I had no desire to go here today, but with all these jokers flapping their yaps lately, I have to say something. I thought my fellow college peers and old co-workers and even men close to me were smarter and more aware than this, but here we are.
I’m going into some detail about my past sexual assaults, harassments and encounters. Feel free to skip down to my reasons for sharing below though. Friends and family, I’m sorry, but I am done being quiet and want everyone to make sure they know this is something that happens to so, so many women. But if you STILL don’t believe women, you need to keep going and read this.
Five Short Stories
As a 15-year-old I worked at a breakfast diner. The 50-year-old owner used to grab me inappropriately and say inappropriate things to me as a child. I told no one and assumed it was normal.
My second kiss ever was a local man in my college town who fed me Jager shots and decided that gave him permission to jam his tongue down my throat and feel up my skirt while I was severely intoxicated in complete public at the bar. I was under 21 years old. The friends near by I tried to tearfully tell told me I was overacted and thought it was funny.
Next, I worked at a donut shop in college. My male manager and I were alone in the shop in very early morning making donuts a few times a week. He used to describe very lewd sexual acts to me verbally. I asked him to stop. I was scared to protest too much because I needed the job and knew no one could hear call for help if something happened. He threatened my job, and I eventually was fired.
At the end of college, I finally decided to come forward with something. I had to take out a campus restraining order against a young man who was making repeated unwanted advances romantically, territoriality and for friendship. As we had been friends in the past, I was told by school administration I had to go to mediation by campus authorities and talk to him face-to-face, although I had the order out and did not want to do it. I was called a c*nt by the young man in front of a priest I respected at this meeting and I was so embarrassed. I was asked very invasive questions in front of administration and was never once advised to go to the actual police. He had a license to carry and could approach me off campus anytime. In the end, he faced no consequences.
A man claimed he was in love with me in my early 20s and said he’d leave his girlfriend for us to be together. He lied and never did leave his girlfriend. He sexually assaulted me several times in his apartment and in my own. I said no and did not consent many times. I was manipulated and afraid. He lied about having a sexually transmitted disease as well and he had a criminal record. I wish I could go into details more but this one is too painful and was the worst.
Besides these, there have been countless unwanted grabs at nightclubs, catcalls on the street, and inappropriate/sexual messages from male bloggers and co-workers.
Why I Believe You and Why This is Now Happening
So why do I say all this now? For so many reasons. I am damn lucky that I am old enough and spent enough time in therapy, meditating and healing from all this that I am now in my ANGRY phase. I don’t want pity, and I definitely don’t want any man’s private message of support anymore when you see me call out ignorant peers online and in person.
Don’t ask me either if I’m going to report all my assaults. Want to know why I didn’t? Because it was normalized for me. Women told me it was normal, men did too. Adults said it was no big deal when I was a minor. My young friends thought it was something that just happened.
I’m also part of the problem. When I was younger I didn’t support friends who tried to get help from me. Men and women, who tried to tell me they felt unsafe. I’m heartbroken over this and am actively trying to redeem my past ignorance.
If you are aware of this in yourself, you also should be trying to fix things, apologizing and learning from this. Not getting defensive.
The men who don’t stick up for us, who quietly shake their heads but let other guys assault us, you’re part of the problem. Ladies, when you don’t believe your female friends it is just as bad too. And it’s not alright if you were young and didn’t understand, but you can recognize, apologize and do better. Right now. You can humble yourself and start fixing the wrongs. RIGHT NOW.
I would hope any grown person who moves through this world and is aware of others has also been working on this. If ANY of these men I’ve spoken about were going into a place of political or judicial power, I sure as hell would consider saying something about their pasts, regardless if I could press charges or not.
I believe Dr. Ford, because the default should not be suspicion of women. 98% of women who do come forward about their assaults are proven to be telling the truth. Regardless of anything else, statistically, we need to believe women, and people of any gender or sexual orientation, that their story is real.
I’m sure a whole lot of older, wiser woman are tired – but they’re pulling themselves up, broken and battered, to hold a candle to this sickness in our society. I’m in awe. I wish I could hug my younger self and show her it’s not her fault and she can come forward if she was ready to do so. Younger me didn’t even know it was an option.
