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Thank You, Hannah Baker

13 reason why poster

This is not an article in which I comment aggressively on whether or not Thirteen Reasons Why glorifies suicide or mental illness, both of which are opinions that I’ve seen declared loudly on Facebook statuses and re-shared articles. In the midst of the outrage surrounding the themes found in the show I have seen one thing consistently overlooked: Hannah Baker was raped. The main character, Hannah Baker, told a story that resonated with me in a way that gave me the strength to write mine down.
When I watched her, almost motionless, being raped, I understood her, and I felt understood. Here was a girl, who perhaps fictional, had had her innocence ripped from her while her guard was down, by someone whose darkness she had failed to see. By someone whose darkness nobody had warned her about. I understand Hannah Baker. I understand why she chose to tell no one. I understand why she didn’t kick, or scream, or punch. I understand why she lay motionless, face pressed against wet concrete, hoping that it would just be over soon. Watching that scene, I felt understood for the first time in almost a year.
Thank you, Hannah Baker.
Upon doing some digging, I found that some people think that this scene in particular is so horrific and offensive that it should be taken off air, or on the flip side, that it was a romanticized depiction of what rape really is.
It was graphic and honest in a way that perhaps some people were not ready to see, and perhaps more than that, some people simply do not want to see what rape can look like. They can’t fathom the idea of being so utterly destroyed by someone they know or love. They would rather turn away, close their eyes, and never understand what rape can look like. They would rather turn off their TVs. Yes, it was probably really upsetting to watch Hannah Baker being raped. Now, imagine living that and hearing that your own experiences are so disturbing, and so horrifying that they shouldn’t even be watched on TV.
Thirteen Reasons Why showed it anyway. It showed the kind of rape that people don’t like talking about. The kind that happens behind closed doors or in empty yards. The kind that doesn’t come with witnesses or police reports or jail time or justice. Rape comes with a shattering numbness, a feeling of dirtiness that goes far beyond being violated, but it doesn’t come with understanding. It doesn’t come with a guidebook, or a flow chart that you might follow to an ending of “yes it was rape” or “no it was not rape”. It doesn’t come with a checklist or guidelines that one can study to make sure that it counted. There is nothing that tells you that it still counts as rape even if you don’t scream or try desperately to defend yourself. There is no checklist that tells you that it still counts as rape even if the person raping you is someone you thought you knew.
Thank you, Hannah Baker.
Like her, I have a story. I choose, unlike her, to write it, rather than record it on thirteen tapes. So sit down, adjust your… whatever device you’re reading this on, because this is my story, and some of you might find it graphic and upsetting. However, like what happened to Hannah Baker, it’s happened to more people than just me, and I want people to know that there is more than one option. We always have a choice. I chose to survive, and I hope that that is proof enough that survival is possible, and that while I relied on a fictional character to tell me that I was not alone you do not have to. Hannah Baker is not real, but I am.  
My boyfriend of over a year held my legs open and penetrated me with aggressive force as I lay motionless, eventually bleeding onto the bed we shared. I tried to close my legs. He dug his fingers into my upper thighs and pushed my legs down and open. I tried again. The pressure from his fingers left small white marks on my thighs. I asked him to stop. He ignored me. I asked him again. He drove into me harder and said, “No. Just let me” in a harshly cold voice that I had never heard before. I tried to close my legs again. He ignored that too. There was a wave of fear, and then pure, shattering acceptance. He came, and then he cried. He apologized. He told me that he felt “so rape-y”. He asked me to hold him.
I lay there on the soft grey sheets we had picked out together, staring at the ceiling. A single tear rolled out of my eye and into my ear. It seemed hotter than it should have been.
I’ve been asked why I didn’t call the police, why I didn’t try to fight him, why I just gave up, why I didn’t break up with him in an immediate and righteous rage. These are all questions that I’ve asked myself, and the answer is simple; I didn’t want to have been raped. I didn’t want to label the person I had spent over a year loving a rapist. I didn’t want to have been so hopelessly wrong about someone. I didn’t want to have been raped, and I didn’t want to validate it by calling the police. I kept asking myself why I didn’t fight back and why it was so easy to make me give up and give in. I wanted to pretend it never happened. Instead I fixated on that single hot tear that had rolled into my ear. I looked for a mark from that tear; searching for a red burn going from the corner of my eye down into my ear where it had settled, boiling with shame. I imagined it leaking into my brain, somehow responsible for the numbness.
In the bathroom later I whispered to myself that it was a misunderstanding, even as I stared at the bloody toilet paper in my hand. The shockingly large red stain was simply the result of a misunderstanding. I repeated this to myself over and over again.
I inspected those wonderfully soft grey sheets for blood. I was searching for evidence, the jersey cotton was a witness, as if I might find confirmation that would make it real to me. I found one drop of blood on the carpet almost exactly halfway between the bedroom and the bathroom. Here was my witness, slowly sinking into beige carpet. Here was tangible proof of my innocence lost.
I continued to tell myself that it wasn’t rape for too long. It wasn’t rape because I hadn’t fought him off. It wasn’t rape because he was my boyfriend. It wasn’t rape because I hadn’t called the police. Then, I saw Thirteen Reasons Why and I heard it being called rape. It was rape even though Hannah didn’t fight him off. It was rape even though Hannah knew him. It was rape even though Hannah didn’t call the police. It was rape because she was pinned down. It was rape because she didn’t want him inside her. It was rape and it destroyed her.
I recognized the look of desolation and dejection on Hannah’s face, because it’s what I saw when I finally looked at myself. I was searching for evidence past a vivid red on toilet paper, a single drop of scarlet fading away into carpet or a nonexistent burn mark from a hot, shameful tear. It was there. I looked like I had been destroyed, my eyes were empty when I forced myself to meet them in the mirror. I felt like I had died. I understand what went through Hannah Baker’s head. I understood that she didn’t fight because she just wanted it to fucking end. That she didn’t call the police because maybe they wouldn’t believe her, maybe no one would. That sometimes it’s easier to just pretend that everything’s okay.
What happened to Hannah Baker validated what happened to me. When people called what happened to Hannah Baker rape, it provided me with a stark moment of clarity that what happened to me was rape despite the things I had failed to do. It took me far too long and five viewings of that episode with the hot tub to put it into words, because until I watched that I didn’t really believe that what happened to me was what rape can look like. It can look like a girl who has been shattered and has given up. It can look like a girl with her cheek pressed upon the cold, wet cement of a pool deck. It can look like a girl with marks on her thighs who thought she was loved. It can look like a girl who in that moment wants to escape by any means possible, even death. It can look like a girl pinned down by someone she thinks she knows. It can look like Hannah Baker. It can look like me. It can look like you.
I’m afraid of what people will think when they read this. I’m afraid that those who knew us both will doubt me because he was so charming, so popular, so funny, so well brought up.  I’m afraid that they might not believe that he could be capable of such a thing, because for the over two years that I knew him I never once thought he was.  I am afraid that people may continue to think that it didn’t count, that it was as unsubstantial as a single drop of water disappearing into one’s ear, but I am more afraid that I am missing my chance to tell my story and I am more afraid that if I do not others will feel as alone as I did for so long. I am afraid, but because of Thirteen Reasons Why I am no longer afraid that I am alone, and maybe me feeling that way is not enough to keep Thirteen Reasons Why on air, but I do hope that the other approximately 214,333 victims of unreported rape in the US searching for a voice, some understanding or a reason are enough.
Thank you, Hannah Baker.