One in five women will be raped or sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. Eight out of ten will know their rapist (source – National Sexual Violence Resource Center). Sadly, I can say both of these statements are true for me. Up until the Harvey Weinstein story broke, not many women or men spoke about their experiences with sexual assault. Truthfully, I can count on one hand how many friends I’ve told. It is a shameful, embarrassing, dark, and awful secret that I’m never quite sure how to share. Or if it’s appropriate to share at all. When I have shared this, it comes out after well more than a few drinks. Somehow the conversation has flowed around to awful experiences with past partners, male friends, and old co-workers.
My rapist happened to be a friend whom I considered very close at the time. We spent a lot of time together during the summer after my boyfriend at the time had broken up with me. And yes, during that time we had sex, but it was consensual. Going back to college I made it clear I wanted boundaries in our friendship, as I was no longer interested in the sexual aspect. He agreed, and I thought we were good. Looking back on it now, there were so many warning signs that I just didn’t realize, or see. But, a huge part of that was, this is a close friend, there’s no way they are doing this intentionally. From unwanted touching, to him exposing himself more times than I can count without notice. And every time, I would let him know, that’s not ok, and I didn’t want to see that. Or suddenly bursting into a room that I may be changing in, or walking into a bathroom I may be using. Every time, I let him know, I was not okay with that. He still continued with this behavior. And finally, it all came to a head where he raped me. Shortly after I completely ended the friendship. I didn’t want to be anywhere near him. I was just too uncomfortable after that.
Unfortunately, we had a number of mutual friends, and he was a friend with my roommate at the time. So even after he raped me, I still had to see him in my apartment. That was horrible. Having to walk around on eggshells in my apartment for a few months after because I wasn’t sure if he’d be there or not (he dropped out of school when the semester ended). My two other roommates shared with me they thought he was a creep, and I defended his behavior numerous times to them, but also other girls who got an off vibe from him prior to him raping me. I think part of human nature is to not want to believe that those close to us or we care about are capable of such horrible actions. And from time to time I still blame myself for what happened. Things like, I should’ve never had consensual sex with him ever, I should’ve brought things up to friends that seemed odd, and I should’ve distanced myself from him after numerous talks about boundaries. But, I shouldn’t blame myself. And neither should other victims of sexual assault or rape. How was I supposed to know he was capable of that? I trusted this individual.
It’s easy for a lot of people to victim blame or say “well I would have done this..”. It’s not that easy! Again, eight out of ten victims know their rapist. Mine was a close friend. Do I need to question in my head if all of the men in my life will try to rape me at some point? That’s insane! No one should have to live like that. Also blaming women for their fashion because “that mini skirt was asking for it”. Mayim Bialik in her recent New York Times op-ed made numerous misguided statements that hurt to read. The line “I craved being around people who valued me more for what was inside my brain than what was inside my bra.” where she describes her choice to leave acting and go off to college. Guess what Mayim; I was in college, using my brain when I got raped. Most of the article she talks about not being a perfect ten, and that has allowed her to not have to deal with going to a producer’s hotel room. I’m not a perfect ten either, but here I am with my story. Logic like this is detrimental to society.
I hope everyone starts to realize how widespread the issue is, and not just dismiss people when they bring a concern to them. Even in a professional setting, I’ve had statements laughed off or told, “you’re over thinking it”. When in reality I should have gone to HR. No one wants to hear on the second day of their first real job, “oh, I didn’t know she was our new social media person. I thought she was a new ring girl.” My boss laughed this statement off. I never felt comfortable being around that man or in a meeting with him ever after. Or have the program manager of your last job ask you to repeat the last name of a client because they thought it was funny. It’d be funny if that last name didn’t happen to share the same moniker as a famous porn star. It made me uncomfortable, and I really should have taken it to HR. It was uncalled for, and he knew what he was doing. But, in the end, this might be more personal than I want it to be, but I think it’s important to have ours there. I think it’s important for others to share their story with at least one person. And, I think it’s time that people start listening to victims when they bring up a concern. Not just laugh it off.