In case you missed it, #yesallwomen was trending on twitter last week. As I scrolled through, reading the stories, realities, and fears of other women, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Why does this hashtag even need to be a thing? Why are we, as women, forced to live in fear and left feeling guilty after we are violated?
Women's rights, rape culture, slut-shaming, etc. have been hot topics for awhile, and they should be. It's important! I've especially noticed it popping up lately with the whole Elliot Rodger thing and the #yesallwomen twitter trend. When tragedies happen people always go a little crazy, but scrolling through #yesallwomen makes it very clear that sexual assault is something most women fear every single day.
By age 18, 1 in 4 girls have been sexually abused.* How scary is that?! Why are women so often viewed as sexual objects without the right to make our own choices about who touches us and when? It honestly just blows my mind and absolutely disgusts me how much this happens. Women have to wear shorts under their dresses when they go to bars, and have to "watch out" if they choose to crowd surf at a concert. Why does that happen?! Why would anyone touch a woman who didn't give them permission? I really, seriously cannot even fathom that mindset. I've experienced this kind of behavior in my own life, and I doubt that there's one woman who hasn't. Cat calls, getting grabbed at parties, being told that I 'owed' someone sex for one reason or another- these are all things that have happened to me numerous times, and they aren't even the memories that stick with me.
I've shared this story with very few people in my real life, so the fact that I'm about to share it with the whole blog world is a little insane. Don't be surprised if I chicken out and take it down later.
When I was a freshman in college a guy I'd known for awhile asked me on a date. He was a nice guy and we had a lot of mutual friends, so I went. We didn't live in a very fun town so our "date" was just a movie at his place, which was typical where I went to school. After hanging out for a few hours he kissed me, and I was okay with that. I was having a good time, and I am the kind of girl who kisses on the first date, so yes, we were kissing. When his hands started to move south that's when I got uncomfortable. I pushed him away, and he just did it again. After pushing him away multiple times I realized he wasn't getting the hint. I started to say "stop," but he wasn't stopping. He had his hands in my pants, and no matter how many times I pushed him away or how forcefully I said stop, he wasn't stopping. He didn't, in fact, until I burst into tears. He started apologizing, saying that he didn't know what I meant, that he was sorry. It didn't matter though. He'd touched me when I didn't want him to, when I said that I didn't want him to, and that's not okay. I didn't know what to do. I should have insisted that he take me home right then, I should have called a friend, I should have driven myself in the first place, but I didn't do any of those things. I ended up crying myself to sleep on his bed that night.
I remember the next day, after he finally did take me home, I felt like I was living outside my body. I was screaming inside my head and feeling like a zombie on the outside. I was so ashamed that I let myself be in that situation and afraid of what my friends would say if I told them, so I was left dealing with it inside my own mind. I had gym class that day, and I got yelled at by the professor for not being focused. When I burst into tears right in the middle of the weight room, he yelled at me again. I felt more alone that day than I'd ever felt.
When I think back to that incident, I want to kick myself for not doing anything, for not sticking up for myself. After that night he acted like everything was perfectly normal; he even tried to kiss me in the car the next morning. He kept talking to me in class, or hugging me when he saw me on campus. I usually ignored him and I never hugged him back, but I don't think he even noticed (big surprise there, right?). I should have said something, told him that everything wasn't okay and what he did was a big deal. I often wonder if he ever thinks about that night, or if he still feels as sorry as he said he was. I doubt it. I was able to snap back to normalcy pretty easily after that first day, but I'll never forget that experience and he probably hasn't thought about it since.
No, I wasn't raped. I wasn't attacked or physically assaulted, and what i went through wasn't nearly as bad as what a lot of women have gone through, but it's something that I never, ever want to happen to me again. Most importantly, it's something that shouldn't have happened in the first place. When a woman says stop she shouldn't have to repeat herself.
*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2006
I also want to note that by age 18, 1 in 6 boys have been sexually abused. Child sexual abuse is a serious issue for both genders, but today we're just talking about #yesallwomen