Was It My Fault

I’ve watched the media coverage of the Steubenville rape this week. I’ve watched boys crying. Boys who raped a girl. I’ve heard the media talk about how these ‘promising’ young boys have ruined their future. I’ve heard people slam the victim for being drunk. One of the saddest thing though is that nobody reached out to help this girl that night. No one stood up and protected her. Instead they laughed and took pictures and now continue to threaten her and actually stand up for the boys who committed this crime. The fact that she is continued to be blamed for this crime. THIS RAPE, is not okay. We can do better. We can do better for our children, our neighbors, our friends, and the strangers we meet. We can do better. But mostly, remember… rape is a crime. And it’s not her fault.

I have three daughters. And I’m scared because while I want them to make good choices, I also want them to live in a society that watches out for others, and I hope they will be that ones to always help a friend or stranger.

But no matter the choices they make, the parties they go to, or the dances they attend…no one, NO ONE, is even allowed to violate them. It is not their fault. It will never be their fault. Ever.

* * *

I was 17 and a cheerleader. I lived in a small town and dated the popular boys.

It was my fault.

I liked to party. We’d drink too much. Sometimes way too much and we’d go to parties when we should have already been home.

It was my fault.

I dated these boys. I thought they liked me, but they didn’t. I thought they were boyfriends and sometimes I would sleep with a boy I liked.

It was my fault.

I was the drunk girl. The drunk girl in the small town with the reputation.

It was my fault.

Then one night, when I was this drunk girl at a party, I had sex with my boyfriend. I thought he was my boyfriend.

It was my fault.

At one point he got off me and excused himself to use the bathroom. It was dark in that bedroom. He came back and got back on top of me and I reached for his hair. My boyfriend had straight hair.

This boy had curly hair.

It was not my fault.

I screamed and tried to push him away, but he was bigger than me and stronger than me..and pretty soon my ‘boyfriend’ was there holding me down while this boy raped me.

It was not my fault.

And then he invited more friends.

It was not my fault.

I was drunk and stupid and only 17. But none of that was my fault.

And it’s taken me 27 years to realize that it wasn’t my fault.

Because they called me a whore and left that drunk girl curled up on a bed crying alone..and told me it was all my fault and that they would do worse to me if I told anyone.

Boys will be boys they said as they walked out. I remember their laughter.


It wasn’t my fault.

It was never my fault.

About the writer

Tracy is neither British nor a nun - she's just a Midwesterner with a headache. She has been documenting the lighter side of parenting on her personal blog Sellabit Mum since 2008. Tracy is a mom of three girls, addicted to fashion, and a freelance writer. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.


Jessica 2 years ago

wow. a link with the article in Yes magazine brought me here and I’m sitting here crying…. it wasn’t my fault either and this it the first time I ever think about it like that. I’m 43, on my own and sometimes wondering in a remote way about why I will not let anybody really near to me. back then, I was 19, in love with a boy I looked up to – because he told me so many times he was better than me and I should count myself lucky that he let-me-be with him.
right. writing it like that it seems like a piece of stand-up, but I was told often enough that I believed him… we lived together for about four years and he raped me often. sometimes with emotional blackmail, sometimes with just enough physical force so that I would leave my body and just let him get on with it. afterwards I would cry quietly, not to wake him, wondering how I would be able to ‘make myself want him more’. that’s what was lacking, he said. if only I would start he would not have to, okay?
it wasn’t my fault.

    sellabitmum 2 years ago

    It wasn’t Jessica. It wasn’t. Love to you. xo

anonymous 3 years ago

I was 17 and a cheerleader, too, when it happened to me. Thank you for this.

    sellabitmum 2 years ago

    I’m so sorry this happened to you too. it’s not your fault. xo

Denise 3 years ago

Steve Tanner Evans Mills, NY

I am so thankful for you and many others, the above is one of many that attacked me, I have been informed by my “mother” “I asked for it.” I was dating him, i was home alone at 16 and my parents were two hours away from home. He showed up at my home with a gun, made me go with him and had his way with me. I still feel horrible from this after almost 30 years. I never turned him in because i was ashamed, i had tried in the past to tell my parents about being molested for many years but was told i was lying and they did not want to hear it. To this day my mother does not want to hear it and because i had dated him she believes I ASKED FOR IT. I still feel it is my fault not sure i will ever get past this, i still can smell him, see the gun hear it jam when he pulled the trigger and hear the music in the background. I am terrified to go anywhere alone. I do not wish this on anyone, deep down i know i am not at fault but then my mind plays the game well your own mother thinks you asked for it, so who knows. In the end, i have to keep reminding myself no means no. I feel bad because my husband has always been so patient with me and still is, however, this rape still affects me and sometimes i cannot stand anyone even touching my arm, it makes me jump it has also caused for severe emotional distress that continues to this day, i relive it constantly and know i must heal to go on, however, how do you heal when your own family does not stand behind you.
When i heard about this poor girl and the fact that these idiots not only laughed about it they posted it online and the community still blames her it made me physically sick to my stomach. As a society we need to stop these attacks, even one rape is way to many. Thank you ladies for sharing your story and helping us heal.

