I was going to write this post regardless, but I had an incident that happened this past year and it’s helping me realize how I feel about things. I was sexually assaulted and harassed. All of this because of someone asking for my phone number to get to know me.
Rape and assault are acts of violence. There’s no getting around this. Anyone, male or female, who has been assaulted or raped is a victim of violence. Over time, if there is a frequency to the harassment or assault, one becomes scared to be themselves. One becomes scared of how they look. They hide in clothes or wear non form-fitting clothes to hide the figure that’s underneath. (Not everyone handles this in the same way and this may be only one form of coping. Not everyone may feel this way either, but it’s how I feel.)
People don’t understand why I’m so uncomfortable in my own skin and it’s partially because of these incidents. How do you want me to feel comfortable for the body I’ve worked hard for when someone cares nothing for how their actions will make you feel? This most recent incident, perhaps they really didn’t think it through. Perhaps they thought their actions were sexy.
The actions that were taken, had they happened with a lover and not with someone I barely knew would indeed be sexy to me. They hit the right buttons, it was what I liked. Let me be slightly more explicit here, this last incident only involved kissing (in person), but what made it worse was the follow up. The kiss was an assault on my person and it was confirmed and made worse with the messages I received later. It’s interesting how one singular action doesn’t appear to be a big problem sometimes until it is paired with the actions that surround it.
I am so tired of some people thinking that these situations are always provoked. That’s just not the case. Even if the person in question made a bad decision, that certainly does not give someone else the right to attack them. I can only speak as a woman who has been attacked by men. I have never been sexually assaulted by another woman and I can’t speak about what a man being assaulted by either sex would feel like. I can tell you that no matter what: YOU DON’T DESERVE IT.
I am also so tired of hearing about what someone wears causing these attacks. That’s crap. I dress in jeans and t-shirts everyday. Both at work and when not at work. My t-shirts are rarely super fitted and even if they are, guess what, that doesn’t mean I want you to touch me. Other women and men for that matter may be comfortable in more fitted clothes. You deserve to wear the clothes you want. With that comes the right not to be attacked.
The truth of the matter is that no matter how much I know I didn’t provoke anything, didn’t ask for it and it’s not my fault….it still happens. It still makes me think twice about a fitted shirt or that really cute dress I want to go try on. It makes me avoid going out like the plague, unless I know I have a trusted male friend to protect me.
Then there’s the harassment that comes after the fact. There’s the person you dated and you broke up for whatever reason. The reason isn’t important. The length of the relationship isn’t important. It’s the fact that afterward that person hasn’t quite got the memo that you are no longer together. Perhaps they instigated the end of the relationship and perhaps they didn’t. But then they give you gifts and tell you they love you and touch or grab you and behave inappropriately. (This is just one scenario, I am sure there are many others).
You tell them you are uncomfortable and that results in them snapping at you and belittling you. You’re the one with the problem even though you’re the one making it clear that you don’t want the attention. They just can’t read the signs.
These two examples have happened to me in the past year. That doesn’t count the non-sexual harassment of someone else for an entirely different reason. However, in all of these circumstances, no simply could not mean no these people.
We shouldn’t have to be ashamed of being sexy or that in other circumstances something could be sexy to us. That doesn’t ever make the violence ok.
There is another problem I want to address as well. It’s other people telling us how we should react and how our reactions aren’t good enough. They know because they would do this or that and it’s what we should’ve done. I’m sorry, but bullshit. It’s not your body it’s not your choice.
Our brain has a very real reaction to what happens when we are assaulted. It’s called tonic immobility. It means our brain literally shuts our body down. We become incapable of fighting back or responding in the ways we think we would when attacked. Feel free to google it. I promise you it’s real.
The people you need around you to help you recover are the ones that understand that it will take time to do everything that needs to be done. Please report things. It doesn’t matter when you come forward, just that you do. Obviously, in some situations the sooner the better. Surround yourself with people who support your decisions.
Repeat after me: YOU ARE NOT WEAK. It takes great strength to go through what we have gone through. Our situations are not the same. Our reactions will not and should not be the same. Do not let anyone judge you because you are not reacting in the way that they think you should. It’s not their choice. Be Wonder Woman because you already are. If you’re a man, be Superman. (Also, feel free to pick any superhero you relate to).
I’m ending with a link to an article that I think might help some and I know helped me: http://www.thehaystack.org/single-post/2017/11/16/5-Reasons-a-Sexual-Assault-Victim-Waits-to-Come-Forward. It helps explain why it’s so hard to recover even months or years after.
This post is only my part one. It doesn’t cover the earliest assault experiences I’ve had. I may post more specifics about them later. I haven’t quite decided yet, but I’m hoping sharing that things have happened to me in combination with the #metoo movement will show you that you are not alone.