Truly, there is no feasible, easy way to deal with the ramifications after a sexual assault or harassment happens. From my experience, it follows you in the form of fears, anxieties, and worries at school, work, or even on a plane. And once it happens once, people tell you that it’s over and you never have to see that person again. But it doesn't really stop. It stays with you and shifts into something you can live with... Something that makes you stronger.
If you are a victim of sexual assault and struggle with hearing other peoples stories, reconsider reading the rest of this post.
Three years ago, I was raped. Sometimes I think if I type that out enough, it will make it real for me but it doesn’t. When I came forward about it to my mom a year and a half after it happened, she told me that it was the past and that its over and that I would never have to deal with that again. Partially, this is true. I will never have to see Matt again. But my history with sexual assault didn’t end there.
Two months after I told my mom, it happened again but with a “friend.” This is something I have never discussed openly or feel comfortable talking about.
A time that has affected me deeply these last few months was something that happened at my place of work. Six months ago, I was working a busy Saturday night. Often, the restaurant I work at becomes much like a bar late at night and people get rowdy. As I was taking a set of glasses to the bar to be washed, a drunk man reached behind me and up my skirt. The details are something I don’t feel comfortable disclosing but it sent me into a panic attack. I told both my managers on the floor what happened but what I was left with was “they’re leaving soon. I don’t want to kick out paying customers.” They left an hour and a half after it happened. I wasn’t sent home. For an hour and a half, I had to see this mans face while I worked. When I told my general manager what happened, he looked through the video tapes to find his face to ban him from the restaurant. He watched the tapes and saw it happen. There was physical proof. It wasn’t “just my imagination.”
The final time I want to bring up happened when I was flying home from New York this past summer. My mom and younger sister were a few rows behind me but as we couldn’t get seats together, I was sitting beside a stranger. Because it was a small plane, the aisles were lined with two seats on each side. It was me and the old man beside me. About two hours before our flight landed, we experienced some intense turbulence. The man beside me reacted by grabbing my thigh. At first I thought it was a mistake but his hand lingered long after the turbulence stopped. After two hours, I was able to step off the plane and cry. Don’t ask me why I didn’t tell a flight attendant. Don’t ever ask anyone why they didn’t tell someone.
The biggest problem I have with this is that it keeps happening. And I’m not angry for myself, I’m angry for all the other women and people out there that have also been sexually assaulted or harassed. There is a great problem in our world that needs to be continuously talked about and discussed in order to fix it. It’s a problem that allows men like Brock Turner, Donald Trump, and Roman Polanski to continue to walk free on this planet without worrying about the repercussions.
People wonder why women don’t speak up or why they take the money and run… It’s because to begin with, being sexually assaulted is an experience that involves shame and guilt. You blame yourself for what happened because society tells you “you shouldn’t have dressed that way,” or asks “but how many drinks did you have?” Rape culture stifles any question that a woman might have on whether or not to report. In addition to the trauma of a sexual assault, women don’t report because of their perpetrators. Either they face the pressure from their assailants stopping them from reporting, or they realize that no criminal justice will happen due to white male privilege.
In my opinion, there are two big issues that keep allowing this to happen: bad people and rape culture. One of these, we can fix. Rape culture is something that all people participate in, not just the perpetrators. It’s when women like Donna Karan or Lindsay Lohan blame the victims and support a man in a position of power. It’s when your parents innocently wondered whether or not they should've sent you out in a skirt today. It’s when you look at yourself in the mirror and say “well if I hadn’t straightened my hair and done my makeup nicely, maybe I wouldn’t have been noticed.” There are ways to stop rape culture though.
- Hold people accountable for their actions
- Redefine masculinity
- Take victims accounts seriously
- Learn what consent means. Spread that shit around.
- Tell your story
These, plus many other ways, can help stop the cycle of rape culture. Educate yourself and others. Continuously and fiercely defend yourself and others from rape culture.
People may wonder why I keep telling my story. It’s something so intimate and sad. Why would I share it? ... Because it is something private, and sometimes uncomfortable to talk about. It’s when stuff doesn't get talked about that our monsters get away with their actions. When people tell their stories and make the perpetrators feel the shame and guilt we feel, only then will the vicious cycle end.
One out of every six women.
I’m a statistic but I’m also a warrior, fighter, and woman.