This post is going to be hard to write, and maybe hard to read. I have written about this particular experience before but only anonymously. It’s time that I write about it here.
(side not: I realize that women are not the only ones who are sexually abused but my post will focus on women)
A few days ago a friend of mine posted this on facebook:
“it’s as much a women’s fault for not standing up and going to the police, talking to a journalist, or forming a committee and suing because of these legions of men who violated them in some way. I’m tired of this woman/victim thing, and they are a disgrace to their daughters and all young girls who need direction. Why has any time elapsed since they were groped, harrassed, and beyond? I am as sickened by the women in these allegations as I am by the perpetrators. Parents, pay attention. Only children can be victimized. I am an adult, the same as any other adult anywhere in the world, and I will not be a victim.
Some will say, ” I would have lost my job”, “no one would believe me”. Then live in the shadows with the grief this experience caused you to save your job and make sure you still have the friends you want. But don’t go putting your decision on anyone else but yourself.”
When I read it I was, at first, enraged by her words. Women who are sexually assaulted or raped or groped are never at fault for what happened, period. And while my stance on that will never change, after a weekend of reading the comments that she and others made to the original post I understand better what she was trying to say.
When I was 20 years old I was about to finish up college and earn my associate’s degree. As the end of spring semester approached I knew I only had six more credits to go until I graduated so instead of taking the summer off and coming back in the fall I decided to attend one summer term. The summer term was only six weeks long and I did not have enough money left to pay for housing for an additional six weeks. I worked things out with my boyfriend Brian and his family so I could live at their house for the six week summer term. They lived just outside of town and I’d spent a lot of time with them during the previous semester while Brian and I dated. It seemed like the ideal solution. I’d been dating Brian long enough that marriage had been discussed and I thought this a good opportunity to get to know his family better. Brian had already graduated and would be moving south and living with my family while he worked for the summer, so I would stay in his old room.
There was a standing joke in Brian’s family about my sleeping habits. I was prone to staying up late and getting up early so I was often tired. Because of that I could fall asleep and sleep very soundly if given the opportunity. This joke was taken advantage of by Brian’s high school age brother Brett…
About half way through the six week term I woke one night, after having been asleep for hours, because someone was in my bed. I lay as still as possible and realized that it was Brett. As his hands and lips moved around my partially disrobed body I could feel his breath on my face as it escalated and he started to talk to himself. I had no idea what to do and remember not moving because I didn’t want him to know that I knew he was there. I didn’t want to embarrass him. After a few minutes I decided that I should pretend like I was starting to wake so I shifted in the bed a little. Brett froze and lay still next to me for a few seconds before continuing. So I shifted again. This time he lay still and then slowly slunk to the floor and crawled out of the room. I pulled my shirt back down over my breasts and breathed a sigh of relief. He was gone. I would say nothing and pretend like it never happened. I only had a few weeks left in the term and then I’d be out of the house. No big deal.
Then it happened again. And again. Each time I would wake up with his breath on my face and his hands on my body. I finally decided I should say something to someone. So I told Brian. Brian told me that Brett had a problem with pornography and that I should confront him about what happened. I did not want to do that and had no idea how but finally got the courage to a few days later. I walked downstairs after a long day at school and saw Brett sitting on the couch. I turned to him and said “I know what you did.” He stared at me for a second and then apologized. And that was that. I figured that I’d done what I could.
After I finished up the summer term I moved back home and Brian and I picked up dating where we’d left off. One weekend we decided to go camping with friends. And while we were camping, and I was asleep, I woke up with someones hands on my body. This time it was Brian. I had confided in him about Brett, told him that I didn’t like what had happened, and here he was, taking advantage of me. At a small campsite, while our friends slept yards away, Brian raped me. I’m not sure if he thought I would just sleep through it or if he didn’t even care. I stayed still and focused on keeping my breath slow and even so he wouldn’t know I was awake.
A few weeks later he dumped me. He said that I was too sickly and that’s not what he wanted in a wife.
Since that time I have told a few people what happened. I didn’t even tell Donnie until quite recently.
Brian and Brett are not an anomaly, sadly. They are part of a large group of men who take advantage of women and move on with their lives with little to no consequences. They don’t think what they did was that bad. I recently engaged in a series of facebook messages with Brian where he said that he hoped his “curiosity” didn’t hurt me in anyway. He brushed off his lewd act as curiosity. Sickening.
So when my friend posted on facebook that I’m as much to blame for what he did as he is. I was angry. And hurt. But after sitting with those feelings for a few days and talking to Donnie about it a lot, I have decided that my friend is not trying to hurt all the women out there who’ve kept abuse a secret, she simply wants change. If men can get away with these things then they will continue to do them without much thought and no remorse. It is time for women to speak up. But what does that mean? For women in general…for me?
What is the right thing for me to do. I can’t go back in time and go to the police immediately after what happened. I no longer have that option. So what do I do now? What action can I take to not let this cycle continue where men get to hurt women and then go on with their lives like nothing happened?
Do I go to the police now? Is that even legally possible? How do these men get held accountable for what they did?
If any of you have answers I would love to hear them. I do not want to be the silent victim anymore. I don’t want to sit back and give men the idea that women are objects to be used. I want to speak up. I just don’t know how to be affective. But if I stay silent because “it’s been so long” and all the other women who’ve been hurt in the past, do the same thing. Nothing will ever change.
This is me not wanting to be part of the problem anymore. Help me.