February Column Winner

Second-hand sadness; firsthand rage
Linda Provost, The Duncan Banner

I know I have written before about my tender heart, something while working in media you must protect fiercely. However sometimes a blow comes which your defenses just cannot deflect.

Recently there have been several traveling exhibits going around the world. These are neither art nor science but important all the same.

These exhibits display clothes, not high fashion, or from a movie. They are at first glance garage sale finds, overalls, pajamas, school uniforms, baggy yard-work tees and an occasional burka.

But they have history – a sad, dark history.

These are all outfits people were wearing when they were raped.

Looking at photos of one exhibit I saw it. “It” was a “My Little Pony” sleep shirt, one that looked just like one I had as a kid. And I was briefly transported back to Saturday morning in our family room. My sister and I are playing, my dad trying to reconstruct a VCR we had taken apart earlier that week and my mom sewing on her machine. All while I played DJ, flipping and changing recorders or being told to “turn it up!” when Queen, Styx or ABBA came on.

And just as quickly from my happy memory high, I hit the low as I read the item’s tag.

“Anna, 3, raped by her father.”

My heart was instantly pulverized into fine porcelain dust.

This exhibition and others like it aim to debunk the myth that it is women’s provocative clothing that incites rape.

And then, former Vice President Joe Biden opened another can of worms for the dirt left of my heart.

“An untested rape kit means a survivor without justice,” he wrote Jan. 26.

In Oklahoma they don’t even have an exact number of how many kits are untested. A law former Gov. Mary Fallin signed about a year ago said the number had to be reported to the attorney general’s office May 31, 2019.

As of September 28, 2018, 57 agencies across the state have not responded to the request from the AG office.

In total so far, 375 law enforcement agencies statewide have reported 7,285 untested rape kits are in storage across the state.

All of these things just made me think about how almost every woman either: A) Has been raped; B) Has a story about how she escaped being raped; or C) Has held another woman who has been raped.

After I told my sister I wanted to write this column, she bravely said:
“I was wearing a black T-shirt and ‘dad’ cargo shorts.”

I cried again even though I thought we had cried our last about it.

A friend who is one of the strongest, most driven people I know told our church in a sermon:
“I was wearing my work polo and khaki pants, the same outfit as him.”

My own “escaped” outfit was a pair of paint-covered jeans and my yearbook hoodie.

I realized all the “advice” we give women about “safety” is really “don’t be a target – let them find a different woman.”

Because there will always be a drunker woman, a woman with less friends or a woman who didn’t take self-defense.

I wish I had a solution for myself, let alone you, dear reader. A happy thing, that if you “give a dollar” or “share this 10 times” you can stop the idea that clothing is the root cause of rape.

The only thing I can tell you is be strong enough to tell someone who brings it up when they hear about a rape that it is “a moot point.” Or look them in the eye and tell them what you were wearing and ask how it matters.

Something else I learned is that Oklahoma doesn’t mandate that newly taken kits must be tested within a certain time frame.

To learn more about the backlog of rape kits, go to endthebacklog.org/Oklahoma.

I know that I still might not have the most powerful words, so I hope this quote by Darshan Mondkar might do it.

“‘Was it really my fault?’ asked the short skirt.

“‘No, it happened to me, too,’ replied the burkha.

 “The diaper in the corner couldn’t even speak.”

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