Welcome to the SpeakOut! Blog

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.

To speak about an experience with any form of interpersonal violence is difficult, but it is also empowering. Breaking the silence reduces shame and helps others to speak out about their own experiences.

End the shame. Be empowered. Speak Out!

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We are holding our first fall Speak Out! in October 26th, 2016 from 7-9 pm in The Pit. For more information, check our Facebook page.

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.

Friday, April 15, 2011

My story. I have a story? Until tonight, I had no idea that I had a story. All those signs about 1 in 4 women... I wasn't one of those women. Wait. Am I?

I'm not sure how to say what happened; I'm still trying to sort that out, face my emotions, and accept that, yes, what happened was sexual assault. But I think this is a start.

My boyfriend told me it wasn't my fault. He listened to what happened, and he believed me. He really, truly believed me. And he called it sexual assault. The problem was I couldn't believe it myself. Deep down, I still felt like I had sparked the whole situation and that my boyfriend saw me as a cheater, as a slut. I kept trying to just put it behind me and let it go, but the guilt and the thoughts about what happened kept coming back.

I was reading an email for my dorm community tonight, and it had information about Project Dinah events for the month of April. I stumbled on this blog, and I started to read some of the personal accounts that other people have posted. I couldn't believe what I was reading... these were the EXACT feelings and thoughts that I was experiencing too. When my boyfriend came by, I could barely get the words out to tell him he was right. I was just so completely struck by the realization of what my experience actually was.

I want to thank all of you for sharing your stories with me and so many others. I truly admire your strength. Be proud of the steps you are taking to heal, and know that you are touching so many people through being open about your experiences. I'm not sure when I would have recognized the true nature of what I went through, but reading your accounts has put me towards the first step in getting better: acceptance.

My blue "24 Hour Rape-Free Zone" shirt is hanging over the back of my chair for me to put on in the morning. It's meaning has grown so much tonight.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

These are things some people know about me:
I like pretty dresses and wearing makeup.
My favorite pastimes are eating, talking, and dancing.
I like having a plan, but I need spontaneity.
I can be really loud and share more information than most people want to know
I trust too many people.

I trusted him that night. I trusted that he was just a kid who really believed all of the things he said to me. I trusted that when I told him about my past heartbreaks, he really cared and understood. I trusted that he knew that “no” meant “no.” After ONE time. After TWO times Even after ONE HUNDRED times.

I told people, but I treated it like just another funny story from a night out. I didn’t realize it was a problem until the definitions were on a giant screen in one of my own trainings. I never thought that I would have to use those resources. They weren’t for me. They were for those “one in four women.” Not me. I wasn’t one of THEM.

That’s when I started getting quiet.

Some people know that I can’t refer to him by name. Some people know that I can’t refer to what he did by its definitive name, or any name at all. IT just happened.

But what people don’t know is that it’s because I still believe it’s my fault. I shouldn’t have drunk so much. I shouldn’t have left with him. I shouldn’t have taken off my dress. I should have known that lying in his bed would end with him straddling me, with him stripping me of my virginity. I should have anticipated all of this.

People don’t know that I have a constant battle within myself to practice what I encourage others to believe. They don’t know that I’m still unsure of how to define what happened or if I even want to. I mean, I should know, right? Shouldn’t I have the answers? I am an educator, an advocate, and a listener. I talk about interpersonal violence, what it is and what it does to people, every day. One in four women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime—WHY DON’T I KNOW WHAT TO CALL THIS?

I’m afraid to scream about my pain because I’ll have to explain it and I can’t give it any name but that thing that happened with a boy in a room that I CHOSE to visit. I am afraid that people will think I deserved it, that all my feelings of guilt will be validated.

These are things no one knows:
I scrubbed my skin raw and cried on the shower floor the morning after it happened.
I haven’t been able to wear that dress since that night.
I take a detour to my first class to avoid passing him.
I had sex with a friend because I wanted to prove that I could be in control of my body.

