Monday, September 24, 2018

Why I Didn't Tell

I wasn't planning to link this to any of the weekly writing prompts, because it didn't seem appropriate. However, when I saw the Wicked Wednesday prompt was "Heal," I thought this might fit nicely.

Before I go any further, I'm not writing this because I'm angling for sympathy. I'm not. Seriously. Many women have experienced so much worse than I have. I'm writing this because I'm sick and tired of ignorant idiots—of both genders—saying women should report sexual assault immediately when it happens. And if they didn't, well, it must not have been that bad. Or maybe they really wanted it. Or maybe they were just pissed off because the guy spurned them. Or maybe they had it coming because they were acting irresponsibly. Or too bad for you, guess you should have reported it then.

Of course, women should report sexual assault when it happens, no matter the circumstance. But I understand why they don’t, because it happened to me and I never reported it.

Unfortunately, most women have a story. Well, here's mine…

When I was in high school, maybe sixteen or seventeen, I participated in numerous extracurricular activities. I was quiet, nerdy, sheltered, and sexually repressed. I was a virgin and never really had a boyfriend.

One day, I was doing something after school with the service club I belonged to. I had to go upstairs to my locker to get something. The school had five enclosed stairwells spaced along the building and one large open staircase at one end of the building. Needless to say, I used the closest stairwell, which was one of the enclosed ones.

I'd just reached the second-floor landing and was about to open the door, when someone grabbed my breast from behind. I think I was frozen in shock for a moment, because when I turned around, there was no one there. I looked over the railing down below, but couldn't see anyone around.

Completely freaked out, I got out of there and went to my locker, looking over my shoulder the whole time. After I got what I needed, I went back downstairs, taking the long way so I could use the open staircase. When I rejoined my club (mostly other girls), I was still unnerved, but I didn't say anything. What could I say really? Someone grabbed my breast, but I didn't see who? For a shy girl like me, that was unthinkable.

Sometime later, I realized I'd forgotten something in my locker that I really needed before I went home. Suddenly, something that I hadn't thought twice about before—going to my locker—became a complex issue. Did I really need what I'd forgotten? Should I go the long way or take the chance of using the closest stairwell again?

Finally, I decided that I was being ridiculous. Whoever it was wouldn't still be hanging around in the stairwell. He was probably long gone. So I took the same stairwell as before. I practically ran up the stairs to the second floor. But once again, just as I reached for the door, someone grabbed my breast from behind.

My reaction was faster this time, or maybe he hung on a little too long. Regardless, I spun around and shoved with everything I had. The guy stumbled backward down the stairs to the middle landing, half falling against the wall. He was small, maybe my height (5'5''), slight of build, about my age, and Caucasian with shaggy brown hair. He wasn't anyone I'd ever seen before.

For a second, we were both frozen there, staring back at each other. I'll never forget the look of utter shock on his face. Was he so stunned that he'd gotten caught? That I was faster than him? That I fought back? Or because he'd just stumbled down a flight of stairs. I'll never know, because I didn't hang around long enough to ask. I got the hell out there as fast as I could, grabbed what I needed from my locker, then took the long way back downstairs.

The whole time, I kept looking over my shoulder, hoping he wouldn't come after me. My mind was also racing about what I should do. Whether I should tell someone.

The first thing that came to my mind was another incident that happened to another girl just a week before. The rumor was that she was assaulted while in an abandoned classroom. I'd heard all the whispered mummerings about her being a slut. For a quiet, good girl like me, the possibility that they'd say the same thing about me was sickening.

But then there was the other possibility that seemed so much worse. What if they didn't believe me? What if they thought I was making it up to get attention. After all, who would bother assaulting the painfully shy bookworm who barely opened her mouth in class? It wasn't like I was one of the hot, popular girls. I wore glasses and fairly conservative clothes that didn't show anything. I was even in the math honor society and regularly attended math competitions. I was that much of a geek. So, yeah, I'd have to be making it up, right? Never mind that being that shy guaranteed that the last thing I'd ever do would draw attention to myself, especially like that.

I knew my math teacher and the sponsor of the math club often stayed late after school and was probably still around. I knew he'd probably believe me. But I'd had a secret crush on him and the idea of telling him what happened was beyond humiliating. I didn't even know who the kid was. How could I possibly identify him? So I passed his office and kept walking. I went home and never told my parents. I knew they'd believe me too, but I didn't want them going to the school, making a fuss, and further humiliating me.

