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Friday, November 27, 2020

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Summer session II had started up, and we were overwhelmed with chemistry work and labs. The concert became a bright spot, a reprieve I looked forward to. The concert went surprisingly well. The singer was spectacular and I enjoyed myself. During the concert, he told me he liked somebody else and I breathed a sigh of relief. I chalked up all of his previous actions to the flirting of an inexperienced boy.

On the way home though, things took a turn. We stopped for food. On the way back to the car, he locked me out. I banged on the window, but he told me I had to dance to get back in. The lot was filled with truckers taking a rest stop, and I was hugely embarrassed.

Driving back to Chapel Hill, a Lady Gaga song came on. He told me he liked her music, but didn’t like what she stood for because homosexuality was a choice. He then proceeded to tell me that he wanted to marry somebody like the lead singer of The Band Perry because she was a virgin and girls today were “slutty whores.” I stayed silent and hoped we were close to home.

We finally reached Chapel Hill. I was staying in Everett for the summer, but Raleigh Street was under construction. He mistakenly went down the road, only to find that it was blocked. I told him that if he could turn around, I would walk from Spencer parking lot. He pulled in and shut off the car.

I thanked him for taking me and hugged him good night. When I pulled away, he told me to wait a minute. At this point, he hops over the console and pulls me into his lap. I was shocked, but not enough to run screaming out the door. His face was so close to mine, and I turned away. He told me he wasn’t going to kiss me because I had mono, didn’t I remember? He started to rub my legs and now I was becoming alarmed. He trailed his hands up my legs and up my skirt and grabbed my underwear. I jolted away, and he said he wasn’t going to do anything, as if offended by my reaction. I remember at some point saying that it was wrong, that he liked somebody else. He told me she had a boyfriend. I lurched for the door, and desperately he told me to straddle him. I lunged out, and he asked from the open car door if I would be around that weekend to work on chemistry.

I walked back to my dorm, but before I could even open the door I was assaulted by a series of texts.

12:12 AM: “I’m sorry about that. It won’t ever happen again. I feel terrible.”
12:16 AM: “Like that was impulses and lust. I’m sorry I like you as a friend but my guy mind takes control every now and the. That wasn’t supposed to happen.”
12:16 AM: “Please forgive me for it.”
12:23 AM: “And I’m guessing you’re probably asleep. So I’ll just see you tomorrow or something.”
12:25 AM: “ But text me back tonight if you can. That way I won’t be worrying if you’re mad at me or not.”

I didn’t quite know what had just happened. Was it just the mistake of an overly eager guy? Was I overreacting by being frightened? I brushed my teeth and before I went to bed, I decided to send a conciliatory text. For all I knew, he could be obsessive, chemically imbalanced, and capable of physical harm.

12: 40 AM: “Hey, I’m up, I’m just getting ready for bed. I forgive you. I was just confused because you said you liked somebody else and I thought we were friends.”
12:45 AM: “Yeah we are only just friends. I promise I’m not a bad guy. I just get trapped by lust every now and then. And I hate it. I do like someone else but it’s pretty much a waste for me to like them. But I’m really sorry, it was wrong against you and against me. It will not happen again, I assure you.”
12:49 AM: “I believe you. I know you’re not a bad person and I had a really great time tonight but I don’t like feeling like a piece of ass and I think I earned more respect than that.”
12:51 AM: “Yeah, that’s why I feel bad. You’re not just another piece. I haven’t ever had any pieces. I disrespected you and hopefully the concert kinda makes up for it.”

After this occurrence, the person in question texted me a few more times. I never responded. If by chance we met on campus, he acted as if we were best friends. I removed all forms of communications from him.

I spent so long after that feeling ashamed of myself. I was, after all, a level headed eighteen- year-old. I was never guy crazy – I didn’t fall over myself to meet anyone, or pretend I was one of the boys. I could usually tell the bad ones. So how did I not see this? How did I not connect the dots? I should have known better.