I’m tired of feeling dirty, angry, scared, and ashamed. I don’t want to feel guilty and undeserving. I want to love myself again. I’m learning to trust myself again.
"We'll look back on this one day and laugh."

That's what he said to me the morning after it happened. A group of us had gone camping for the weekend. It was supposed to be relaxing, a break from the stress of our first year at college.

He was my best friend, more like my brother, really. He was always there for me, and I trusted him with everything. I knew he needed this camping trip... his girlfriend had just ended their two year relationship, and he was heartbroken. Even though I was unsure about the booze he managed to bring with him (I didn't drink at the time, and had never seen him drink either), I didn't begrudge him it.

Later on that night, he stumbled away from the campfire where everyone was gathered, and plopped down in the grass. I left the party to go join him, thinking he may need to talk. As we were looking at the sky, we saw a shooting star. He said, "That's our star." I remember thinking that it would've been romantic if anyone else beside him had said it. As I closed my eyes to make a wish, I felt something on my face. I think he was trying to kiss me. I laughed him off and pushed him away. I knew he couldn't be serious, but somewhere else in my mind I knew I didn't want to be there anymore. I told him I was cold, and I dragged him back to the campfire. I don't think I believe in wishing on shooting stars anymore.

The five of us slept in a medium size tent that night. Entering the tent was like entering some mystic portal. Time became an unmeasured entity; I knew it was passing, it had to be, but I had no way of knowing its real pace. We were barely settled in when he started touching me. First it was a hug, which was fine. Then he pulled me tightly into him and started kissing me. I told him no and tried to pull away. I whispered, just loud enough for him to hear. I didn't want to wake the others up and embarrass him. I don't know how many times I said no. They eventually became like breaths. No. Inhale. Stop. Exhale. I would try to roll over, but he would pull be back. He told me it was what I wanted, that he had liked me for a while. He told me I was drunk, that I knew I liked it, that I should just let it happen. I finally forced myself away from him and turned over, pulling my sleeping bag over me like a blanket. I laid there, still, listening to his breathing, waiting for him to fall asleep. I must have drifted off, because when I woke up, his hands were running up and down my body. It was still pitch black and everyone was still asleep. I threw his hands off me and told him again to please stop. He's just drunk, I rationalized. He's a good guy and he would never hurt me. Again, I waited for him to fall asleep, and then against my will, I fell asleep too.

I woke up in a nightmare. The night was too dark for me to see anything immediately, but I could feel him. I could feel his fingers, exploring and exploiting me. This isn't real this isn't real this isn't real. Denial. Fear. Hurt. Anger. I don't understand how, but in what must have been seconds I felt and thought a thousand different things. I yanked his hand out of my pants. I shouted at him sternly and kind of loudly. He backed away, like a beaten puppy, and moved to the far end of the tent. Two of my friends had woken up, but now I didn't care. I laid back down on my sleeping bag and silently sobbed until I fell back asleep.

I was the last to wake up the next morning. I laid in the tent, not wanting to get up. I wanted to pretend I dreamed the whole thing up. I wanted to rewind the night. I felt stupid. So many things I could have done differently, and it wouldn't have happened. I decided I needed to talk to him. Maybe if we talked about, if he felt bad about it and apologized, it wouldn't be so bad.

I stepped out of the tent to see everyone gathered around the small fire, making breakfast. I looked at one of my guy friends who I had accidentally woken up the night before with my final order. He knew there was something wrong, but he didn't ask questions. We all sat around and ate, as if nothing had happened. I'm not sure how I did it (I managed to continuing doing so for almost a year). While everyone was cleaning up, I pulled my newly sober friend aside to talk. When I started talking about what happened the night before, he first said he didn't remember. He told me he was drunk. Then he told me he thought I wanted it. He told me it wasn't a big deal... nobody would think it was a big deal. He even talked about it later in front of the rest of our friends. That's when he said those infamous words that began this recollection.

