i believe women | 10.08.18

TW/CW: sexual assault/rape, mental health, self-harm

These past few weeks’ inundation of news on Brett Kavanaugh have been horribly overwhelming. Not only has it got people talking about the sexual assault allegations against him, but about sexual assault and misconduct in general. Many topics that have brought up a lot of trauma and painful memories for many people – women in particular – all over the country. Women like myself.

I haven’t talked to anyone about this. Not really, at least. I still haven’t even fully processed or faced it myself. I kept it buried for so long, I felt the need to at least get everything in my head out onto paper, into words. More and more stories emerge of peoples’ own experiences and with each new account that I read, I am even more saddened by the fact that these kinds of occurrences are far too prevalent. That being said, I do find some relief to know that at least people are talking. Women are bravely speaking out and that gives me hope. I’m writing about this today simply to try and straighten out my own thoughts, to face what happened and to move forward, stronger. If someone gets something out of all of this, then great. If not, that’s fine too. I just don’t want to sit here in silence anymore.

I was in a relationship with someone for four years. I was young and I was troubled and I was just so lost. But I thought I had found “true love”. The “girl/boy next door”, “high school sweetheart”, perfect fairy tale romance. I held onto that illusion for all four years. I was also put under the impression that I should stay in this relationship because no one else could ever possibly care for me the same way. Why would they? I had a laundry list of self-loathsome reasons why and just clung to the affection that was given to me. It was an unhealthy, manipulative and toxic relationship. Sure, there were good times and good memories that were made. But overall, it wasn’t a relationship that could or should be sustained. I finally realized that and only now am able to face facts and acknowledge what happened to me.

Right after I had just turned 18, we were hanging out with some friends over the summer. I never really was interested in getting drunk or high like most of my peers at the time were. It always made me nervous. But hey, it was summer! I had just graduated high school and we all just wanted to have a good time. For once I decided to not be a goody-goody and just let go and just have fun. And so I drank. I remember we were drinking gin and all I could think was, “God, this is like pine needles”. Despite the turn off in taste, I kept on drinking – a lot. Before I knew it, I didn’t feel like myself anymore. I remember being giddy and loud, feeling dizzy but in a kind of fun, silly way. I also remember my friends coming up to my boyfriend at the time, “Take her home, make sure she’s okay”. We got into the car and drove around a bit so I could sober up. We got back into the neighborhood and instead of going home, we ended up in the parking lot of our community pool. Keep in mind, I was feeling silly and slap-happy; I was in an absolutely fabulous mood so I didn’t much care where we went. I couldn’t stop smiling, laughing and telling him how much I loved him. We started kissing and the next thing I knew we were in the car behind the dumpster having sex. It started to hurt a lot but I never told him to stop. I never said no. He was enjoying himself and I didn’t want to ruin it. Afterwards he drove me home and dropped me off like it was nothing. I later tried to bring it up to him to clear up what the hell had happened that night. He told me he didn’t want to talk about it because it made him feel bad. Well of course, making him feel bad was the absolute last thing I ever wanted in the world. And so we didn’t talk about it.

A few months later, I was spiraling into a depressive episode and one night it got to be too much. I trashed my room, I hurt myself pretty badly and I couldn’t stand to be by myself anymore. I called him and asked if I could come over. When he picked me up, he was vaping and listening to the radio. I didn’t like the smell so I had asked if he would roll down the windows or stop. He blew smoke in my face instead. Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke was playing. That song was (and still is) so messed up. I could write an entire essay on why but I’ll leave that for another time. I asked him to turn it down and he turned the volume all the way up. I was so upset but at least I wasn’t alone. We got to his house and sat on the couch in his basement. He made a move and we started hooking up. I remember I took my clothes off and he saw all of the harm I had done to myself. He was upset by it and asked to turn off the lights so he didn’t have to look at it. So I did.

Neither of those instances (or any of the countless times after) did I ever say no. I hated myself for that. But I also felt so angry because I felt that I deserved it, especially because I never told him to stop. But those two times and any of the other times I wasn’t in the mood or the right mindset and he talked me into it? That was rape. I never liked that word – it sounded so harsh and serious. I used to tell myself that’s not what happened and that it wasn’t that bad. But that’s what it was. Sex is literally further past the very last thing that should be on your mind when someone is crying, depressed, anxious etc. Regardless, if there is no explicit consent, if there is even a hint of uncertainty, it should stop there. Whether there is a “no” involved or not. That’s just basic decency. On top of all of the blame I was placing on myself, I still didn’t want to upset him and so I never talked about it. I didn’t want to tell anyone else because I didn’t want to get in trouble and I certainly didn’t want him to either (more so the latter).

Since I was 18, I haven’t been able to be around people when they’re drunk/drinking without risking a panic attack. I don’t drink and to this day, the thought still scares me. I avoid situations where there may or may not be drinking. Better safe than sorry, right? I used to tell people it was just because I’m “straight edge” and leave it at that. I would hear Blurred Lines play at work sometimes and would start panicking, crying uncontrollably. I’d hide under the cash register or in the bathroom. There have been times while trying to be intimate with someone else and I get triggered and feel as though I’m truly reliving those moments. It’s a scary thing how something can cause so much lasting trauma with seemingly the most subtle triggers. I never faced it though, I just kept it to myself and let it fester until it got to be too much.

I’m not writing this to smear anyone’s name or to point fingers. I want to confront what happened, how it affected me and how I can move on. I let this control so much of my life for almost six years. I can understand why women don’t report sexual assault. I didn’t ever report it. I didn’t really ever tell anyone exactly what happened until years after the fact. I work every day to unlearn behaviors I taught myself. To accept what happened and not to stay attached to the past. I try to speak out and take a stand when something like the Kavanaugh situation blows up. I am in a process of healing and growth and I want women everywhere to feel the same kind of empowerment. I believe women and I believe survivors. There is change that has to be made and it starts with us.