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  • Emilie Surrusco

Redefining rape

For the first time in 84 years, the FBI has redefined rape.

The old definition: “The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.”

The new definition: “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration of a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

For those of us who now officially “qualify” under the new definition, the impact is bittersweet.There is now a word for what I went through – I can now claim common company or fellowship. What it doesn’t change is the fact that for years after, I was plagued by nightmares, flashbacks and depression. Even now, I still go right back to that place when I read about an assault or see one reenacted on TV.

My first “rape” happened when I was 20 years old. My second “rape” happened when I was 22 years old. I’m now a 37-year-old mother of two, happily married to a kind and decent man. Despite the FBI’s reclassification of my experiences, I will never see justice for what happened to me. Instead I will carry it with me for the rest of my life. Most days, I don’t think about it. Some days, it’s all I can think about. 

I am a rape survivor. There are so many women (and men) out there who can say the same. We survive without justice, without retribution, without closure. Our only revenge is to pick up and move on – joining the living the best we can. What this new definition of an act that comes in myriad forms doesn’t change, is what every rape survivor knows, that it doesn’t matter what you call it.

Those of us who have been through it know what it is. It’s an act that strips you of all dignity, of all control, of all hope and takes you to a place that no one should ever have to go. It takes the most private part of yourself and shreds it, rips it apart and throws it in the gutter. If you are to survive you have no choice but to pick yourself up and painstakingly put yourself back together.  Someday, you will learn to accept, that through no fault of your own, you will never be whole again. 

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