cross-posted from Sparkfly, an Ecumenical Women blogging friend

I want to preface this post by stating I have never been raped. I do not know what it is like to experience such an atrocious violation. I am writing from the perspective of an outsider who wants to stand in solidarity with her sisters, locally and globally, who have experienced this atrocious violation. I want to be sensitive to those who have been raped who may read this post and disagree with me. I believe it is every woman’s right to choose weather or not she publicly acknowledges the rape she experienced. It is her right and it is not my right to persuade her to do otherwise.

Yesterday [Wednesday, March 4] I attended a workshop called “She says no to violence”. It was sponsored by UNIFEM. A variety of panelist spoke eloquently about the need to decrease violence against women and how that was happening in the contexts from which they came. The room was warm. The day was late. My mind began to wander.

During the question and answer portion of the workshop my attention surfaced in time to hear an NGO representative say, “Of course I would rather have a gun held to my head than be raped.” She was responding to a panelist’s response to her original question and comment. Ironically, the woman who made the statement was from a women’s peace activist group. Leaving the workshop, I walked with the peace activist to the next gathering. She told me she had never been raped and that she could not imagine her personhood being violated in such a traumatic way.

Several years ago a minister friend of mine and I were discussing the disappearance of Natalie Holloway. Ms. Holloway vanished while on a high school graduation trip in Aruba. She is still missing. My friend asked me if I thought Natalie Holloway had been trafficked or if the young men who were being questioned about her disappearance had murdered her. I had no insight and was shocked when my friend remarked that of the two alternatives, she would hope for her death. I was just as stunned after my friend’s statement as I was yesterday when the peace activist made her comment.

If we speak of rape as being stronger than death, how does that honor the life of rape survivors? The World Health Organization estimates that every year more than one million women are raped in South Africa. Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo are experiencing rape as a tool of war in epidemic proportions. In this country we are told that one out of four women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.1 Women who have been raped are in our churches and car pool lines. They are our children’s schoolteachers and our favorite sit-com actors. They read this blog and their lives, post rape, are just as important and vital as they were pre-rape. We must work to alter the impression that death is better than rape.

I’m tired of being told that rape and certain other subjects are unspeakable. Speaking the unspeakable gives a voice to that which has been kept silent too long. Speaking truth is powerful. The truth of being raped is not my story. However, I will stand beside my sisters who choose to tell their stories and I will remind my sisters who say they would rather die than be raped that the lives of my friends who have been are too powerful to disappear because of an act of violence.

1 Sexual assault does not always mean rape. At the time of this post I was unable to find adequate rape statistics in the US.