Open for Discussion: Sexual Assault, Rape & Why We Can’t Drop It

This is the third response to two previous posts.

See the first, HERE

and the second, HERE

It has come to my attention that Chief Price Robinson at Midland Police Department wrote a follow-up editorial piece (I believe it was in this Sunday’s paper) commenting that retired Detective Kay Therwhanger “took the time after the original story ran to write her own article on March 9 to clarify the original intention behind what she said.” Chief Robinson went on to say that “[w]ords do matter” and they are glad she took the time to explain what she meant. It went on to say how dedicated Detective Therwhanger has been over the years serving to help victims cope with these crimes and prosecute the assailants. Additionally, Chief Robinson reiterated the popularity of the Rape Defense Class.

 

What I want to say is how grateful I am that this story even ran. Am I glad it had a negative impact on survivors? No. But the it is a fact that this society is behind on how important it is to handle these situations in a forward-thinking, non-victim-blaming (Rape Defense Class), empathetic (words DO matter) manner. And because of this, we need so desperately to have an open dialogue about it. The article that ran a week ago absolutely opened the door for that dialogue and for THAT I am grateful.

 

We can’t keep these things (and mindsets and rhetoric) in the dark. We can’t just “drop it” and say, Well, this is what they MEANT. If we do that, we are not going to progress to the level of intelligence around these issues that I KNOW we are capable of achieving.

 

In the spirit of this, I am fulfilling my promise to allow this to become a safe space for victims to speak out. These are their words. Most (but not all) want to remain anonymous. This does not make them any less valid. Words DO matter, and for some, this may be the first time they have had the opportunity to share their experience openly and as a writer and survivor myself, I can’t express how empowering and important that is. The first step to dismantling rape culture is not to just “drop it”, but to listen. To really listen is to empathize and once we empathize, we make a difference by understanding how and why we cho0se our words. And how our words can either heal or open those wounds again; how our words can either legitimize a victim’s pain, or empower an abuser. THIS MATTERS. The act of listening says to a victim, YOU MATTER.

 

I believe I’ve already expressed what many people thought and felt last Sunday. And I do believe that helped many people process why and how they felt the way they did, and that they were valid emotions. Do I believe the Midland Police Department does good work? Yes. And I am absolutely grateful to them for striving to serve and protect. I am a bit of an optimist and believe the majority of people who sign up to work in that area truly do so in order to help people (along with the therapists and case workers in Midland County). Do I believe, overall, the editors and writers at the paper want to report the news in a professional way? Yes. A writer myself, I know that I am not perfect and sometimes, without meaning to, my words are ordered in such a way that I may hurt people. It happens.

 

So, in conclusion, I think we can all just step back, objectively, and notice what kind of POWERFUL things happened this past week. They really did bring forth a much needed discussion. I do NOT think it should end here. So, I encourage everyone of you to do something in your power to drive this discussion forward: volunteer, research, speak up, and most importantly, listen.

 

Here are a few stories (will be added to as more people continue to share) that could have happened to anyone of any class, age, gender, education level, etc. ONE IN FOUR women and ONE IN EIGHT men experience some form of sexual assault in their lives, many times before the age of 18.

 

Also, sharing of these stories may help someone speak out, or may help parents or loved-ones recognize warning signs of abuse in someone they love.

 

 

 

 

I made the mistake of being naïve when I was just out of high school. I thought everyone had good intentions and found out they, in fact, do not. I put myself in a situation that most would question, but I had no idea the consequences. I was raped by someone I thought I could trust and he invited his friends to join in. I was drugged and before I lost my ability to communicate, I screamed, “NO”, but that didn’t stop the brutal rape from happening. It started early in the day and ended the next morning just before sunrise. It was pure torture. I would never wish the same on my worst enemy. There are some details that would make even the most vile person question humanity.

