Friday, October 21, 2016

My Sexual Assault

To the whole world, sexual assault has become this forefront topic. We are ostracizing a presidential candidate for his horrendous behavior (believe me, I think it is warranted), thousands of women are coming forward on social media about their own experiences, and people are discussing more often the principles and ethics that should have been taught since day one. But inappropriate sexual behavior has been a topic of discussion at my house since my daughter was two. And before that, in my parents house since I was two. But such talk stems from a line of abuse and a perpetual type of behavior that doesn’t seem to go away the more humans "evolve."

The first attack on my body was at age 9, and it went on until I was 11.

 It always happened in the same way and with the same outcome.  We would play a game of hide-and-seek and he would hide wherever I did.  I was always terrified to move even an inch and I always wondered why no one ever found us.  Wasn't anyone trying to seek us? Our hiding places couldn't possibly be that good. 
I never told anyone for another year after it ended out of fear and disgust of myself, and perhaps even because I felt like “What if I was in the wrong, too?” Right there, my assailant won. He ruined my way of thinking; therefore, ruining me. I wound up telling my middle school counselor who had quickly involved my parents. I wouldn’t involve the police because I was too afraid. In the end, his parents deemed it mere curiosity. They said as a child he couldn’t have possibly known what he was doing. Reminder, when I was 11, he was 14.
My first consensual sexual encounter was when I was 14. It wasn’t intercourse of any kind, but it was some heavy petting and arousal from both parties.
And then the flashbacks happened.
I sat frozen waiting for the wave to pass as I began to shake and then was racked with an enormity of tears. What just happened? I knew that I couldn’t let it happen again. In order for the flashback to never come back, I had to stay away from my trigger.
At the end of my freshman year, I was grabbed by a guy on the track team, who I had previously had the hots for. He pushed me up against a set of lockers after practice once, grabbed my crotch, and then said “Number 32.” to which I said, “I’m sorry?” to which he replied, “That’s how many bitches I have kissed.” I learned later that he got married to a girl right out of high school whom he ended up physically abusing and eventually was served with divorce papers and some jail time. Surprise!
A year later, as a sophomore, one specific afternoon I went to our school’s JV football game with some friends. I left the stands and decided to head toward the concession stand for a drink to go with my plain M&M’s when I was approached by the father of a classmate. This was a guy that nearly everyone knew. He was loud, rowdy, funny, and had a raunchy sense of humor. As a teenager, we all thought he was a cool dad.  As I breezed down the staircase, I felt a grip on my elbow.
“Hey Ginger! Can I ask you something?”
I had been called any number of names referencing my titian hair: Big Red, Red, Fire in the Hole, Fire Crotch, Ginger, Freckles, Carrots — you name it!
“Do the curtains match the drapes?”
I believe this was the first time I had ever heard this line. I tore at the paper holding the M&Ms.
I replied with a “Uhm, yes. I am a real red head. I don’t dye my hair or anything.”
Which is exactly when he pounced, “Will you prove it? Show it to me.”
I just walked away embarrassed while he laughed uproariously. I remember thinking, why would someone want to see my pubic hair? I learned quickly that asking about pubic hair was a common trait among men. I was asked by any number of my classmates over the course of the 4 years of high school and maybe another two dozen in the collegiate years. I can vaguely remember walking to the mailbox after school one day and as a car passed by they rolled down the window and bellowed, “Fire in the hole!” As soon as my mom would allow me, my hair would turn platinum blond for roughly one year and then jet black a year after that. I wanted nothing to do with being a red head from that point until around 25.  Now I have accepted my hair for what it is and frankly, it is different than everyone else's hair - and I like that!
My junior year of high school, I was assaulted again. This time at work. On my 14th birthday I had applied for my first job at the local pizzeria. I was hired promptly and wound up working there for all 4 years of high school. It was a new pizza place in town so it was a hot spot with tons of workers and a ton of turnover. One of the new managers gave me the heeby-geebies from day one. Most of us who worked there were in high school, but this guy was 25 and thought he was so awesome. He was older, he smoked cigarettes and pot, and bought beer for the young guys that worked there. He was most impressive to everyone but me.
In once instance, I was leaning on the counter top with the phone balanced between my shoulder and my ear, writing down an order, and he pressed his flaccid self between my butt cheeks. On the phone with a customer, there wasn’t much I would have done, which is exactly why he chose that moments to go in for the kill. This would happen a countless number of times throughout the years. It wasn’t every day. It wasn’t every month, but it happened.
When I was 15, I was pretty small. I was on the dance team at school which kept me in shape and I liked to work out back then to stay fit. One day while we were prepping dough in the back, he lifted me off the ground like a feather. He laid me down on top of the stainless steel prep-table, climbed on top of me straddling me with his legs on both sides of my frame and said “I could do whatever I want to you right now. No one would ever know except you and me.” Again, I froze. I waited for it to be over before I reacted with locking myself in the bathroom and dry heaving over the sink. I didn’t ever want to be left alone with this guy again. And I did the best I could with what I was given.
