Raped by a rapist. No sex involved.

Via on Jun 22, 2011
Photo: John Fisher

When I saw an article about the first SlutWalk, in Toronto, it spoke to me on a deep level.

As a lifelong feminist who constantly rebuffed the term because of the anger and separatism I felt it implied, I had been “looking” for a feminist movement that celebrated the strength of women in a way that was uniquely feminine. I know that’s a controversial statement, but I came of age in the era in which being a feminist felt like a call to be more like men. And I am a girlie girl, through and through.

At the same time, I am a rape survivor who now focuses all of my energy advocating for women to get involved in their own sexuality. I just launched a business focused entirely on helping women discover their own unique sexuality and live it in an empowered and playful way.

When I first heard about SlutWalk, it tickled me in a very powerful way, and I wrote a couple pieces about why. When I heard it was coming to Seattle, I contacted them immediately and asked what I could do. When it was suggested that I’d be a great speaker, I said, “of course I would.”

Except for one thing. I am terrified of public speaking. I am terrified, in many ways, of just speaking, even in small groups. I am painfully shy. That’s what makes me a brilliant writer. With the safety of words on a screen and the gigantic separation of the entire Internet between my readers and I, I feel safe. I am the most socially awkward person I know.

But this matters. I was given an opportunity to illuminate some ideas that I think will change the world, I was not going to blow it. Armed with good friends, and a shot of tequila, I stood before thousands and bared both my body and my soul to discuss my own violent rape, and why I know it was not my fault. More than that, what we as a society can do to stop rape, stop blaming victims and stop shaming victims.

Most importantly, why creating a society of sexually empowered women might be the most important thing we can do to end violent crimes in which sexual organs are used as a weapon.

If you’d prefer to skip the intro, fast forward to 02:04. YouTube Preview Image

It’s worth watching the speech, to see what can happen when passion and conviction overtake fear. Even I was blown away when I watched it. It was totally different than what I had rehearsed, but I was impressed with my own courage, and the clarity of the message:

  1. The only person responsible for rape is the rapist.
  2. Society needs to remove the shame of surviving rape from the victims and turn it into shame for committing rape, for the rapists.
  3. There is no sex in rape. Sex involves consent. Rape is a violent crime that has nothing to do with consent, or sex.
  4. By becoming empowered in our sexuality we can make the point that rape and sex are not the same thing.

I was so honored to be part of this movement. But it is now more clear to me than ever before that we have a long ways to go. We need to speak out and speak up. We need to be proud and loud. We can be as sexy as we want, but we cannot condone violence in any form. Especially not violence that uses our own bodies as weapons against us.

It starts with us.

With my parents + daughter after the speech was over. Photo by Sarah Anne Lloyd:

About the author.

Alyssa Royse is a founder of NotSoSecret.com, a site dedicated to empowering women to discover their own sexuality. A writer by both passion and profession, she has worked in marketing, PR, education, theater and in the non-profit world. She was the founder of JUST CAUSE Magazine, an all-digital magazine dedicated to social change – before people knew what digital magazines were, making it an altruistic and unintentionally non-profit venture. Fast Company named her one of the top 50 entrepreneurs in the world, and PR News said she was one of the best PR professionals under 35. She is constantly writing, about all sorts of things, most of which you can read about on her personal blog, AlyssaRoyse.com. You can follow her on twitter @alyssaroyse.

About Alyssa Royse

Alyssa Royse is a hot mama in her 40s raising a teenage daughter and two young step-daughters. She’s a veteran entrepreneur, journalist and PR hack who is now working entirely to promote healthy sexual freedom for all humans—because sexual agency is a human right, and also an important part of health and wellness. A popular speaker and guest writer, she can be found most often on her eponymous blog, AlyssaRoyse.com and as the co-host of the weekly radio show Sexxx Talk Radio on The Progressive Radio Network. (Downloads available on both prn.fm and iTunes.) When she’s not thinking and writing about sex, she’s generally playing with her big, queer, bi-racial family, traveling, reading or at the CrossFit gym sweating. Yes, she would probably love to come speak at your conference, or write something for you, contact info is on her blog.

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28 Responses to “Raped by a rapist. No sex involved.”

