Childrearing

As A Rape Survivor, I Don’t Want My Kids Hearing The Word ‘Slut’

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slut-shamingBetween the ages of nine and 13 years old, Sarah Talbot was raped repeatedly by her step-grandfather. At age 11, she found the courage to tell her grandmother and a family friend of the abuse. But after she came forward with details of her attacks, her grandmother convinced Sarah that she had “imagined” her assaults. Sarah eventually went to go live with her biological mother at age 14 and describes the repeated rape as being “brushed under the rug” after a “brief interlude” of awareness on the part of her family.

A couple of years later, another family member called Sarah a “slut” and “whore” for being raped at 9-years-old, claiming that she had initiated her abuse and shaming her for losing her virginity so young. She also accused her of flirting with her step-father on a different occasion. But even though this relative eventually attempted an apology, the young girl had already long since internalized this slut-branded slew of victim-blaming.

“At that point in my life I was so traumatized that I didn’t want to wear short sleeved shirts, let alone flirt with a grown man,” she tells me.

Years later, Sarah’s aunt — and her rapist’s biological child — confessed to also being abused which caused the family to once again acknowledge Sarah’s attacks. Sarah never pursued legal action or reported her rape to the authorities, although she wishes that she had. Her step-grandfather passed away in 2003.  As an adult, she has briefly seen counselors to cope with her abuse but has yet to find a professional to truly confide in. She has attempted free counseling offered through various non-profit organizations, but often finds the staff unable to really help her.

“The only comfort I have is that he never had the chance to be around other young children after me,” Sarah says. “I know I wasn’t the first to be abused by that man, but I was the last.”

Now a mother of three, Sarah finds the word “slut” to have haunted her well into parenthood as she raises two daughters and one son. Having been called the term, along with many other sexually-charged derogatories for her rape, she intends to teach her children not to judge others based on their sexual history or perceived sexuality. Not only does the mother refrain from using the word, she also doesn’t allow the term in her home.

“I don’t want to be yet another person who shames someone for their sexual past, regardless of how or why. I think the words ‘slut” or “whore’ are used as catch-all words to denigrate any woman who dares to open her mouth and have an unpopular or controversial opinion. It’s used to belittle women and let them know that they are only the sum of their sexual partners or sexual history and nothing more. It makes me angry and I won’t allow my daughters to grow up thinking that way.”

She admits that her two girls, aged eight and three, and her son, nearly two, are still too young to understand the implication of such slanderous terminology. Worried about the “overwhelming” messages that rape culture ultimately bombards children and teenagers with, Sarah recognizes the constant struggle ahead. Nevertheless, she appears dedicated for the sake of her kids’ successful and compassionate navigation of the world, as well as in response to the victim-blaming that she personally endured as a child.

“I know when my kids get older I will try to make certain they understand the real reasons people use words like ‘slut’ or ‘bitch’ to describe a woman,” she says. “The basic message I want my children to grow up understanding is that you must evaluate people based on their character and not some arbitrary judgement or label placed on them by society.”

(photo: trendsupdates.com)