I made it home the next night, luckily I wasn’t disposed of to destroy the evidence, because there was plenty of it. I went to the ER and they performed a rape kit test, took pictures of all my contusions, scrapes and graffiti. Yep, not only did I get raped, but the scum of the earth wrote on me with marker to say they had, “snaked twice”. Now if that doesn’t say guilty, I don’t know what does?!

I never filed charges. I felt intimidated by messages and phone calls by the guy I thought I could trust. If I could turn back time, I’d send those fucks to jail.

 

***

 

My molestation occurred many years ago. I am 53. It was a cousin that I didn’t know very well.  I was born in Denison & grew up in the Bonham area of Texas but when I was 4yrs old my dad had taken a job on his uncles farm in Oklahoma. My mom was a new mother, again.  I was 4, my brother was 3, and having toddlers along with the new baby must have been hard on my mom. I was angry with her for a long time but I since forgiven her. She allowed the 2 boy cousins to come over and spent time at our house mostly sitting on the porch as I recall. I had a little girl crush on the blonde cousin, I think, not sure because his influence could have made it seem this way. I feel sure, looking back, that he did things to lead up to the ‘act’ making it premeditated in my opinion. I didn’t know how to right a bicycle and the cousins wanted to take us (my brother & I) for a ride. I was afraid and untrusting. I didn’t like being injured, climbing trees, bleeding, etc, and was hyper careful. I was very girlie. I didn’t want to fall off that bicycle but I finally consented and somehow I ended up riding on the front of his bike down the little dirt road that we lived on.  While I was in this vulnerable position he put his hand in my shorts and molested me.  I don’t really remember my exact reaction but I must have been upset visibly or physically because the next thing I remember was the bike falling over and him laughing at me on the ground. I was violated, injured, confused, and embarassed. I am glad that he laughed at me because I think that it made me see the ‘real’ and ‘calculating’ him and from then on I wanted nothing to do with him. Which confused my mother as I remember.  We only lived on that farm a short time but it shaped my life and relationships. I am twice divorced and have a constant fight against succumbing to the ‘victim’ attitude. It comes up in other areas in my life because it seems that bullys  search out (or maybe I attract them) those who are attempting to be strong under all circumstances. I have been single since 2002 when I moved to Midland for ‘a couple of years’ So needless to say, I am feeling angry when I see such lack of compassion in the news. In turn, I have been reliving my vulnerable 4 yr old self a lot lately and this article hit a HUGE nerve.  I am reliving being the victim, the laughing perps, the pervs, & the shame….

 

***

 

People say that ignorance is bliss. When you’re a child, it truly is bliss. At that age, you’re somewhat sheltered from the realities and potential evils that this world has to offer. That is until one day, that bliss is ripped from your hands and your innocence lost forever. In that single day your world gets flipped upside down and your relationships become damaged, including the one with yourself. The cause of this shift for me personally, was sexual abuse.

My story is similar to that of many others who have fallen victim to this cruel act. I was a just a kid, growing up in a dysfunctional home. My parents divorced when I was only three, and my sister and I went to live with our mother. We did so for a few years until my mother met my step-dad. He eventually moved in with us and became more of a father figure to me than my biological father was. After a few years of this living arrangement we all moved into a house together, in Midland, TX. During that time, my mother’s health was rapidly declining and she wasn’t able to care for us. We relied on our step-dad to care for us every day, and he did provide more than we could’ve ever asked for. I loved him so much.

Over time, he and my mother became very abusive towards one another, and eventually that emotional abuse turned toward my sister and I. There was consistent yelling, name calling, and intimidation. If I didn’t do the dishes correctly, I’d get yelled at after he hovered over my shoulder. If I slept too much, he’d call me lazy. I was 12-14 years old, mind you. It was maddening. I felt as if I was walking on egg shells all day long, and even then I wasn’t careful enough. It wasn’t too long after all this started that he had a heart attack. He was rushed to the ER but he turned out to be just fine. When he returned home, he was more cold than he was before. He stopped telling us that he loved us or showing us any kind of fatherly affection. He seemed somewhat distant and just…different. I could sense that something was not right.