MaidMirawyn 3 years ago

Thank you. I have friends and family members who have been raped. Sharing that can’t have been easy.

It wasn’t my friends’ faults; it wasn’t my loved ones’ faults, whether they made stupid choices or not. (Some did, some didn’t.) And it WASN’T your fault. A rapist is a criminal, no matter how tempting the “target.” THEY make the choice to commit a heinous act, not the victim.

I applaud your courage.

Kat 3 years ago

I was 21. I was strung out on street drugs. I was in a crack house. I was raped. I did not deserve it. Now, 12 years later, I am 8 years clean and sober and in therapy so I can heal from that night.

Anuddahmuddah 3 years ago

No, sweetheart, it wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t your fault then, and it isn’t your fault now. You’ve risen above it, gazed calmly back at it, and conquered it with your wit, your courage and your wisdom. Now, with your words, you’re helping others do the same with your strength as their beacon. Go well.

KC 3 years ago

Thank you for sharing this. It wasn’t your fault, it wasn’t mine. I’m turning 30 this year and I still have to tell my 9 year old self it wasn’t her fault. It changed how I thought about sex, about myself for so many years. It wasn’t until I met my husband, true gentle man that he is, that I was able to forgive that little girl who blamed herself, who shamed herself… who thought she knew ‘what she was getting into’ hanging around high school neighbor-boys… who thought she knew what ‘yes’ meant even at her age.
The fear I felt confirmed to me it was my own fault and I thought I would never find a time in my life I could talk about it freely. But thanks to the bravery of people like you and Kim Simon (“Dear Jane Doe”), I can, we can. It wasn’t my fault and it’s not the fault of so many other victims out there who’ve grown up with shame. At least now we can unburden ourselves of some of the guilt, knowing we’re not alone.
Thank you again, you’ve helped me.

Anon 3 years ago

It wasn’t your fault. Just like it wasn’t my fault; not even when the coward told my boyfriend & said *I* seduced *him*; not even my boyfriend believed *him* over *me*.

My mantra has to be, “It wasn’t my fault.” I’ve buried the feelings, and the memories, and don’t want to face it again. It wasn’t my fault.

Becky Routhier 3 years ago

It was spring break, 1989 & the eve of my 15th birthday. I accepted an invitation to a party where lots of cool juniors & seniors would be in attendance. The invite came from a boy I had known since I was 9, as we attended the same church & the same tiny schools. I would have to sneak out as the party was at the home of a boy whose parents were conveniently out of town. At that young an age, the risk of getting caught by my mother was outweighed by the possibility of popularity.

This small southern town worshipped at the altar of God Almighty but also the holy football field. I was neither rich nor a cheerleader, so my path was NOT pre-paved. When we got to the empty house I was told everyone was on a beer run. (We lived in a dry county, meaning alcohol was not sold or bought legally. The nearest beer store was almost 30 miles away.) So, it was me, my “friend” from church, his football teammate & the boy that lived in the house, though he was passed out in his bed. I drank a whiskey & coke, something I had never done. Every time I questioned the absence of those on the beer run, I was given another & stronger drink. My requests to be taken home were politely denied with, ” But you’ll miss the party!”

Finally the front door was locked and I was told I WAS the party. I was raped repeatedly by 2 upstanding boys, football players from ” good” families. I was later helped to put my clothes on & dumped unceremoniously at the end of my street with the admonition to “not tell anyone.”

I needn’t have worried. The following Monday when school resumed EVERYONE knew, or so it seemed. All the upperclassmen were discussing it. The girls called me a whore & the boys wanted a piece of the freshman action. See, these upstanding boys had told the story themselves in the football weight room. In their version I was a hot & fun freshman up for anything. My phone rang off the hook. I was derided by my classmates & even chastised by a faculty member for not “protecting my reputation or considering my family that lived in the small town.”

Now, if the school counselor believed their version, what hope did I have with the legal system? I faced a harsh truth- I would be victimized all over again if I went to the police & later, to court. Who was I compared to these heroes? Who was my family in comparison to theirs? No one. I was nothing.

