• Athena Ives

Silly Boys These Pics are for ME

“There is no way she was raped, did you see her modeling photos?” “Post attractive photos, expect unsolicited dick pics, that’s your fault”; "No rape victim would pose in a bathing suit”; “You’re plastic and fake, that’s why you got raped... if you even did.”

Those are just a few comments I have received, and it is similar, if not worse for many, if not most, rape survivors. There is extensive published research available for those interested in the psychology behind why women/girls react the way they do to sexual trauma. In this article I wanted to share my story which may also help shed some light on this very misunderstood topic.

Despite having years of my life erased from my memory due to severe childhood trauma, one common method of control used to groom me was body shaming. Growing up in a religious cult where women were held to much stricter modesty requirements didn't help. Being forced to wear skirts in the frigid Michigan weather didn't make any sense to my logical thinking mind. Logic wasn't something encouraged, and in most cases for women it resulted in being labeled rebellious. I was also a tomboy, Olympic development soccer athlete that was less than 12% body fat. Not only were we brought up being ashamed of the female figure, we were poor. I was able to choose from petticoats and jumpers my mother made, my brother's hand-me-downs, or athletic type clothing from Goodwill. I had a huge growth spurt my junior year in high school. I was all legs, boobs, and that combination was not a good fit for the clothing I was allowed to wear. Furthermore, I was constantly mocked at school, and then I went home to get abused by my family and tried to avoid getting raped again.

I was body shamed constantly by my family. My father constantly called me fat and every thing I ate was observed and judged. One of my favorite movies as a kid was Ever After (Drew Barrymore Cinderella movie). While recovering from knee surgery my father bought it for me. I was shocked because he never showed any kind of affection outside of my soccer abilities. My shock didn't last long when he told me why he got it for me. He said "You remind me of Cinderella, she was fat, homely looking and no one wanted her for her looks. Your sister is like the beautiful sister everyone wanted."

After surviving and escaping I joined the Marine Corps and thought I had finally found a family that would appreciate me and see me for my worth. Before I even got to my first duty station I was sexually harassed, drugged, and raped. I fought back by trying to prove myself more. I went to the gym three times a day, always had my uniform and room up to standards, completed every assignment and some, went to night school, and never fell out of a run or a hike. Just when I finally thought they would accept me, two of my closest brothers were involved in drugging and sodomizing/raping me. I don't want to focus too much on my trauma but more so my triumph.

After getting out of the Marine Corps I realized that my fears were holding me back from the life I deserved. I suffered from self-esteem and body shaming issues. To face this fear head on I did a bikini photoshoot. Wearing a two piece in public was challenging enough for me but in front of a camera, I was terrified. People that see these photos don't see the shame, the internal scars, and the years of damage the grooming and manipulation had done. They don't see the thousands of hours spent in the gym due to body weight issues. They don't see the courage it took.

We have learned and come to accept the fact that depression is often disguised in laughter, a forced smile, and acting like everything is ok. Why can't we understand that rape survivors often do the same things? For several decades I hid what had happened to me. I acted as if I was confident, that I believed I was deserving of love. The truth is, I was fighting an internal war that I never wanted anyone to see because I never wanted anyone to know. Many of us are fighting against being taught to hate our bodies, to be ashamed of sexuality, and it is a complicated journey that takes time.

Many rape survivors struggle with associating sexuality with love, and it can manifest in different coping mechanisms. I hope my story helped shed some light on this challenging topic. People judged me, called me a whore deserving of rape, all because I chose to fight back. I was accused of lying because I was trying to find a way to love my own body and not to be ashamed of it. This type of victim blaming is all part of a rape culture that is prevalent around the world. Lastly, my tattoos DO NOT mean I enjoy rough sex, am an uneducated degenerate, or that I hate myself. My tattoos share a story of my journey to overcome my past. I do not regret any of them, and I am still trying to love my body, scars, cellulite, extra pounds and all.