  1. Tremell Ambrose says:

    Alyssa your story of your rape touched me. The year after I graduated high school. I was nearly raped in my bedroom at about 4 am. It was the summer and I was about 6 weeks pregnant and was sleeping in my bed when I had awoken to a strange person standing over me with a walgreens bag over his head. I thought it was a joke at first but when the guy spoke to me and said don't say a word or you are dead I knew it was no joke. I was terrified. I told him to take my purse and that it had $100 in it and take my tv. He told me to shut up and he got on top of me. I was able to tell he was much taller than my 5'9". He was heavy too. In that brief moment I had a flash forward of this being in the newspaper of me being raped and found dead in my bed in the Englewood area of Chicago..

  2. Tremell Ambrose says:

    I raised my hand up and accidentally knocked off his bag and he put his head under my neck to keep my head from looking down and head then bit me in my chest. He reached and grabbed a pillow and was trying to smother me. I then felt like I had to do something or die so I grabbed in in a death hold head lock and we fought and tussled in that bed until we wound up with our feet at the head board. I was banging the head board against the wall so hard that he got scared and jumped out of my bed and so did I. He opened my door and ran down the stairs and out the door.

  3. Absolutely inspiring! Well said Alyssa. And, seriously, how amazing to have your family there as you spoke your truth. Congratulations on your bravery. Love,. ~Temple

  4. Erica Grigg says:

    @Tremell Thanks for courage in sharing your story. @Alyssa This is a beautiful article by a modern feminist taking action to combat what happens every day. I ADORE the SlutWalk, and cannot wait to participate in/organize one myself! Sexual and physical violence is way to prevalent. In a World Health Organization study in 2009, of a 10-country sample, Between 15% and 71% of women reported physical or sexual violence by a husband or partner. We–women and men–MUST fight back to reduce this number. Info via http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/e

  5. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    damn you rocked that. beautiful, important, powerful. thank you.

  6. Alyssa Royse says:

    Thank you everyone! I so appreciate the time that you have taken to read and share this post. It is such an important message. The first root to unraveling violent societal fabrics is to realistically understand where the problem lies. And that is never with the victim. We need to heal the pain of victims to eliminate the same so that honest discussion can begin. But we need to do the same with the perpetrators, because happy, healthy, empowered people do not commit acts of violence against others. So let's shine a light where it needs to be so that we can all heal and create a better world.

    And ya, let's let sexy women be sexy safely – that makes a better world for everyone! :)

  7. Beautiful article. Thanks!

  8. inpeaceandlove says:

    How using the term slut an wearing thongs out in public translates into a positive shift in awareness of what rape is and is not is a disconnect for me.

  9. Chrystal says:

    You are amazing. WOW. Thank you for sharing your story. (Tremmel, too.) I am sure MILLIONS of women all over the world need to hear this. Thank you for being so brave and sharing with all of us. YOU ROCKED IT! Congratulations on finding your calling.

  10. carole says:

    Awesome speech … for those who have ever been raped or sexually assaulted. I liked the "skivvies" to prove a point… It is always the first question asked "what were you wearing". Congrats for that very passionate speech.

  11. From Facebook:

    Ian Noh pretty crazy
    Wednesday at 6:20pm · Like · 1 person

    Liz Schmitz That is one brave woman! Wish I had that bod!
    Wednesday at 6:25pm · Like

    Madeline Moss Thanks, Lynn (and Alyssa!). I too have been admiring the SlutWalk. It's like Take Back the Night for a whole new generation. Although it would have been nice if the new generation didn't need any of it. I dream of the day my daughters will walk the streets without fear. Maybe even at night.
    Wednesday at 7:07pm · Like · 2 people

    Alyssa Royse ‎Lynn Johnson Hasselberger, thank you so much for sharing this platform with me! It's such an important message, and the response I've gotten so far has made me realize how desperately we need to get it out there. There is no shame in having been a victim of violence, but there needs to be much more shame in having been a perpetrator of violence. And besides, now all those people out there who wondered what I look like in my underwear can sleep at night! :)
    Wednesday at 8:58pm · Like · 3 people

    Vic Shayne This was a good speech. The only thing that bothers me is that I believe, from my research, that a great number of these attackers have no conscience and therefore no shame. Of course, this is one of the main reasons to explain how they can commit such an unconscionable, terrifying, inhumane act. It's also a problem of the ages, going back to the beginning of time. This was a very noble and honest speech and I hope it served, as it seems to have, to uplift those who have been victimized.
    Wednesday at 10:13pm · Like · 2 people

