Hint: Getting attention isn't one of them.
I hate talking about it. I hate talking about it because I know what will happen. Once you know I'm a survivor, you will mentally shove me into a box where I don't belong and I'll never be allowed out — ever.
I hate talking about it because I know that without wanting to your mind will wonder what exactly happened and what it looked like and felt like when the act took place. You won't be able to help yourself.
Even when you try to block it out, when you think of me, you'll no longer see the person I was before the word "rape" entered the conversation. You'll no longer see the good things I did in my past because the word suddenly changed the way you'll feel about me forever.
I hate talking about it because from now on you will always think of me as somehow disabled. You'll see me as the type of person you might worry about hugging or touching because you don't want to trigger my memories. You might be concerned that I'm too sensitive and too broken to talk about certain topics.
I know that when you see me and you're with someone who never met me, there will be whispers at some point behind my back.
She was raped ... Oh, really? ... Yes ... Wow. She doesn't look like she's been through that. Do you think she's telling the truth? How do you know?
I'll be put in the same category as people like Oprah, Maya Angelou, Lady Gaga, Ashley Judd, and Tyler Perry, or the girl you knew in high school whom everyone avoided because of the rumor she'd been sexually assaulted.
I'll be put in a position where I feel hopeless. Where I will have to accept that it doesn't matter how much money I earn, how famous or powerful I become — you'll still add that tagline, "She was raped," to how you view my womanhood.
When you think of anyone like me who has experienced sexual assault, you might wonder if I could ever have a healthy sex life, find real love, or even love myself. So when you find out I can do all three, you ask yourself, "Did it really happen?"
And when someone does lie about being a rape victim, I'll have to work twice as hard to overcome your perception of me, and no matter what I do, I never will.
I know all of this because I have asked myself the same questions, too.
The only difference is that I've been able to work on how I viewed myself. I've had to have the courage to not give up on myself. When the ugly feelings surfaced and I felt like all hope was gone, I looked in the mirror, the same way you will look at me after I tell you I'm among the one out of every five women who are raped in the United States every year, and decided I wouldn't let the past get the best of me. I couldn't live in my own self-judgment.
You see, the reason I hate talking about my experience is because I know you don't understand, and that's harder to deal with than the act itself.
Although you'll never lay your hands on me, those feelings of violation will rush in again. I lose a piece of myself and remember how the beauty of innocence can disappear in a flash.
In a way, talking about it puts me in this odd position that's like a catch-22.
I steal your view of me — and you never expected it. The word is so powerful that, in a way similar to the act itself, you lose something you'll never be able to retrieve, so in talking about it I become something like the person who did it to me.
And I don't want to be someone who takes from another's soul.
I know the irreparable damage it does. Just like the Twin Towers came tumbling down in a flash, my world was never the same. Financially, emotionally, mentally. Forever, my world became a spiritual ground zero, and I'm left to wonder when I'll find another piece of scrap metal I didn't realize I'd missed.
And more than anything, I don't want to talk about it because I know someone will say I talk about it just to get attention.
I'll doubt the good in the world then, because what that statement REALLY means is that even though there are limitless things I could do to get your attention, I am incapable, incompetent, and/or unwilling to try any of them. That I need the kind of attention that comes from striking pity, fear, horror, and doubt in the mind of another human being. That something in me is in some sick way similar to the rapist who needed to get my attention and would do anything in the world to get it.
Trust me, there are limitless things I can do to get attention. I can become a good person, give to charity, help others, adopt a child, grow a business, get a career, and write.
I hate even saying the word RAPE, but this cycle needs to be broken.
Here are just 31 of the limitless reasons I need to tell you I was raped — and needing attention is NOT one of them.
1. I do it because I'm a survivor. I have to talk about it for the sake of potential victims, and for those victims who remain silent because I know how hard it is to tell.
2. I need to tell others it's okay.
3. I need them to know we are safe.
4. I need them to know that just because they see your reaction and your ignorance and it scares them, that doesn't mean it's worthless to open up. To tell is the first step in healing.
5. I need them to know there are survivors like me who understand how they feel from the inside out.
6. And need them to know I won't see them the way they see themselves after it happened.
7. I'll see who they were before the rape happened.
8. I need them to hear that there is hope.
9. I need to tell them they aren't broken, and they are strong.
10. I need them to know that one day they will slowly be able to regain those parts of themselves they lost.
11. They need to hear that it's possible to remember who they were before.
12. There's a space of comfort in the world where they can breathe again.
13. One day they can wake up and not even remember. They can learn to feel comfortable in their skin.
14. To not stop before the miracle happens.
15. That even though you gave up, you can still keep trying.
16. It doesn't matter that no one believes you. I believe you.
17. You are not alone.
18. A time will come when it will seem like it happened to a stranger — not yourself.
19. That the work it takes to overcome is worth it.
20. It's not a futile effort and it takes time.
21. The miracle of healing can happen but it takes work, and it's expensive, but it's money well spent.
22. I need to get people to believe it doesn't have to happen and just because some lie about it, doesn't mean all survivors are liars.
23. To teach their children when they see warning signs in their behavior, that hurting someone else is wrong. Go get help.
24. To maybe get someone who fantasizes about criminal rape to know it's wrong, and it should never be used to get any type of pleasure. That there's a difference between consent and "she's asking for it."
25. I need to talk about it because I know that the worst is behind me and that there are others like me, many of them, and they feel alone.
26. I need to give others comfort.
27. I want to hug the mom who raised a rapist and can't bear the pain she feels. She needs to know it was not her fault. That there was nothing she could do but she can help others.
28. To tell the mom of a rape victim, who wonders how she never saw the signs, that she can rebuild the relationship she had with her child. Her love is needed and the best thing she has to offer is listening.
29. To encourage people affected by rape to make this word a safer place by bonding together because our voices are needed.
30. To ask that we face the ignorance of rape culture.
31. I talk about rape because the dialogue happening about rape culture in today's world is in so many ways wrong, and it hurts more than helps solve the problem.
The reasons are endless.
I assure you, rape does get the kind of attention I want.
But, since I must get your attention when I talk about rape, I do it for the sake of others — because if I don't, then who will?