Thankfully my family left the area shortly after due to a transfer. But the memories followed. The damage stayed with me. The scars would not fade. I had tearful arguments with my mother over my sudden & vehement desire to NOT celebrate my birthday. She didn’t know. My sister didn’t know. My closest friends didn’t know.

I lost my innocence that night. I lost my self-respect. I lost my boyfriend because, for some inexplicable reason, he believed their version. I lived in fear that my older brother, whom I idolized, would hear the story. Would he risk jail & beat them senseless? Or much worse, would he believe his troubled little sister was a whore? In my eyes, I was ruined. Damaged goods with little to no value. I began drinking to escape the pain and shame that I had brought with me over the 1000 mile move.

Naturally, my grades slipped. I became closed off from family and friends. My life had been divided: before and after. I began to carefully craft a facade which I would project for decades. I was the girl that made everyone laugh. I was the keeper of all my friend’s secrets. I was the peacemaker in quarrels. I was the dependable friend.

It all came crashing down when I moved back to my hometown at 19. As my birthday approached, I began to shut down. The idea of having a birthday in that same town was nearly too much for me. At the urging of the only true life-long friend I ever had, I admitted the truth. I acknowledged the damage done. I screwed up all the courage I owned and told my mother & sister and watched with horror as they struggled and failed to contain their numerous emotions. My mother wanted blood. Or even better, their testicles. She wondered what she had done wrong. Why hadn’t I told her before now? My sister was immersed in guilt. How could she not have known something was horribly wrong with her little sister? I had always been a bit of a rebel but they suddenly understood my absolute defiance when ordered to attend our country church. Now they understood that I simply couldn’t stomach sharing a pew with one of my rapists. NOW they finally understood so much: why I took punishment over church attendance, why I was so bitterly adamant about NOT celebrating my birthday, why I had pulled away- from them, from friends, from church & even God.

My mother urged me to prosecute. I flatly refused. The reasons I gave are the same this Steubenville case has reiterated. I would be victimized AGAIN while the perps were lionized in our small community. Everyone would take sides. Everyone would know my name. The defense would humiliate me & my family name as they insinuated that I was a drunk & a party girl. My clothing, my friends and certainly my decision to sneak out & drink illegally would all be called into question. Unfortunately, the same is still true, 24 years later. Poor Jane Doe knows, doesn’t she?

I bore the scars and muddled through every birthday, dreading its approach & relishing its leaving. One friend I did tell attended prom with one of my rapists & maintained a friendship with him long after graduation. Another friend began dating the other one when we were 19. I felt I HAD to tell her, so that she could run as fast as her legs could carry her. And run she did- away from me & to the altar. After over a decade of being in an abusive marriage with the sadistic monster, she finally divorced him. And yes, she apologized to me.

Was it my fault? Not just no, but hell no. Did I attend my 20 Year High School Reunion? No. Have I forgiven myself for making the stupid choices that led me to be in a house alone with 2 boys & intoxicated? Yes. Do I now celebrate my birthday? Yes. Have I gotten closer to family & friends? Yes, mostly. Did I cry with fear when I gave birth to a daughter? Absolutely. But I WILL teach her and my son to respect themselves and stand up for others- at ALL times.

Have I talked to therapists and members of the clergy about the ordeal and all it’s horrible after effects? Yes. Did I return to my faith? Yes. Have I quit hating those 2 boys? Yes, but mainly because I learned they both are now fathers of daughters and not only do they have to live with what they did, they also have to hope & pray their daughters never come across a version of their younger selves.

Have I ever told my story in a public forum? No, not until now. All you strong & brave women gave me the bravery to do so tonight after 24 too-long years of silence. Thank you seems inadequate here. I have found my voice. The shame is NOT mine & never should have been. I am NOT ashamed. I survived. It is part of my history, part of what made me who & what I am. There will be no more shame for this girl. Ever again. THANK YOU, ladies for freeing me tonight.

Jody Kristina 3 years ago

Thank you for writing this. I haven’t had the guts to tell my story. I hope the time comes, until then; I enjoyed reading yours. :) Very healing. I constantly have to remind myself it’s NOT my fault. I know it isn’t, but society is so messed up. I hope we can all come together and end victim-blaming. It’s not right, it keeps people quiet.

Angela 3 years ago

Thank you for sharing your story. It is eye opening. Not that rape is not a girls fault, because it isn’t. But that it wasn’t my fault. I’ve lived in denial for a very long time and until reading this and another post, it didn’t really hit me that it wasn’t my fault.

It was 2002, I was a sophomore in college. I went out with a friend and we met some of her guy friends at the local bar. I wasn’t of age so they were buying me drinks. I only knew one of them. My friend left the bar with her boyfriend. My glass was never empty. I vaguely remember walking back to my dorm with the one guy I knew. I don’t remember anything that happened in that room that night. The only reason I knew something was ‘off’ was because I woke up naked.

