I was talking to a female friend this week. She said, “I’ve never told anyone about this before. I was in college and I had a guy friend that I had known for a very long time. Our families knew each other, I liked him and I was very comfortable with him. He picked me up one afternoon and took me to a park. He shoved his hands down my pants and then called me a ‘cock tease’ because I wouldn’t have sex with him.” My friend is in her 50’s. She NEVER told anyone about this. I asked her why. She assumed if she told her mother, she would only tell her she shouldn’t have gone to the park with him. This was also a boy whose father was her father’s boss. She has never even told her husband. “It never came up.”
This is only one woman’s story. Only one of my friends. Only ONE out of MANY. Let’s discuss.
“I’ve never told anyone before.” Often, we hear questions and statements like, “Why didn’t she say anything?”, “Why is she saying something after all of these years?”, “If it really happened, surely she would have told someone by now.” We don’t say anything for many reasons. Fear. Fear of retaliation, fear of not being believed, fear of being ridiculed, fear of the affect on our immediate loved ones, fear of blame. Shame. We feel shame because maybe we liked him, maybe we wanted to go to the park (or the movie, or the dance, or the party, or for a ride.) Maybe we wanted to make out with him, too.
“I liked him and I was comfortable with him.” I know a woman who at 15 had a boyfriend she adored. He gave her time, gifts, attention. She was smitten. After a few months of dating, she left her home to travel out of state to meet his family. Upon arrival, she was promptly chained in his attic and used as a sex slave for months. Whether it is my friend in the park, or my friend held against her will- they liked these guys. That’s all. They were interested. They thought they were attractive, wanted to pursue a relationship. Even if a woman wants to have sex, that is normal. What is NOT normal is anyone thinking they have the right to take that from you.
“He called me a ‘cock tease’ because I wouldn’t have sex with him.” We are assaulted, then called names because they didn’t completely get what they wanted. If we were to give them what they wanted, we are called names, too.
“She assumed if she told her mother, she would have said she shouldn’t have gone to the park with him.” I understand the age factor here. This mother was from a different generation, a different time. But we are still hearing the same things, the same victim shaming. “She should have known better.”, “She shouldn’t have been wearing that outfit.”, “She should have known she would give him the wrong idea.”, “She shouldn’t have been drinking.”, “She shouldn’t have gone to the park with him.” Sexual assault and rape is not the fault of the victim. It doesn’t matter what you wore, what you drank or where you went. Nothing gives anyone the right to touch you. Period. It is NOT YOUR FAULT.
“It never came up.” Numerous people live with memories of sexual assault every day. It is always with you, even if not a present thought. It affects you throughout your entire life. There are countless people living with sexual trauma that are silent. Their family might not know, their spouse, their children.
Maybe that is why there are so many people (including A LOT of women) that don’t understand the “Me Too” movement. Maybe it’s because we never openly talked about our experiences. Maybe they were lucky enough to not be sexually assaulted. Maybe they are afraid, too. Maybe they thought it WAS their fault, that they asked for it. Maybe because they never had the experience, it seems too extreme to support. Maybe they are silent because it’s just too painful.
We are living in a time where we no longer have to endure this. We are drawing boundaries. We are changing our future. We are evolving. We are having difficult conversations. It is tough. For some, it is brutal. But we are in this together. And it is necessary. Nobody has the right to touch you without your consent. You have the right to say “NO”. You should be able to go to a park with a boy you like and expect he will know not to forcibly fondle you. It’s that simple.
Thank you to every dear soul that has endured, survived, thrived. Thank you to every dear soul who has opened up, was honest and had the courage to tell their story. And to the dear ones who stay silent, until you’re ready, we will speak for you.