<<<<<———Trigger Warning ———–>>>>>Long before I broke my silence, long before I became or knew I was a victim of domestic violence, long before I understood my sleep disturbances or chronic pain I was a victim of sexual violence.
As a child I was sexually abused by my biological father. Between the ages of 4 and 7 he would fondle me, come into my room at night and force me to perform oral sex, and at least once raped me vaginally.
As a thirteen year old girl I was sexually assaulted by my 15 year-old boyfriend in the home of a friend. While engaging in a make out session he unbuttoned my jeans and, though I told him “no, please stop,” he put his hand down my pants and inserted multiple fingers into my vagina.
At the age of twenty-four I was raped by a bouncer in a New York City bar. I frequented the establishment that was around the corner from a theatre I spent time at and befriended the man who said he was an actor. One night he asked if he could show me his reel and get an opinion then led me in to a dark store room where he threw me over a table and raped me from behind as I begged him to stop and told him he was hurting me.
As a woman committed to a man who I believed was better than what others could see in him I was raped multiple times with my face pushed into the mattress of the bed we shared. I was pinned to my own bed, with knees digging into my shoulders as he forced me to perform oral sex on him, the same way he knew my father had done to me.
I speak these things not to shock or seek sympathy. I speak these things because it is a part of my story. I speak these things for the women and girls who have not yet found their own voices so that they might be inspired to come forward or so that they may not feel so alone in a time that feels so completely isolating.
There are some who would look at my past or hear my story and say “clearly she was doing something to ask for it.” In each of these instances I have one thing in common with myself at every age and all other victims, it was not my fault. Each of these men of different ages, different upbringings, different names have one thing in common. Each of these men felt that they were so entitled to get what it was they wanted that they were able to ignore the rights and wishes of another human being to get it.
We can teach young girls and women ways that they can stay safe, things they can do to avoid being assaulted. Don’t wear short skirts. The night I was raped in the East Village I was wearing jeans and a tee shirt. Don’t walk home alone. Twice I was raped and assaulted in my own home by men who told me they loved me and wanted to take care of me. Each time we instruct a woman on “how to not get raped” we put the burden of responsibility on her shoulders for another’s actions.
It is time to start teaching men and boys not to rape. It is time to address the social norms that provoke entitled and violent behavior. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. This year’s focus is on sexual assaults on college campuses. It is time to let young women seek an education without fear in becoming 1 in every 3 female college students who is sexually assaulted. Together we can make our campuses and our world a safer place.
To learn more about how you can be a part of the change visit http://www.nsvrc.org/saam