Thursday, September 27, 2018

Published two years later

15 years ago I was a freshman in college at Texas State (then Southwest Texas).  I was completely adrift.  I was away from my very protective parents and I was away from the friends I had grown up with over the last six years.  9/11 had just happened and the entire world seemed like a scary and unsure place.  I was trying to find "my people", a group of friends I could fit in with.  Who accepted me with all my quirks.  I was hopeful that I would find that in the marching band, and for a short time I did.  

I became close with a small group of freshmen and sophomores.  One guy in particular liked to invite a few of us to his dorm to watch movies.  It was fun and free.  One night, close to the end of the semester, I got an invite to watch a movie in his dorm room.  He said several others were going to be there.  I checked with my friend and she agreed to go.  That night I was the first to arrive.  We talked about the marching season and what we were planning to do over break.  No one else showed up.  When I commented that it was strange he shrugged and said the others must have gotten a better offer.  He asked if I still wanted to watch the movie.  At that moment I began to feel a little uncomfortable but ignored my instincts.  I didn't want to hurt his feelings so I agreed.  

He sat next to me on the floor, too close. I moved over and so did he.  I turned towards him to jokingly ask what he was doing when suddenly his mouth was on mine.  Forcefully.  I was smaller then, barely breaking 100lbs.  He was not tall but he was heavy.  He pinned me to the side of his bed as I struggled to get away.  He stopped for a moment and looked offended.  I don't remember what he said but I think he said I needed to stop being a tease.  He kissed me again, pinning me with one hand, running the other down my stomach to my crotch.  He rubbed, hard.  It hurt and I struggled, terrified and confused.  He shifted his weight and somehow I managed to roll out from under him and onto my feet.  I ran to the door, threw it open, and was running down the stairs and outside before I could really fathom what had happened.

I remember running home in shock.  Scared, confused, ashamed.  I kept looking behind me for fear that he was following.  I got to my dorm room, locked the door, and crawled under my covers.  The next day he came and knocked on my door.  At first he knocked softly, then harder and more forcefully.  He gave up and left.  I found flowers, a necklace, and a card outside my door.  He came again the next day with more flowers.  And the next.  And the next.  I threw it all in the trash.

I didn't talk to him or any of my friends for three days.  When I spoke with my friend that had said she was going to go she said that he had told her not to because we wanted some time alone.  I knew then that he had planned it.  I don't know if he had planned to assault me or if he honestly thought I was interested.  But I know now something that it has taken me 15 years to come to terms with.  I was sexually assaulted that night.

The fallout was terrible.  He told our friends that I was a whore, a tease.  He said I slept with him that night and then felt guilty about cheating on my boyfriend.  He told them I had wanted it, that I was at fault.  He told them that I was making up stories because I didn't want them to think I was a cheater.  They bought it.  So I partially bought it to.  I knew that I hadn't wanted him to kiss me, that I hadn't wanted him to touch me.  But had I led him on?  Had I been too friendly, had I worn something that was too sexy?  Was it my fault if he thought I was interested in him?

I stopped talking about it.  I couldn't stand to tell my parents, I was too embarrassed and ashamed.  How had I let this happen?  How had I been so naive?  If my friends didn't believe me then why would my parents?  Why would anyone?  I stopped believing myself.  It wasn't that bad.  A kiss.  We had gotten our signals crossed.  It was a harmless, innocent kiss.  I had blown it out of proportion.  I hadn't screamed, surely that is something I would have done if I was really afraid.  It's not like I was raped.

But I was sexually assaulted.  We live in a world where some of us want to deny that rape culture exists.  But it's ingrained.  Women grow up being told to watch what they say, watch how they act, don't wear anything too tight/low/short.  Because "boys will be boys" and who is really at fault if we "encourage" them so?  This is not the only time I have been assaulted, just the most egregious example.  I honestly can't count the number of times my butt has been slapped/pinched, my breasts have been fondled.  Not by men openly doing so, but by sneaks in an elevator, in a dark club, passerby's on the street.  I used to feel like these times were my fault.  I had chosen to go to the club, I had chosen to go to the concert, the bar.  I put myself in those situations therefor it was my fault. 

Sexual assault is not a joke.  It's not "locker room talk".  Admitting what occurred is painful and uncomfortable.  The idea of my husband, my parents, my in laws, my friends, my coworkers, all knowing makes me want to hide under the covers ashamed.  But I can't be ashamed any more.  

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