This past Thursday, Grey’s Anatomy demonstrated the importance of having women tell stories as writers, directors, and producers. Shonda Rhimes plays a pivotal role in this show, and it was both heartbreaking and significant to watch a rape victim be treated with kindness and understanding by the female doctors on the show. This is the only way to tell a rape narrative so that it teaches and informs the public while also defining consent and the ramifications that come with living in a rape culture.
After having learned that her biological mother gave her up because she was a rape victim, Jo goes to work and encounters another victim who shows her what her own mother had probably experienced during and after her rape. Through this interaction, we learn the difficulties that rape victims/survivors contend with: reporting rape to authorities, not being believed, the guilt that comes with knowing the rapist (she was on a date or at a bar, taking to him before the assault), and then dealing with the intrusiveness of a rape kit and the possibility of STD’s and pregnancy. The most moving part of the show (it was all emotional), was the victim’s fear of going into surgery and seeing men, because they all reminded her of her rapist and her helplessness. Jo fortified the hallway with a long line of women on each side of the wall so that as they rolled the victim to surgery, all she saw was a face of women supporting her: doctors, nurses, patients, just women. No men. Her surgery was conducted by women surgeons and the police officers who took her report, when she finally decided to file charges against her rapist, were women. This was a call to women to stand up for each other, to believe each other, and to empower each other, no matter the creed, the race, the anything that is irrelevant in the face of rape.
The second most critical part of the episode was the issue of consent. Both women raped did not give consent, and their voices were reduced to silence when the men brutally raped them, one of them forcing Jo’s mother to say that she liked it, liked being forced, explaining to her that they could do this again whenever she wanted. Consent came into discussion in two ways: 1) Bailey’s husband explaining to his step-son the importance of being connected to his partner, comparing sex to a baseball game. When a girl says time out, no, or she appears as if she’s not enjoying it, he must stop. That’s it. Game’s over. No more. 2) Because rape victims are ignored when they say no, the rape kit process gives them their voices back to them. For each part of the rape kit collection, the doctors had to ask for consent from the victim and they couldn’t move on to the next part until she said the word “yes.” By the time the process was over, the doctors and nurses, all women, had given her her voice back so that she felt strong enough to pursue justice.
This episode reimagines the process of healing, telling, and dealing with rape as it should be — not as it actually is. Many survivors of rape stay silent, dealing with the pain of rape on their own, because they fear retaliation and the system raping them again – through incredulity and shaming. When women report, many of them still report to men. And when they go to the hospital, they’re examined by men. Men who don’t believe them, judge them, and help perpetuate the silent voices of women’s lives and experiences. Grey’s Anatomy showed us how it should be for rape victims so that they feel like survivors instead of powerless to do anything about the sexual assault that will change their lives forever.
When women are raped, their doctors should be females; their police officers should be females; and they should be surrounded by women who hold them safe and secure, believing in them and their stories, giving them the power they need to say #metoo. It is the only way to survive the rape culture that prevails. We need each other, because there is power in numbers. Holding each other up will help us change this culture of rape and abuse and sexism.