I have to admit I had not heard of rape epistemology, though I read Susan Estrich’s book Real Rape — as you can imagine, right away, or should I say the moment I knew about it and it was published — as I and another person in my nuclear family had it happen to us. (This is their story to tell). Witnessing the aftermath being washed away is almost more horrific when it happens to someone else than when it happens to you.
That said, I witnessed before I experienced — aftermath only — as for this person I was not ashamed but outraged — or at least enough to watch . . . I remember feeling powerless, and being afraid. Given the absence of clothing (i.e. pants), I figured it was a gang — so my only comfort years and years later was that mine was not. We, who were awake, were all agog.
Now, decades upon decades later — I was a child, a minor, therefore was I agog or we were encouraged — to do this was to do the “right” (i.e. wrong) thing.
Rape epistemology — as I sat there in a friendly audience of most, not all, who accepted the premises — is just remembering: Rape jurisprudence means that it was the men — fathers, sons, brothers, uncles — who were to blame.
We lived in a household with no brother, uncle, son, let alone father — had no one to ask, therefore my nuclear-family member and I simply did the right thing — not report it so as not to bring shame to THE family — THE big family or the extended nuclear family.
What I can now see — and this echoes one of my mother’s favorite expressions — is that curiosity kills cats, and we knew better than to ask — only do the right thing. In this case, the right thing for the family was to swallow it all, if you were a witness, or had gained this terrifying experience. How is this different than honor killing — this took me years and years to face — and then neotribalism said it all.
My mother made sure that we remained silent — and all did the right thing. I had an early lesson learned that I would not need for 5ish years, as my situation took that long. I was no longer a minor, nor was s/he/they.#