Walk a Mile in Her Shoes…. [Sexual Assault Awareness Month & Approaching Year 10]

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault, Suicide

Ten years ago, I could not have imagined this post because I thought it would never happen to me. Nine years ago, I could not have imagined this post, because I thought I would never have the ability to speak these words. Yet, here we are. And this year, I’ve struggled to find the words to type for my Sexual Assault Awareness Month post.

 

For a month, I’ve had the head knowledge that this post needed to be written. I had the passion to do it. But I have felt a lack of courage. And also a lack of motivation as life has been overwhelming.

One night I thought I found the place in which to write, but as the words formed, I decided I could not for fear of it being too emotional.

Even now I wonder— Can I be vulnerable enough to share this?

This year has been particularly rough. I have a myriad of reasons I believe it is so rough.

It’s year nine…which means in November I will have survived ten years since being assaulted…which is largely significant.

I’ve struggled with things at work, grad school has kept me busy, and I’m busy with wedding planning.

My autoimmune disease and pain disorder have kept me on a run for, what some days feels like, my existence.

My anxiety and depression have been on the attack full force and I have no doubt that this is the enemy using where he knows I am weak in an already trying schedule.

I’ve fallen down on my self-care more than once because I’ve run out of time on so many days.

So today I sit in a Starbucks, sipping a skinny vanilla latte, after leaving the rheumatologist, hoping being in a public space will allow me to keep my emotions in check to write this.

The night I felt I could a few weeks ago. I lost my courage. But the moments in which I felt ready, it was because I realized how much my assault still affects me in my every day.

I froze. And I don’t know how long I was frozen where I stood.

I had been contemplating the words to write. I had been thinking about my assault. I had also been having very vivid nightmares and flashbacks.

I was standing in the shower and everything in me froze. My mind played back my assault. The details. The weight of him. The screaming. The woman walking by and refusing to stop. Watching it happen to me and thinking this can’t be happening to me. The thoughts that this was someone I knew and this only happened when a stranger assaulted you. The way I froze and stopped fighting and tried to leave my body until it was over. His words telling me he knew I enjoyed it. The way I apologized to him afterward. The realization that my innocence, and the purity I cherished about myself, was taken from me. The words whispered about me in hallways. How only one person knew the truth for what felt like so long.

It was a while before I realized the shower water was burning my skin, I was sobbing, and I had been standing there far too long. So I did my best to pull myself together and went on about my day.

[I’m now being stared at in Starbucks because I just choked up a little]

So why am I writing about this again? Haven’t I done that enough? Doesn’t that make it harder for me?

I’m walking in “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” on Saturday hosted by Safe Alliance. Funds raised from the walk, go towards their mission of helping women domestically or sexually abused. A dear friend will walk with me. And even as I type this I’m shaking.

But I want to tell you why I’m choosing to walk this year. Maybe you’ll choose to donate to Safe Alliance, join us to walk, or both.

You can find the link here.

I want you to walk in my shoes; a brief walk down memory lane of what the last ten years have held for me in the grief, and the growth.

  • 10 years ago, I was 15. My boyfriend at the time was very jealous and possessive, but I thought that meant he loved me. He even shoved me against a locker once for hugging a friend. But nobody who watched it said anything so I didn’t think about it. Looking back now, I should’ve known he was trouble.
  • Sometime in spring 2009, we broke up. But he continued to give me attention. My family didn’t like him but I saw him around them knowing I was seeing him.
  • In November 2009, he assaulted me. He told people I was a slut/whore/slept around.
    I whispered the words “he forced me” to a friend later that week, but swore him not to tell. We never talked about it. He didn’t tell anyone to my knowledge. But people talked about me with the rumors that had been spread.
  • In 2011, an old friend was assaulted and killed. I was torn up over this, and struggled heavily (and I many days do still struggle with) with survivor’s guilt.
  • In January 2012, the new boyfriend of the year heard the words, “I think I was raped,” after something we watched on TV. He encouraged me to tell somebody. I told my bible study group at NC State.
  • My group leaders set me up with a counselor. A girl in my group when she heard said the words,Wow, you must have sinned really badly for God to punish you like that.” I began to doubt God because if that was the way God worked, I was not a fan.
  • Later that spring, at my home church, I asked for prayer as I continued counseling to work through it. I was asked what I was wearing, how far I had gone with him before he assaulted me, and what I had done to lead him to believe I wanted sex. In a phrase, I was victim blamed. That week I decided I really didn’t like church and began to pull away.
  • In the fall of 2012, I transferred colleges, and my life fell apart in a series of events, some of which still tear at my heart. Among these was a series of successful suicides by multiple people I knew or who were my age. I began drinking, and self-harming, believing God either didn’t exist or hated me (I mean he had punished me pretty badly, remember?), and that my worth was basically nonexistent. I was put on medication for a misdiagnosed condition that messed with me mentally. I gained a ton of weight. And my self-harm worsened as I wanted nothing more than to get my pain from the inside to the outside so I could deal with it.
  • On April 28, 2013, my sister found me in the bathroom with cuts on my wrists, and God wrestled with me in the ER to bring me back home to him and my family.

