LISTEN TO TLR’S LATEST PODCAST:
Sexual Assault Awareness: A Survivor’s Perspective
I didn’t know the man who forced himself inside of me. I awoke to his figure hovering directly above me, in a hotel room that wasn’t mine. Beside me were two of my male co-workers, fast asleep and unaware of what was happening. We had been out drinking together the night before, but this man holding me down was a complete stranger. All of my senses blurred together as the room blackened before me. I feared what this man would do to me if I stirred the men beside us. Nor did I know how my coworkers would react to finding me trapped under this man’s grip. Because as much as we would like to think the people in our lives would stop something like this, the rape I survived has shattered that illusion for me.
You see, while his grip no longer traps my wrists, I still find it hard to breathe sometimes. My ‘friends’ attend women’s marches and speak up about Trump tapes, yet tell me I wasn’t, “being careful,” the morning when a stranger stripped me. When you thought perhaps I shouldn’t have let myself drink so much that night, did you hold my co-workers to the same standard?
We do not live in a society that enforces rape culture. We enforce the idea that ‘no’ sometimes mean ‘try again in five minutes’. We perpetuate the idea that the number of partners a girl has influences the amount of her body you are entitled to. We wear the jerseys of the men who put colorful pills in the cheerleaders drinks at the after party.
Do not politicize Sexual Assault Awareness month. In 2016, I watched sexual assault enter the conversation of our national election, only to be used as a political weapon. We throw the term ‘trigger’ around in humor while I struggle not to scream every time someone touches me, even consensually. Focus on victims, not circumstances. It doesn’t matter what she drank or what she wore, he didn’t stop. Prevent assault, don’t justify it.
Even now, boys still quickly refill my drinks at parties. I wrap myself in layers of clothing to feel protected. You can’t always be sure boys will take no for an answer. A slit in my dress looks like an invitation. I record every eye-roll and sigh I get when I push their hands away. I won’t forget. Did I get what I was asking for?