1 in 5 women. I kept hearing that statistic about rape, and it seemed like a lot. I would picture five of my female friends and think, “One of them. Probably at least one of them.” For some reason, though, it hit me harder when I multiplied that to apply to my 250 female Facebook friends. 50 (FIFTY!) of my 250 female friends! My Facebook friends are all friends with me in real life, too, and the number made me sick. 1 in 5 is still a 1 in my head, and that’s one too many, but it just didn’t hit me as hard as 50. 50 women I know and love.
The statistics I’ve seen for men range from 1 in 30 to 1 in 11. Whatever the number, it’s too high.
And that is one reason that when my friend helped organize a rally at the Capitol to end the statute of limitations for rape and other sexual assaults in California, I said I’d go. You see, out of my 50 women friends who have, if statistics hold, been raped, I only know of 4 of them, and not a single one of those 4 ever told the police. 2 of them, when they finally told someone, had already missed out on the chance because of the ten year statute of limitations. 1 of them, when she told a family member, was wrongly advised, “That’s not rape.” There are so many reasons that victims don’t come forward for decades. Confusion, fear, shame… (You may be wondering, like I did, what idiot made a statute of limitations for rape, and the reality is that in 1851 all felonies but murder started out with a 3-year statute of limitations, and brave survivors and legislators over the years have slowly increased the time for rape.)
Several days before the rally, my car started making lurching sounds of doom. I ignored it for a while, but in the back of my mind, I worried about a two-hour trip to Sacramento. It sounded like the transmission. A couple days after the sound of doom began, my driver’s side window refused to roll up. “Okay,” I thought, “I’ll try to get it to the shop before my trip and get everything fixed.” Labor Day weekend was coming up. My mechanic didn’t have time until the day of the rally. I could either not go to the rally and take my car in, or I could make an appointment for the day after the rally and hope for the best on Highway 80.
Aside from all this, the two old friends I’d planned to go see after the rally both emailed the day before to say they’d been called in to work. I was supposed to start my period the day of the rally, too, and that always makes me crampy and fatigued. I’ve never liked to travel alone. Where would I park? Would someone see my open window and steal my car?
Maybe you’ll know what I mean when I tell you that I struggled at this point to decide whether all these things were signs from above that I wasn’t supposed to take this trip or whether they were merely hurdles to see how much I was invested in the cause. I don’t know how other moms feel, but after having a child I got really good at saying without any guilt, “Kid’s sick, I can’t go/help/work after all.” It would have been very easy for me to bail, but I didn’t want to, and in hindsight I guess I can say that that was the sign.
It was a very cold trip to Sacramento at 6 AM with my window down. I have to lean my seat back to avoid aggravating a 15-year-old C-section problem (my husband calls me low rider) and with the cold and the fear of breaking down, my neck craned forward tight as a sling shot ready to snap back.
But I didn’t break down, and I found a parking spot on the street only four blocks away, and there was a coffee shop with a restroom right across from the Capitol, which looked really beautiful against the September blue sky. Only about 20 people showed up. I couldn’t help but thinking that even if the rape victims from only Sacramento had showed up, there wouldn’t have been room for everyone on the lawns. I think I was about the only person there who was not a rape survivor. That was a little depressing.
Before we were even all set up, a policeman approached us. Oh boy, I thought. Good thing we have a permit. He said, “I just wanted to say I support you. My daughters are swimmers and we followed the Brock Turner case. Did you know he just got out?” He was appalled at the short prison time for the Stanford rapist. Lots of the ladies wanted selfies with the policeman. He obliged.
When we finished marching around chanting things like “SB 8-1-3, that’s what justice means to me” in our matching tee-shirts with the “no” symbol over “Rape Statute of Limitations,” we went into the Capitol building to a press conference with Senator Leyva, the author of SB 813. She had us stand behind her. She spoke, as did two other politicians, attorney Gloria Allred, who represents many of Bill Cosby’s victims, and three rape survivors. The two women survivors have missed their opportunity for justice because SB 813 is not, of course, retroactive. The man, however, was drugged and raped only about two years ago. He’s supporting the cause because he recognizes that in dealing with the emotional burden and coming forward in only a year and a half, he’s done better than most.
Every once in a while, the speaker would gesture to us and call us “these survivors.” I wondered if maybe I wasn’t supposed to have stood back there with everyone else. I also thought how sad it was that it was assumed that only rape survivors would bother to come to this rally, even though that was very close to the truth. I remained standing and considered myself a representative of my 4 friends, and even the other possible 46 (64 counting my men Facebook friends if 1 in 11 is correct).
It was a very hot trip home at 12 noon with my window down. Between the fires and the farming, I had to hold my shirt over my nose for at least an hour. But I had done it. I had done my little part. And now we wait to see if Governor Brown signs the bill. It’s on his desk now. It’s September 11th, 2016, and he has until the 30th. Perhaps it’s not too late for you to give him a call.
Update: Governor Brown signed SB 813 into law!