And then it finally occurred to me that he should have known better. It is not my duty to walk around afraid, hedging bets on which guy will grope me first, on whom I can trust to be alone with in a motor vehicle, with whom can I eat lunch without them feeling as if I owe them. It is not up to me to refrain from wearing skirts. I should not need to size up each male I meet on their potential to harm me. I said I was confused when really I was outraged. Concerts are not free passes to sexually assault your company. And nothing makes up for it.


Friday, October 4, 2013

It happened over a year ago. 

It took another month to realize I had been raped, another 3 months to begin processing it. That’s nothing compared to 8 months before I could talk to anyone about it.


Because my rape wasn’t violent, it wasn’t a stranger. It was a night in a college dorm room where I wasn’t heard when I said no, I was too scared to make noise and attract any attention. To have to explain how I got into this situation, a night where everything happened too fast to react to before it was over.


“You don’t want this to end here, do you?” 


But I did.


I hate that I didn’t say more, louder, fight back. I hate that I kept it to myself for eight months because I was too ashamed to go to anyone, too scared to talk about it, because once it’s aloud, it’s real. I hate that I didn’t have the courage to confront him, to tell him that I consider him a rapist when he probably sees me as “that Bitch that led him on.”


He contacted me for half a year afterwards. That’s half a year to confront him about that night. Six months of chances I didn’t take. It’s a full year for him to do this to someone else. That’s hard to get over, I’m not sure I ever will.


That night in Fall 2012 taught me how dangerous the world is. It’s the night that causes me to walk at night with a can of pepper spray in one hand and my keys Wolverined in the other. Even though if I were really in a serious situation, neither of these will be of much use. At least now I can even walk alone from Morrison to Davis at 8 pm on a well lit street without inducing a full on panic attack.


That night has made me so paranoid about my surroundings that when I had the opportunity to spend 3.5 weeks in Bangkok, the number one tourist destination in the world, I spent a total of 5 nights out of the dorms past 10. Of which only two were spent in the actual city. Because Bangkok might be a tourist hotspot, but it’s also #1 in sex trafficking, a threat that all of a sudden seems much more tangible.


There are nights I wake up in a panic wondering if what I had experienced was really rape or if it’s a sick, desperate, ploy for attention. That the identity that has been forced upon me, the one that I’ve been slaving away to accept is completely artificial. Because no matter how many times I remind myself that mainstream media’s definition of rape is limited, that bruises and scars aren’t necessary to be violated, it doesn’t stick. 


I’ve lost friends because of this. Friends that I loved for years that couldn’t understand what I went through and why all of a sudden I acted so differently. Friends that simply didn’t want to hear it.


But I’ve also become so much closer to many other people. People willing to buy pregnancy tests at 8 on a Wednesday morning to help me deal with my paranoia, Friends that were okay with me showing up at their door unannounced and sitting in their rooms for hours without any explanation. People who still sit me down and remind me constantly that it wasn’t my fault, that I’m worth something, friends that insist on walking me home even though it’ll add an extra twenty minutes to their own commute. 


Many terrible things happened that night in Fall 2012, but I’m sick of obsessing over them. Sick of the nervous ticks that appear every time I try to tell this story, the fear that I’ll be rejected for what has happened to me. 