He never apologized. My friends never said anything. Even after they knew, they were silent. They didn't know how to talk to me, and they never thought to try to talk to him. It eventually became an unfortunate memory locked in the past; we distantly acknowledged its existence, but we never talked about it again. We all stayed friends over the summer, and they would still hang out with him frequently. Even after I finally told my roommate, a guy I had known for five years, about it in tears months later, there was no support. No hugs, no outrage, no reassurance. Just silence. I began to believe what he told me. It wasn't a big deal... nobody would care.

This was my life for almost a year. He ended up transferring to UNC, so our facade of a friendship was continued into the fall. I didn't like who I was around him, I didn't like who I was period. I was difficult to be friends with. I spent more and more time alone. But then something wonderful changed everything. I started taking this Women's Studies class, and I am grateful every single day that I did. The people I have met and the stories they've shared and the things I've learned have given me back so much. I'm starting to be myself again, and I've since ended my friendship with that guy. I know that if I ever need to be heard, they will listen. That's all I ever really needed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I don't know when it started. The first time that I can recall is when I was 4, but who knows how long before that it started. It happened every day and every night until I was finally able to get out which wasn't soon enough. I woke up every day even as a child knowing that it would happen and hated every day. Eventually he started bringing his friends and then it turned into gangs coming too. She would just be there and support them all saying things like "you like it don't you, this is what you get, I can't believe how stupid you are" to me in the midst of everything. Their "tools" of choice horrify me. I don't know how I am still alive with all of the cuts, tears, stitches, scars, and more. I want more than anything for people to believe me and not say that it was my fault. It isn't fair.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Over the years I have heard people ask--sometimes maliciously, but just as often completely earnestly--if there is *really* a difference between sex one regrets in the morning and sexual assault.

There is a difference and it's not, in my experience, particularly subtle.

When I was 21 I drank heavily. I drank to relieve social anxiety and to make it easier to talk to people. And to flirt with people. And, not surprisingly, I engaged in more than a few drunken hookups. There were mornings afterwards when I awoke thinking, oh fuck, what was I thinking? I did things I would not have done otherwise; some still make me laugh or blush or cringe. I have regrets, things I would take back in a second if I could. But I don't call those things rape.

Yet there are things that happened to me during this period that are qualitatively different. An ex and I used to hang out together as friends after we decided dating wasn't for us. We drank together -- a lot. We frequently had sex when we were drinking or bored, which in retrospect probably was confusing and a bad idea. One night at a party at my house I was drowning my sorrows over an unrequited crush. My ex and another friend followed me around all evening: "Oh, you're so adorable when you're drunk. Come here and give me a hug. Let me make you feel better." It became so intolerable that at the end of the evening I dragged a chair to the center of my living room, climbed on top and screamed "Everyone stop fucking with me. The fact that I am drunk and sad is not an invitation for you to hit on me! Fuck you all, I'm going to sleep now." (Anyone who's seen me really drunk knows that "adorable" is probably not the first adjective most people would use to describe me in this state.)

When I woke up the next morning, my ex was lying next to me. I was dressed, but some of my clothes were on inside out. I asked him what the fuck he was doing there. He got this goofy grin on his face and said, "um, well, you know..." I told him no, I didn't know since I had gone to bed alone the night before and had explicitly asked him to leave me alone in front of a crowd of our friends. After an intense period of interrogation I managed to get out of him that he had come in "to check on me" after I went to bed and "one thing led to another." Had I told him that I wanted to have sex with him, I asked? Well, no. Not in so many words. Had I given any indication that I was into what was happening? Well, actually I had been "pretty passive." Did I take my clothes off? No, he did that for me. Did I cooperate with that? No, I seemed "kinda sleepy" so it required extra effort. In fact, after he undressed me I "rolled over and was really still." That, he assumed, was an indication that I wanted to "try something different." I shit you not. Those were his exact words and I will never forget them. Did he not have any inclination, even the slightest inkling, that something was not right about this? And why, if he thought everything was cool, did he try to get my clothes back on me after the fact? Seriously, what the fuck? He started to panic and this point and I told him to leave.

