Monday, April 11, 2011

Assault: Where Personal Meets Political

TRIGGER WARNING!!!!!!! If you cannot handle content that deals with sexual harassment, sexual assault, or rape (yes, their is a difference between the last two), do not read this. Also, Mom and Dad, if you are reading this, you may not want to as, yes, this is a personal account.

OK, warning aside. Now for the reason. Tonight, on campus, they are holding the annual Take Back the Night event, a night to raise awareness about sexual assault, domestic violence and rape through A) noisemaking and a march through campus and B) sharing of testimonies. It's a very powerful event and one I've had the honor of taking part in. I would be there tonight, if it weren't for a term paper plus a couple computer codes.

I have always been passionate about these issues but it was not simply because I want to make the world better. The reason I am passionate is because these issues have actually touched me, literally and otherwise. While, thankfully, I have not been raped, I have escaped multiple times on pure dumb luck alone. At the same time, incidents do leave wounds. These wounds have, for the most part, healed, but they have left some scars.

When I was a little girl, I was bullied quite a bit. I had some bad habits, big teeth, a skinny, small body, and a sensitive personality. I didn't have a lot of friends and, for a long time, HATED going to school. Most of it was verbal until middle school. Then, in gym class, I noticed it became physical and sexual. I remember being slapped multiple times on the back in one gym class by a boy I liked, grabbed in the chest during games of tag (I developed early and it happened multiple times), called names like "bitch", and was made fun of when I asked a question during a sexual harassment presentation, simply because I was trying to figure out whether I should tell someone.

Later, knowing how innocent I was, kids would draw dirty pictures and show them to me, to see if I knew what it was and ask me detailed questions about what I knew about sex or if I was a virgin or a lesbian. My freshman year of high school, a guy who was much older pursued me quite a bit, to the point of being annoying, and tried to solicit oral sex from me (I didn't even know the terminology used until I looked it up and was horrified). My teacher told higher authorities, who called me into the office. I told the truth, was promised it would stay confidential, only to have my name leaked to the kid who was doing this to me. Luckily, there was no retaliation, but I was scarred by the whole experience. To this day, that was probably the greatest betrayal of my life.

When I was sixteen, I had a lot of friends but still kept to myself quite a bit. I didn't feel I had people to really talk to. One day, I was hanging out by myself (I stayed after school for a club meeting and was waiting for my mom to pick me up) when an older guy asked if I'd show him a classroom, because he was looking for a job. After school hours? I should have known better but, being the naive, overly nice girl I was at the time, showed him around. Well, that was NOT his intention at all. I got scared. Luckily, when I did, he didn't try anything physical and simply left me. Later, when my mom picked me up and gave me a lecture of not staying too long when I don't have anything else to do, it hit me how horribly lucky I was. That one kept me silent for years.

That wasn't the scariest. The scariest was when I went to a bar. I needed to use the ladies' room. When I left the ladies' room, I found myself pulled into the mens' room with my hands pressed against the wall and a lecherous grin in my face. I screamed and shouted as many obscenities as I could. Thankfully, another guy heard and pulled the dude off of me, while pushing me out of the mens' room. I didn't let myself react after that (and admittedly was quite cavalier about it) because I remembered all my friends and loved ones who were raped and reminded myself it could have been worse.

None of these happened when I was drunk (even at the bar, I had one beer). None of these happened due to what I was wearing (and I mean, come on. I was eleven or twelve when some of it started). None of these happened because I had sex before or was a sex worker. None of these happened because I started to have sex and then changed my mind. And, even if any and all of those were true, it SHOULDN'T MATTER! You don't refuse to prosecute a burglar because the owner left their house unlocked. Let me tell you something: people break into houses with locked doors and people rape women when they do everything to be safe (and sometimes, break into aforementioned house to do so, or they live in the same house because their an abusive spouse or family member). We need to start treating rape and assault like crimes, not gossip, not jokes.

I am OK. I am horrendously lucky that none of these turned into a situation that could have had drastic consequences both physically and psychologically. However, they did leave scars. Even today, I have a hard time trusting men I don't know very well, especially if I can't read their intentions. Anytime people mention "sexual assault", my back is already against the wall. And, if someone jokes about rape, it's all I can do to NOT introduce them to God in person. I'm lucky I haven't been raped. I know this. I'm lucky I have a kind, respectful, gentle partner who would die before he dreamed of hurting me and a posse of people who would probably kill anyone who tried. At the same time, all these incidents have changed me.

Assault is not OK. Harassment is not OK. Rape is not OK and hitting people (unless they're striking you or someone else) is not OK. Rape isn't a joke you can wear on a T-shirt . It's one of the greatest acts of betrayal because you no longer feel safe in your body. It is one of the worst forms of dehumanization and is sadly one of those crimes that often goes unpunished. While we must work to create a peaceful society and foster an attitude of forgiveness, none of this comes without justice. Justice does not come until we see each other as equal human beings, endowed with dignity by our Creator. Let's fight for this for everyone. Thousands of years of human history have been long enough.


  1. Thanks for posting this, Katie. You're a brave gal.

  2. stand up and be the one the who helps others! i am proud of you Katie!