This is when the sexual abuse began. It started not too long after his heart attack, and happened on multiple occasions over the course of approximately a year or so. At first he started saying inappropriate things to me, such as “I could eat you for dinner”. I did my best to not respond and even avoid him more than usual after that. After that, it progressed to inappropriate touching on many different occasions. Some occasions were worse than others. Then, there was suddenly a period of a couple months that things seemed to stop happening (thankfully). One of my friends happened to make a comment to me on the bus ride to school one morning that my step-dad looked like a child molester. I told her what had happened and she had me tell her parents, who then alerted the police. To make a very long story short, it was my word against his and my case was dropped. No one in my family believed what I said to be true for the longest time. The people investigating my case even said I could return home to live with him. I didn’t, of course…but the fact that they said I could go home made me angry for a very long time.

I am writing this because I want to share my story and empower others to do the same. This is a subject not frequently discussed because of how horrible and sickening it is. I get that. I mean, who wants to talk about rape or sexual abuse? Right? Well, I think that’s exactly where we have room for improvement…not only in our community but in our state and country as well. If we can’t even discuss these things, how on earth are we supposed to make them better? It’s simple: we can’t.

Listen, these kinds of stories are happening all of the time whether we talk about it or not, and more often than not it’s by someone we are close to. This most recent discussion, though, was prompted by a recent article published in the MRT, stating that the increase in rape wasn’t a cause for alarm. As a victim of a sexual crime myself, I would NEVER say that an increase in rape was not a cause for alarm. To me, and many other people, all that is saying is that it isn’t a big deal that more people are being raped. Let me tell you right now that you are WRONG. It is a HUGE deal that our statistics around here aren’t remaining the same, they’re actually increasing! By suggesting that this is not a big deal encourages others to keep quiet and possibly even feel stupid for wanting to speak up about it in the first place. To those who feel that it is not a big deal, I have three words for you: HOW DARE YOU.

I have seen many different things regarding rape and sexual assault awareness on TV and the internet over the years, and do you know what many of those things were focused on? What the victim did wrong. Yeah, you heard me correctly! I’ve seen hundreds of posters and websites telling people not to dress provocatively, train in self-defense, etc. to prevent being raped. This is NOT where our focus should be if we’re trying to prevent these occurrences. Let me be perfectly clear when I say that rape and sexual assault is not something the victim asks for, wants, or should be held responsible for. Instead of telling people what NOT to do, let me tell you some things that every community SHOULD DO:

  • Talk about it. This is the MOST important point in my opinion! Talk about rape, sexual assault, and what to do if they become a victim of it or know a friend that has. Talking about it brings light into the situation and light is exactly what people need in such a dark place.
  • Make the warning signs known to people of all ages and encourage people to SPEAK UP. We could possibly incorporate this subject matter into school curriculum so that our future generations KNOW that they have a right to say NO and that they’ll be supported if they stand up for themselves.
  • Never downplay the severity of this kind of crime.
  • If you’re a victim of rape/sexual assault and have never reported it, please do so. Please also seek out counseling…it made a difference in my life and will in yours, too.
  • If you know someone that is a victim, encourage them to get help but also be there to listen and support however you can. Even if you don’t understand what they’re going through, know that it is an extremely hard battle that they’re facing and that they can’t do it without your help.

This is not a subject to be taken lightly and not one to be brushed to the side. It’s serious and should be treated as such, no matter who you are or what you believe.

I will leave you with this thought: instead of us as a community asking victims to take certain steps to PREVENT getting raped/assaulted, we should be asking ourselves what we can do to prevent CRIMINALS from carrying out such horrendous acts on innocent people!!

 

Thanks for allowing me to share this story and my opinions with you. If anyone reading this needs help, guidance, or just someone to lend an understanding ear, please shoot me an email here: LoveConquersAll1990@gmail.com …… there is hope, I promise. You’ll be able to find your bliss again. I found mine.