When I told my housemates the story, they freaked out. They called my ex, yelled at him, threatened never to see him again. He cried. He apologized. And after two days all of our mutual friends were pressuring me to "just let it go and stop hurting him." He was, after all, so very very sorry.

Yeah, that would make two of us. Only I am still sorry today and I am willing to bet money that he never gave this another thought as soon as I let him back into my life.

Just a few months later I drove to see an old high school friend who went to a university two towns over. It was his birthday and I met him and some of his college friends at a bar, where everyone proceeded to get hammered. This was someone I had fooled around with when we were teenagers. I had very strong feelings for him at the time, but dating would probably be too strong a word to describe our relationship, primarily because he had preferred to keep things clandestine and informal. (Which is to say--though I did not recognize this until much later--he was using me.) With time and distance, I outgrew my feelings for him.

At his birthday celebration we drank and danced and talked about old times and dank some more. The drinking and dancing gave way to drinking and kissing. He walked me to my car and there was more kissing. I have a pretty filthy mouth that tends to kick into overdrive when I am drinking. I said some things that horrify me to this day. My behavior very clearly communicated that (a) I was still pretty attracted to him and (b) I was far too outrageously drunk to actually get in my car and drive it home. So he asked me to take a ride with him while I sobered up.

We drove and drove and eventually it became obvious that we were not heading in a random direction. He was talking to himself and becoming agitated. He was mentally going through a list of places he could take me and realizing that none of them seemed to suit his purposes. At some point he pulled into a cheap motel parking lot. I asked him, "Um, what are we doing here?" He told me to stay in the car so he wouldn't get charged for an extra person. I asked him why he seemed angry. He told me to be quiet and stay in the car. I was scared now. I was alone and far from my car and this was years before I got my first cell phone, so I had no way to call anyone for help.

I went with him to the room. He brought a bottle of cheap champagne with him that someone had given him as a birthday gift. I kept saying "I'm not sure. I'm not sure about this." I should have been more forceful, but he was already angry and I had to rely on him for a ride back to my car. My hesitancy only increased his agitation. He angrily suggested that I have some champagne to "help me relax." I drank a lot and fast, hoping that I would pass out or fall asleep and that would get me out of the situation. It worked -- the passing out part, that is. When I came to my "friend" was on top of me. He had taken off my clothes and was having sex with me. His hand was over my mouth. When I opened my eyes, the first thing he said was "shhhh."

I remember thinking "shhh? I'm not making any noise, asshole. The only thing quieter than unconscious is dead."

He finished, told me to get dressed, and he drove me back to my car. He called me the next day to see if I was "okay," but he seemed to mean "Did you get home safely?" and "Are we still cool?" He never acknowledged that what happened was incredibly fucked up. And I never called him on it. I just never called him again. About 18 months later he randomly appeared at my apartment. He was "just passing through town" and wanted to give me something he had made for me. It was a collage from that night, with a copy of the party invitation and the bar tab and the champagne label and the hotel receipt. How fucked up is that?

Really fucked up. And I can tell the difference.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I have never been raped. I have never had my “no’s” forcibly ignored. I’ve never been held down or trapped and violated. I don’t have a horror story. I am not a victim or a survivor.

I have a less traumatic, seemingly non-violent story. Many stories actually. The details of the events are unimportant. All that matters is on several occasions I have initially said no to sex. And somehow on multiple occasions, I’ve had those “no’s” worn down and turned into “yes’s” or passive nods of acceptance. I have said no and then been convinced that I really wanted to say yes. I have said no and been forced to come up with excuses for why I was saying no. I have had men convince me that I wanted it. I have been guilted with thoughts like, “well he did buy me dinner” or “I mean this is our third date, I should just do it.” I have said yes simply so it would be over and I could leave. Once or twice I eventually consented because I thought if I kept saying no I would be raped. I have woken up in the morning feeling dirty, degraded, and alone. I have felt that I had no one to talk to because I had said yes…eventually.

