I know what you’re thinking; you’ve heard all of this before. You’ve already been contacted by plenty of other rape survivors who’ve told you how you triggered them with that graphic scene. You’ve heard hundreds, maybe even thousands of times how you made other women burst into tears and have to leave the theater, or even triggered panic attacks by making such a realistic rape scene. Maybe some of you have openly apologized to anyone that you offended with that scene. Or maybe, instead, you’ve decided to stand by and defend the scene, saying that violence is shown in movies all the time, and that you wanted to accurately show the horror of the crime.
I don’t want to be like the others. I’m not writing this to shame you for bringing the horror of rape to the big screen. I don’t want to tell you how that graphic scene in Girl With The Dragon Tattoo made me have to leave the room, how the sound of her screaming through the gag sounded way too much like the sounds I made that night. I don’t want to talk about how hard it was to watch that scene in Last House On The Left, how all my friends undoubtedly noticed the glisten in my eyes as I walked out of the room.
I’m not going to ask that you stop the rape scenes. In fact, I don’t want them to stop. I understand that for the sake of your film, you want to include that scene, and want to make it as realistic as possible. I get the appeal of having that scene in your film, whether it’s for the shock value, the added drama, or a variety of other factors. I won’t even ask for a trigger warning (though I think other survivors would want that, and it doesn’t seem like too much to ask). All I ask is that you don’t romanticize rape. Don’t make it look like anything other than the horror that it really is. Don’t make the viewers become desensitized to the horrors of this crime. If you work in a slaughterhouse long enough, you get used to the sound of the screaming. It eventually stops bothering you, stops seeming cruel, stops making that lump form in your throat. All I ask is that you don’t let that happen. I want those lumps to form as people watch the terror I know all too well. I want eyes to well up with tears as people hear the screams of pain and terror. I want people to see rape on the big screen, to get a glimmer of understanding of the night my life changed forever, and to leave the theater hating rape even more than when they arrived.
To filmmakers that make realistic rape scenes, thank you. Thank you for taking the risk of making this scene, knowing you’ll face criticism, knowing people will refuse to watch, knowing you’ll get horrible letters from survivors. Thank you for putting forth the extensive effort it takes to put such a scene on the big screen, for finding actors willing and able to pull it off, for everything it took to make the horror of rape realistically displayed for the viewers. To be clear, when I say thank you, I don’t mean that I like the rape scenes that I’ve seen in movies. Trust me, I absolutely hate them, as do so many other viewers. But that’s the whole point—the scenes should be hated, should elicit feelings of horror and abhorrence, should make their audience detest rape that much more. So, to the filmmakers that make those horrible scenes, thank you.