Recently two friends told me about their experiences of childhood sexual abuse. I was angry and sad but not surprised. Sometimes I feel as though I am drowning in a river of sexual violence (and by violence I mean the literal, physical kind, but also the emotional kind, the kind done by words and, just as bad, by silences). It makes me want to scream and rage. It’s at the point where I feel like I need a word to describe the point in the evolution of a female friendship when stories of sexual assault are exchanged. It’s that routine.
It reminded me of a piece I once read by Katie Roiphe in which she insisted that she “would know if one in four of (her) friends had been raped.” It stuck in my mind because of the violence of my reaction: I wanted to sneer at her that no, you wouldn’t. I wanted to reply, have you asked? The proportion of my friends is far higher than one in four. Granted, it’s not exactly a random sample; I tend to gravitate toward the damaged and the scarred, young women who’ve lived hard and thus are more likely to have histories of trauma and violation. I can’t believe that my friends are all that unique though. Truly, I wish I could.