But this isn’t nearly the end of this story, is it?

Even with a new found faith, the enemy has made sure to continue my anxiety and depression and panic attacks, sometimes coupled with flashbacks.

    • And there are always plenty of people to victim blame and perpetuate rape culture.
      Over the course of the last 6 years, I was privy to one significant other telling me that it was okay that I had been assaulted, he didn’t begrudge me that or my past as a result of it….and that he was still going to vote for Trump even once the p****-grabbing tapes were released.
    • I’ve been asked countless times what I was wearing, what I did to lead him on, why I couldn’t just have sex with him, or why I had sex then called it assault.

 

  • I’ve been told that rape and assault are nonexistent because who wouldn’t want sex. As I write that sentence I wish I was joking that that has been said to me.
  • I’ve been told that my willingness to speak, and write, about this without holding back and without fear of how ‘this would hurt him,’ means I have not truly forgiven him, and maybe I should work on forgiveness.

 

  • I obviously was fired up over the Brett Kavanaugh investigation and subsequent appointment. 
    • Among my personal favorites in that incident is how many people jumped on the #HimToo bus…like I’m still waiting for Ashton Kutcher to tell me that was a joke and I was being filmed. I had family and friends tell me I was going overboard in my defense of believing survivors. Oh, and of course there were the jokes. But most of all the assumption that anyone who is assaulted comes out immediately and if they don’t, they’re clearly liars. [I’m currently shaking thinking about this]
    • I have seen a plethora of jokes in my years of dealing with this. I have cut multiple people out of my life as a result. No matter what you think, I’ll let you know, they aren’t funny.


Yet, despite every bit of this…and how it still hurts so many days…the Lord does not waste a hurt.
Never, does He waste a hurt.

Because of my assault. Because of my anxiety. Because of my depression. Because of the low self-esteem I battle. My outlook on life is different. My ability to emphasize and sympathize is different.
My heart for serving others has grown in ways I cannot describe to you, because I want to make the difference I have yet to experience.
My testimony allows me to connect with people who have felt people in the church would not understand them or would be too good for them.
My story allowed me a beautiful relationship with one of my former students and she and I have matching ribbons we wear in April because of the phrase #MeToo and that was all it took for us.
And because of all I’ve seen and been through, the long, weary miles I have walked, I know I don’t walk alone.

So today— will you walk with me?*

Because, let me tell you, for the culture we live in…

For the abuse that is perpetrated every day….

For the 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 6 men, sexually abused in their lifetime (based on reported numbers), who feel they will never see justice….

your support, your love, your voice matters.


And almost just as importantly…for the 0.05% of perpetrators who are convicted in my area….#TimeIsUp….we will tolerate #NoMore.

 

*Even if you choose not to walk or donate. I implore you to consider the way you speak and think as it pertains to sexual assault and abuse. If you take part in rape culture or victim blaming, I encourage you to pledge today to stop. If you are someone who has not believed survivors in the past, I hope that this has helped bring some perspective of what just one account of the millions looks like in the every day; and that you will believe the next survivor who comes forward. Become part of the change that is so absolutely necessary.

Who have you become, America? Who will you become?

*trigger warning: assault*
When the letter accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct came out I thought that there’s no way we will move forward with this man as a potential for the Supreme Court…. and then we did and that’s where my disappointment has stemmed from for weeks. I have tried as a teacher, and when I was a public figure in the Miss America organization to keep my mouth closed, and I have finally read enough arguments on Facebook that I can no longer do so. This will be my last statement on the issue. Any negative comments will be deleted.

My social media from this point forward will not address political issues unless they are positive it will be used to talk about my volunteerism which is a big part of my life, to talk about family and friends, and clearly to talk about my excitement for my upcoming wedding next summer to my sweet, handsome Caleb.

I do reserve the right to unfriend any family or friends who choose to continue the discussion over Brett Kavanaugh’s accusations against his sexual misconduct.

Now let me pause there, I know this unfriending business is a sensitive subject for some people…and I’ve seen this increasingly particularly on Facebook lately. I actually see posts about it in more being a sensitive subject for generations older than me. I get being unfriended or uninvited or whatever can be upsetting, however, I do think that everybody has a right to unfriend somebody. Just as everyone has their own opinions. I have actually in the last few weeks unfriended some family members and friends, myself because of some of the stuff they have said has been very reminiscent of what I encountered in the first few months of coming forward about the assault I dealt with in high school and it has been a little triggering for me. it’s been very upsetting to me and so I didn’t want to continue to read those things. 

