TRIGGER WARNING— the following contains discussion of rape and victim blaming. My mother and I are currently fighting. There is the long story and the short story. This is the short one. Actually, no it’s not. It’s not the story at all. What this is, is one small manageable chunk, a deflection/distraction/diversion/sideline/footnote from the story. Ok, so let’s just quickly get you to the point where I’m going to start. Here is the relevant background that you need to know. My mother and I are fighting. She’s wrong and I’m right (of course). In the progression of our arguing the fact that I was raped when I was 13 came up. I wasn’t believed then, and as it turns out I’m still not believed now. The moment it was mentioned my mother ended the conversation without a word; she just walked away. I haven’t spoken to her since then but my partner has. According to my mother- she doesn’t need to listen because it didn’t happen. She doesn’t remember it – it didn’t happen. She would never NOT believe someone – so I must be lying (oh the irony of that one). I’m a liar. I lied as a child. I’ve always been a liar. I’m very overemotional. I’m a narcissist. I’m just not grateful. She has asked her sisters and friends if they remember me being raped, and they don’t remember it at all, so it obviously can’t have happened. Apparently my aunt’s response to hearing about it was “well, she has always been melodramatic”. No one else believes her either. And this where I want to start, with my aunt and her comment “well, she has always been melodramatic”. Now I know, I know. Why am I locking sites on my aunty when the mothership of all problems is hovering right there? The simple answer is, this is one of the main things that has been playing over in my mind since it happened. I don’t really know why. Maybe as I suggested at the beginning – it is a distraction from facing bigger issues. Removing it from my mother makes it slightly less emotional and easier to make sense of. Or maybe it is just a desperate attempt to stop the spread of pernicious lies and a clamouring for any kind of understanding and support. In fairness to my Aunt, she did not make this comment to me. In fact I can’t even be sure she said it all. This was only her response according to my mother and my mother is hardly a reliable source. And, even if my aunty did say that, I cannot be sure of the context that it was said in. I don’t know how my mother presented the information, I don’t know what segue was used or how the conversation went that followed. Maybe my aunt was just placating my mother, trying to show her sister support. Maybe she would never have responded like that if she had known it would be repeated to me. But here is the problem – I don’t know. I don’t know what she meant. What I do know is that this is how my mother said that my aunty responded, and she delivered this information in a way to suggest ‘see, your auntie doesn’t believe you either.’ Regardless of whether she actually said it or not, I’m left with the repercussions of feeling isolated, ganged up on, and disbelieved by yet another person who hasn’t even spoken to me about. My aunt doesn’t know that I have been told this, so even if it’s not true or completely out of context, she has no way of correcting the situation unless I confront her about it first. The trouble is, in order to confront her I would need to be willing to talk to her about things that are painful, important and difficult, but the idea that she already doesn’t believe me makes this all too much of an emotional risk. Once again, everything is on me. I’m not going there. I’m doing this instead. So, assuming that my aunty did say that… Dear Auntie, What the hell do you mean by “well, she has always been melodramatic”? My mother told you I had said I was raped and your response was “WELL, SHE HAS ALWAYS BEEN MELODRAMATIC”. I have been trying to get my head around what you could have possibly meant by this. Do you mean melodramatic as in, I am just trying to create a dramatic situation in which I can control or win a fight with my mother? Do you mean melodramatic as in, something might have happened but I’m just being melodramatic by calling it a rape? Or do you think melodramatic people are perhaps more prone to being raped? I don’t get it. How, in any way, was your comment an appropriate response? My mother says you don’t remember me being raped. This doesn’t surprise me – I certainly never spoke to you about it. It doesn’t surprise me that she never spoke to you about it either. What I imagine she would have spoken to you about is how she was taking me to the doctor’s to put me on the pill and have me checked for S.T.D’s now that I was sexually active. Do you remember that? I remember that doctor’s visit. I remember the look on the doctor’s face when she was asking me about my