The night I was an unlocked car

TRIGGER WARNING: This post discusses sexual assault.

***

I barely drink these days. With no sleep and breastfeeding around the clock it’s just not an option for me. I know few parents who drink heavily because really, who wants to look after kids when they’re hung-over?

But a while back, I got drunk. For the first time in well over a year. I was going to the Elton John concert with a friend and my toddler was at his nanna’s and dad was on FULL BABY DUTY as in – I was going to sleep all night and he was going to do wake-ups.

I was so excited, that I probably got a bit too excited, and that’s how I ended up drunk,  singing Tiny Dancer at the top of my lungs.

I had been given taxi money by a dear family friend, and I’m ashamed to say it since she’s probably reading this, I spent most of it on those darling little bottles of terrible wine at the stadium. I drank quite a few of those things. And my tolerance had disintegrated from not drinking for a very long time.

I was excited by freedom! A night out! I had no idea when my next night off would be – it might not be for a year! I was irresponsible. I got smashed. I had the best time ever.

And according to a recent column published in the Herald, a column I’m not going to link to because it’s already caused so many tears and hurt…Well, according to that column I should have been raped that night. I was attracting trash by acting trash. I was drunk. I was dressed (possibly? The columnist didn’t hand out her booklet on what clothing is rape-inviting and what isn’t) provocatively by wearing tight jeans.

I was an unlocked car according to the many people who commented on that story.

Had I been raped that night after screeching Goodbye Yellow Brick Road down the phone to my sister it would have been because of my poor decisions. Because I didn’t act responsibly.

If my husband had to call his mum and get her to watch the children while he picked me up from the hospital after my rape, it would have been my fault.

If the next day, my toddler asked me why I was crying, saw bruises on me, if he tried to understand why mama is broken, it would have been my fault.

If one day as an adult my sons asked me about my rape, according to this columnist I would need to tell them that women must take responsibility.

I would need to tell my sons that “women and men are two entirely different creatures, with different responses and triggers”.

And if they asked why I went out and got drunk and got myself raped, I wouldn’t tell them about how the giddy excitement of a night off got to me and I drank too much but that doesn’t matter, because nobody deserves rape, no I’d have to tell them that the ultimate responsibility for my rape lies with me.

It’s important that they know that “yes, it’s a woman’s right to dress how she wants – but it is also a responsibility to dress in a manner that shows how she wants to be treated”.

I will tell the boys that they can decide how they treat a woman based on how she is dressed. If she is dressed a certain way, she is sending them a message.

Just like mummy did that night that she went to the concert and drank too much wine with money she should have used for a taxi.

According to this columnist I need to tell them that I should have kept myself safe but I didn’t. I didn’t behave “in a manner that signals that [I am] precious, special and deserve a man that is appreciative of  [me] and [my] unique character”.

I’m not their mummy. I am an unlocked car.

***

To be entirely clear – it’s never your fault. Ever.

Our mothers, our sisters, our grandmothers, our aunts – they are not unlocked cars. Our daughters are not unlocked cars.

Our fathers, husbands, and sons are not creatures who need to see what someone is wearing to work out if they’re going to rape them or not.

This is what we teach our children. That it is never their fault. That what they wear is not an invitation to hurt them. That they are never allowed to hurt someone based on what they wear.

That article said the ultimate responsibility lies with women to “keep safe” from rapists. This is abhorrent and anyone who isn’t a rape apologist would know it’s the rapist who holds responsibility NOT TO RAPE.

But – as parents (and the person who wrote that piece is one) we have responsibilities – and that’s to ensure we don’t raise our boys to think they’re animals and that they need to take their cues not to assault and rape women based on a woman’s clothing and behaviour. And that we don’t raise our girls to think that if they are raped they deserve it for not following an ever-changing set of rules that don’t at all protect against rapists anyway.

Most of all, we need to not perpetuate the dangerous objectification of women that we are nothing but unlocked cars. Nothing but trash.

That night my dear family friends – husband and wife – took me home. Not once did the man who spoke at my wedding think about raping me. Because he saw me as a human being, not an unlocked car. Not once did his wonderful wife think “well, she’s walking around asking to be raped tonight”. Because she saw me as a human being, not trash.

We are not trash. You are not trash.

I am a mum, a wife, a sister, a friend, a daughter, a writer, a volunteer, an activist, a human being.

