Earlier today I flipped through the Moleskin I carry in my purse. More than one entry started with, “I’m not writing enough” or some derivation. I found an entry I decided to share here:
Allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape against Harvey Weinstein bring up fresh crops of people who hold tight to archaic beliefs that victims of sexual assault somehow asked for it. Not too far behind are the people who minimize, as if anything short of brutal vaginal penetration accompanied by struggle & screaming doesn’t count.
There is so much lacking from “common knowledge” regarding sex crimes, sex offending. People discount or are ignorant of the grooming and how psychologically damaging it can be.
My own experience has provided me w/the opportunity, however unfortunate, to know what it’s like to have sexual touching forced on me. I know how it feels to have another person touch my body when I didn’t want them to; when I said No. I also have familiarity w/situations in which I felt like I couldn’t say No; I couldn’t reject sexual comments. In a way, I feel comfortable viewing this as a weakness. Assertiveness requires practice, after all. However, the person behind the touching and the people behind the comments shouldn’t have chosen those actions.
And when it was someone who was somehow “above” me…. What real choice did I have?
Many of the entries in my physical journal are lacking and/or cut short. This one definitely is. I’m going to try to fill it out more….
as if anything short of brutal vaginal penetration accompanied by struggle & screaming doesn’t count. Okay, there are differences in assaults. The assaults I have experienced were not accompanied by struggle and screaming. That does not mean these assaults were not harmful, scary, damaging. That does not mean that I could just shake it off and get over it. There isn’t some continuum of healing that dictates how easily and quickly a victim has to heal from an assault.
While working at a previous job, a mentally ill, intellectually/developmentally disabled man who was known to sexually assault (typically by fondling) females exposed himself and called out to get my attention. I went through all of the facility protocol bullshit. I made a report to the local sheriff’s department. A day or few later, during a meeting in my safe, friendly department, I tried to tell my co-workers what happened and just started bawling. I’m not one for public crying. I wanted to tell them what happened. I had no idea the crying was going to happen. For a little while, I had some nightmares related to the incident. The professional I spoke to said what I was experiencing was like a low-grade, watered down PTSD. For a couple of months, whenever I had to go into that area of the campus, I asked someone to go with me. When I went into that area, my heart rate increased, I was hyper-vigilant and afraid to look around. When I needed to leave my building, I would look out the window to make sure he wasn’t nearby. If he came around while I was outside, I went inside. My co-workers would tell me he was around to save me the trip of going outside. That one incident went a long way in teaching me not to respond when someone yells, even if they yell my name.
Exposing is a non-contact offense. That guy never put his hands on me. He never made any sexual comments to me. When this happened, I had at least a couple of years of experience working with and studying sex offenders, and that incident rattled me. Imagine if that had happened in my neighborhood – any sense of safety is just gone. A person doesn’t have to put their hands on another person to cause trauma.
When I first lived alone, I received obscene phone calls in the middle of the night several nights. The caller sounded like a male. Another non-contact offense that made me feel anxious and unsafe and, that time, inside my home. The only thing I remember about the number – when there was a number; sometimes it was Blocked or Private – was that it was an Athens, OH, number. I had a friend who lived in Athens, and I kinda shook him down about it thinking he had someone messing with me as a joke. He said he didn’t know anything about it.
People discount or are ignorant of the grooming Grooming can be so many different things: compliments, buying things, paying bills, being a source of support at any and all times, making someone feel they owe a favor, volunteering to help to the point that it seems too good to be true, giving gifts, etc. That doesn’t mean that a person who volunteers to help you with your laundry is grooming you for sexual assault or for your complicity in the person sexually assaulting someone else. Your intuition is likely to tell you when it is grooming — listen to your intuition! Keep in mind that there people who are just helpful. There are people who love you and want to buy you cookies. Not everyone is grooming you, but if someone seems “off,” that’s worth giving extra attention and caution.
I know how it feels to have another person touch my body when I didn’t want them to; when I said No. I also have familiarity w/situations in which I felt like I couldn’t say No Remember in jr. high and high school when boys would touch girls on the butt and it was funny? I’m not sure that was funny. I don’t know who decided that butts are common property or when it was decided, but I did not receive that memo. I am not a fan of being touched without expressing that I am open to being touched, but I would have likely not felt as freaked out as I did had the person touched my elbow or upper arm. Just sayin’. And it is okay if you are reading this and thinking I am overreacting. I am not saying that this was traumatic and I needed therapy to overcome it. I am saying it was not appropriate. I am saying I felt uncomfortable having my ass grabbed without my consent or invitation by a male peer who I believed was my friend. I did not feel good believing I had to run to avoid having someone touch my body when I had clearly expressed that I did not want him to touch me.
I have a history of failing at assertiveness when I feel scared. I have had periods of time when I just was not assertive. I have also had periods of my life when I was meek and did not know my own worth. A few less-than-favorable things happened. I was in my late 20s before I learned that being coerced into sexual activity can be considered sexual assault. I hope other people are aware of that — if you have to talk someone into engaging in sexual activity with you, or you have to “wear them down,” you need to just stop. My experience in this type of situation led to me beating myself up later thinking that I was stupid for giving in when I didn’t want to. I truly believed I was at fault. I was the person who did something wrong.
This entry isn’t meant to be a downer, although I know it is not pleasant. When I read the original entry in my physical journal, it stirred up some things and I felt compelled to share.
If you made it this far, thank you for reading.