Now when I created my social media it was with the purpose of seeing friends and family‘s post about babies, dogs, you know, what they’re doing with their lives, not their political opinions so I will go ahead and say that I have gone full-blown political the last few weeks was never my intention; but it seems to me that that’s the only way to get into a few thick skulls (sorry if that’s offensive to you, probably lost people right there but that’s what it is). I do think however that no political candidate is ever going to read your Facebook post or your Instagram post. They do not care. If you want to change a congress member’s opinion write them a letter, give them a call, that is the way you make the change; this post is not for them, this is for you who are reading it on my Facebook list or whoever they’ve shared it to.

So let me jump into the meat of the argument. I think quite a few of you already know where I stand on this. It’s been very difficult for me to be non-partisan on the Brett Kavanaugh accusations of sexual misconduct. I’m a social studies teacher and I should be non-partisan but this one’s really tough for me because we already have a President in office who has been accused of sexual misconduct, that we still put in office and now he is trying to put someone on the Supreme Court to make decisions for us nationally who also is being accused of sexual misconduct, and it’s not only of one woman it’s now, I believe up to, what four women, so that’s not just one woman seeking to further herself. I just lost some of you, but I promise this is not a rant on Trump. This has a legitimate point.  

So if you read my Facebook post, you know I have already made the argument that women do not come for sexual accusations in this type of arena for fame. Take for example the Larry Nassar or the Bill Cosby accusations or even Kevin Spacey. Men and women who have come forward are not getting fame for this; I’m willing to bet that you can’t name the women and men who are coming forward with these accusations; I’m willing to bet without googling it, you cannot name five of Bill Cosby’s accusers and he’s been convicted recently.  The only reason that you may be able to name more than a few of Larry Nassar’s survivors of his assault and molestation women is because they already had fame these women picked themselves up and kept moving forward and were able to achieve amazing things but they didn’t get there because they came forward and said “Hey, Larry Nassar did this to me and I want him put away.” Their achievement had nothing to do with that; they had already achieved their moment in the spotlight it was not about getting fame for them and that’s not what Christine Blasey Ford is doing. She already has a career, she already has the money, she already has her degrees.

So my question to everyone who has argued well why didn’t she come forward sooner is: if it was you, if it was your son, daughter, or your cousin, or your aunt, uncle, mother, father, whoever it is that you value most in your life, would you force them to come forward, if they were uncomfortable doing so? Which clearly Dr. Ford was not comfortable at the time. She was embarrassed. She was scared, which most victims whether male or female are at the time. Even the statistics from the National Assault Hotline/RAINN say that most people who were calling in I have not told someone before. I’m one of those people. When I came forward two years after my assault it was the first time that I had chosen to talk about it since it happened. I had told one person and I didn’t use the word assault at the time. I didn’t say what he had done to me. I said he did something I didn’t want him to do and do not ever tell anybody. The whole reason I did not come forward at the time is the questions and victim blaming I knew I would get, and I then got when I finally did come forward. The questions most victims are asked, that I was asked, is exactly what we’re pulling today, it is exactly what you people are putting on social media right now about Dr. Ford and it’s disgusting. 

I don’t care what it a male or female had on, how drunk they were or were not, if they had ever had contact with the assailant, or if the assault was at random. For the record: tennis shoes, jeans, sweatshirt, I did know him, and he had no right to lay a finger on me. It is never a victim-survivor’s (whatever term you want to use) fault and how dare any of you blame this woman of it being her fault or her seeking fame, you all are enablers.

The next piece of the argument I want to address is that Mr. Kavanaugh is innocent until proven guilty. That’s fine. But someone who is innocent would have said from the get-go to do an investigation because you will find nothing. Which that has been Mr. Kavanagh’s last resort which tells me that something is not right. “If something does not feel right, something is not right.” if Mr. Kavanagh does truly believe that he is innocent he doesn’t act like it and the fact he has allowed the attacks on Dr. Ford continues to prove to me that he is not innocent, or he at least is not a reputable man who cares nothing about anyone but himself and his own pocket/power/reputation.

Now. Maybe I’m sensitive because I had this argument about a year ago with someone that survivors are not actually talked about it, that the result is nobody knows; but let me tell you people knew, even though I didn’t talk about it, he told people that I had done things with him, that I had not done by choice, and I just kept my mouth shut, I knew I would be victim blamed, and rumors were spread about me. I kind of now equivocate it in my mind to like on “13 reasons why” if you’ve watched that show. So for me, in my head, Mr. Kavanagh is pretty similar to that kind of situation so if he was innocent he would lay this to rest and do so in a respectful way of Dr. Ford insaid of letting her reputation as a woman be blown to shit.

