This week, the internet erupted in chatter and condemnation of Brock Turner, a champion swimmer from Stanford University who was convicted of raping an unconscious woman after a party. The judge, disgustingly, ruled that this young man–this rapist–will be serving less than six months in jail.
This is not justice. Not for the victim. Not for women anywhere.
After the ruling came out, the victim released a brutally honest statement to her perpetrator. I came across this on Facebook, as I was scrolling through, and I soon found myself pulled into her story, with tears streaming down my face, aching for her and the injustice of the entire situation.
Sexual assault. It happens. Unfortunately, it happens far too often and, as women, we are often taught that we cannot speak out and share the terrible things that happened to US…because there is so often judgement about what we “could have done” to stop it.
Twice in my life, I have been sexually assaulted. I read once that children who have been sexually abused are more likely to be sexually assaulted as adults. For me, unfortunately, this is a truth.
For years, I told no one about what happened to me when I was six years old. It was not until I entered therapy in March that I finally said the words out loud. Well…that is a lie. I actually could not, at first, say the words at all. I wrote them down and handed them to my therapist, making sure to avoid any and all eye contact.
I still do not like to say the words. And, while I was not raped as a young child (thank god) I was touched in places I did not know even existed (if you get the picture) and I have very vivid memories of asking this grown man–this family friend–to stop, please…because he was hurting me.
I learned then that he didn’t have to listen. My words did not carry the power to make him stop and, at six, I had no other power to make that happen.
I told no one…no one what happened to me. I knew, even then, that I should feel ashamed. That I let something wrong happen.
Fast forward 12 years.
I am 18, just about to turn 19. I have just had my heart utterly and completely broken by my first love…my first everything. In an attempt to make me feel better, my brother introduces me to a friend of his. He is six years older, and not at all my “usual” type. My mom, however, encourages this…she says he is “So cute!” and it would be good for me to “stop moping around.”
The “relationship” (if you can call it that) began while I was still away at college. I did not meet this guy (let’s call him J), but we began to have occasional phone conversations. I knew, from the first conversation, that he made me feel uncomfortable. But there were so many elements in play.
I was worried that, after losing the first person I really loved and cared about, no one would ever want me or love me the same way. I feared there was something wrong with me. That happens to a girl when the one she loves toys with her emotions for too long and, unfortunately, that is what happened with this first boyfriend–he broke up with a very shocked me…and he came back several times, even asking me to keep it a secret a few times. My self-confidence was absolutely shot. I desperately missed him, and desperately wanted to know that I would not be alone forever.
So, cue these uncomfortable and somewhat bawdy conversations with the construction worker named J.
I moved home over Christmas break to attend a college closer to home and get the hell away from the first boyfriend who royally screwed me up. The very first night home, J called me and invited me over to his house.
I was nervous!! I was not at all the kind of girl that felt comfortable meeting a stranger, especially at his own house. However, he was my brother’s friend…and he was approved by my own mother.
….How bad could it be?
I nervously arrived at his house and knocked on the door. He opened it and immediately raised his eyebrows in appreciation. I felt simultaneously flattered and uncomfortable–like a piece of meat. I noticed that he was very good looking and wondered to myself…”Hmm..why would a guy like that want a girl like me?”
He invited me in and we started to watch a movie. Before I knew it, there was a lot less watching and a lot more making out happening. To this day, I can remember the moments like they happened in slow motion…I was sitting there, telling myself that it was okay to make out with this guy I barely knew..it was an experience. It was just some fun, right?
The next thing I know, J begins to remove parts of my outfit. This is where I slam on the breaks. “Wait!” I say. “This is too fast for me…”
He did not listen. Instead, he began to tell me how hot I was…how I was the sexiest girl he had “been with.”
Again, I said, “Please…I’m not ready for that.”
He didn’t listen.
In my mind–my feminist mind–I always assumed it would be easy to kick a guy in the nuts and run out of the room. In reality, my fear overtook me.
My mind began to swirl. How did I get here? I don’t want to be here! This is not who I want to be with.
I was scared. Scared of what was happening, and scared of being able to say or do anything more because I might be seen as a bitch or something worse (though why I would care is the most frustrating part).
As J forced my hands down to my sides and prepared to do the unthinkable, I managed to squeeze out a bit of logic…”Wait! If you have to do this, can you at least use protection?”
That seemed to be the permission he needed. Did he listen to me? Of course not!! But he did “do this.”
I felt myself leave the situation and go somewhere else. This was not happening to me. It couldn’t be happening to me.
Then, his shoulder butted hard into my chin, and I opened my eyes and slammed back into reality. I saw this body that I did not recognize and did not want on me.
The tears started.
J finished and looked down to see me crying.
“Oh yeah…” (insert cocky ass laughing here) “I rocked your world, didn’t I?”
He got up and lit a cigarette (yuck) and I scrambled into a sitting position and grabbed my clothes. “I don’t feel good…” I said. I dressed as quickly as I could and left.
I got to my car and locked the doors. I was alone. And safe. I think.
It was 1 in the morning, but I called my best friend, B. Through my sobs, I chokingly told her what happened. “What should I do?” I asked. “Should I go to the emergency room?”
I wanted to. I wanted to go to the ER. I wanted to tell the cops what happened. That’s what I would have made any other girl do. But, in my head, I felt like I had made all the mistakes tonight. Plus, if I went to the ER, my parents’ insurance would be billed and they would know. My mom approved of this guy. This was my brother’s friend. How could I tell them what had happened and trust them to understand or believe me?
I went to his house.
I froze and did not fight back.
I gave him “permission.”
This was my fault…wasn’t it?
The next day, I tried to be “okay.” I was in the car with my mother when she asked, “How was your date with J?”
Here was my opening…I opened my mouth and took a deep breath, steeling myself…
“He is such a Greek god, isn’t he?” She sighed.
I closed my mouth. No. I could not share.
I lived with the guilt and the blame for far too long.
But I am choosing to live with it no more.
I said no. They did not listen. They did not respect me or my bodily integrity. Something terrible happened.
But it is not MY fault.
….it is not my fault.