I was 12.
I didn’t even know what was happening to me. He was my boyfriend, and popular and experienced. I didn’t know how to say no, or that it was inappropriate or wrong, even though I didn’t like it and was embarrassed.
It was four years before I even knew the words to describe what had happened to me.
After years and years of not knowing how to tell a man ‘no,’ I believed I was in control of my sex life. And yet, I would go on to be manipulated into sex by young men who physically hurt me, by men old enough to be my father, and men who didn’t care if I was too drunk consent or not. Even men I trusted to love me took advantage of me, ignored my dismisses of sexual advances, and persisted regardless.
Not all of these situations were assault and I’m not out here to call them all abusers. I think many of my personal experiences come from a lack of understanding consent and a women’s obligation to her partner, as well as a general entitlement among men to women. It wasn’t about wooing me and entering into intimacy, it was about scoring with me. There’s a difference.
But it all goes back to twelve years old, and not knowing then how to say no or to voice my discomfort, and being too embarrassed to tell anyone what happened. And it just escalated from there.
Only recently – the last 2 or 3 years – have I begin to really learn the power I have over my own body, and has the guilt and shame in just saying ‘no’ when it needs to be said really begun to unravel.
And that’s so sad.
What’s worse, is that I’m not a rare or isolated incident. I’m one of millions. Millions of women around the world share my experience and then some.
We don’t come forward for a myriad of reasons, each of them is completely out own, we’re entitled to our reasons, and they are just as tragic as the initial abuse we haven’t reported. Whether it’s lacking the knowledge or understanding of what’s actually happening, embarrassment, fear of our abusers, fear of not being believed, shame for wearing what we were wearing or being where we were or doing whatever it was that we were doing, the re-victimization that often comes with reporting… it doesn’t matter in my opinion. None of these take away from our credibility or our experience. They are simply and sadly a PART OF our experience.
Questioning and belittling victims and his or her reasons for not reporting completely invalidates and takes away from, what is honestly nothing short of absolute bravery in the face of so much adversity. I fully understand the need for impartial investigation, and I know all about women (and men) who have ‘cried wolf,’ so-to-speak, making it harder for genuine victims to have their claims taken seriously. I am not naive.
But I’m also not naive to the effects of what’s been coined as “toxic masculinity” (note: not all masculinity is toxic). I am also not naive to the fear, shame, and guilt of victims and survivors. I am also not naive to the amount of time it takes sometimes for someone to even realize what actually happened to them.
So I think this goes without saying, in light of current events, I don’t doubt Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s story about what happened to her simply because it took years to come forward or because some would assume this is a “convenient” time to report (it’s not; there’s never a “convenient to have to report a sexual assault, so that has to be a really poor joke).
In fact, I’m inclined to believe her because of her timing, which to me, seems born of a deep obligation, not to ruin his life (she’s had all this time to prevent him from finishing college, pursuing a career in politics, have a family, etc – she gave him the right to those things by not reporting immediately), but rather to ensuring that we are an informed people before giving this man a lifetime position of power in determining the interpretation and application of the laws of this country for the foreseeable future. She let him live his life of luxury, but this seems like it was just the last straw. Keeping silent was no longer an option, these stakes were just too high. And I get that. That makes sense to me, but that’s just my opinion and through the lens of my own experience, which I acknowledge is not completely without bias.
Regardless, I believe you. I believe your story and I don’t blame you for not reporting. I believe your story and commend you for reporting. Each is your right and you are no less or more for either. You are a survivor either way. And I stand with you.