This is not the story of when I was raped.
Because I haven’t been raped.
I’m one of the lucky few.
This is the story of all of the times I came close, all of the times things happened to me that shouldn’t have, all of the times my gut knew that something was wrong, all of the times I wanted to say “no”, but feared doing so would result in violence.
The story EVERY SINGLE WOMAN has.
I’m not triggered because there is no incident to recall that is triggering.
But current events have me thinking about all of things we endure as women in this boys will be boys world and it’s possibly the saddest, most depressing thing to acknowledge.
If you haven’t yet, please take the time to read this piece.
When I was twenty, I hung out with a much older group of people, some seventeen years my senior. One of them had a party. I drank too much and found an empty bedroom where I went to lie down. A guy followed me in and started talking to me. He started to grope me under my shirt, but I was too out of it to do anything.
When I was twenty-five, the first New Year’s with my new boyfriend, I was invited to a high school friend’s party. I came dressed up, even though it was just a house party that most everyone else came wearing jeans. I had a green, silk skirt and an off white cardigan with a faux fur shawl attached, tied with a ribbon near the bust. As I came out of the bathroom, a group of my guy friends were standing in a semi-circle and I went up to them. One of them yanked one end of the ribbon’s bow undone, and they all laughed. I didn’t understand why they did it. But it was humiliating.
A couple of years earlier, I went to one of their Super Bowl parties. There was, unsurprisingly, a lot of drinking. As I stumbled down the hall, a guy I had dated briefly in high school and who was there with his girlfriend came up from behind me and grabbed my breasts. I didn’t say or do a thing. I remember chalking it up to him being intoxicated. I dismissed it as he was my friend and didn’t mean anything by it.
I have been in much worse scenarios where much worse could have happened. Because to be a drunk woman with a stranger in their home is an open invitation to be assaulted. As women, we are aware of these dangers and for the most part, do what we can to avoid them. It’s our behavior that’s questioned, policed, and blamed.
When we are drunk, our memories are discounted. When men are drunk, their memories are more believable. When we are drunk, our actions are the reason for the harm done to us. When they are drunk, their actions are understandable or “out of character.”
Apparently it is ALL women’s character to potentially be the victim of sexual assault. It is our misjudgment, misdeed, misunderstanding, misremembering that is at fault.
Just for being women we are punished. So when we are actually punished, when our bodies, our minds, our emotions, are abused it’s our fault.
We did this to ourselves.
When our purses or phones or identities are stolen, you investigate. When our bodies are taken from us, there is no crime, because our bodies have always been for the taking.
This is the world we live in, the one we wake up to everyday. Women are asked to forgive and forget for the sake of men’s feelings, but really for the sake of society.
This thing that’s happening right now is forcing us to think about all of the men in our lives and the things they may have done to girls or women, to recount every time a man said or did something inappropriate, to acknowledge the moments we witnessed something and did nothing. It’s opening and reopening doors into the past, shedding light and meaning on something we couldn’t quite articulate back then. The truth of it is so blinding and painful to consider and yet just another thing to pile on our backs.
As men get on their soapbox to back one another up over this type of behavior, to wonder aloud if sexually assaulting someone in high school should keep them from becoming a Supreme Court judge, the blatant victim blaming and bashing, is the exact reason this shit keeps happening.
In 1991, I kept newspaper clippings of the St. Louis Dispatch’s stories on the Anita Hill case. At twelve years old I knew she was telling the truth. I knew he did what she said. I believed her.
Time is not up and I’m tired of waiting.