 

 

***

 

 

I got in a sexually abusive relationship when I was 20 to a man 12 years my senior.

 

He was engaged to another woman but left her for me. I remember feeling guilty for that. And I had met another man that I truly liked and respected, but the abuser started intercepting the nice guy’s texts and deleting them. Once, when he found me texting him, he threw my phone out the window and that was the first time he did his sexual assaults. I was only 20 and thought maybe this was the adult way to do things?

He said he was jealous and that was hot. He said I was “bad” for “teasing him” and he started abusing me during sex after that, choking me until I passed out, he said I “brought it out of him” and it got to the point that he couldn’t climax unless he was actively choking me.

Let me be clear that he was a master. He was sweet and charming and very lovely outside of sex. He was romantic and I was 20 and naiive. He gave up his fiance, surely I could give up that other “nice” guy. To this day, I regret that decision because to this day, that “nice” guy is my barometer for who I want. It would prove later that I would still not choose men like the “nice” guy.

He then began to hit me during sex. It moved from choking to hitting. He never asked. He never asked if I was ok with it. And I didn’t know enough to realize he should have asked. I thought, if I spoke up, if I said I didn’t like it, then I was less attractive or not “old enough” for him. He was very charming. Even my family liked him when they met him. He could make anyone laugh.

The second time he hit me, he cried because I started bleeding out of my ear. We had just come back from a club where I met his friends. Everyone talked about how young I was. I could tell one of his friends was flirting with me, and I liked it. It felt like a breath of fresh air. I realized then that I wanted out of this crazy situation. Then, when I went to the bathroom at the club, “Nice” guy texted me. He wasn’t sure what he did or why I wasn’t responding, but that he really liked me.” I couldn’t catch my breath. I remember thinking at that moment that I had to get out of this guy’s grip. I didn’t want to be with him, but I felt guilty. I remember just always feeling GUILTY.

 

When we got back to his house that night, I said I needed to go back to my place first thing next morning because I had a class. I lied. I didn’t have a class. I wanted out. I wanted to text nice guy back and go back to being a normal 20 year old falling in love with a nice guy.

He didn’t like that. He told me so. He then began crying. When I tried to comfort him, he slammed me down, and proceeded to force himself. I actually fought that time, and he took that as foreplay, when I said “NO” (I think the first time I ever did) he hit me so hard in my ear that it started to bleed. We called the hospital, I think, and we waited until the next day. I stayed because we were supposed to go to the doctor, but he had to go to work. I went next door to a lady who was a nurse, his nextdoor neighbor. She said my hearing would come back soon. But it didn’t, and by the time he got home, I was in tears. We went to the hospital. Driving over there, he said we had to tell them that I fell and hit my head on the stairs after going out for drinks. I remember thinking, Wow, am I in some sort of Lifetime Movie? But I forced that thought away, because I wasn’t STUPID. I wasn’t ONE OF THOSE WOMEN!

He said at the hospital they are very serious about domestic violence and they don’t GET IT that some people have ACTIVE sex lives. He could BE ARRESTED!

That’s the story we went with. That night he cried and told me about how he had been sexually abused when he was a kid by some older boys at school.

We got engaged soon after.

I think I wanted to believe that everything was romantic and we were both tortured souls and we were meant to be together and everything would be ok.

Thankfully, when I had to go back to Texas, the distance gave me the strength to break up with him.

I would have nightmares for months on end that he would come knocking on my door and hurt me.

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3 Responses to Open for Discussion: Sexual Assault, Rape & Why We Can’t Drop It

  1. Pingback: Claim Rape Article Wasn’t Meant to Minimize Rape | Wayswearelost's Blog

  2. I entered a ‘like’ for this only to say that it is a very important, if not exceedingly difficult, read.

    Like

  3. polly says:

    Please email me about this Shannon. Thanks

    Like

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