There are other things I should be doing right now, but instead, I’m compelled to tell this story. In fact, it’s something I should have done a long time ago.
I don’t normally talk about politics at all, but it’s now my turn to speak up and be strong for those that are not yet ready to do so. We’re all in this world together, and it’s all shit if we can’t support and love one another. Until last night, I had no idea what sort of emotions would be stirred up inside me after this election. I can’t take it anymore: I need to talk about one very specific reason why this presidency hurts me.
When I was 21, like many others, I was immature, naive and inexperienced in life. I was living on my own, in a new state, hundreds of miles from home, poor, struggling with depression, attempting to go to school and hold a job. Poor me, right? No, not really … I made a lot of terrible choices. My choices.
When someone rapes you, that is not your choice.
When I was 21, I was stood up for a date and found myself having a drink alone at the bar. But not for long. Two men caught my eye across the room and sent me another drink. Before long we were chatting, laughing and there were more drinks. My suitors were funny and charming and I thought I was having a nice time. As the night came to a close, I wandered to my car in an attempt to sleep in it, however, one of these men followed me and scared me by telling me I’d be sure to get law enforcement’s attention parked where I was, and that it would not end well. He so kindly offered to let me sleep at his place a couple blocks away.
Here I am, vomiting on the beach, with a terrible case of the spins, about to pass out. I remember the cab driver looking concerned. I think I told him I didn’t know this man and I didn’t know where I was going. He did nothing. What choice did I have? I caved and drank all those drinks; I thought I’d be fine. I’d slept on enough couches in that neighborhood, and spent enough time wandering the streets that I felt far too comfortable.
I don’t remember going into the house or even getting out of the car. I remember being in a bed, I remember gaining awareness and what was happening. Then he got up, left me laying there with no pants, went to the living room to watch TV. A little time went by. I found my cell phone. I called someone for help. My rapist heard me and came and took the phone away. I couldn’t even stand up. I lay on the floor listening to him convince my friend that I was fine, I was safe, I just had too much to drink. He came back and told me to go back to sleep and walked away.
I was frantically gathering my things and trying to figure out how to get out of the house in the dark without him noticing, when he walked back in. I finally convinced him that I was leaving, no matter what he said and he so kindly offered to drive me. This is when I realized where I was: in the dawn hours, the sun coming up, I finally saw his home, his street, his neighborhood — one where I had been so many times before. So familiar, yet so strange and now forever blemished in my mind.
I went home and slept if off. And like so many other women, I shrugged my shoulders and called it a bad night. I have one amazing friend to thank for pushing me to stand up for myself — we talked the next day and I will never, ever forget her saying to me, “That’s rape!”
And again, I shrugged my shoulders and wrote it off. What would anyone do for me? There wasn’t anything anyone could to erase the pain, remove the scar or undo this violation. They would tell me I was asking for it. That I was a party girl, and I put myself in a dangerous situation. I would be shamed. But it was not my fault. I got to decide to make some stupid choices, but I didn’t decide to take my clothes off, and I didn’t decide to have my body violated. I didn’t decide to be used.
However, thanks to my friend, I chose to go through the painstaking, emotional process of filing a police report, adding a strike, should my rapist ever repeat himself. I wouldn’t be telling this story if it wasn’t for her. And to this day, I don’t know if she even knows that how strong I grew to be was largely because of her.
Today, I am thinking about the women who our new President violated. I think about how I would feel if my rapist was in the White House, and I would think about all the people around me who chose this. I would think about people taking a side, supporting this man who cared so little for me — someone who cared so little about another human being, that their thoughts and feelings were completely meaningless to them. I am thinking about how isolating and painful that would feel, and I want to change that. I want every woman dealing with this to know that she is not alone. I’m completely, utterly, flagrantly insulted by so many Americans right now. We, as a country, have sent a clear message that rape culture is not going away.
We need to keep fighting.