The night I became part of the minority
I was sexually assaulted by someone I trusted
We’ve all heard the statistic, around 23 percent of women will experience some form of sexual assault while they attend college. Well, I attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison, a university with one of the highest rates of sexual assaults on campus, a whopping 27 percent of women experience some form of sexual assault while attending school at this prestigious university.
I’ve known this statistic for almost the entire time I’ve been at school, yet there have been very few occasions where I have actually felt afraid. I walk down the streets alone at night fairly frequently and I have never felt threatened. I wear revealing outfits to parties and a stranger has never grabbed me and given me unwanted attention.
My naive lack of fear allowed me to live my life like most of the 73 percent of women that have never experienced sexual assault, and then one night I became a part of the minority.
Statistics say that the majority of sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone that is known to the victim, and I’ve always thought that was bizarre. I like to think I surround myself with intelligent, respectful and kind hearted people that would stop a sexual assault if they saw one and absolutely never perpetrate the crime. I’ve prided myself in engaging in relationships with respectful men, except for the occasional bad boy type. I guess the moral of the story is I’ve never worried about someone I know and care for hurting me like that, because I don’t engage with “those kind of people.”
Boy, was I wrong.
The man who sexually assaulted me one fall night was someone I had known for a long time. Someone I looked up to, cared about and turned to when I needed advice. He was someone I trusted and spent a lot of time with. He was someone I had been romantically involved with on and off for months, and I had always felt respected, until I didn’t.
It doesn’t matter that I invited him to come over. It doesn’t matter that we were drinking. It doesn’t matter that we had been sexually involved before. What matters is the fact that I awoke in the middle of the night to him trying to penetrate me from behind. I awoke with paralyzing fear as he tried to have sex with me while he thought I was unconscious.
This wasn’t a situation I had prepared for. My mom had always taught me to carry pepper spray when I walked alone on the streets, because strangers were dangerous, but she had never taught me I might need it in my own bedroom.
I wasn’t equipped for this situation, and my brain couldn’t react properly. So, I just laid there, pretending to sleep, and prayed harder than I’ve ever prayed in my life. I prayed he would stop and get out of my house. Thankfully, my prayers were answered in what seemed like hours but was probably only a matter of minutes, and the man I trusted quickly got his things together, shook me “awake” and left.
I’ve never wanted to crawl out of my skin more than I did in that moment. I showered and cried myself back to sleep on the couch. Terrified to tell anyone for fear I would somehow be blamed for what had just happened to me.
Maybe I gave him the wrong impression? Maybe he thought I wanted that to happen? Maybe it was OK because we had sex before? Maybe he was just drunk?
I ran through all of the possible reasons this had happened to me, and quickly realized the reason didn’t make my skin stop crawling. The reason didn’t take away my fear of sleeping in my own bed. The reason didn’t stop me from fearing intimacy to this very day.
Whatever his reason was for violating my body it wasn’t good enough. No reason is ever good enough, and no woman should ever feel like it was her fault a man assaulted her, because no matter the circumstances it is never her fault, and as a society we need to recognize that.
We need to recognize that I didn’t tell this story until now because I was terrified of what people would think of me, when I did nothing wrong. We need to recognize that how we teach young boys to interact with not only women but each other matters because it dictates how they will act as adults. We need to stop telling women to be careful, and start telling men to stop raping. We need to put the blame where it belongs on the perpetrator, on society for creating rape culture, on each other for not standing up for one another, on gender inequality, on the sexualization of women, and on every other thing in this world that creates the notion that what is happening is OK.
But never ever on the victim.