“All of Those Women”
A Discussion About Sexual Violence Against Women
This is a blog post detailing my experience and thoughts regarding sexual violence. Some of the content may be upsetting to readers, but it’s my right to be able to finally speak truthfully about my story. I ask that you respect that, and feel safe to share your own stories and thoughts about today’s topic.
I was nineteen years old when it happened. At the time, I didn’t consider what happened to me to be an act of violence or misogyny or any of that. I thought it was a case of mixed signals, and honestly, I blamed myself for many years after. It just didn’t occur to me that I had been sexually assaulted.
I remember the night in vivid detail, like many other women who are the survivors of violence and sexual abuse. I remember wearing a leopard print top, short black skirt, and tan heels that had a brown trim. I remember stopping by Wal-Mart on my way out with my friend. I remember trying to find a club or party happening and finally texting this guy I had met weeks ago at the mall to hang out.
He seemed cool up to that night. I met him at the mall where he worked in the food court, and he gave me free hush puppies and flirted with me. He took my phone, called his own, and saved my number. I thought it was so cute and admired his confidence. He was short but buff, a former high school football player, and had an easy-going vibe about him. We had talked on the phone a few times, with him always offering to pay for my gas to come hang out with him. A gentleman, I thought.
So that night in October, with no plans and his promise to call a cousin to entertain my friend and me if we came over to his house, I made my way to the apartment he shared with his mom. There was a couch against the wall as soon as you entered, with a TV adjacent and a coffee table between. My friend and I sat on the couch, and he stood near the kitchen. The apartment was dark, the TV volume was low, and he said his mom was in the back sleeping and his cousin was on the way.
We made small talk for a while, then he took my hand and led me to his room, presumably to talk without my friend, bored and still waiting for the cousin, butting in to our conversation. When I got in his room, he closed the door and sat on his bed, pulling me down with him. I remember him kissing me deeply, and I tried to pull back and slow down. I was shy, but clear that I was not willing to engage. Every time I said no, he would put a little more of his weight on me, use a little more force. I remember trying to keep my voice low as I protested, but when he exposed himself and tried to force himself on me, I kicked a lamp to distract him long enough to get up.
I made my way to the bedroom door and into the hallway, trying to get my friend’s attention to signal my distress, but she was completely oblivious to what was going on. My phone was still on the coffee table beside her, and she was still waiting for the cousin. “He should be here soon,” my attacker assured her, before dragging me back into his room, where he promptly closed and locked the door. He pulled me into him, felt me up, and this time, I kicked the closet door and he finally gave up after grabbing me one last time. He thought I was just being shy because other people were in the apartment.
We exited the room, he admitted he lied and never called his cousin to come over, and my fed up friend asked if we could leave. She had no idea how happy I was to oblige. The guy followed us outside, where he invited me to come back sometime. I was confused and annoyed and felt disgusted with him and disappointed in myself- but I answered… “Maybe.”
I got in the car and spilled the details about what happened behind that door to my friend, and she asked me what I would later ask myself often over the following years…
“Why didn’t you say something?”
The truth is, I don’t know why I didn’t say anything. I don’t know why I didn’t reprimand him that night. I don’t know why I didn’t scream for help. I don’t know why I didn’t tell anyone who could help me the next day while I stared at the bruises on my neck and legs. Not only had my body been taken advantage of, but also my mental state and my docile personality. I hadn’t talked to my assailant much, but I’m sure it was obvious to him that I was a passive and quiet person who wouldn’t say no. And even if I did say no, which I did, I wouldn’t accuse him of anything, which I didn’t.
As I said, it took years of hearing other women’s stories about violence to realize that I was a victim as well. I thought it was my fault; I shouldn’t have gone over to that guy’s house. Not in that skirt, not in those heels, not wearing that makeup. I shouldn’t have gone in his room. Not that late at night, not with his mom sleeping in the next room, not with my friend zoned out in the living room. The only thing I thought I did right that night was say no… and he did not listen, so I started wondering if I had even done that right.
But I listened to stories of other women.
Women who were extroverted and outspoken.
Women who were shy and reserved.
Women who screamed “no” and fought tooth and nail.
Women who silently wept.
Women who had gone to the police just to be told there wasn’t enough supporting evidence.
Women who kept their secrets bottled up.
Women who told their mothers and aunts about what their fathers and uncles had done to them.
Women who cut off their whole families.
Women who never wore makeup and wore long skirts and tennis shoes.
Women who were comfortable showing their bodies.
Women who had never seen their attackers a day before in their lives.
Women who were in committed relationships with their attackers.
Women of all ages, shapes, sizes, and even sexual orientations.
All of those women had been abused, assaulted, and taken advantage of.
All of those women were victims.
All of those women were survivors.
All of those women shared a similar narrative to mine.
All of those women were not to blame.
And almost all of those women felt that they never received justice or security.
I get so angry when I hear about women like me, who have been the victims of sexual assault, have their stories doubted, ridiculed, or dismissed. There is no harsher judge of our character and morals than ourselves after the assault. For women to have to relive that nightmare: every detail, every truth, and have to question every little decision we could have made to change that outcome is like being assaulted all over again. What do we have to lie for? What do we have to embellish? There’s no glitter or glue that can pretty up or further mar the fact that we had our bodies and personal dignity violated.
All of those women with a story deserve to be heard without vilification or accusation. The mentality and acts of slut-shaming and victim-blaming in our society are horrific. How can someone look at all of us women, with different backgrounds but similar stories, and deny that there is a problem in this world? And furthermore, how can you deny that there is not enough education and repercussion to lower the statistics of violence against women? Sexual assault isn’t some immature vice or mistake that men make; it’s a violation against women’s most basic, human rights.
There is no judgement, sentence, or settlement that can ever correct that wrong against us. No amount of telling our stories will liberate us completely. There is nothing that can fully heal what has been damaged. The least we expect is understanding, respect, and the opportunity to be heard and believed. And that the people who have terrorized us be labeled as what they are with no excuses: Rapists. Abusers. Assailants.
When do we start protecting and seeking justice for All of Those Women?