I am many things.

But I am not an unlocked car.

***

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  1. BRAVO. Women are not unlocked cars – I can’t lock my body or leave it at home. And to continue the analogy, someone once broke into my locked car. We rely on others to not commit crimes against our person or our property and when they do, it is THEIR fault, not ours!

  2. It’s so stupid that you even have to write this article. When are men going to be told they need to step up, instead of blaming the victim. This makes me so angry. There’s a great essay in Rebecca Solnit’s book ‘Men explain things to me’ on this. That “coloumist'” needs some education.

      • “Women worldwide ages 15 through 44 are more likely to die or be maimed because of male violence than because of cancer, malaria, war and traffic accidents combined”

        That is absolutely insane.

    • What really ticks me off are the men who claim that women expecting them to be responsible for their OWN behaviour are just angry feminists who are trying to oppress them. Why is it such an unreasonable request? Well when they feel entitled to women’s bodies then I guess it is.

      It saddens me that in this day and age we still need to have these conversations.

  3. I had my own version of this rage induced meltdown a little while back. Mine was triggered by the suggestion that women who break the don’t get raped rules are akin to people who leave their house unlocked. Do these apologists think chastity belts are still a thing, do ya think?

  4. I’m disgusted that such an article was published, and I can only imagine the horrific comments that would have followed. I won’t be reading it.

    Thank you for this piece!!

  5. I read this column yesterday too, and was so uncomfortable afterwards. How is that people still think in this manner?! Was the journalist trying to be provocative? I just don’t even know how to explain my confusion as to how someone with such an audience can be so reckless with their words. I’m so glad you have written this piece, it helped me realise the correctness of my own feelings.

  6. Thanks for saying what needs to be said. I just read the column and I’m so disappointed that this sort of thing is still being printed. People who hold this opinion ignore the fact that not only “provocatively” dressed attractive young women get raped – victims can be children, pensioners, people out for a jog etc. The only common denominator is that there is a rapist present. You could walk down the street stark naked and not be raped if there isn’t a rapist around. Narrow minded people like that columnist need to get it through their heads that the only reason people get raped because someone is a rapist, not because of how you look or what you wear.

  7. Incredible read, thank your for sharing

    by the same logic every time i go the beach in my speedos i should be molested by a gay man , its farcical …

  8. I hate the fact that I am raising 3 daughters in this horrible rape culture. I hate that fact that men think they can use any pathetic excuse for thinking they can take what doesn’t belong to them. I can only hope that I raise my son to see women as people not objects and that “no” means “no”. It shouldn’t matter what a woman wears or whether she is intoxicated or not. Men have a responsibility for their own actions.

  9. I can never quite put feelings into words with this. Your response here is great. I find it difficult to understand why so many people have such disregard for their sisters, mothers, daughters, friends – or also, their brothers, sons, etc. The decision to rape or not rape is the rapists. If people debate anything, debate them – nothing of the victim should come into it. And if someone is in a vulnerable situation, the bare minimum to help a human being, as a human being, is not to rape.

  10. As a mother of sons, I find those articles especially fucking dangerous. Never mind the women taking responsibility for rape thing – I’m going to put that aside because it’s ludicrous and doesn’t deserve my acknowledgement -, but surely, by that logic, we must then raise our boys to believe that they are, inherently, monsters? That they are all prone to be violent, abusive rapists just because they are men? And that makes me feel sick. Because my sons will not be raised to disrespect anyone and they will not be raised to believe that they should be viewed as perpetrators. Their father doesn’t deserve that label anymore than your husband or your friend’s husband or, I should imagine, any other man you or I know. So if women are not unlocked cars (and we fucking well AREN’T) then men are not car thieves. Does that make sense?

  11. Thankyou for putting into words what so many of us are thinking. To lay blame (sorry, ‘responsibility for not being raped) on the victim is abhorrent and never fails to astound me. We need to keep our children, boys AND girls educated about their responsiblities as decent human beings.

  12. As a mother to a baby son and a young daughter, this is all so relevant to me. My ambition (amongst others) is to raise my son to respect women no matter what their creed/religion/age/dress sense and my daughter to understand that she is more to her family and this world than what the local media believe her to be.

    She will never be an unlocked car. My son will never be ‘that kind of man’.

    Arohanui Emily. Thank you for this.