Now I do understand that Mr. Kavanagh may believe in his head he is innocent and he wants the respect of his family and his children and wants this justice position. I’ve got that. But if he is this “respectable man” that you all believe that he is he would help this woman through this time, help her find who did actually assaulted her (use that law degree, boo boo), he would lay this to rest, he would go through the investigation he would prove to his family that he is, in fact, innocent instead of continuing the barrage of misconduct against Dr. Ford and her psyche.

I also cannot bring myself to believe that Dr. Ford is just out to get Kavanaugh when she sent the letter a year ago. She tried a year ago to prevent this entire incident when he was on the shortlist. Ours being the rape culture that we live in she was ignored, now she’s being questioned, now she’s being blamed, instead of being believed as a survivor who has a dealt with this in silence and alone for almost 4 decades that’s indicative to me of the direction that our country is headed. And it’s not the direction I want to go in.

As a teacher, as a female, as an active citizen, as someone who has believed in the American ideals and in the American dream for her 25 years I’m scared for the direction our country is headed. Because I know that we can do better.

I know that there were issues when we are founded. I know that there were things that our founding fathers did that we would prefer not to talk about. I know that there are things that have gone on in our 242 year history that we would prefer not to talk about as a country, that we have worked as a country to correct. I know that there are things as a country we are still working on; but as someone who believes in what this country can be, Brett Kavanaugh is not the answer.

Our founding fathers created us to be a republic, that included a representative democracy, (if you don’t know what it means, please tell stop by my Civics class and I’ll explain, seriously). That means this country chose Donald J Trump as our president whether I disagree with that choice or not. That means our military fights for the right for me to write this post, for Colin Kaepernick to kneel in front of the American flag during the national anthem, for Donald Trump to violate Twitter user policy literally every day. 

For me to continue to believe in this country we cannot put another man who committed a crime of sexual assault on our Supreme Court. We did it almost 30 years ago but I will not stand for it a second time. I had nothing to do with who was elected or appointed in the 1990s because I was not born. I have a say so now. I have a voice. I intend to use it. This will not stand for.

I am devastated by the rape culture that has been created in our country. I am devastated at my own treatment. I am devastated at the treatment of women I have gone to high school, church, college, with. I am devastated at the treatment of women I have worked with. I’m devastated at the treatment of some of my own family members and friends. I am completely and utterly devastated at the treatment of Dr. Ford by my fellow Americans and people on my Facebook and Instagram friend list.

If you wouldn’t want it done to you, if you had had a man or woman do that to you don’t do it to her, don’t do it to any other survivor. I’ve seen people say how Ford is somebody’s mom, friend, daughter, but she’s more than that, she is SOMEBODY. I just wish everybody would think about that.

As America wishes to be respected internationally, I hope everyone who is trashing Dr. Ford and praising Brett Kavanaugh and playing into rape culture continues to think about how they are being viewed internationally as well, because I can only imagine what people in other countries will think if we put yet white male sexual assault assailant in power in this country.

Trump had a shortlist for the Supreme Court nomination that Brett Kavanaugh was only one of. If you trust Trump, if you’re conservative, why do you not trust that some other person on that list is also reliable? Why is Brett Kavanaugh the only option to you? Is it just about being right? Or what is the purpose of having this man on the Supreme Court?

I am completely and utterly devastated, I’ve used that word already in this post but that is the only word I have for what I feel in the situation. The other day I caught myself sitting at the gas station unable to drive off because I was literally just crying at what this woman is going through, what she is being put through nationally and it’s phenomenal and not in a good way.

God promises in Psalm 10:14-18, that those who have been attacked will be restored. I fully believe Dr. Ford will have an extra jewel in her crown for standing up for survivors internationally. I am proud of her. It has given me a little bit of extra strength although it has also saddened me beyond compare.

So I’ll end with this: What is the point of having Kavanaugh, is it just “the win?” How are you treating other people? How would you feel if it was someone you loved? What do you want for America?

 

 

P.S. If you’re reading this, as a survivor, and you have been overwhelmed at the barrage of media and the treatment of Dr. Ford….please accept my virtual hug and my whisper that it is in no way, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be, your fault. I wish I could tell sixteen-year-old Logan that, so I’m telling 25 year old, Logan, and I’m telling you, whoever you are. I hope you hear me loud and clear.

 

“For the Lord is righteous,
    he loves justice;
    the upright will see his face.” Psalm 11:7