, I was raped and violated. And I realized when I decided to start actively healing, my way, that I would never let another month, let alone another July, like that happen again. And I refused to let it get me down any longer. So in a sense, Dear July is my way of saying ‘fuck you’ and letting my shine come through.