Why I never told anyone that I was sexually assaulted in middle school
The Stanford survivor is why I’m writing this
The Brock Turner case has been on my mind for quite some time, and not just because it went “viral” on Facebook or just because I attend Stanford and it was all anybody was talking about before Commencement.
It’s also because rape culture is a very real issue that we have yet to fully address or even attempt to stop.
It is a serious problem in America, and I never really realized how prevalent it was until I got to college, until this point specifically, following the 2014 rape on Stanford’s campus.
The victim from the Brock Turner case really moved me with the letter she read aloud to her attacker, encouraging me to write on this often-stigmatized topic.
I spent most of my life on military bases, but that does NOT mean that everything was always the most secure.
The first time I heard the word “rape” was in second grade.
I was walking across the blacktop during recess with my friends when suddenly one of my boy classmates ran up to me, smiling, screaming, “I’m going to rape you!”
Although I didn’t know what the word meant at the time, I still felt threatened, so my friends told me to run inside the girl’s restroom: a safe place away from the cootie-infested boys we had no interest in at all. He followed swiftly after. Luckily the bell rang, signaling the end of recess, and I hurried to join my friends as they walked towards our classroom.
This cycle of being chased occurred for over a week until, one day, he decided that the sign on the restroom couldn’t physically keep him out of the building. One day, he caught up to me, laughing, until his smile was wiped from my face after I shrieked for the lunch monitor’s help.
He ran, although the lunch monitor eventually found him, took him by his hand, and forced him to apologize. She looked concerned.
“Do you know what that word means?” she asked.
“No…” he quietly replied.
Maybe he really didn’t know. Maybe he really just heard that word from wherever, and was just blindly repeating it to whoever would listen. Maybe he just liked the way it sounded.
It still astounds me how a boy that young could have already learned that word, and soon used it at school: an assumed safe place for learning and making friends, especially during the elementary years.
I experienced the worst in middle school, and yes: you can be sexually assaulted by people you know, who you never expected to hurt you.
There was this boy that I crushed on for some time despite his less-than-favorable reputation among my loved ones. I fell into the trap of “every girl wants a bad boy that’s good just for her” and we ended up seeing each other for a bit. We broke up after I found out that he was unfaithful on multiple occasions.
The day before I moved to a new town, he asked to see me one last time. He led me to a secluded clubhouse in the middle of the neighborhood forest, but because we had usually frequented deserted playgrounds with our group of friends, I didn’t think much of it. He sat down across from me and took my hand. He claimed that “he was going to miss me” and that “he would never find anybody else like me.” I felt special. He made me feel special.
But then he asked to go farther than I was comfortable with going. At that point, we had only kissed and held hands. I wanted him to like me, and I thought that by succumbing to his wishes and sucking it up, that he would, indeed, like me. I should’ve known how wrong I was.
Before I had the chance to say anything, however, he began to unzip my jeans, forcing his hand down where I had never wanted anybody to touch me. He rose to his knees as I tried to distance myself from him, scooting towards the clubhouse exit and pushing his hand away and trying not to look into his icy stare, but his brute force pinned me in place.
I winced at every flicker of blood that escaped my body. I wanted to scream, but nothing would come out. I wanted to return home, safe with my parents and my brothers and my dog. I wanted to erase every memory, good and bad, of that now-tainted place.
He forced his lips on mine when he finally left. He told me not to cry, that we would remain in contact (I eventually gained the courage to block him on every one of my social media profiles). He never knew that the real reason for my tears was the violation, the shame I felt as I brushed the wood chips off my legs and never told a soul until years later.
When I finally gained the courage to tell someone close to me, a boyfriend at the time, about what happened to me in middle school, I cried. I cried harder than I did on that terrible afternoon.
He cried as well. He cried because of what happened to me, but for what I think was a very wrong reason.
He cried, not because of guilt or empathy, but because “he wasn’t the first one to touch me.”
I couldn’t believe it. After I had finally opened up to him, eight months into our relationship, about my traumatic experience, he saw me as someone tainted, someone impure, someone who ‘willingly gave herself’ to someone before him. Someone responsible for what happened to her.
Reflecting on these experiences, however, I’ve come to realize that what happened to me wasn’t my fault. It’s never the victim’s fault.
Before I read the Stanford survivor’s letter, I never thought of telling my parents. I never wanted them to take the blame for my assaulter’s actions, and I never wanted them to look down on me for getting myself into those kinds of situations. I never thought of telling my best friends or anyone who knew me because I feared the stigma of victims being at fault. Hearing the different things people would say about survivors coming forward, I never wanted to be cast in the same, negative light. Even now, after writing this all out, I fear what people will say when they read this.
I now understand the significance of speaking out against rape culture, and I’m no longer ashamed of myself. Yes, I still experience PTSD-like symptoms with my current boyfriend, and, yes, I still can’t watch full-consent, semi-sexual scenes in TV or in movies. However, I understand that recovery is something that will come in time.