A year later, I was washing my hands at a sink before heading to the prep-line to top pizzas when he unsuspectingly came up from behind me and picked me up in a bear hug. It was completely unwarranted. I wasn’t talking to him, looking in his direction, or doing any other sort of behavior that suggested he should touch me, but he did you could hear nothing but “CRUNCH.” He quickly set me down and my arm which was smashed across my chest in the hug was paralyzed in a bent awkward position as my breathing had immediately shortened into nearly a panic. I tried to breathe in slow. I failed. It hurt. Almost a sharp pinch mixed with anxiety.
“I didn’t do it! Tell them that I was cracking your back. I didn’t do this. Don’t say anything.”
I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t make a sound. Tears fell out of the corners of my eyes plunging to the floor silently. I called my mom from the phone on the wall in the hallway and she picked me up and took me to the emergency room. I had a sprained shoulder and a broken rib.
My boyfriend at 16 used to pull my breasts out in public just for reaction. He would lift my shirt up or rip my top open, it didn’t matter. I stayed with him for 9 months. At this point, being treated in such a fashion was completely normal to me. Men talked to me inappropriately. They touched me whenever they wanted. Most of the time, I let it happen. I was too afraid of what would happen if I didn’t.
The summer after my senior year my mom made me take a self-defense class. I wish I could say that it helped. I learned a lot of tips and tricks, but within 6 months I was raped. A friend of mine wanted to set me up with someone. So I was told to go to a specific location and we would all hang out -nothing serious- and I could meet this guy. I arrived but this guy and I were alone. I called my friend to see where he was. He said he ran to the gas station and he would be there in 5 minutes. He never showed up. I was then seduced and raped. It was forceful and angry. He took what he needed and then it was over. It happened so quickly that I was unaware of what had actually happened, but I knew it wasn’t good. I froze. I allowed this man to violate me. The image of his tattoo is still seared in my brain. I got in the car to leave and I was in a fog. I went through my phone and called everyone I could think of and no one answered. So I went home, crawled in bed under the covers and wept.
A few unresponsive hours later my best friend showed up at my house and upon seeing the state I was in immediately knew something was wrong. I didn’t tell her 10 words before she dragged me to the car and drove me to the hospital. I was on a table, legs in the stirrups, my friend stroking my hair and wiping tears from my eyes, as the doctor examined my nether region. The dreaded rape kit. Then the police came in asking if I was going to press charges. I didn’t want anyone to get in trouble, but I knew that I didn’t want it to happen to anyone else either. The police picked him up within the hour.
This list of offenses could go on endlessly. As women, I fear, we all face similar types of behavior throughout our lives. I may have only been raped once, but I feel as though my dignity has been being raped throughout the course of my existence. What did I do to deserve men treating me this way?
As an adult I used my vulgar language toward men as a seduction tool. Sometimes it was effective, sometimes it got me into trouble, but other times men have been downright intimidated. I learned at a young age to be sexual and in my twenties, I used it. But once I realized that this was a running pattern with men, that even the guys I thought the most of treated me this way, I realized that perhaps staying away from men altogether was the wisest course for me.
 I was pregnant by 19. After two months in a relationship with a the second guy I had ever dated. I had my daughter a month before I turned 20 and her father was nowhere to be found. Being young was challenging but already having gone through so much gave me the strength to raise my daughter on my own with a dignity and knowledge that she would never go through what I did as a child. I wasn’t overprotective per say, but I gave her the tools to be a total bad ass. At two, she was bought boxing gloves, at four she was in karate classes. She was taught from the beginning that your body is the temple that gets you through this life. You respect it, you treat it well with good hygiene and food, and you never let anyone disrespect it. She was fierce about it, too. When she was 11, a boy at school slapped her on the butt and she told him that was unacceptable, then reported him to the school. They called me to tell me about the situation and said “It’s middle school and this stuff happens constantly. I have to tell you that your daughter is one of the only children that put her foot down and said this is not okay. Girls don’t report this kind of behavior and then it continues. Whatever you are doing, you are doing it right.” I can remember hanging up the phone and bursting in to tears of pride. She is currently 14 and I believe whole-heartedly that she knows how she wants to be respected and wont accept anything less.
I have always been vocal with my journey. I bring it up if the situation calls for it, I am not afraid to discuss it with nearly anyone, and I firmly believe that talking about bad experiences is healing.  I also believe that once the conversation stops, we have a bigger problem.  

My thought was always: If I can tell someone my story and it can help them with theirs, then it was all for a greater purpose.

Because let me say without caution, I was strong enough to handle everything that has been thrown my way. I have been tested my whole life, but I have the courage to continue on because it is all for an ending which will be beyond my abuse; the ending is the healing and worshiping life. We all have bad moments, sometimes they are cripplingly awful, but how we handle them, how we learn, and how we grow from those moments is what defines us. I will not let abuse define me, but I will absolutely let my strength.
If you or someone you love has been a survivor of a sexual attack, get help 24/7 by calling 1–800–656–4673 or visit

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