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The #MeToo movement has given a voice to countless women (and men, but for the purposes of this article, I’m just going to refer to women) who have survived sexual violence. For many, it was the first time they were able to admit to being a survivor of a sexual assault. For others, it was something they’d already announced to the world, so to speak, and writing those two little words really wasn’t such a big deal.
I fit into the second category. However, as I watch people struggle to come to terms with the massive number of women who have endured sexual assault and rape, or who deny the veracity of the accusations, I find I am infuriated. Yes, on occasion, a woman may lie about a sexual assault, and it’s a terrible, terrible thing for them to do. But it is a rare occurrence, and it should never mean that when a woman says she’s been raped she automatically isn’t believed.
It’s taken me some time to decide to really tell the world what I mean when I say, "Me too." I’ve been in and out of therapy since I was two years old, and believe me when I say I’ve dealt with these things as much as is humanly possible. So I don’t hesitate to share these things because of how it might affect me, but because of how it might affect others in my life. That being said, if sharing my story can make it easier for just one woman to find the courage to speak up, or it makes just one person think twice before calling a victim a liar, well, then I think it’s worth the risk.
When I was two years old, my father molested me. I don’t really remember the actual act, but I remember watching my mother, who was pregnant with my little brother at the time, fall apart when she found out. I remember sitting in therapy, playing with a dollhouse and having my therapist scold me for not talking about what happened.
I remember talking with my father about it when I was 21 years old because I couldn’t remember and I needed answers. I remember him dancing around the topic, making excuses and telling stories… which didn’t even match the story he told the police and therapists when I was a kid.
I remember feeling sick to my stomach and overwhelmed with panic when my father reached out, brushing his finger over my newborn daughter’s cheek when I was 23 years old.
I still have a relationship with my father. I see him on holidays, birthdays, and maybe the other random occasion. He was given diversion and a dishonorable discharge from the Air Force when it happened, but the courts decided to give him joint custody of me and my little brother. I’m glad that they did. Despite what happened, I think I’ve managed to have a fairly decent relationship with my father since.
A few months after what my father did, I was raped—yes, raped—by the adult son of one of my mother’s friends. Again, I don’t remember the actual event, but the fear I felt when the same man walked into the Braum’s I worked at when I was 17 years old was very real. I hadn’t seen this man since I was a small child, but I recognized him instantly. When he approached my register, I asked him to confirm his name for me, which he did. I then excused myself and told my boss what happened and who the man was. She had someone else handle the transaction.
He told them I was someone he used to date.
I have scar tissue and certain areas of desensitization still.
At nine years old, my stepfather started raping me. At first, I didn’t say anything or tell anyone. I thought there was something wrong with me, like I was just a magnet for that sort of thing. And really, to be brutally honest, I was already engaging in sexual activity consensually with others—well, as consensually as a nine-year-old can—so I didn’t really see the point.
When I did finally tell someone, my stepfather passed a lie detector test. The police told my mother I was lying, and that my story was full of holes, holes big enough to drive semi-trucks through. They said there was just no way something like that could happen to the same person so many times. They said I was obviously still troubled over the other issues and suggested I was using it as a weapon against my stepfather. The courts refused to give her a divorce unless she wanted to pay out of pocket for it, but that wasn’t something she could afford. They separated, but my mother was lost and torn, not knowing what or who to believe.
After a while, I told my mom that I was lying. I just wanted to see her be happy again.
They started seeing each other, and he ended up moving back into the house. He started raping me again, almost right away. It went on regularly, happening almost every night. A few months after my first suicide attempt—at 12 years old—I broke down in a group therapy session and told the group leaders what had been going on.
This time, they found his physical evidence on me. Social services blamed my mother for getting back with the man who everyone claimed was innocent. One social worker told my mother there must be something wrong with her because she kept attracting pedophiles. She was utterly devastated. I don’t blame her. I never have, not once.
He got out of prison when I was 17 years old. I was given a permanent, life-long restraining order against him. I saw him twice again in public places before he died from health complications a couple of years later, and both times I felt terrified. And ashamed.
I still have flashbacks of him sometimes.
In the midst of the crap with my stepfather, an uncle separated from his wife. My brother and I spent the night with him one night at his new apartment. He got high, and that night he touched me in inappropriate ways. He would’ve taken it further, but he didn’t press when I refused to touch him in return. I was maybe 10 years old.
I may not remember my exact age, but I remember I was watching an episode of Rosanne in his bedroom the first time he touched me. I remember what his erection felt like pressed against me. And I remember how the next day, he spoiled my brother and I rotten: Taking us out to eat, to the movies, and for ice cream before taking us home. I believed he was trying to apologize, sober and in the light of day, realizing how badly he’d messed up. I still think he was trying to apologize, but even if he’s remorseful, it still happened.
Sometime after my stepfather went to prison, an aunt of mine got drunk and told me that it was okay if I wanted to have sex with the neighbor boy who was hanging out with us in my bedroom. She sat right there while we did just that.
It took me years to realize this wasn't okay.
When I was 14 years old, I was at a neighbor’s house, and here was a guy there I didn’t know—I think he was 17 or 18 years old. I told my neighbor that I was going to go to the gas station and asked if they wanted me to get them anything. The guy said he’d walk with me. I told him that was okay, and I was fine going by myself.
He insisted, though. It didn’t feel right to me, but I’d learned my judgment was crap long ago. It was a free country, I couldn’t tell him he couldn’t go if he was set on it. Getting to the gas station required me to cross through a field. In the field, he forced himself on me.
When I got home, I told my mom what happened and she called the police. The police called it “a date rape” because I had “consented to be in his presence.”
I didn’t even know his name.
The events of 9/11 happened about a month after my 18th birthday. A few months later, I decided to join the Army. I met with a recruiter, took my ASVAB, and my physical. Before signing the last paperwork, I decided it was best to wait a little while longer. I wanted to make sure that I was making the right decision.
My Army recruiter told me to come to the office to sign a specific document so that I wouldn’t have to start all over from the beginning if I did decide I wanted to join. I didn’t have a car at the time, so he picked me up from my apartment where I lived with my boyfriend. It wasn’t so odd, he’d taken me personally to my ASVAB and my physical—and apparently, it wasn’t an uncommon thing for a recruiter to do.
When we got to his office, the lights were off inside and the door was locked. The sign on the door said everyone was at lunch and showed what time they’d be back. He locked the door behind us again, using a key, once we were inside. He sexually assaulted me, right there, in his office, and then took me back home as if nothing had happened.
I called the police and went to the ER. There wasn’t any physical evidence for them to find, and the police decided to talk to his commanding officer before speaking with him. They refused to give him a lie detector test when I asked that they give one to both of us, as suggested by an attorney. They never arrested him, and they closed the case against him without even telling me until I called weeks later to see what was going on.
I was afraid to leave my apartment alone for months and ended up moving out of state for a while. I still have flashbacks when I pass by the place it happened at, even though the Army recruiting office isn’t even there anymore.
This doesn’t even begin to touch on the other instances in my life where a man has made me feel unsafe. Men have followed me home. Men have tried to touch me on public transportation. Men have cat-called and made sexually suggestive gestures at me. Men have exposed themselves to me. Men have sexually harassed me in past jobs.
This, all of this, is what I mean when I say, “Me too.”