In a sick part of my mind, I also thought I might have had it coming. No, I wasn't one of the "slutty" girls, but I'd often fantasized about "being bad." Sex wasn't something that was dealt with in any open, healthy way growing up. It was this secret, forbidden thing that no one talked about. So when I did start masturbating, the pleasure came with a whole lot of shame.

For a time, if anything bad happened, I thought God was punishing me for touching myself. I'd make deals with God, promising never to do "it" again, if He just did (fill in the blank). That never really worked out. For one thing, I could never keep my side of the bargain for long.

To make matters worse, one of my favorite fantasies while masturbating was of being "taken." Kind of like the way a rogue pirate ravishes a helpless, innocent maiden. At the time, I didn't realize that this was perfectly normal and a common fantasy among some women—and submissives, in particular. I didn't even know what it meant to be sexually submissive. I didn't understand that having fantasies like that didn't mean I actually wanted to be raped or assaulted. And I didn't. There was nothing remotely arousing about being touched against my will.

Another time, I was walking in the empty halls at school between classes. I can't remember why, but I was probably doing the bidding of some teacher. This day, another student was hanging around the halls, obviously skipping class. When he saw me, I guess I looked like an easy mark, because he came up beside me and started talking a bunch of trash. I don't remember what he said, just that he was harassing me. Then he reached down and grabbed my crotch. Yes, he literally grabbed me by the pussy. Just like Trump bragged about in the Access Hollywood tape.

I smacked his hand away and all but ran away. Thankfully, he left me alone after that. And that was a good thing, because unlike the guy in the stairwell, this guy was bigger than me and more physically imposing. I didn't know who he was, but I had seen him around school. Once again, I was utterly humiliated, so I didn't tell anyone. And as bad as it was, in my mind, it wasn't as bad as being stalked and accosted in a dimly lit stairwell. There was something so much more ominous about that.

So, let's think about this for a moment. I was sexually assaulted twice in high school while I was a minor. I wasn't drunk and/or at a party I shouldn't have been at—not that that's justification to assault anyone. I was on school grounds, trying to mind my own business, get a good education, and get into the best college I could. And I'm sure that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to girls and sexual assault.

I suspect that both boys were also underage. Does that mean it shouldn't count? That they shouldn't be held responsible for their actions? I don't think either of them was drunk, but would that make a difference? I don't think so. And I don't think anyone who'd ever been assaulted would think so. So imagine my disgust when I saw this interview with several Republican women voters on CNN.

If there's a silver lining in all this, I did become more conscious of my personal security, which is never a bad thing.

When I went to Cornell, my friends lived on the north part of campus, while I lived on West Campus down a very large hill. After spending time with them, I sometimes walked back to my dorm at night alone. I know I should have probably had someone escort me, but I've always been self-reliant to a fault; I'll go a long way to avoid asking anyone for help. So I kept my head on a swivel, had my keys in my hand in case I needed to gouge someone's eyes out, and was conscious of where all the nearest emergency call stations were located.

Luckily, no one ever accosted me there. Or while I was at FSU in Tallahassee. I'd work shows late into the night. And because parking was hideous, I sometimes had to park some distance away from the theatre building. After a long day of classes and working a show, I didn't feel like waiting around for campus security to walk me to my car. So with my keys splayed between my fingers and an ear-splitting personal alarm attached to my keychain, I went by myself. Again, fortune shined on me, and nothing bad happened.

I find it ironic that given my proclivities and erotica writing that I haven't been in a situation where I experienced something without my willing consent. Well, if you don't count the occasional unsolicited dick pic or pervy come-on, which are both easily blocked. No, I was only ever assaulted in a mostly white, middle-class, suburban high school where, in theory, I should have been perfectly safe.

For my part, I believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. I can completely understand why she didn't come forward at the time. No one in their right mind would come forward with allegations like this unless they sincerely wanted to do the right thing. Look at the hell she's going through now. She had to have known she'd be victimized all over again.

And now a second woman has come forward. Does that make Dr. Ford's claim any more credible? Wasn't one assaulted minor enough? Will Republicans now support a thorough investigation into Kavanaugh's background? I sincerely doubt it.

I'd like to think that if I could identify my attackers and I recognized them as candidates for some important office, that I would be brave enough to come forward. But, even now, I don't know if I would.

This might be the height of hypocrisy after everything I've written, but if you have been sexually assaulted, please call the number below.

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673