XXXXXXXXXX........WARNING TRIGGER WARNING.............XXXXXXXXXXXXX
I was just reading a post and it brought up some issues I have yet to deal with in my blogs. Not out of fear or shame (I am quite over that by now) but because it hasn't really fit into anything I have been talking about lately and I think I need to change that.
You see at the age of of fourteen I was assaulted at a party I really had no business being at. It was a friend's mother's friend's place. One of those not really organized or safe kind of parties. There was drinking and pot. The kids (us) did not partake in these vices but the adults became drunk and high and therefore were unable to properly watch over us. It was way out in the country two states over from mine and we all spent the night camping in campers and tents. It was the fourth of July and there was fireworks and old rock songs blaring on the radio. The air was thick with camp fire smoke, burning hot dogs, and marijuana. At first I thought it was going to be really cool. Really different than any outing I had ever gone to before. And it was but not the way I had hoped.
The first memory of this party I have is when the guy at the party took out a gun and shot it around. He was a bad shot and I think at that moment is when it hit me that I was not in a good place, that there was no way out because I had no idea where we were, and that I was in shock. I mean, I didn't realize I was in shock but I now know that is what was going on.
One guy who was twenty seven took an interest in me. I was flattered. No guy or boy had really expressed interest in me, let alone one that was "decent" looking. He asked me how old I was and I told him. He then preceded to be vulgar with me by the campfire and then take his beer can and stick it between my legs when I was sitting cross legged. I froze. I knew it was wrong, but I didn't know what to say. No other adult seemed to care and even though I looked for my friend's mother, she was uninterested. I just kept whispering no and removing the can placing it back on the ground. He would then grab it and do it again.
Here is where the hard part comes in. I was confused and high from the fumes. I was flattered at the attention but freaked out by the attention at the same time. I liked him I thought, which made it even more confusing. At one point my friend said she liked him and I said he was mine and we laughed. I remember hallucinating from the fumes of the copious amounts of pot that the plastic dog house in the back yard turned into a green leprechaun sitting on a green hut. I also remember thinking how strange it was that a leprechaun would sit on top of a tiny hut in the middle of Western America. Didn't they live in Ireland and where in the hell did the dog house go? I remember everything albeit confusingly and with yucky feelings attached. The worst part for me, even worse than the beer can thing was that he whispered to me when no one was looking. I don't remember what he said but what I do remember was that he had just come from the bathroom and he caressed my face. His hand was rough and it was wet under his thumbnail. I instantly cringed and I wanted to puke. It was bad enough the things he said to me, the looks he gave me, the placing the beer can between my legs and asking if it was cold or did I like it over and over after I told him not to, but the touching of my face burned in my memory. It seemed somehow even more personal to me than all of the other things he did. And then came the excuses. I mean why should I feel so yucky about what he did? It wasn't as if he actually raped me. It didn't seem like a big deal to everyone else at the party. Maybe I was just blowing it all out of proportion.
No one cared what he did to me but when he reached out and grabbed my friend's mother's boob the day after, she had an outright fit. Everyone rallied around her and threatened him but me, I was fair game. By the time I got home two days later, I had changed. Something in me was broken. I felt stripped of my dignity. I felt dirty and no amount of soap and hot showers could take it away. I developed flash backs when people would touch me. When certain smells would waft in my direction. When certain old rock songs came on the radio.....For the first time in my life I became unable to stand being touched by strangers even in passing. I developed the trigger of people touching my face. I can not tolerate it even to this day. I flinch. It seems to almost burn my skin. It makes me cringe and it makes me feel dirty.
It took me a few hours to get up the courage to look my mother in the face and tell her what had happened. I was afraid. Afraid I had done something wrong. That it was all my fault. That I asked for it. That because I thought I liked him, maybe what he did wasn't wrong and I was just making too much out of it. But if that were true then why did I feel like crying and throwing up every time I saw his face in my head?
She was understandably pissed off but not at me. My friend's mother had sworn to watch over me and that no drugs would be there. She had sworn that I would be safe and well looked after. That I would be able to call home if I wanted.
My friend laughed at me and told me I was being a wimp when I told her how messed up I was that he did that to me. That ended our friendship, to say the least.
My mother supported me but when I told my Dad's then girlfriend she yelled at me. She said I should have called home. When I explained that we were out in the open and there was no phone she yelled at me because I didn't walk in the country, in the dark, by myself to find a payphone and then she yelled at me for not having enough change to use said imaginary payphone. I should have just looked at her like she was acting like the idiot that she actually was, but instead I took it all in. I blamed myself just that much more. And because my mother is an abuse survivor, that pissed her off even worse. Because she understood something I was too busy blaming myself to see. What happened to me, happened to me. I was not a willing participant. I did not ask for it and it made no difference what I was wearing, how much change I had on me, or if I stayed instead of walking around in an unfamiliar place in the dark to get to some random phone that never existed in the first place. It didn't matter that I trusted the wrong friend's parent to be responsible. That I thought he was cute. That I was unsure how to get away or worried about ruining everyone else's good time by being uncomfortable. I was sexually assaulted and it was not my blame to carry, it was his. All his. Period.
And that is what why I believe sexual assault and rape are not reported nearly as much as they happen. I did not report what happened to me. I was too afraid. Not just of having to relive it, because I did that everyday for years anyway, but of the not being believed or worse yet, judged and blamed.
It took me a long time and years of therapy to understand that no one, NO ONE has the right to touch you without your permission. That sexual assault is just as damaging as rape. What he did to me was a big deal and it was wrong. That sometimes victims are so shocked and or scared that they freeze instead of yelling no like you see on t.v. That it doesn't matter if you walk down the with nothing on but your birthday suit and a pair of your favorite socks, it doesn't give anyone the right to molest you, rape you, or touch you. It took me years to learn that my reactions to the assault were normal reactions many victims go through. That it was not my fault because I did not react a certain way. I did not deserve it nor the punishment I placed on myself after it was all over. The shame, disgust, blaming myself. The years of what ifs or I should haves. I should have left. I should have screamed when he touched me. I should have hid in the camper. What if I had said no louder? What if I had not thought he was cute? What if I had not gone to that stupid party in the first place? Years of therapy to understand that none of these things mattered. What ifs and should haves should not be in the assault/rape victim's dictionary nor should it ever be wielded in their direction. Especially, by people who have never been violated and have no idea the pain and damage being violated causes. People that find it easier to make excuses for the crime or blame the person it was done too. The blame relies on the predator and never on the victim.
I wanted to share this story, my story because I know that I am not alone. That there are many survivors of sexual abuse, rape, and assault out there and many of them carry around blame and they shouldn't.
Here are some statistics and I find them to be staggering:
Every 2 minutes someone is sexually assaulted in America.
1 in 3 women will be sexually abused in their lifetime.
1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will be sexually violated before the age of 18.
Less than half of sexual assaults and rapes are reported to the police.
If you can take anything from this post, I hope it is that you realize that sexual assault and rape are never something you ask for. It makes no difference if you were drunk, if you were too scared to yell no, if you were in a situation that you ended up in because you made the wrong choice of who to trust. You are not at fault. You are not to blame. You did not deserve it.
Mostly, I want you to know that you are not alone. You can get through this. It is hard and it is scary but you will get better each and every day. You are a survivor and you are heard. What happened to you is not in anyway your fault and it never was.