    Richard D. Milne The sad part of it is, is that there's a correlation between rape and sex, I dated a woman for several years that was raped when she was 19yrs. She was either very hot or very cold!! Rape and molestation is a much a worse crime than two men going out on the street and one of the men dies. This is considered murder and a much worse crime than molestation or rape, however there was consent on both individuals part so how can it be considered a more grievous crime, both men had their free will, the woman and child did not.
    Yesterday at 3:08am · Like · 1 person

    Lynn Johnson Hasselberger You are so welcome, Alyssa! Definitely an important message that will help so many. Right now, your story is featured at the top of the elephantjournal.com page under "Today Only" :)
    Yesterday at 7:30am · Like

    Erica Grigg So glad to see this issue transcends the green/feminist communities. I LOVE to see the actions of SlutWalk. Where is SlutWalk Chicago?!!! :) This is absolutely inspiring, thanks Lynn!
    Yesterday at 8:32am · Like · 1 person

    Vic Shayne Psychological injury is tremendously destructive and can be interminable. Any crime that destroys lives and human dignity cannot really be measured against another crime in terms of its impact or which crime is worse. Since I watched this video late at night, I thought about it until this morning. I said that the perpetrators have no sense of shame. I think this is true in two senses: 1. a psychopathic personality and 2. the kind of man who learns in his culture that such an act is acceptable. The latter person is potentially changeable, but the psychopath is not. I only wish there was a solution to this age-old act of violence. As human beings we are always trying to make sense of things, which is why that question "What were you wearing?" is asked. People can't grasp the idea that such an act can be unprovoked by the victim. People want excuses of the inexcusable.
    Yesterday at 10:13am · Like · 1 person

  12. From Facebook (cont.):

    Alyssa Royse Vic, you are right that we can't fix the psychopaths, but they are few and far between, and the vast majority of rapes are committed by otherwise "normal" people. As part of my own recovery, I spent some time with men who had been convicted of rape. There were a small number of monsters, and a lot of really normal – albeit angry, violent, and fucked up – men.

    Especially when you get into the issues of acquaintance rape, and the line that is far too-often crossed when people are "partying" together and men force themselves on women because they think they have the "right." Or that she must actually want it, otherwise she wouldn't have been "doing that" or "wearing that."

    At this point, I think the best thing we can do is teach everyone to explicitly ask for consent. And understand that NO means NO. More than that, since we are a culture that likes to slap labels on things, remind all people that if you have "sex" with someone without their consent, you are a rapist. period. Drunk girl at a party who can't say yes or no? Rapist.

    It would be great if all rapists were monsters, because then we could identify them easily. But they're not. And we can't. Likewise, if all rape victims did something to ask for it, because then we could just NOT do that one thing. But that's not the case either.
    Yesterday at 10:21am · Like · 2 people

    Vic Shayne Alyssa. I agree. As a father of a beautiful daughter, and a husband, I am sensitive to this issue. I think we're on the same page here. For those who are not psychopaths, there needs to be clear guidelines. It's amazing that we would have to even have to teach a person that violence is wrong, but that's the reality. One of the huge problems we have in our country is our school system. These behaviors should be discussed and taught in school as well as at home, and wherever else people are inculcated.
    23 hours ago · Like · 1 person

    Alyssa Royse Starts with us. :) I am now talking to some folks about making a middle-school video cirriculum about it…. :)
    23 hours ago · Like · 3 people

    Daniel E Tanzo Alyssa outstanding speaking job, midleschool is great idea and an important venue, all the agression traits tied into the sexual emergence can get skewed there, and though there is the silence group of men, out there who have been victimize…
    See More
    23 hours ago · Like · 3 people

    Lynn Johnson Hasselberger Hey, Erica — YW. Glad you found it inspiring. There was a SlutWalk Chicago which my friend Brooks Hall wrote about here: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/06/slutwalk-c
    22 hours ago · Like

    Lynn Johnson Hasselberger ‎Daniel–Some great points and glad Alyssa's story spoke to you +sorry to hear about your experience. Let me know if you'd like to write your story for elephant.
    22 hours ago · Like

    Lynn Johnson Hasselberger Wow–Alyssa! Fantastic to see how much convo this has opened up. Great idea to do something for Middle schools. CHEERS to you!
    22 hours ago · Like · 3 people

    Daniel E Tanzo It occured to me Lynn about doing that Lynn and in have already wrote the semi tongue in chhek article about men's needs to care for themselves with pampering as I stare at my black polished toenails from Sundays pedicure.
    But to return to point -while i was at yoga class and sfterwards thinking on Alyss'a speec i came to an understanding in myself about how the issue was about power and control over another and even further aboutso not in control of theirlives that person may feel to have the need to dominate in such a violent format….So yes i am willing to give this a go……
    21 hours ago · Like

