If you were looking for a political piece, I just want to let you know, this is not it. If you were looking for a PG-rated post, this is also, not it.
I find the modern day news cycle to be exhausting and hadn’t been paying much attention to the Ford/Kavanaugh hot mess but I wanted to be informed, I didn’t want to be ignorant to what was going on. I dove in head first, prepping myself with the infamous Anita Hill testimony against now, Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas as well as his response. I then, watched Dr. Blasey Ford and Judge Kavanaugh give their live testimonies. It was all exhausting, heartbreaking, tools to fuel division. The division of political parties, the division of men and women. Everything I read, whether it was Twitter or The New York Times, was fueled with such anger and passion. I believe that is because sexual violation and assault is a problem that has been ignored for far too long.
This may be an unpopular opinion, but I believe that for generations, the lines of what sexual assault is and isn’t have been blurred. This is not to say that I believe that the responsibility of one’s actions should be dismissed, but I do believe many of us, both men and women, have a distorted view of what is sexual violation which makes it difficult to pinpoint if it didn’t look like something we saw in a movie or on Law and Order: SVU.
I used to be afraid to speak on sexual assault because I’d never been raped, I didn’t think it was my place or that it was that big of a deal. But through self-education and open conversation, I have learned that I most certainly have been violated and assaulted. There are three specific instances, that I believe represent the different level of sexual violation but are unacceptable nonetheless:
1.I met an older gentleman at a University networking event. I was a young, journalism major looking for an opportunity to learn and intern. He viewed my portfolio, seemingly impressed, and suggested that we meet up to further discuss an opening for me with his company. He was a producer at a major network, so it seemed legit. Our original lunch was rescheduled last minute for happy hour which turned into him asking me what my wildest dreams are, where my love of writing came from and what I like sexually…followed by an uninvited caressing of my hand. I didn’t really know what to do! I just awkwardly sat through this encounter, subconsciously praising God that we were at least in public. Eventually, he had to get home to his wife and kids and we went our separate ways. I did, however, for some crazy reason, follow up to see about an internship. His response:
2. My first week of college, there was a group of students whose sole purpose was to welcome freshman and help them adapt to the college life. Let’s call them ‘University Friends’…they put on events and parties through the week, and everyone was assigned a certain person. At one particular party, I was dancing with my ‘friend’, and then he took it upon himself to put his hands in my pants and start to attempt to finger me. I was drunk, it took me a moment to process what was exactly was happening, when I did, I pulled his hands out of my pants and gave him a look. He laughed, walked away and never spoke to me again.
3. Also during my freshman year in college, I went to a ‘kickback’ of sorts with some of my friends from home. The party was being held at a boy’s apartment who went to another school, he knew some of our friends, he had a BMW, his apartment was really nice and clean, seems safe right? I have never been as inebriated as I was that night. After a great deal of alcohol, I eventually blacked out. I woke up early in the morning, a sliver of sun peeking through the blinds, my head was throbbing. As my vision began to focus, I realized that my view was obstructed my breathing felt shallow.
It was because the guy whose apartment it was had somehow ended up on top of me while I was asleep.
His tongue was in my mouth and he was moaning and groaning “ooh baby yeah”, his pants were unbuttoned and he was beginning to unzip mine. Did I mention that twenty seconds before this, I was asleep? I, for lack of a better term, ‘mollywhopped’ him in his face and ran out of the room. When I came back, I cussed him out while he tried to ‘apologize.’
After the initial shock, I began to tell this story to people and laugh about it. I truly believed that the root of the issue was that I’d had too much to drink, not that a young man tried to rape me. Perhaps, as a defense mechanism, I focused on the fact that nothing more happened, and tried to make light of the situation. Until one, day, I shared the story with one of my guy friends who looked at me with shock and disbelief. He told me that I had been violated, that it wasn’t funny and that it wasn’t ok. I, honestly, hadn’t really thought about it that way.
One day, I came across the chart below and realized that I wasn’t so alone in my thinking. So many times we justify the traumas we have experienced in order to cope with a painful reality.
There are other experiences I’ve had, that may not have seemed like I was being ‘violated’ to onlookers but were positively invasive. A coworker suggesting that I must be ‘flexible’ because I used to be a cheerleader, a man outside my job suggesting that I ‘stop playing with my mouth so he can show me what to really do with it.’ These isolated events, although seemingly insignificant on the sexual assault/violations spectrum are encounters I won’t easily forget. No matter how you put it, the feeling of objectification is always uncomfortable regardless of it being engrained your culture.
To me, what objectification culture has done to many women is desensitize us to our traumas and violations. Putting in your headphones when walking through a group of catcallers, not wanting to report your ‘dirty old man’ coworker because you don’t want to throw your own kind under the bus, avoiding making eye contact because you know that if you do that, there will be unwanted attempts at a conversation. Telling a man that you have a boyfriend, even though you don’t just so he will leave you alone.
There was one particular statement in Anita Hill’s Capitol Hill testimony that stuck with me because I was so familiar with it:
I’ve experienced this many times, where telling a man no becomes exhausting and eventually, you give him what he wants. Ms. Hill went on to say, "I may have used poor judgment but the course I took seemed the better and easier approach…it would have been more comfortable to remain silent…”
I refuse to raise a daughter who surrenders to being comfortable when her voice, her safety, and her humanity matters. As opposed to shying away from telling her about sex, I will do her one better and make sure she knows that sex is good and it is Godly and therefore should never feel like defilement, degradation, assault. The God that I know is a God whose freedom lies in giving us the right to choose, and anything that removes your ability to make a choice is not freedom.
Our world needs so much healing. I cry about it sometimes. My heart aches for us all. People want to be heard, people want to be healed and people want to be loved. I hope in sharing a little bit of my story, you were able to experience at least one of those things.
If you believe you’ve been assaulted, you are not alone, please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline - 800.656.HOPE