I went to church the next morning and almost passed out from suddenly getting extremely hot. I had to run out of the church to get fresh air. Something just wasn’t right. I went to my friend and told her what I think happened. Her idea was to go and confront the guy, so we did together. He smugly answered the questions my friend asked: did you have sex? was there a condom?

I went to the doctor after that. I explained what happened and she said words like: rape and date-rape-drug. I didn’t associate this with rape. I just figured it was my fault for being too drunk. I was too embarrassed to ever do anything about it.

Today I sit here and think, he doesn’t even know. He doesn’t even know his actions were rape. That single night ruined the rest of my sophomore year. I left that college before the summer term to go to a different school, only to return my senior year to graduate in 4 years. The guy was idolized by many. Was the class president. Graduated with honors. I felt ashamed. Still do.

It wasn’t until your post that my eyes have been opened. Thank you. A weight has been lifted.

    tracy@sellabitmum 3 years ago

    Oh Angela – It was not your fault. I am so glad you know that now. I’m thinking about you. I’m so glad you now know. xo

AlwaysARedhead 3 years ago

I just wrote a similar post, it wasn’t my fault either, but it took a long time for me to admit that to myself.

Kelly 3 years ago

Thank you for sharing your story. Like many others, I was moved to tears.

This has been a difficult story to watch unfold, and I’m still trying to make sense of it as a mother of a 5-year-old girl and another girl on the way. I recently wrote a blog post on how I’m responding to it at home with my girl, but it just never feels like enough.

Lori 3 years ago

I am sitting here crying and applauding your bravery for sharing your story in this post. I am a rape survivor but most people don’t know that because I wasn’t brave enough to report it way back when it happened in the fall of 1978. I was that girl with a reputation. I drank and even used drugs. But on the night I was raped I wasn’t even drinking. My friend and I walked from her house to a gas station to get a pop. On our way back, a group of guys came out of nowhere and chased us down, drug us to the house they were having a party at and they gang raped us. They were the town jocks, brainiacs and good ole church boys and we were the towns party girls and I suppose some would have called us sluts or whores just because. They held us down and poured alcohol on our faces and into our mouths while they took turns raping us and when they were done they threw us out on the front lawn with threats of what would happen if we told. Yeah cause who would believe us over a preachers son???? We ran home and made promises through ashamed tears to never tell anyone let alone report it. Because of who they were and who we believed ourselves to be. They would walk past us in school with smirks on their faces. Their stinking arrogance over it all makes me sick to this day. It hasn’t been until recently that I’ve begun sharing this here and there in powerful posts like this. It’s easy to share it here where no one knows me. It’s taken me a long time to really see that this wasn’t my fault. For years whenever a rape would play out on a movie or tv show or the news, I would hide in shame and deep down I believed it was my fault. Add to that being ashamed for not sharing my story or speaking out and for not being courageous like this young girl or you for sharing your story in this post. I am finding my voice each time I respond to these posts in the comments. It wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t my fault.

    Andrea 3 years ago

    It was not your fault! You and your friend were victims of a crime, and it is sad for our society as well as for the two of you that you have not had justice. I wish you peace.

Megan R. 3 years ago

I’m so sorry that happen to you Tracy & I am also soooo proud & glad that you were eventually able to distinguish what you were responsible & were not responsible for. You are to be commended for your bravery in sharing your experience so publically.
I wonder if the boys who assaulted you have ever contemplated their crime now as adults. Do they ever look at their sons & wonder if they’ve raised someone capable of such a horrific act? Do they ever look at their daughters & wonder if the same brutal behavior is awaiting them in the future? Does she have a guy friend who is just as much of a pussy as he was at that age?

It does seem in this case that the victim was on trial which I don’t understand because most states now have ‘victim protection’ laws prohibiting victim info from being made public. However, this girl’s name was aired on at least 3 of the mainstream media channels – more than once. I signed a petition on Change.org to protest the ‘one-sided’ disgusting coverage done by CNN’s Candy Crowly & Poppy Harlow. I counted no fewer than 6 comments which specifically implied that the defendant’s deserved consideration because their ‘lives were ruined’ as they’d have to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives for something they did as teens.

I also firmly believe that every person who stood around & did nothing or worse yet; recorded the assaults hoping to post the next ‘viral video’ sensation, should be prosecuted as accomplices. To say nothing of the coach & other adults who tried to protect the defendant’s from prosecution.

Thank you again Tracy for your bravery!! Maybe your story will help parents realize what’s at stake if they don’t teach their child what responsible behavior is.


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