In the fifth grade, when I was ten, I was bullied by a boy in my class who told me about how he and a group of boys had pinned a girl to a haystack with pitchforks and raped her.  He said he wanted to do that to me.  I was scared but trying not to believe him in the hopes he would go away.  I never told anyone.

The first time I was sexually abused was when I was eleven.  Life was difficult in my home at that time.  My dad was usually drunk in the evenings, and often physically and emotionally abusive. I was grateful for the next door neighbors.  I vividly remember running with a bag of clothes across our pasture, to the little road, and up that road to the neighbor’s house for overnight refuge, with my dad chasing me and cursing.  I needed these neighbors to turn to, and was grateful to them for giving me rides places as we lived in a rural area and I was trapped.  On the way home from one of these errands, the husband pulled into the local car dealership where he worked and said he needed to meet someone there about a car.  It turned out to be true, but not before he molested me in his office, while telling me I would make a good secretary.

I didn’t tell anyone for years.  I was ashamed and confused and wondered what I had done wrong to cause that to happen.

Shortly after my freshman year, I was coerced by an older boy into losing my virginity.  He knew I didn’t want to have sex, but he refused to stop.  It took me over thirty years to realize that sex without clear consent is rape.  I did not consent, though I finally caved in.  I remember when my parents came to pick me up from his house, I was convinced that they could tell, and I was certain I had the word “slut” emblazoned across my forehead.

Later in high school, a boy named Billy, who I momentarily thought was cute, saw me lying on my belly in the carpeted hall by the auditorium alone, studying for something.  He unexpected ran up and sat on me, pull up the back of my shirt, and unsnapped my bra.  Then he ran off laughing.  I never told anyone about it, and I didn’t think he was cute anymore.

When I was eighteen, I had two male buddies who I hung out with.  We were smoking weed one day at my house when one of them wanted to wrestle.  He began trying to pull up my shirt and fumbled with my pants while his friend watched.  I fought back, angry and betrayed and his friend laughed at him for “getting his ass kicked by a girl.”  I didn’t hang out with those guys anymore, and I didn’t tell anyone.  I was ashamed.

About a year later, I lived in a tiny studio and had some friends over for a beer or two.  As was often the case in that apartment, everyone crashed out in various places, with me on my mattress in the corner of the room.  I awoke to being raped by someone I thought was a friend.  In a sleepy half-drunk stupor, I pushed him absently away, and he stopped but not before threatening my friend who was crashed out next to me.  She and I stared at each other in shock without saying anything.  I think he left before we got up.  I don’t remember exactly how that ended, just that I had to work that day and I was a wreck.  I remember telling my brother, but I never reported it.  I don’t remember his name, and I remember thinking, as is still often the case, there were no indications of a struggle, and no bruises, etc.  It would be a he-said, she-said, and I was humiliated enough already.  I think I may have seen him one time after that, on a city bus.  I was traumatized and hoped he didn’t see me.  Oh, if I could go back as who I am now…

A couple of years later, I was married and pregnant with my first child.  I learned during that time that the person who molested me when I was eleven had committed suicide after being accused of molesting many other girls.  He ran a hose of carbon monoxide to his car, proclaiming his innocence. 

When I was 27, I was in a local bar with my now ex-husband.  We were friends with the musicians playing there, and I had had no alcohol.  I was there to dance and have fun.  I was wearing a short skirt, and leaned against the bar talking to my friend whose sister had just had a baby.  As I asked him all about the baby, my ex came up to me and said it was time to leave.  I started to argue but he looked upset, so we left and I asked him what was the problem.  He waited until we were several blocks away, and informed me that a few guys were sitting at a table behind me and one of them was about to hook his finger on the hem of my skirt and pull it up.  I was furious and wanted to get out of the car and stomp back to the bar and beat him up.  My ex asked me what I would have done if he had lifted my skirt, and I said I would have spun around, grabbed him by the hair, and repeatedly slammed his face into the table.  I wasn’t kidding.  I have no idea who it was but I still want to do that.

A few years ago, I learned that the story that I was told in fifth grade about the girl being raped by a local group of boys in the hay, was true.  If I’d known in fifth grade what I know now, I would have told the teacher.  At the time, I didn’t believe him and didn’t want to be a tattle tale.

I also learned that the man who committed suicide after molesting me had molested his four children, as well as all of his grandchildren, male and female, including a special needs child with developmental disabilities.  This was before moving to another state where he continued to hurt children until it caught up with him.

Since those things have happened, I’ve learned that probably every person who violated me has other victims out there.  Things like that don’t just happen in a vacuum.  Sexual abusers depend on silence and thrive on shame.  There’s a real sense of entitlement to the bodies of other people.  As long as they can make the victim feel ashamed (by trusting them, by drinking/smoking too much, by wearing certain clothes) they can shame them into silence and continue the pattern of abuse.  If I had reported the rapist who attacked me when I was unconscious, I would have been the one on trial for drinking with him.  I knew that. 

If I found out now that one of the people who hurt me was running for public office and I could identify them, the older, wiser, stronger me would report them in a heartbeat.  I would want the world to know what they did and have accountability. 

There would be people who would claim I was making it up.  They would say, "She waited over 30 years?  She must be lying."  “Why didn’t she report this earlier?”  Rape survivors know why.  They have to live with the blame and there’s very little accountability.  That’s why.

Here’s a handy little statistic from RAINN (Rape, Abuse,and Incest National Network).  An American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds and every eight minutes it’s a child.

994 out of 1000 rapists will not go to jail, and it’s not because people don’t report!


 
THIS is why people don’t report.  They feel powerless.  This is why the alleged victims of Brett Kavanaugh waited 30 years.  I believe them, and I don’t blame them.  After seven years of working with sexual assault survivors, I learned that the one you need to fear isn’t the boogie man in the bushes we were all taught to fear.  It’s your neighbor, your family member, your friend.  And statistically, only a very tiny percentage of rape allegations are false, yet that the go-to for people who simply refuse to believe that the “nice guy” would do that.  They don’t understand that nice guys groom people in order to assault them.  There aren’t many rapists who aren’t going to try to earn trust so they can violate it.  Attacks by strangers are the exception, not the rule.  In fact, 75% of rape survivors are assaulted by someone they know.

I know very few women who haven’t been sexually assaulted.  The statistics say it’s one out of three.  I disagree, because there are too many people who equate sexual assault with injuries and force, when in fact sex without fully informed and enthusiastic consent is sexual assault.  When I look back over my life, I understand more about what that looks like.  One training I attended presented it like this:  Consent is not the absence of “no.”  It is the presence of “yes.”

An unconscious person cannot say yes.  “Letting” someone do something you don’t want to do isn’t consent.  When in doubt, ASK… then accept the answer. 

I’m proud of the women who have come forward to identify their attackers.  Enough is enough!  Nobody deserves for any reason to be sexually assaulted and it’s time for the cowards to be called out from the shadows and held accountable.  They certainly don’t belong on the Supreme Court.

I’m proud of the parents who are raising little boys and little girls who understand that their bodies belong to only them, and what consent is.  Say what you will about millennials, but I think they are a fantastic generation and are elevating the conversation about respect and human dignity to a whole new level. 

I pray for those ones tonight who suffer.  You aren’t alone.  We go on, through suffering, and live and learn.  If this happened to you, you didn’t deserve it.  You are a part of a loving community of survivors and we believe you and we have your back.