Not a victim: implications of Steubenville

My name is Cynara M. Medina. I am 42 years old. You might know me as your professor or as your colleague, or maybe you just recognize my name because I have written a few columns for the Trinitonian. I was molested as a child. My abuser was my music teacher. He told me that if I ever said a word to my mother, she would not love me anymore. I was nine and I believed it. I lived with the shame and the fear for many years after it happened. I was just a little kid and I thought that it was all my fault. I look back now, and I think I understand why. I grew up in a culture in which women are expected to be responsible not only for their own behavior, but for that of others. Maybe you grew up like that too.

I did not ask for it, nor did I deserve to have my life almost completely ruined; if you think that I say this because the abuse happened when I was a child, you would be wrong. No one asks to be abused, regardless of their age. By the same token, no one, male or female, gay or straight, has the right to impose their sexual desires over others. It is wrong. Furthermore, anyone who excuses sexual abuse by saying that the victim “had it coming,” who jokes about abuse, cheers for the abuser, or otherwise justifies unconscionable behavior is also wrong.

You might wonder what would compel me to write this, as it is deeply personal. In fact, I would not be surprised if it’s considered distasteful or pointless. After all, I should be over my abuse by now, shouldn’t I? It happened over 30 years ago. It should be buried in the past. Well, it is not. The events at Steubenville, Ohio have dug out some very painful memories, but I have no intention of dwelling on them. I have worked really hard to restore my life, my family, my ability to form healthy relationships, and to become a productive member of society. That also means that I will not stand by as though what happened Steubenville doesn’t affect me or those around me. It does, and not just because I have my own pain to deal with. It’s because Steubenville has, once again, made it very obvious that rape culture exists.

Steubenville has also made it quite clear AGAIN that we need to stand up against rape culture. So this is my plan. I will not be quiet if I hear anyone call another person a slut. I won’t sit quietly and condone rape jokes because of some misguided interpretation of the right to free speech, and I won’t accept that non-consensual sex is the victim’s fault. I don’t think anyone else should either.

What we do and say matters. I have chosen to disclose this because I want to be able to walk around this campus with my head held high. My name is Cynara M. Medina. I am not a victim anymore. I am a survivor. I am an advocate. I hope you will be an advocate against rape culture too.

Cynara Medina is a visiting professor in the department of communication.