**TRIGGER WARNING** If you are triggered by stories, accounts, and/or details about or involving sexual assault, rape, or sexual harassment please DO NOT continue to read.
I was inspired by Jackie Brown's (@jackienotjacyln) blog post about her experience with sexual assault. I want to share mine. I honestly had suppressed the experience so well that I didn't even really identify with it. Even when I told this story to the few people that know, it was just "that one time I put myself in a situation where something really bad could have happened." Could it have been worse? Definitely. Could it have been avoided? I don't know...prolonged...possibly. The only people that know about it before now was one my best friends, my sister (years afterward), and one of my exes. In light of the current and continued news surrounding Bill Cosby and other cases where prominent men have been accused (most not convicted) of rape or sexual assault/harassment on some level, I am sharing my experience to provide another much needed voice. Despite what you may think, these women are not some far off strangers from decades ago...the victims of sexual assault are your mothers, sisters, aunts, best friends, cousins, nieces...every day women that you claim to love and would never want anything bad to happen to.
Now just for clarification, as defined by Merriam-Webster:
Definition of Sexual Assault
: illegal sexual contact that usually involves force upon a person without consent or is inflicted upon a person who is incapable of giving consent (as because of age or physical or mental incapacity) or who places the assailant (such as a doctor) in a position of trust or authority
Definition of Sexual Harassment
: uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature especially by a person in authority toward a subordinate (such as an employee or student)
Definition of Rape
1: unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against a person's will or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent because of mental illness, mental deficiency, intoxication, unconsciousness, or deception — compare SEXUAL ASSAULT, STATUTORY RAPE
I want to start this story by saying: I am not a victim. I was not raised to be a victim and I will never let ANY experience I have define who I am or how I view myself. I believe that this mentality, one that was instilled in me at a very early age, kept me from an experience that could have been much more traumatic than the one I am about to share with you.
I was a senior in college when this happened. I had ended an almost 2 1/2 year relationship with my boyfriend at the time and frankly I was lost. Newly single after spending the majority of my college experience attached to someone else...looking back, to say my sense of self and identity was a little shook might be an understatement.
I received a Facebook message one day from a fairly well known guy around campus (he had already graduated). He was well known because he was an athlete and he literally tried to talk to every girl on campus. He wanted to meet up for lunch. I was eery, but he now talked a lot about his new found relationship and commitment to Christ and going to church and how that had changed him for the better. I believe that people can change. I believed him. We met up at Newks Cafe and talked for few hours, mostly about God and our future plans etc. It was nice. Our next date, later that week was downtown near the bridge. We walked and talked about life, relationships, religion etc for hours. Maybe he really wasn't the promiscuous person I had heard stories about anymore.
Our third date he came over to my apartment for dinner and we watched a movie. It had gotten pretty late and he asked me if he could stay over since he lived about 20 min away. Something in my gut told me that I should say no, but I didn't. I didn't want him to think I was being dramatic or trying to hold his past against him. He stayed the night and absolutely nothing happened. We hadn't talked about sex, hadn't sexted, held hands, kissed, touched, hadn't had any type of sexual innuendo at all. He faced the other direction in the bed, didn't try to kiss me, touch me, spoon me...nothing. I was so relieved and if I'm being honest...pleasantly surprised...maybe he really had turned a new leaf.
The next night he came over (a few days later) he asked if he could spend the night again. I said okay. I felt like he understood where I stood and respected me because of how much of a gentleman he was the first night and just everything we had talked about. Everything went as it did the first night, we got in the bed, he didn't try to kiss me or touch me inappropriately...nothing. He did put his arm around my waist and slightly spoon me. We laid there. After some time had passed, his hand started to wander. First just on my hip. then lower. I moved his hand and hopped out of the bed. In the dark I walked to the restroom. My heart was beating in my ears. This was the moment I had been dreading. I stood there long enough to let my heart rate calm and then turned back to walk to my room to ask him to leave. I walked to edge of the bed (in the dark) and before I could get a word out he grabbed my left wrist and yanked me on to the bed. I tried to get up but he would not let me up. I told him to stop...silence. He had adjusted his body to where he was kneeling next to me while pinning my wrist to the bed. It was then that I realized that he was completely naked. This wasn't a game. We weren't play fighting. While I was in the restroom he had taken off all of his clothes.
It was at this moment that fear swept over me. I yanked my arm loose from his and jumped out of the bed as fast as I could. Before I could get my back leg off of the bed I felt his large hand grab a handful of my hair and snatch my head backwards. My body slammed back into the bed. He now had both of my wrists pinned down on the bed as he straddled me. I asked him to stop, repeatedly, struggled to get up and he said nothing. He just applied more pressure to my wrists, peering over me. I could sense the feeling of dominance, even arrogance, on him. I had seen this one too many times in movies, read about it one too many times in articles...I knew what was going to happen next. It was at that moment that I decided that that wasn't going to be my story...and the struggle ensued. All of this felt like it lasted hours but I know it couldn't have lasted longer than 10 minutes total.