sexual history. I remember my mother answering for me, “we don’t talk about that do we”. I remember the doctor pulling out the most terrifying instrument I had ever seen in my life, the speculum, and announcing that I had nothing to worry about because it was no bigger than a penis. This not only filled me with unbearable fear because my only experience with a penis had fucking hurt, but also made me feel like the doctor thought I was a slut. I remember that it felt like everyone in the world thought I was a slut and was looking at me differently. Maybe I was just being melodramatic. I was only 13 and children can be prone to melodrama you know. Does it make me more or less dramatic if I tell you that there is not one rape story but many? Is it melodramatic to claim that the way the first incident was handled had a profound influence on my reaction every time after? I never reported anything ever. I didn’t feel like I was being melodramatic every time I stayed silent, I thought I was ‘moving on’. Is it melodramatic that I am bringing it up now, after so many years? ‘Moving on’ feels like a rather strange concept right now. Is it melodramatic to feel like this is just history repeating itself? Right now I feel like I haven’t moved on at all. Neither has anyone’s opinion of me. I am still a liar. Am I being melodramatic when I say that this repetition of history is deeply scarring? You may not understand the weight of this situation and maybe you never will. There is no way to adequately express how it feels to be called a liar, again, after all these years. If I were to try, surely you would just think me melodramatic. I could go on at length about, mum said this…., then I said…, then she replied …..etc. etc. etc. But how much of it really matters to you? What would it change? I can’t change the past, so lets talk about now. Have you even considered the possibility that maybe I’m not melodramatic; maybe everything I am saying is the exact truth? If you are able to entertain this possibility, have you thought about the damage mum must be doing? Don’t you find this situation sad and tragic? Don’t you find it strange that mum came to you to talk about my rape but she won’t talk me? Doesn’t it strike you as odd that no part of her wants to hug me or say something comforting? Where do you even think she plans to go from here? She hasn’t given herself much of a way out. Look, maybe you were just placating her, maybe you didn’t know what else to say, maybe she has taken your comment out of context, but she is using your comment to hurt me, to make me feel isolated from the family, is this ok with you? If you were just saying what you think she wanted to hear, you need to stop doing that now. What I don’t understand, is why the hell no one is saying to her “at least hear your daughter out”, or “don’t say something you’ll regret”. Why is no one even raising the possibility that it could be true? It’s really not that hard to believe! Doesn’t everything else that you know about me seem to make more sense now? Leaving home at 14, dropping out school, and everything else that would come after. For fucks sake, look at the statistics! Even mathematically, the odds are on it being the truth. 1 out of 3 women! And don’t you think a child out in the world alone would be at greater risk? In terms of this stuff, I am fucking textbook. Maybe one day I’ll embark on a cathartic purging of stories, but I want you to know that I don’t owe you the details. I wasn’t looking to talk to you about what happened to me. This is being said in response to you. You already had your turn when you said, “well, she has always been melodramatic”. You may find this unfair, but I don’t really care. If you feel angry, you can blame your sister. You don’t get to ‘fact-check’ my story for inconsistencies. I am not accusing anyone that you know or love, and I am not on trial. What my mother has roped you into, willingly or not, are some of the most insidious areas of rape culture – victim blaming and denial. This is not ok and you should know better! She should know better! So just for the record, just so it has been said, even if I have to say it myself – It doesn’t matter if I was the most melodramatic person in the world, I did not deserve to be raped. No one, under any circumstances, ever deserves to be raped! If you do ever read this Auntie and you think to yourself ‘No! That’s not what I meant. That’s not what I think”, I imagine you will feel rather attacked, embarrassed, uncomfortable and might not know how to address this with me. You might not even want to. But if by chance you do, I’m going to make it really easy for you and give you some advice on what I think you should say. It’s pretty simple. It’s the same thing I have always wanted to hear from my mother… I believe you and it’s not your fault.