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Surviving Trauma: I Choose To Live

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I was surfing the web looking at different statutes of limitations and legalities for rape crimes, when I found an article that proposed a repeal of statutes for certain rape cases in the state of Connecticut. In the article, Governor Jodi Rell is quoted as saying of rape crime, "It is violence of the most personal and devastating kind, as brutal in its own right as murder."

In the article, Rell points out that rape is not a crime of passion, but rather a violent crime, which is a common misconception for many. The term rape from the Latin word Rapere, originally had no sexual connotation, and meant "to seize or take by force." It simply meant to steal. If you are someone or know someone who has been raped, you can testify that this definition is still applicable to the verb "rape" as we use it today. Because when you are raped, something is taken from you by force.

Justice systems for centuries have considered rape as brutal of a crime as murder. Even in ancient Greece, Rome, and Colonial Times, rape was considered a capital offense within the same category as murder. In the 12th century rape victims' families were granted the right to carry out the rapists' brutal and sometimes fatal punishment. In 14th century England, the rape victim was expected to gouge out their rapist's eyes or castrate him. Today in the United States, current death penalty standards consist mainly for convicted murderers. Modern day rapists typically receive much cushier punishments than their violent predecessors.

Is rape crime truly comparable to murder? It seems that many antiquated governments thought so. In the United States, convicted rapists are still sentenced to decades and sometimes life imprisonment, which is one of the most serious punishments the our justice system has to offer.

I identified with Governor Rell's statement because there have been times when I was so traumatized after being sexually assaulted, I wished they'd just killed me. The sheer humiliation of it all made me sick and unable to exist normally for years. I was unable to eat properly, or even take care of myself, because I was so disgusted with my person. It made me nauseous to know that someone knew intimate things about me and explored areas of my body I hadn't permitted them to, then left me alive to pick up the pieces.

Rape may very well be as brutal of a crime as murder, however victims of homicide do not get the opportunity to live to tell the story of the terror they experienced. They do not get to hug their loved ones, or see their friends and pets ever again. The lives of sexual assault survivors were spared, and I like to think that mine was spared for a reason. Until recently, I sometimes whined to myself "why was I spared?" Often I thought "they might as well have killed me." At times it was hard not to feel sorry for myself as I watched my peers go through life with healthier self-worth, not having to shoulder the burden of experiencing rape.

After carefully reflecting on this topic, I realized what Governor Rell meant; that rape is a crime that is truly as brutal as murder. After an individual is murdered, their friends and relatives are left to bear the excruciating pain of losing a loved one. When a person is raped, they take on a role similar to the friend or the relative of the homicide victim. A part of them has been killed, and similarly to the friend or relative of a homicide victim, they are left behind to mourn this loss.

This post originally appeared at Gender Across Borders: A Global Feminist Blog. You can learn more about the author at Hayley's Comments: Introspection on Healing, Vegetarianism, and Life.