Trigger warning for discussion of rape, slut-shaming and victim blaming.
The day Jordan Johnson was pronounced not guilty for the rape of a young Jane Doe was the day everything changed in Missoula, Montana. Suddenly, victim-blaming and slut-shaming not only because socially acceptable, but encouraged around the small town of 70,000. In case you didn’t hear the story, University of Montana in Missoula was one of the schools that started the Title IX and inaccurate reporting craze. We are the town that was so lovingly dubbed “The Rape Capitol of America.” The story is one that has been heard over and over again over the last few years, but most people stepped forward after the Department of Justice got involved in my school.
I was raped by a locally-famous-in-his-own-mind guy roughly two years before any of this got out. As a victim, I knew it was in my best interest to not go to the local police, as there were already rumors about how poorly they treat women in the town. And since the prick wasn’t a student, I knew the school wouldn’t do anything to help me. There was always subtle slut-shaming happening — I mean, it’s impossible to escape the rape culture. But for the most part, I was pretty proud of my town and how progressive it was.
That is, until Mr. Star-Football-Player™ was accused of raping one of his lady friends. The town erupted with anger at this girl. “How dare anyone accuse the quarterback of the beloved Griz football team of doing something so horrible.” “This is Griz Nation! We don’t want any little girls crying rape because she feels slutty and disrupting the football team! Let’s kill the bitch.” “Little bitch was probably asking for it! I’ll show her what rape is!”
Let’s just stop for a second. I seriously heard all this and more while walking across campus, coming out of not just males’ mouths, but those of other women. Girls would claim to know who the girl was, and then talk about how short her skirts were, or how bad her grades were, like that somehow mattered.
Johnson eventually got off on the basic argument that because he didn’t understand what consent was, he didn’t violate the clear lack of consent present. Because she didn’t scream or fight. Because she just lay there and took it. The town lit off fireworks they were so happy about the ruling.
This, clearly, pissed off the local feminist community, a community I was very lucky to have found after my rape. They helped me acknowledge that what happened to me was rape, and that it was nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, they encouraged me to be loud and never stop talking about it. It was hard for all of us, as victims or survivors, to see what Jane Doe was going through. She had no voice. And our voices (those of us not afraid to speak up), were being stifled in a big way. Every time the word “rape” was mentioned, someone had to intervene about how Johnson was innocent and more men like him are probably innocent because bitches like to lie – or whatever crazy idea they had about why rape isn’t real – unless it’s little boys and girls being raped. Then it’s real. Or stranger rape. Or forced rape.But friend rape and partial rape and wanted rape (?) aren’t real. These, again, are all things I heard.
The feminists in the town decided that they would show their support however they could for this girl that none of us (to my knowledge) knew. We took to Facebook and created the page ‘We are ALL Jane Doe.’ We all took pictures of us holding up signs with that on the front. The community support was amazing. It made me personally feel like we had finally found a tiny voice and that people were listening. The local newspaper contacted ever admin for the page to try to get an interview, though I believe we all declined. We were all a little afraid of getting our names out there as Johnson haters. Several of us received rape threats and were called every nasty name in the book.
Watching the town turn so dark right before my eyes made me constantly afraid. I was having flashbacks fairly consistently with all the news coverage, and with the young men so hopped up on testosterone, ready to defend Johnson, I started carrying not one, but two cans of pepper spray when I walked my dog at night. I imagine that there are other women out there going through the same thing as me right now. They either ARE Jane Doe, or afraid to become her, or are dealing with the constant news coverage of something horrible their school did which may cause the PTSD symptoms to increase. But what I want to get out there to those ladies is: You are never alone. Find the community in your area. Go online. Any of us at We are ALL Jane Doe will listen to your story. But never be embarrassed or ashamed, and never ever stop talking about it.