I’ve been feeling incredibly triggered lately with all of the criticism over the Women’s March. I’m particularly sensitive to the part where people ask, “What’s the big deal with inequality?” or “Tell me how you do not have equal rights?” They are not really looking for an answer to those question though.
They are making a statement that there isn’t any inequality, or at least not enough to have any grievances over. They want to know why women are being such crybabies — after all, this isn’t a third world country where women are really being abused! They say that enough things are equal between men and women now and that we have nothing to complain about. I have read comments telling women that they need to stop their whining, and just shut up already. The problem is that inequality still exists, even if not everyone has experienced it. Sure, we’ve made gains, but it’s still very much a work in progress. Which leads me to this: Lets talk about rape, shall we?
This is my personal story, and my first time sharing it with anyone other than my husband. It’s just one of many stories to add to the injustices that women endure, not only here in America but also globally. I’m not ashamed to share it. As a matter of fact, the recent events in the news regarding the march have made me revisit this experience and have reminded me that I’m a survivor! I’m not a victim but instead an overcomer, and I’m proud of this.
I know this story will make some uncomfortable, and that’s okay. It even made my dear husband uncomfortable enough that as I was reading to him what I wrote, he asked me to whisper so that our son wouldn’t overhear my story, because even under the best of circumstances (my husband is great), it’s a dark secret.
I was around 14 years old when we moved to Pennsylvania. It was a difficult move from Michigan. I was a teen, and desperately needed my circle of friends to feel comfortable with all the changes that the teenage years bring. When we moved, I had to find my place all over again. I remember feeling very alone as I tried to keep in touch with those I left behind and simultaneously find my new place in the world. I was desperate for companionship, and that made me vulnerable, way too vulnerable.
When a boy my age showed interest in me, I clung to that attention like a life raft, as if my life depended on it. I was so desperate to feel like I belonged someplace. We hadn’t spent any time together outside of school, and he wanted that to happen badly. He was making me feel like he’d lose interest in me if I didn’t make that a reality.
So, one night when my parents went out, he stopped by. It was supposed to be a short visit, but when he arrived, he pulled out a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20. I wasn’t an experienced drinker, but I thought, What’s one drink?! That one drink lead to another, and then another. I quickly felt sick from the cheap wine and needed to lie down. He followed me to the couch and relentlessly made advances at me. I asked him to get off me, but he refused. He refused to get up even as I vomited on the carpet beside the sofa. He dragged me up the stairs into my bedroom, refusing to stop even as I screamed, “No!” And that’s when he raped me.
I felt powerless and, oddly enough, guilty for allowing him into my home. I immediately felt like it was my fault. After all, that is what society teaches us: Act like a lady, or you know what will happen, rape! I passed out afterwards and was awoken by him jumping out my second story bedroom window, naked, as my parents pulled into the driveway.
My mom came into my room very angry, and rightly so, as a naked boy had just fled from our home. Her anger evaporated when I explained to her that I’d told him no, repeatedly, and that he had forced himself on me.
We went to the hospital where I had a rape kit performed. I hadn’t even had a Pap smear done before this moment. It was beyond horrible. Tears ran down my cheeks as I stared at the ceiling, alone because I was too modest to have my mom in the room beside me while a stranger examined my most private parts. I received some light counseling afterwards. I was told it wasn’t my fault, that I needed to be strong. They gave me the morning after pill, because, of course, he didn’t use a condom. I mean, who cares what happens to me, right? He got what he was after. My consent was irrelevant.
A week later, the police arrived. I was ready to be counseled by them on what legal steps to take. I had no idea what the process was like, but I can assure you that I didn’t expect what happened next. They behaved awkwardly, as if I had some kind of plague. Instead of taking a seat, they stood in our living looking down at me while one of them jotted down notes on a small notepad. They asked me if I wanted to press charges. Those were heavy words to contemplate at 14.
I looked to them for guidance, and boy, did I get some. I was asked if I wanted to ruin his life, because that’s what I’d be doing. Did I want to give him a criminal record that would ruin his opportunities as a grown man? He wouldn’t even be able to serve our country if he ever decided to. Didn’t I invite him into my home while my parents were out, and didn’t we drink alcohol? I mean, boys will be boys — I should have known that.
What they did advise me to do was to get a restraining order. A restraining order! What a joke! Not wanting to ruin anyone’s life, I took their advice, and along with that, the shame that was placed upon me. That shame followed me to school as I was called a “slut” and a “whore” day after day. I lost the few friends I had made in my brief time there. Day after day, I sat alone in the cafeteria while just across the room, he sat and was surrounded by his friends. I remember how they laughed at me and ostracized me. He shouldn’t have been anywhere near me, and yet there he was, triumphant in his perfect crime.
No one spoke to me in any of my classes anymore. I was utterly alone. I had been raped and blamed for it too, which was actually more painful than the assault itself. He was the victim, not only to law enforcement but also amongst my peers. This is not equality. This is an injustice. Sure, this didn’t happen yesterday, but things haven’t changed, and my story isn’t unique.
One out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. On average, there are 321,500 reported victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States. Only 344 out of every 1,000 sexual assaults are reported to police. That means about 2 out of 3 go unreported. Any ideas as to why? It’s because perpetrators of sexual violence are less likely to go to jail or prison than other criminals. Out of 1,000 reported rapes, 994 perpetrators will walk free.
Here are a few recent examples: David Becker, Brock Turner, Alexander Rodriguez, Austin James Wilkerson, Austin Smith Clem, Chester Thompson, Daniel Ryerson, David Wise, Dr. Jeffrey Joel Abrams, John Enochs, and Robert H. Richards IV. You can look any of them up as they were all perpetrators in high-profile sexual assault cases, and they all received only a slap on the wrist.
These are horrible precedents, and it is utterly appalling. Rape is not treated like a real crime in this country, and women are well aware of this. In addition, some women may not press charges against their rapist for fear of retaliation and the fear that the police won’t do anything to protect them. Many women also thought their assault was not important enough to report or that it was too personal of a matter to discuss. This should not be the case. And again, this is not equal justice.
This is why critics of the Women’s March are wrong. Women do have something complain about. Everything is not perfect for us. To say otherwise, is to insult me and the millions of others like me. We still have work to do. There is still progress to be made.
Women, let us continue to not be silent, let us continue to roar loudly for our rights, and for the rights of others who are not given equal treatment in the United States and around the world.