Leah Vincent, Author of Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood
By Dvora Meyers
Indeed, her first sexual experience will resonate with far too many womenshe was raped by a man she knew. But Vincent doesnt label the encounter as such in the prose. It was very important to me as I was making decisions about how to tell the story to tell it in the voice of the girl who was experiencing it as she was experiencing it. It was really an evolution of voice, Vincent said of her decision to not use rape to describe that experience. And as I was going through that experience, I did not think that was rape. I thought rape only occurred if you were in a dark alley and being held down by four men and being raped as you screamed and shouted.
You can chalk this naiveté up to her sheltered religious upbringing, but as recent news stories demonstrate, its not just Orthodox women (and men) who have this misconception about rape. From young women in high school all the way up to Republican lawmakers to the U.S. military, many still believe that dark alley stranger rape is the only real kind of rape. (Im looking at you, Todd legitimate rape Akin.)
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Another commonality that the ex-religious share with many feminists is the experience of being gas lighted. Those that have left the Orthodox community are often labeled as crazy or mentally ill by the ones who remain in the fold. Vincents own father, when interviewed about the forthcoming memoir, has labeled her this way.
It really fucks with your sense of self and your ability to trust yourself when the person you respect most in the world telling you that youre crazy and youre a liar. You cant help but doubt yourself in a very serious way, she said of the accusations leveled at her.
It took Vincent a long time, years even, to shake the feeling that she was corrupted and didnt deserve happiness. Long after she had dropped the external markers of religiosityher modest clothes and dietary restrictionsshe still judged her actions based off of the standards with which she was raised.
Even though I put on pants and was having sex with people, it doesnt meant that my brain bounced back into normal, un-fundamentalist religion shape, she said.
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Progress, whether its on a personal or movement level, is rarely perfectly linear. To paraphrase Paula Abdul and MC Skat KatTwo steps forward, two steps back. Or something like that.
But thats part of the victory for Vincentbeing able to see and appreciate gray when she had been taught to think exclusively in black and white. Though she knows its not exactly feminist, she spends most of the book bouncing from one man to the next, hoping that one of them can set her straight and put her on a path, whether its towards marriage, motherhood, or a career.
I think the idea is still in my brain today... Vincent observed, I think its in a lot of womens brainsthat the men in their lives can save them on some level. But now I have a much larger idea that lives alongside that one, that I can save myself and that I have saved myself.