I have realized over the years that these experiences, while not “technically” rape were not consensual. And after talking to friends and being involved with Project Dinah I have realized that stories like mine are far too common. 1 in 4 women are raped in their lifetimes; probably many many more have had sex when they did not want to. Either because she was worn down and convinced that yes was the right answer. Or because she felt like she had to, like she owed him something. Or because he was her boyfriend so her body belonged to him and obviously no was not an option.

I am writing this for any woman who has ever felt this way. For women who feel like they have been violated but can’t talk about it because they said yes…eventually. I want every woman to know that your body is yours, always. $50 spent on dinner DOES NOT GIVE HIM A RIGHT TO YOUR BODY. Being his girlfriend and loving him DOES NOT GIVE HIM UNLIMITED ACCESS TO YOUR BODY. Wearing a skirt and flirting with him all night DOES NOT MEAN YOU HAVE TO FUCK HIM. Stick to your choices. If you say no, do not let him twist that response and convince you into a yes. Don’t feel guilty; don’t worry about his feelings or if he will call you later. Own your decision and get away.

Men: if she says no, stop. Even if you bought her dinner, even if she has previously said yes, even if you think she might say yes…eventually, even if she said she would, even if you’re her boyfriend. Just STOP. A NO IS ALWAYS A NO. Go home, grab the lotion and enjoy yourself knowing that she will feel good about herself when she wakes up in the morning.

Lastly, if you have ever said yes because of guilt or exasperation or simply because you couldn’t say no anymore, you are not alone. Talk to your sisters, I’ll bet you will find many stories similar to yours. Heal with each other and take charge of your future “no’s.” Reach out to others and educate men about what a yes is.

Talk, reach out, educate, heal.

If we refuse to shut up we cannot be ignored.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

He was my friend. I know they always tell you that its more likely to be your friend, but I was trusting. I was good. I kept myself out of bad situations.
He called me one day asking for a ride home from work. He said his car broke down. Of course I would pick him up and drive him home, and yes I would love to come inside and hang out. Then he kissed me and I noticed that he smelled like beer. He pulled down my skirt and I told him I wasn't ready, and I knew it was just because he was drunk. He pushed me onto his bed and said he could convince me otherwise. When he put his fingers inside me I screamed and he hesitated. I ran, miniskirt and panties in hand, to my car. All I can think of when I remember that night, 4 years ago, is that he was my friend. I trusted him, I was doing him a favor, and now because of him I have a hard time trusting anyone.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Slut.
Noun. Someone who has acted in a way inviting, asking for, deserving
Rape.
Noun. Verb. Something that you should hide, act casual about, get over.

That's how I felt. That's how I feel.

It was study abroad. I was torn to pieces over my boyfriend. He had been deployed to Iraq and decided to end our relationship. I was still in love and I think he was too.

I thought the only way to make it through the loneliness was to seek as much external affirmation as possible. Sex. The boys in Mexico thought I was beautiful. It wasn't hard to find.

Word got around. A boy named Diego asked me on a date. I didn't like him all that much, but I said okay. Afterward we went drinking with his friends. He was on his phone the whole time. He asked me back to his place. I said okay.

We got in the door. He started taking off my clothes. I didn't really want to that much, but I guessed it was okay. I was tired and just wanted to go to sleep. I pulled back and told him "I don't want to have sex." He agreed. He took off my pants. I told him "I don't want to have sex." He said okay. He was on top of me and all over me. I started to realize what was happening. There was nothing I could do. I moved away from him trying to penetrate me. I wriggled. He did it anyway. I felt hopeless. It happened. It had already happened. I just let it. I am such a slut.

The next morning I tell my friends. I don't use the word rape. They do. They insist. "You were raped." But they're not my real friends. They're my study abroad friends. My real friends don't know. My family doesn't know.

I spent the loneliest months of my life there. My grandmother died and I cried on my own. I left to come back to equal amounts of loneliness. My best friends were studying abroad now. I was alone. I was realizing I was not straight. I was confused. I hated myself.

I met a girl. She said she was bi. She pushed me into a bathroom. She asked me to come home with her.