    Louise Brookes Thanks Lynn for sharing this, I really appreciated this bit '''Sex crime does not exist, rape is a 'violent crime'; give the rapists all the shame for rape…' That definition really needs to be out there and repeated again and again. Thank you so much Alyssa for speaking so powerfully :)
    16 hours ago · Like · 2 people

    Alyssa Royse Yes, Louise, that's the point that most needs to be made. I cringe every time I hear the phrase "sex crime." There's no such thing. Sex is not a crime. Rape is. Thanks for helping to spread the word!
    11 hours ago · Like · 2 people

    Vicky Egar-Klein ‎Lynn Johnson Hasselberger & Alyssa, As an ex Crisis Line Manager/Advocate for victims of Sexual Assault crimes I am so glad to see this being discussed so loudly. 99% of the time the rapist will be someone the victim knows or gets to know socially which adds to the twisted torture on victims. I wish it was the boogey man in the bushes but that is so rare. I work now to earn enough money to be able to gather women like you to create changes in the laws. The system sucks and re-victimizes victims every day! Thanks for your bravery and Daniel you too are a hero for speaking up!
    11 hours ago · Like · 1 person

  13. From Facebook (cont.):

    Alyssa Royse THANKS VICKY! And yup! I wanted to work that in, but was reminded that you can really only make one point in a good speech, so I stuck with "if you did it without my consent you are a rapist." Hopefully the "no matter who you are or if you knew me" was understood.

    Imagine if everyone who had been assaulted by someone they new, in a situation in which they felt partially responsible, came forward. I'm thinking those rape statistics would skyrocket.
    11 hours ago · Like · 2 people

    Vicky Egar-Klein Alyssa, I agree that your message is a good one because society seems to have levels of victim blaming and the only who deserves any blame is the rapist! I would love to stay connected and see where we can take this. I say only men can stop rape because women can't even stay home and stay safe! ( disclaimer, yes there are some women rapists but the majority are males) I think middle school is perfect for your focus because boys need to learn this lesson before they end up accused of rape & I don't know what else we can teach girls to avoid it!
    10 hours ago · Like · 1 person

    Daniel E Tanzo thanks Vicky more to come hopefully I been fleshing out in my mind what i wolud like to say or mostly how to convey it from the male point of view and perspective as if there is a unqueness about it from the shame and silence and refusal to speak out about it but it keeps returning to eally no difference at fucking all, rage at inability to protect yourself ?? Is that merely a male thing, ?

    Alyssa your article was so very timely friends daughter today she apparently has been assaulted, her mother and i just reconnected the daughter hd already gone through the turmoil of wondering about her sexual preference , father ballistic sister derisive only to be raped, and father yelling what the hell was she doing drinking anyway garrrrrrrr. to where she now she wont speak of it her Mom is goig to sit her down and watch that with her
    Your having astonishing Immediate impact in lives
    10 hours ago · Like · 3 people

    Vicky Egar-Klein Daniel, try to get her to an advocate and hopefully a therapist if she will go. The family response is critical to her healing! There is a great book for dads or other family members called
    10 hours ago · Like · 1 person

    Daniel E Tanzo on it already
    10 hours ago · Like · 1 person

    Vicky Egar-Klein ‎"If She is Raped" by Alan McEvoy you can get it online. As for your situation, I have been there for more than one male rape and I have to guess that the feelings of shame and helplessness are very much the same but being a guy makes it very hard to tell anyone. You will find your way and your words to help others. Again you guys are so brave for speaking up!
    10 hours ago · Like · 2 people

    Alyssa Royse TEARS. :) The good kind. So are you, thank you.
    10 hours ago · Like · 2 people

    Daniel E Tanzo Alyssa do you have a website on this topic i may have missed that if so could you forward
    24 minutes ago · Like · 1 person

    Alyssa Royse Here are a bunch of links to individual articles, but, clearly I need to make a "rape" section on NotSoSecret.com.
    Life After Rape: http://alyssaroyse.wordpress.com/2010/08/19/life-
    Date Rape: http://alyssaroyse.wordpress.com/2010/01/06/date-
    Talking To Your Children About Rape <a href="http://:http://alyssaroyse.wordpress.com/2010/01/06/talking-to-children-about-rape/” target=”_blank”>:http://alyssaroyse.wordpress.com/2010/01/06/talking-to-children-about-rape/
    Love After Rape: http://alyssaroyse.wordpress.com/2009/11/13/love-
    16 minutes ago · Like

