There’s a young woman I know, let’s call her Abbie. Abbie is a single, smart and educated young woman. You can even consider her progressive.
She reads Marxism, psychology (her major), philosophy and international literatures. She writes out-of-the-box short stories. In her spare times, she likes to analyze a popular boyband’s sexist song lyrics.
Though we haven’t known each other for a long time, and only through social media, we share some common interests, and I consider Abbie a very good partner for just any kind of discussion.
One day, Abbie was raped.
She told me her story while we chatted online. She said she knew that I’m a medical doctor with interests in gender and sexuality issues, and that was why she revealed her story to tell me.
“I’m not quite sure if it was a rape and a sexual violence,” she told me. “Would you give me your perspective?”
It began when she was chatting with a male friend – let’s call him Tom. She and Tom had been friends for some time. They hung out together, told stories, jokes, and secrets.
“We’re good buddies. We never judge each other,” she described her relationship with him. Tom had a “bad boy” reputation, which was what made Abbie have a little crush on him. Nothing romantic ever happened, though.
Abbie and Tom hadn’t met for a while because he worked in another city. That day, Tom offered Abbie to go on a little vacation in his city. A short getaway – something that Abbie kind of needed at the time, as she was going through some problems of late. So she agreed and flew there a few days later.
In the city, while Tom was working, he’d asked one of his friend to accompany Abbie going around the city. Such a caring friend he was, Abbie thought. What a perfect getaway.
One night, the three of them hung out in a bar. It was a typical night out; beers, jokes, some good laughs. Abbie was never a heavy drinker, nor was she used to clubbing. She drank beer or tasted wine occasionally and that was it. But that night, Tom and his friend offered her a local arak, which tasted good, but she did not realized how high its alcohol concentration was. She had never been that drunk before in her life.
After a while, they decided to go home. Abbie remembered Tom asking her, “So, do I go back to my rented room, or do I go to your hotel?”
She didn’t remember her answer. Maybe “up to you?” – hell, she didn’t know for sure. Tom’s friend took her back to the hotel. She didn’t know how Tom went back, but he had asked her to wait for him in the lobby.
Long story short, they met in the lobby and went to her room. When they went in, she nearly blacked out. Her memory of the event was blurry. She remembered Tom, moving on top of her, asking her to stay still or holding her down so she wouldn’t move.
She woke up only when she felt the pain. And the blood. Blood everywhere. When she went to the bathroom to clean herself blood trickled down her thighs. There was blood on the bedsheet, on the bed cover, on the carpet, in the bathtub.
“It looked like a murder on TV series,” Abbie told me.
She sat inside the bathtub so as not to make any more mess with the blood. Tom went out to get some disposable menstrual pads. When he got back and told Abbie that they had to go to the doctor, she was nearly unconscious.
That night, Abbie was admitted to an medical emergency facility. She lost so much blood that her hemoglobin concentration was already half the normal value. Then came the operation, the blood transfusion. When we chatted, she just came back from a visit to check on the stitches. Her vaginal wall was torn almost 6cm wide.
Abbie asked me, “Could a penis penetration be that rough, or was it just because I didn’t have enough foreplay?”
She had never had sex before.
To be honest, I was confused, too. I’ve heard about rape cases so violent that the victim’s vagina was torn, but I’ve never seen one myself. I’ve had a case of vaginal tearing once, but it was from childbearing and the patient lost even less blood than Abbie.
Even more a mystery to her was the event that led to the penetration: “I’m still confused about my consent to him. I even told him that I was sorry, repeatedly.”
Abbie’s family will not file a lawsuit and neither will she.
“I’m not going to make it the second Sitok’s case,” she said, referring to an alleged rape case by a prominent Indonesian poet.
The one condition that makes her unsure about her legal probabilities is that she was drunk.
She has started to imagine all kinds of things people will say – “But who told her to get drunk?”, “Who told her to go out that night, a woman with two men?”, “Who told her, a virgin, to have a male inside her hotel room?” and so on. And that is only from common people. I can imagine how she would feel when law enforcers asked this kind of questions during their investigation too, if the media ran her story.
So they chose to settle the issue peacefully. During a heated argument between Abbie, her mother, her then boyfriend and Tom, her boyfriend confronted Tom.
The latter defended himself, “But I was just a victim of Abbie’s problems.”
A victim. Him. Not Abbie.
Tom has promised to “share” responsibilities. He promised to pay for half of the medical bills. But he has since done nothing of sort. He even blocked all kinds of direct communications with Abbie, including on social media, and is only willing to be contacted through a mutual friend of theirs.
And that was Abbie’s story. I have asked for her permission to be her voice, because, though she has a plan to tell it herself later, currently she’s not quite ready.
For me, it is clear that she was raped violently. The definition of rape is “sex without consent”, period. Abbie was clearly not able to give consent at the time of her assault, much less fight her perpetrator.
Her story is a scary story. But for me, the scariest thing about it is that here, in the 21st century, a smart and educated woman still thinks it was her fault that she was raped. Here, supposedly long after the dark ages, a victim is still confused if what happened to her was a rape or not.
That shows us how deeply rooted patriarchy is inside our head and how patriarchy can make the actual victims blame themselves for their sufferings and how patriarchy likes to throw rocks on its victim’s head, then bury the victim under those rocks. It reminds us how evil patriarchy is, and how much we need to fight it.
A more detailed version of this article in Bahasa Indonesia can be found here.
Putri Widi Saraswati is a feminism and writing enthusiast. She’s not a big fan of how people impose their concept of morality on others today. Unfortunately, she’s a doctor – the one profession that morality cannot let go.
To continue the conversation and support the campaign against sexual violence, visit campaign.com/mulaibicara.