Sexual Assault Awareness Month

I have been debating writing this words for weeks, months,….years.

April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Nationally the #MeToo and #TimeIsUp movements have become popular and extremely relevant, especially as many celebrities have been accused of being assailants. That includes one of my favorite actors.

A few months ago, a young woman in my life walked away from a conversation to which I was a witness,  when a young man said “Rape is not real, especially with men, like no man would say no to sex, and women probably don’t either.” … when she returned a short time later, I looked at her and said, “Me. Too” and she said “When?” I responded “16” and she said “I was 14.” and I knew it was time to write this, but I have still struggled to do it.

The “Universe/God/My own life interpretation” told me again that it was time when at the Sweeps Pageant in March I was asked why I thought women didn’t report sexual assault.

So, here we go.

I was 16 (2009). I knew him. It ruined me. I only told one person and swore them to never tell. It was 2012 before I spoke about it again.

I told my bible study group and one girl remarked “Wow, how badly did you sin for God to punish you like that?” Shortly after, I started counseling to deal with it. I learned a lot although my counselor wasn’t the best and projected a lot of her own circumstances and feelings on me. I completed my counseling round and planned to transfer schools; mainly because I changed my major but also a new beginning.

I tried to talk to people I trusted about the incident and was appalled at how many times I was asked what I was wearing, if I had led him to believe I wanted him to do that, if I had been with him before, and if I tried to make him stop. I was so severely disillusioned by the way people, especially “Christians,” treated me. It pushed me so far away from the church (If you know, or ever hear, my testimony, this is the first time I thought I wanted to be out of church and wasn’t sure about God.)

I watched a documentary called “Forgiving Dr. Mengele” and Eva Mozes Kor changed my world. I emailed her and told her about my experience and she responded within hours about how forgiveness also shapes our experiences. I still have that email and read it from time to time.

In late 2012 and early 2013, things got really bad. In 2013, I found God for real for the first time. In 2013, I got saved. I found a new church who accepted my past and my story and the testimony from the test.

In 2015, I spoke to a club at the school I teach at, called “Feeling Beautiful” about what it looked like to be an adult who had been a victim of assault. But it isn’t something I frequently speak about. It was hard. The students there watched me cry as I choked out the words of my story. But I felt like I did what I needed to do.

I still don’t frequently speak about it. If it is brought up, not in my classroom of course, I’m willing to talk about it. But it still isn’t easy. I don’t know if it ever will be.

It’s been over 8 years. I have survived over 8 years. I became determined a long time ago to be a survivor and not solely a victim.

I determined to be the flower. I determined to grow despite the ways I had been crushed. I determined to not let his sinful actions define who I am. 

There are times I still cry about it. Sometimes I still have panic attacks. Sometimes I still have survivor guilt that someone I knew was killed by her assailant, and I wasn’t. I will never know the right words to say about it, or how to make someone feel better if it happens to them.

I still get really bitter. I still get really angry. I still feel like I missed the chance for justice. but I also have a hope that the ultimate justice will be paid out by God. I do feel like God accepts the anger and bitterness and also tries to soothe the pain that I still have.

But some days, I don’t think about it at all. I don’t want him and his actions to be what defines me. I don’t want other people to look at me and that be all that they see. But it does largely shape my political opinions, it does largely shape the way I empathize with people, it does largely shape the way I interpret a lot of what is said and done around me and in the public sphere. 

I’m not sure how to wrap this up.

I guess maybe I encourage you to not take part in rape culture. And let me side note my definition of rape culture: blaming a victim, asking what they wore, asking what they did to deserve it, asking about their sexual history and/or preferences, not believing them that they were assaulted. It is also raising our boys to believe that it’s okay to do something without consent or to coerce a woman into consent.

I encourage you to be empathetic and recognize others and the scars they carry.

“Why do women not report sexual assault?” Women and Men are sexually assaulted. Both have problems with reporting because they are afraid and embarrassed. Colleges have an issue with under-reporting sexual assault statistics hoping future students will still want to come to that school. Victim blaming and rape culture is too common in our culture. With movements like #MeToo and #TimeIsUp perhaps more women and men will feel comfortable coming forward as they see it happens to others; but until we allow victims to feel comfortable and not accused when telling their stories then there will continue to be a lack of reporting and pressing charges…until we allow them to become survivors and not just victims this will be cyclical in our society. And a little Sandra Bullock for you here…every culprit of sexual harassment or sexual assault should be charged, tried, convicted, and punished.

All my love,

L

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