I did. Her boyfriend did too. I didn't want to touch him or for him to touch me. He didn't. I told her I didn't want to have sex. She said okay. She took off my pants. I told her I didn't want to have sex. She said okay and then pulled my underpants to the side. She was putting her mouth all over me. He was touching us. I let it happen for a moment because I was in shock. I told her to stop. She did and then she cried.

She said I made her feel like a slut.

Slut.
Noun. Someone who sexually assaults someone. Similar to
Rape.
Noun. Verb. Something only the victim gets to define and to
Forgive.
Verb. Something I'm close to doing.
I was a child. When adults asked how old I was I replied "I'm five and a half" proudly because that meant I was a big kid.He was an older cousin thirteen years old and I idolized him. He came to live with us one winter. I remember it was winter because my parents had to buy him a coat after his dad dropped him off. He came into our home with nothing but a trash bag full of clothes. He lived with us for many months before we played the "game". I wanted to play house and he said okay and played the daddy. He said we had to do what mamas and daddies do, it hurt and I was scared. He covered my mouth so I wouldn't scream. There was blood sticky and warm. He cleaned me up and told me to keep quite or else he'd hurt my little sister. She was three and had watched helplessly the whole time. Only many years later would she remember vaguely what had happened. He lived with us for two years and I was hurt a few more times.I never told. I had to protect my sister. I didn't have symptoms of a trauma victim and my parents trusted him, there was no way they could have known. When I turned fourteen the memories flooded back. I told my mom, she cried. I have a best friend that has helped me deal with the pain, but other than that I've sat in silence. I was just a child, it wasn't my fault but I'm still ashamed and still afraid.What's worse is that I'm always trapped in the silence. I can't say the word "rape" or "molestation". It is hard to even type them here. I don't know why, I guess it's because saying those words makes it real brings it back. I think you guys are doing something really great here. Giving people like me a voice. A voice that we can't reach on our own.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Prom night. It’s supposed to be the best night of the year. For seniors, it’s a time of celebration and of things coming to an end. It’s supposed to be great, right?
Sadly, prom night will always represent something horrendously different to me. It marks the beginning of sad neuroses and terrible dreams. It isn’t a night I remember fondly with friends but instead a night that I still struggle to talk about. I will always remember what I wore, but not because I will always love that dress but because I will always remember what I was wearing when my prom date tore it off.
My story begins at the after party, where the drinks were flowing and I actually was happy for the moment. I had many drinks. I very solidly still don’t remember most of that night when apparently my date and I were making out in the club. He had been drinking too but he was very much aware of his actions. Towards the end of the night, my friends and I were making arrangements to go home when my date suddenly grabbed me from behind when my friends weren’t looking and dragged me to a taxi outside the club. I don’t remember the taxi ride. I don’t remember the walk to his apartment complex or the ride up the elevator. I don’t even really remember the walk to his room. I do, however, remember him taking off my clothes without asking and holding me down as he took his off too. He didn’t have the courage to have sex with me, although at one point I remember thinking “it’s OK, this is how most girls lose their virginity, isn’t it? It’ll be OK, I’ll be able to deal with this if it happens.” He did other horrible things to me, however, that I can’t erase from my mind. He finished his business and then put me in some of his own clothes. He left me on his bed and slept in another room.
It was all about the power, in the end. He lied when I confronted him at first, saying he didn’t do anything. He told all our friends that I was a slut and a liar. He told me I was being ridiculous and that I was crazy.
He wrote me a few years later to tell me how sorry he was for everything, and that he was wrong to have done what he did. He was my date that night; I was supposed to trust him. He was also my on and off boyfriend of 6 months; I was supposed to believe he would never hurt me. Did that make any of it right? No. Did it make the pain go away? Not really. Even if he had gone to jail for what he did, I don’t think I’d feel any better. Retribution isn’t a cure.
There is no cure, really. But writing this blog and actually seeing my story on paper helps. Knowing that I have taken important steps in my life to protect myself also helps. And knowing that events like this happen and that I can support others by sharing my story and encouraging people to come forward with their own stories significantly helps.