My name is Cierra Fields and I am 16 years old.
This article is from my perspective as a rape survivor. And, yes I am worried that I might not connect and convey my thoughts as well as I would like. But before I get all serious about it, I also want people to know it did not break me – I still laugh at life and consider myself to be a proud a mother of cats, a breaker of rules, and a freer of minds.
As I am sitting down to write this, my state court in Oklahoma just upheld a trial judge's interpretation that alcohol intoxication equals consent in rape cases. The judge literally stated that if you drink and pass out, then sodomy is not rape.
Rape. What a small word for such a life-altering, soul-crushing and traumatic event. Rape knows no race, culture, creed, religion or sexual orientation. Male. Female. It’s all the same to the victim, no, make that survivor.
In our modern culture, we struggle with rape and rape-culture every day. It all starts with how the victim is questioned. First we ask, should he or she seek medical treatment and/or press charges?
The victim is then questioned relentlessly, as if the rape was their fault.
What were you wearing? How much were you drinking or smoking? Why did you invite him or her back to your place? Why did you ride home with them? Why didn’t you fight back? Why did you shower before reporting? Why did you wait so long to report it?
These questions are not just asked by the doctor, sexual assault nurse, detectives or district attorneys, These questions are also asked by the victim’s family, friends and tribal communities. These questions are sometimes asked to your face or sometimes they are said behind your back.
All of this questioning and acceptance of rape culture in our communities has created silence among victims. It’s better to stay silent than speak out which leads to those questions.
Our rapists depend on our silence. They use it to their advantage.
I, for one, am damn tired of being silent. I was only 15 when my rapist attacked me. Not that I owe anyone this explanation but I was wearing a slouchy t-shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes. I was not drinking but I did have a migraine and took my meds to control it. It was the middle of the day and I was in an elevator when it happened.
But, I digress. I was lucky. Instead of asking me those asinine questions, my parents immediately said, “I believe you.” They didn’t need or want to hear a single detail. They immediately believed me. Those three words are the most powerful words you can say to a survivor of rape. “I believe you” can’t take away those memories or the pain or the smells or the flashbacks, but it can give a survivor a lifeline to hope.
I believe you.
Sarah Sunshine Manning
Cierra Fields is a member of the Cherokee Nation and a proud 2014 Center for Native American Youth Champion for Change and 2016 UNITY 25 under 25.
Follow her on Twitter at - @CierraFields918