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Break the silence that surrounds sexual assault, sexual harassment, interpersonal violence, relationship abuse, stalking, hate crimes, and identity-based violence. Share your story here on our anonymous blog.

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Because this blog features stories of interpersonal and sexual violence, we offer this *content warning* as a way of caution. We also ask that you do not reproduce any of the content below, as the authors of these personal stories are anonymous, and cannot give consent for their stories to appear anywhere other than this blog or at a Project Dinah-led SpeakOut event.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I’ve tried to decide how to say this a hundred times, thinking I can put it in delicate terms, trying not to sound like I’m victim-blaming, trying to mask the details to protect my privacy and the privacy of those involved. Maybe I keep rewriting my story because I’m ashamed to say too much. Or maybe I’m scared of rejection. Even if I accept this version of events, I don’t know if anyone else will. Saying the words out loud is difficult, and I’ve only said them this way to one person –the person I trust most in the world. Is she the only one who will believe me? I guess I can’t know until I submit my story to someone else. Tonight, I’m submitting it to you.

I was sexually assaulted.

If circumstances had been a shade different, I really do think my assaulter would have raped me.

Maybe I have trouble communicating this fact because it took me a long time to realize that this is, in fact, what happened. I was assaulted. I still doubt it, at times. Am I allowed to use that word if we hooked up later? Am I making things up to justify my anxiety? We don’t talk much anymore. Does that mean I feel bitter? Am I crazy? People say horrible, unforgivable things about women who speak out: she wants revenge, she wants to deflect blame, she’s vindictive, she wants attention. She was asking for it, anyway. What if people say that about me? What if no one believes me but me?

I know I made irresponsible choices. I was incredibly, appallingly naïve. I was with someone who amounted to a stranger. I got drunk. I was unclear about my wants. Alcohol can make that difficult. (You know you can’t legally consent under the influence? When I learned that, I felt sick.) I won’t say my behavior matched what I desired. I’ll never know what would have happened if I had been sober. But here’s what matters: when he began to kiss and touch me, he never asked for an invitation. He just did it. It shocked me. Maybe my panic played into my submission. I was like a deer in headlights. I never knew if he would have cared had I said I felt afraid. When someone physically drags you anywhere, you can assume he isn’t thinking about your wellbeing.

I remember the objective details. I remember sensations and images. What’s foggy is how I felt at the time. I know I was aroused (I had a crush on the guy), but that’s not an indicator of assent. I know that I agreed to hook up, but only because I thought I would be a killjoy otherwise. In retrospect, frankly, I think that’s pretty fucking stupid. It sounds so harsh to say that. I think I’m angry at myself. Theoretically, I know that the victim is not to blame, and somehow I can accept that as incontrovertible truth in every other situation… but when it comes to my own victimhood, I feel like I coerced myself. If I was afraid, I should have gotten out of there. I shouldn’t have cared about hurting anyone’s feelings. I should have been stronger. I should have said something. I hold myself to such high standards… I really disappointed myself that night. I hate knowing, and not being able to change the fact, that I said yes when the last rational of my mind was screaming NO.

No, no, no. How I wish I would have said no. How easy would that have been? I wish I would have slept alone. God! What was wrong with me? I broke every rule in every pamphlet I’ve ever read about how to prevent sexual violence. Does it surprise you to know that I’m afraid to claim I was assaulted?

Still… that memory sticks in my mind, of being grabbed and pulled, of being too messed up to protest or realize that, in a different context, that man’s behavior would have been deplorable. I won’t say I behaved like a saint, but after that many shots, I could hardly be said to have had control over my actions. I certainly didn’t ask him to manhandle me like that. I couldn’t give consent, even to what happened later, even if I mouthed words and behaved in ways that closely resembled it. If I had wanted to do it, would I have spent an hour alone, in tears, once I sobered up and got home the next morning? Where do you draw the line between trauma and regret?

If you sign a contract when you’ve been drinking, it’s invalid. The law forbids an intoxicated person to operate a vehicle. You might not be at all interested in that contract if you’re sober. When people drive drunk, they often get hurt. I don’t want my story to be a public ad against alcohol (‘cause, hey, I like it, too), or sex, or even hooking up. All those things are fine if you engage in them responsibly, with clear consent and communication, with full knowledge of what you’re doing –in other words, I don’t recommend mixing the first with the other two. But if you’re completely debilitated, like I was, you are vulnerable. In no way does it excuse what people do to you, but it makes it likelier that someone might hurt you. Of course, sexual violence occurs in the absence of alcohol. It happens every day. But statistics show alcohol isn’t helping anyone. I know it played a big role in what happened to me, maybe the biggest role of all.

I waited until the last minute to submit my story, because up until the last minute I couldn’t see how it fit with the others. In the others, lines between victim and attacker were unambiguous. I was afraid people wouldn’t accept mine, because I don’t know if I accept it. I don’t know if I’m responsible for my own destruction. I made so many terrible choices. But maybe I blame myself because I’m still afraid to blame the man who hurt me. I’ve spent so long being afraid of him –and feeling unable to communicate that fear. Really, I can’t begin to address these questions. In the end, I decided to share my experiences anyway. I don’t want someone else to experience this same, excruciating uncertainty. I think my uncertainty in itself should be exposed. I’ve since learned it is a common feeling for survivors. So if you feel this way, I want you to know you’re not alone. If you don’t, and never have, I want you to know how lucky you are.

I don’t know how what was supposed to be a declaration of defiance and self-determination became a quiet plea to you to protect yourself, or to find help if someone has hurt you; but I hope you can see why I’ve spent the last six months in a constant state of frustration and fear, why I still don’t know how to qualify what happened to me, and why, no matter how you define my experience, I feel like I have to share it. It taught me how easy it is to become that woman. One in four. I didn’t think I would be her. I thought I knew all about how to protect myself… but I still wound up in a dangerous place. And I don’t want it to happen to you. I never want it to happen to you, because I love you. Whoever you are, however you’re hearing this, wherever you are in life. I love you. Please be safe.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I find it easy to be critical of myself too. I run through some of the details of the night a guy sexually assaulted me, and I pinpoint different things I should have, could have done. And then I beat myself down for it. I don't spend NEARLY as much time being critical of HIM for what HE did to me.

Thank you for sharing your story. It's good to include a variety of stories on here so we show that rape and sexual assault come in a variety of forms and circumstances.

And I love you too. Stay safe :)

Anonymous said...

Reading your story, I thought it could have been my own. Thank you.