I’m done with it. I’m done being a victim. I’m tired of living in fear of a memory and an overactive imagination that has constructed each and every way I can be taken advantaged of. I’m fortunate enough to have the support of some of the beautiful people in the world, and this really strange sense of empowerment, the knowledge that I can face anything because I’ve already been through one of the most terrifying things that can happen to a person. I’ve seen evidence of my own healing. The anxiety isn’t nearly as bad as before. I’m learning to control it. Fall 2012 is a sick place to draw strength from, but better me than him. It’s been a year. I’m ready for change. 
I honestly have no idea when the molestation started but I didn't realize what was happening until I was in High School. I remember always noticing something was off, like my closet light being on when I woke up in the morning and knowing that it wasn't on when I went to sleep. Then I would wake up and he would be in my room just staring at me. I would tell my mom about it and she would talk to him about it. I noticed a hole in my shower that could be peered in to. Then one night I woke up to him pulling the covers off of me and I knew. I knew that everything I had been feeling in my gut was right, I finally had the proof I needed. I went to my mom and other people who I felt were supposed to protect me. My mom said that he had denied it so vehemently that I must have dreamed it.
After that I couldn't sleep. I swear that if someone so much as touched my doorknob I would wake up. It got to where I couldn't handle people touching me, even a pat on the arm would freak me out. I would sleep under my sheets with them safety pinned to the bed around me so that there was no way he could touch me. I begged and begged my mom for a new door knob that locked and for my birthday one year I finally got it. I started to feel safe again. I could sleep through the night. Then I noticed the lock pin missing from my door. So I started using the handle of a small paint brush to lock my door. I didn’t realize how good he was at picking locks. I woke up to him grabbing me, I yelled and started crying. 
He tried to comfort me.
I asked him why he did it.
He told me I had a nightmare.
My mom came in. 
The next day I came home from school with a deadbolt on my door. I cried. I cried with a relief that I cannot describe.
And I slept.
Though knowing that I was safe, I feared for future girls, future victims. I wondered at what my responsibility was to these nameless girls who did not yet exist, but could. I felt that I could not get my true justice, being that my own attacker was a member of my family. A family that I was unwilling to test and see on whose side they would stand. My biggest fear is that he would be able to take all that was good from me. 
I am lucky that shortly after I left home my abuser was arrested for a victimless crime and is now a registered sex offender. Now he will be required to let people know who his truly is and what he is capable of wherever he goes. 
So now my work begins on the other parts of me he twisted. I wish I could say he was the only one who twisted me, but that would be a lie as there has been another since. I have to learn to trust people. I have to develop a comfort with my sexuality instead of fear. I have to learn to not be afraid of what is in the dark. But I do know that I never wanted or asked for any abuse I have received, just as no woman ever has. We are not just the victims of these abusers; we are the victims of a society that perpetuates a dialogue that females should be on constant guard from every possible threat, even while sleeping and that if something happens then we didn’t have a good enough guard up. We are victims of a society that perpetuates sex as a valuable rite of passage for manhood and as a woman’s disgrace. 
I pray that one day I can walk down the street without purposefully avoiding groups of men and that one day catcalls won’t make me want to vomit. I pray that one day everyone will truly understand the damage done through sexual abuse. Whether that abuse is violent, brief, seemingly gentle or lasts for years, it is abuse and will take much longer to recover from than the time it took to inflict it.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

I’ve been thinking about what men I identify as perpetrators of violence against me and what the process of identifying them as such entails. For a long time I identified one man, the most obvious, as my perpetrator, identifying him as such made sense because of the extent of his violence, and it took me just a couple months after breaking up with him to admit to myself in full what he had done and what I had understood was going on for around a year—rape, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and verbal abuse. The year after leaving him- the only “romantic” partner I’d ever been with- consisted of vulnerable, damaged, lost me trying to find my way, to gain control over my body, to find happiness and myself somewhere. And looking back, to my horror, I am faced with a handful of other men who I met after I left my “main perpetrator” who fit the same category—maybe “perpetrator,” maybe not, but regardless men who have seen my body as a field for conquest ripe for the taking, who have looked at me and seen not a human being with feelings and a history and passion and a hell of a lot of drive, but a little girl who they want to fuck who dare not challenge their right to her body.

I went to a club with a couple girlfriends and a man came up to me and started hitting on me. He was slurring and whispering in my ear. I couldn’t understand him because he was so drunk. He looked like he might have been in his mid 20s. I was 18. He asked me for my number and when I told him I didn’t give it out he got angry and kept insisting, so I gave it to him. He texted me constantly for the next week. He told me I was beautiful, the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen, and that he loved me. I was mortified and got sick to my stomach. I didn’t know how to make him stop. He sent me pictures of himself masturbating and told me that he wanted to tie me up and masturbate to the sounds of me struggling to get free. He told me to come have a sleepover with him. I told him he sounded like a rapist and that I didn’t want to talk to him. He threatened to drive to me and find me. I was horrified, but I knew he didn’t know where I lived. Finally, when I stopped protesting, when I stopped responding, he stopped contacting me. 

