I was sexually assaulted.
It was nearly half my lifetime ago, when I was a different person. I’ve come a long way since then, but it hasn’t always been easy.
I was a mousy housewife, financially living on the edge, desperate for money to feed my kids, trying to start a business. From where I sat, the perpetrator was powerful, important. He was someone I thought I knew, trusted and respected.
I respected him so much that I asked him to review my business plan before I went to a bank. He told me I couldn’t afford to live on what we had for income (which was why I was trying to start a business.) He offered me money for sex, and was upset that I refused. He came back six months later with another similar proposition, and decided to show me what I was missing.
I was scared — the pee-your-pants kind of scared. He might have been “old” (about my age now!), but he sure was strong. I wasn’t raped, although I thought I was going to be. (My kid coming home from school possibly prevented that?)
At first, I was paralyzed. The perpetrator was so powerful in the community. I felt dirty and ashamed. Embarrassed. It must have been my fault.
It was a FULL YEAR before I told a living soul. Not even my best friend knew. My then-husband had no clue. Why did it take so long? He was a wealthy business owner, an elected official, and a leader in my church. Who would believe me? How could I possibly defend myself — financially and emotionally — against a multi-millionaire? What would happen to the business I was trying to get started? My child was friends with his grandchild, what would happen to the children if this was pursued?
So I kept it inside me, until it started to eat me up. I went to the pastor of my church. A man of God. I was told that my story wasn’t that bad. Just put it behind me. I told him I didn’t want it to happen to others. He told me it already had. Although my story was the worst he’d heard, I should just forget about it and move on. Because this man was one of the biggest donors to that church.
I was looking for help. This advice just made a bad situation worse.
I gradually told a few people, but none that could do anything but console me. Eventually, I had several years of therapy. I finally realized it was not my fault.
I was a lucky one. I was fortunate enough to have been able to get the help that I needed to get past it. I’ve healed enough that now, that I can tell my story. But I feel like I’m telling someone else’s story because I was someone else then.
Most of the time, I forget. I remember when I hear his family name mentioned. I remember when I hear his business mentioned. When I hear about someone like Donald Trump using his power to grab a woman’s pussy, I remember. When stories about people like Bill Crosby and Harvey Weinstein come out, I remember.
When we hear about these recent stories, it blows my mind to hear people say, “Why didn’t she come out sooner? Why did she wait this long?” Maybe these victims worried about who would believe them. Maybe they delayed because they went through the same paralysis that I went through. Maybe they had concerns about their careers. Maybe they couldn’t afford to pursue it – financially or emotionally. Maybe they couldn’t afford to risk the time that it would take to fight it. Maybe they were concerned about putting their family through a long and delayed process.
Rather than find fault with the victims, we should recognize their courage in coming forward, regardless of how long ago they were victimized.
I heard a story the other day about a trial for an assault case in Canada. From start to finish, it was done in four months. Here, it could take years. We need to make this process simpler and easier. We need to make women not feel like it is their fault.
To this day, I will regret that I didn’t pursue it further. I regret that I didn’t have the courage to be able to speak out when it might have made a difference.
I hope and pray that there were no other victims after me.
It’s way too late to accuse him now. He’s been dead for a while. To the best of my knowledge, his wife, who I always respected, is still living. He has children, grandkids and greatgrandkids. I would not want to hurt them; they are innocent.
So, why write this story now?
- To let other women know that they aren’t alone. (One of out three women are sexually assaulted at least once in their lifetime.)
- To encourage women to come forward with their stories.
- To try to help others understand why women can take years before coming forward. And so can men who have been assaulted, too. Because, as I was reminded in a Facebook discussion, men can be sexually assaulted as well.
- If you need someone to talk to, I am here. I listen. ❤️
A few days after I posted this, I found this shared on a friend’s page:
“Men are often surprised that women are almost always on high alert out in public. Here’s an interesting take:
“I draw a line down the middle of a chalkboard, sketching a male symbol on one side and a female symbol on the other. Then I ask just the men: What steps do you guys take, on a daily basis, to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted?
“At first there is a kind of awkward silence as the men try to figure out if they’ve been asked a trick question. The silence gives way to a smattering of nervous laughter. Occasionally, a young a guy will raise his hand and say, ‘I stay out of prison.’ This is typically followed by another moment of laughter, before someone finally raises his hand and soberly states, ‘Nothing. I don’t think about it.’
“Then I ask women the same question. What steps do you take on a daily basis to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted? Women throughout the audience immediately start raising their hands. As the men sit in stunned silence, the women recount safety precautions they take as part of their daily routine. Here are some of their answers: Hold my keys as a potential weapon. Look in the back seat of the car before getting in. Carry a cell phone. Don’t go jogging at night. Lock all the windows when I sleep, even on hot summer nights. Be careful not to drink too much. Don’t put my drink down and come back to it; make sure I see it being poured. Own a big dog. Carry Mace or pepper spray. Have an unlisted phone number. Have a man’s voice on my answering machine. Park in well-lit areas. Don’t use parking garages. Don’t get on elevators with only one man, or with a group of men. Vary my route home from work. Watch what I wear. Don’t use highway rest areas. Use a home alarm system. Don’t wear headphones when jogging. Avoid forests or wooded areas, even in the daytime. Don’t take a first-floor apartment. Go out in groups. Own a firearm. Meet men on first dates in public places. Make sure to have a car or cab fare. Don’t make eye contact with men on the street. Make assertive eye contact with men on the street.”
― Jackson Katz, The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help.
The thing is, women, most women, watch for it … all the time. I have seen #MenToo and acknowledge that some men, especially as boys and young men, have had bad experiences. On a whole, though, I suspect that there are FAR more women who regularly feel they have to be prepared to protect themselves than men. No one should have to be afraid.