    Daniel E Tanzo thank you
    16 minutes ago · Like

    Vicky Egar-Klein Alyssa, your not just a survivor, you are thriving and making a difference! I hope to meet you face to face someday, maybe you could speak at our local Take Back the Night event.
    14 minutes ago · Like

    Vicky Egar-Klein ‎Sarah J. Bauer Amber Whitley I wanted you ladies to see this string of conversation. You must check out Alyssa's stuff online above.
    12 minutes ago · Like

    Daniel E Tanzo Slut Walk DC ?? Oh my what a venue 10,000 – or more victims and loved ones and counselors advocates demanding JUST ONE THING
    the removal of the usage Sex Crime considering some members of congress desire to change klaws defining rape that have gione around what a statemnet that would send :-)
    8 minutes ago · Like

    Alyssa Royse Apparently, Vicky, I'll speak anywhere, wearing anything (or nothing at all.)
    7 minutes ago · Like · 2 people

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  15. phil says:

    There is no sex in rape? Rape is all about power? That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard. 95% of rape victims are under the age of fifty at the time of the incident.

  16. lbarna says:

    Your story brought tears to my eyes. Not because I've been raped but because you have and can speak of it. Thank you for bringing a new understanding of empowerment BECAUSE of this particular challenge. Thank you for inspiring us to be compassionate participants in our own lives.

  17. Kelly says:

    Thank you so much for speaking out, Alyssa. I am a victim of rape. My honesty was challenged because I was partying that night. I felt a responsibility to come forward, went to trial and put the guy in jail for 15 years; not because the jury found him guilty, but because he was on probation and the judge gave him the maximum for violating (the judge made a comment that he believed he was guilty which gave me some peace about my decision). I believe the jury that was selected to participate in my "sex crime" case was handpicked by the defense to include very judgmental people. It hurt me tremendously that I went through this horrible court trial in the hopes to seek justice and protect future victims and the jury did not believe me. They couldn't get past the reasonable doubt that I had been partying that night, so I must have made up this lie, imagined it, wanted attention??? This is a huge sticking point in these cases and, most importantly, a deterrent for women to come forward. Victims, please don't let them shame you into not seeking justice by going to the police if that is what you think it is the right thing to do. IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT YOU DID, WORE, OR LOOKED LIKE, YOU DID NOT DESERVE TO BE RAPED!

  18. Olga Feingold says:

    :D Love you.

  19. Terri Matson says:

    Thank you for taking a stand, lighting a touch and pushing this very important movement forward. We all need to work together and change culture and that means that we have to change the way we think, live, act and become co-creaters in this most important evolutionary process that is happening right now. The most profound class I have participated that allowed me to become conscious of the "conditioned structures" of within all women is call the "Ten Agreements" with Elizabeth Debold and Mary Adams. It is life changing and I encourage all women that want to live an enlightened life and contribute to this most important change must begin within the deepest part of ourselves first and then and only then, we can change culture. We can do it!

  20. Hannah says:

    So so proud to be sharing a city with you sister!

  21. [...] yoga teachers can easily trigger girls and women who have been sexually traumatized by men. For example, just hearing a male voice telling them to “relax” could be re-traumatizing, as [...]

  22. [...] Having been the victim of an attack many years ago, I confess that I, like Akin, questioned the legitimacy of my own rape thousands of times. The female body may not reject an unwanted pregnancy, but the female mind will often reject the brutal reality of being entered forcibly. [...]

  23. [...] yoga teachers can easily trigger girls and women who have been sexually traumatized by men. For example, just hearing a male voice telling them to “relax” could be re-traumatizing, as [...]

  24. [...] ~ All states have reformed laws that previously treated date or spousal rape as a lesser crime than stranger rape ~ All states have passed laws making stalking a crime ~ All states have authorized warrantless arrests in misdemeanor domestic violence cases where the responding officer determines that probable cause exists ~ All states provide for criminal sanctions for the violation of a civil protection order ~ Many states have passed laws prohibiting polygraphing of rape victims. [...]

  25. Alyssa says:

    I have said all those same things. I totally get it. People look at me like I'm crazy when I say that I feel lucky that it was a stranger and I had a gun at my head, and that I was sound asleep in my bed. But the truth is, that is what made it so very clear to me that I did not cause it, and that rape is about violence and not sex.

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