I was somehow able to pull my knees to my chest and place my feet on his lower chest/upper abdomen. I used every ounce of strength I had and kicked him as far back as I could with my feet. It was enough to send him falling backwards and almost completely off the edge of the bed. I jumped up, with no clue where my phone or keys were, I ran to the kitchen and grabbed the biggest butcher knife I could find. I didn't run. I could have run. I probably should have run, but I didn't. He didn't chase me. I think it was at this point he realized that I was not some weak girl, this would not be an easy feat. My fear quickly turned to fury. I walked back to the threshold of my bedroom door, holding the knife at my side. I didn't want to make him any more aggressive or defensive...or aware. After all, I didn't know what he had in his overnight bag...at this point I realized that I had no fucking clue who he really was or what he was capable of. If it was going down like this, he wasn't going see it coming. I flipped on the switch and as calmly as I could, I told him he had a certain number of seconds (I don't remember how many) to get the fuck out of my house. I walked into the living room, sat on the couch, and started to count. He quickly gathered up his belongings and rushed out of the door without so much as glance my direction.
As soon as the door closed, I quickly locked both locks, and burst into tears. I called my best friend and told him what happened. I was honestly in utter disbelief. This isn't the kind of stuff that happens to me. How could I be so stupid? The next day was kind of a haze. I should report him! Should I report him? Will they believe me? Will they blame me? Why was he spending the night with me if I had only hung out with him a few times starting a week and a half ago? He didn't actually rape me so no one will care! What if he says I came on to him? What if they make it a huge deal and my coaches find out...my family!? What will they think? Why would I even put myself in that position?
I didn't report him. I was honestly just thankful that I got out of that situation without actually being raped. I didn't want everyone to know. I really just wanted to pretend like it never happened. I counted my blessings, deleted his number, and decided to just move on. Then my phone rang. I picked up and heard his voice and immediately felt my blood pressure rise. The first thing he said was, "how was your day and why haven't you called me!?" He was noticeably frustrated. Literally, like nothing had happened. He genuinely sounded confused...like it was just another day. I told him he needed fucking help and I figured out how to block his number. I should have reported him, but in my head it was too late. Too much time had passed. People would wonder why I waited so long. They would question my credibility. It was too late. If I had listened to my gut, this wouldn't have happened in the first place.
There was something in my gut that new better, that told me better...when I decided to ignore that, in my opinion, I failed myself. The only person I had control over was me. My heart knew his nature. My gut new his nature. Why didn't I listen? Why did I choose to believe that he was not exactly who I knew he was. Why did I fall for the bullshit. It did not give him the right to do what he did, I know that. However, by not listening to and trusting that spirit in me, I gave him way more power and control over my safety and my future than he deserved. I know that, too. I know there is an ultra fine line here where people teeter into victim blaming. That is not what I am doing. I chose to assume more responsibility than I had to and really take an honest look at how I could have avoided MY particular situation. I wasn't going to give him the kind of power he wanted. I wasn't going allow him to make me any smaller than he already had. Allowing myself to sit with that and understand the truth in that helped me to move forward. I decided to count my blessings and use that experience as a lesson.
Truthfully, I was one of those "why would you wait 40 years to come out about an assault?" I felt like I had pushed the incident to the back of my mind and if I really wanted justice I would have reported him immediately. I felt this way until I actually saw the man who assaulted me more times than I would like to think about in the last 6 or 7 months. Once in the neighborhood Walmart, and again working out at a gym in an apartment complex around the corner from my now old complex, and again walking his dog. Each time my heart began to beat uncontrollably, my breathing quickened, my fists began to tighten. Physiologically, it was like being back there that night. You may suppress the memory, but your body remembers. Can you imagine for a second seeing you assailant years after an assault or rape when all you want to do is delete that memory from your mind! What are the chances? What are the fucking chances. I can't imagine seeing that person on TV day in and day out or at work day in and day out. It would probably drive me crazy.
I understand my story is not every woman's story. I understand that there are women who have suffered immensely more than I have and did that night. My heart aches for young girls and women that have been and are survivors of sexual assault/rape. I love you. I understand you. Even though it is difficult for me to identify myself with what happened, with those emotions, with those labels...I know that I am you.
It really doesn't matter what you teach your daughters about what not to wear, how not to act or what situations to avoid. Most of them will be too trusting. Most of them will be naive. Most of them will be lost and in search of companionship at one point or another. And most times they won't be ANY of those things. They will be little girls with bodies too innocent to even understand the violation or women who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time...and it will still fucking happen. I had to physically put my hands on a grown man at a dance club last month for repeatedly groping me on the dance floor while I danced with my homegirls and he danced with HIS GIRL...yeah...in real life.
I grew up in a very strict household, my dad is a police officer and made sure that we understood very clearly that this is a man's world and all of the tragic and traumatic things that can happen to women in it.
Me. Fucking. Too.