I’ve never told this to anyone. How could I? It was my fault. I gave him my number. I shouldn’t have ever texted him back. I should have told him I was calling the police. But I didn’t. It was all my fault. The amount of shame and guilt I feel by even writing this story down is enough to keep me glued in my bed, to make me cry, to make me wonder how, even after being raped more times than I can remember by a man I trusted, I gave another man access to me who wanted to do the same thing.

Another night, another club, this time in [______]. I’m with another abusive man and his girlfriend. A stranger gives me [a drug] and I take it because he’s with his girlfriend and therefore has no incentive to drug and rape me. I start hanging out with a girl who I think is cute. She’s nice and we talk and stand around and smoke together. Then a man comes up to me and starts hitting on me. He says I’m the most beautiful girl there that night, he says he wants to dance with me. He offers me some white powder he says is molly but I’m skeptical because he’s with his brother and neither of them will leave me alone, keep following me everywhere I walk. I say no thanks and he gets mad, says “How dare you think I’m gonna drug you,” he gets offended but won’t leave me alone. He follows me around all night. The other girl says he’s cute, you should hang out with him. But I don’t want to, and I think she’s cute, not him, but he keeps following me and won’t leave me alone. I am so mad because I want to dance and have fun without this guy bothering me and making me uncomfortable and scared. He asks me for my number, he says that I should go back with him. I say no. He says if I give him my number he will leave me alone to hang out with my friends. I give him my number and he walks away and immediately texts me, he says I’m beautiful and sexy and he wants to take me back to his hotel. He walks by with an opened bottle of something and offers it to me. I don’t drink it because I think he’s probably put the white powder he showed me earlier in it. He gets offended again.


I’m at a party in an apartment on campus. Everyone is really drunk. I’m about at black out level and I’m crying about something or another. A guy I recognize comes up to me and takes my hand. I’m getting ready to leave the party and walk home. He takes my hand and tries to lead me to a bedroom a few feet away. My friend says “She’s too drunk!” and takes me out the door.


Walking down Franklin Street, arms full of grocery bags. Man on the street: “Need any help with that, sugar?” “No, I’m good.” “I bet you are.” Laughter.


None of this is as bad as being raped every couple days. None of this is that bad at all. It should be expected when you’re a girl, and I should know better than to put myself in such dangerous situations. That’s why these men aren’t perpetrators.



Enter the first man I had “consensual” sex with. Looking back, I know that right after coming out of a year of sexual and emotional abuse I was in no way ready or prepared to give full/true consent to sex, but because I did consent, it wasn’t rape (and truly, even though the man turned out to be violent emotionally and verbally, it was nothing like rape). I couldn’t believe this guy liked me. My abusive boyfriend told me I was ugly, that I shouldn’t wear too much makeup because it made me look slutty, that my clothes were outrageous, so I just wore jeans and t-shirts most of the time. But I wasn’t dating him anymore—I had left him because of the abuse—and this new guy, this guy who is actually attractive and has somewhat functional social skills actually likes me?! It was crazy. I couldn’t believe it. So when he made it clear he wanted to have sex, I was game. And that went on for a while, even though he called me a slut, even though he made fun of me and used me and treated me like shit and made rape jokes and treated my history as a rape survivor as nothing serious. But then I found out he had a girlfriend, and when I was honest with her about what he’d been doing (he was sleeping with a bunch of other women too), he lost it. He threatened me. He sent me hundreds of angry text messages, saying the worst things imaginable—things so similar to what my rapist had said to me. Saying I was worthless and a slut and that I was a terrible person, all because I refused to lie about what he had done. Because I dared challenge his power. I dared to defy him. He told me he hoped my rapist found a way to hurt me. 


How could I let it happen to me again? What is it about me? Is there something about me that makes me a target for these men? Am I ugly and therefore an easy target? Am I beautiful and therefore have to deal with men trying to get a piece of me? Or is this normal? Does this happen to every woman and we’re all just afraid to talk about it? Was I a slut, like they said I was? Was I wrong to be honest about the types of men they were—to call them out on what they did? 


I wish I knew the answer.