You know what a big problem is? A lot of younger women need to feel this lion power from us older ladies. I wish I had this rage and power in my teens and twenties, because I would hope at least some of these men would have served jail time. We often feel empowered when it’s too late, or we’re too tired. Luckily things are changing and I think a lot of young women are finding their strength but we have so long to go. I know in Dr. Ford’s case the statue of limitations was missed, no charges can be made. But that doesn’t make her story any less true, nor her right to tell it any less valid.
My point is all this is, take action. I need your help. Women who have had so much worse than me need your help. White women like me, women of color, disabled women, any marginalized women need help. All of us. Men who have been assaulted, people who identify of all genders and sexual orientations who have been assaulted; they need your help too. Here’s how below.
- MEN, PLEASE BE VERBAL, ACTIONABLE ALLIES. Don’t send me private messages saying sorry. I don’t want your pity. Get bent. Go tell your friend to stop making rape jokes. Go tell your acquaintance on Facebook his jokes on Facebook about assault aren’t funny. (Gently and respectfully) offer articles and education to fellow men who may not be thinking clearly or are afraid of change. Explain to other men why women are pissed off and why men need to shut up and listen right now.
- CALL OUT YOUR PEERS. With great privilege comes great responsibility. I hope to use my own affluent whiteness for good and lift up/believe/support others not as fortunate. Men, women, and friends beyond the binary, please do the same. Be firm but be patient. Do it online, but definitely do it face-to-face if you can.
- CHECK YOUR LANGUAGE. I’ve made bad jokes in the past. I used the wrong words to describe people and things that can be harmful. If someone tells me they’ve been hurt by my words or actions, I fix it or take it down. I don’t fight them or immediately think they’re a liar. Why would I? It’s no skin off my back to retract my statement. I was probably wrong. There’s no need to stick your head in the sand. We are all fallible and make mistakes, even as adults. Especially as adults. Keep growing and evolving.
- KEEP IT CLASSY. Jokes are funny, sure. We laugh to keep from crying or raging over all sorts of horrible things in this world. But use your brain. There’s a time and place for everything. And if you’ve misjudged the moment and people are calling you out for it, take it down and apologize. You’ll live, I promise. And also, keyboard warriors, try really hard to aim high and not sling around dumb memes or name calling. it doesn’t help anyone.
- DONATE. Instead of wasting my whole day yelling at people, I try to pick my battles carefully. And when I feel the urge to yell into the void, I give $5 to a good cause instead. Here’s a whole bunch of them that support the end of sexual assault against women. I also like to donate to organizations that provide education for women and/or other marginalized people in areas that usually don’t, as educating women is a core step in empowerment and changing rape culture. Here’s one I visited personally in Morocco.
- VOLUNTEER. Hotlines need help and safe homes for those fleeing violent domestic situations need help. Women need help down the street from you and women across the planet need help too. Start in your neighborhood, go beyond that if you’re inclined. You can volunteer for causes that need admin work online if you can’t go somewhere. You can drive people and sort clothes. There’s so much that needs to be done. I found places to volunteer my skills as a writer and social media person online from the Guilty Feminist podcast.
- VOTE. For the love of all things good and true, please vote. It’s such a privilege to live in a democracy and have our voices heard. Vote locally, vote nationally. Lobby and canvas if you are able. It matters and it counts. Make sure you do your due diligence, educate yourself and know what you’re voting for too. If you’re a US citizen, register here.
If you have gone through something that made you feel hurt, unsafe or attacked, please seek the help you need. Come to me, I can try to help. Go to someone you trust. And if you’re not ready to do that, IT IS PERFECTLY OK. You are not at fault and you’ve done nothing wrong, whatever you decide. You do you and protect yourself.
That’s all I got. I’m off to have a drink, play with my foster dog and get a hug from my husband. Be kind to each other guys, really. Be compassionate, the world is so divided right now. Listen, no matter how smart you think you are. And learn. And love.