It was Thanksgiving my freshmen year of college. After the standard family time, I had plans to spend some time with one of my best friends. He picked me up and we went to his parent’s house so we could catch up. He told me how his classes were going and all about his most recent break up. I told him about my classes and how I had just started seeing someone new. I remember gushing a little, because I just felt really happy. Within a few moments, the conversation turned and suddenly he was on top of me in the dark. I asked him repeatedly to stop: I reminded him that I was seeing someone. It was as though he could not hear me. I was terrified of the person I thought was my best friend. I retreated inside my head and repeated the Hail Mary as I was certain the night would end in my virginity being stolen. After a few minutes, he sat up and I asked if he could take me home. He talked to me the entire ride home nonchalantly as I stared out the passenger window, relieved that he only assaulted me. I asked my dad to take me back to school early so I could be alone.
It took some time for me to come to terms with what had happened. I over-analyzed everything I had said to him, certain that I just had not been clear enough with him. My confidence was shattered, and I felt used.
I was lucky in a twisted way. While it was the first time something like that had happened to me, I was not unfamiliar at the time with the tragedy of sexual assault. In the years since the assault, I certainly have seen and heard worse from women of all shapes, sizes, colors and walks of life. Statistically, one in six women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape. Sexual violence awareness agencies go above and beyond to spread the message that women are experiencing the ultimate violation on a daily basis: there are campaigns that promote self-defense (helpful, though not an answer to the problem), encourage disclosure, and that provide women with a way to seek help and to heal from sexual assault experiences. There are initiatives that focus on providing awareness among men by encouraging men help end violence against women, and initiatives that focus on the healthcare and employer costs of violence against women.
Despite all these efforts, I see survivors of sexual assault treated in unspeakable ways. They are blamed for the violations they experience in court and in the public arena. Their sexual history, what they were wearing, and their location suddenly become mostly to blame for the assault and the actions of the perpetrator seem to fade into the back ground. “She must have been asking for it: look at what she was wearing!” “Why didn’t she fight?” “She should not have been at a bar that late at night.” More often than not, it is forgotten that she said no or was unable to give consent, and he took what he wanted.
It is no wonder there is so much shame tied to sexual assault! I will admit that I struggled to write about my own experience, even though I was the one that was violated and my actions were not shameful. I was sober, wearing jeans and a sweater, and was spending time with one of my best friends. Even if I had been wearing a mini-skirt and drinking in a bar, my actions would not have been the problem.
As if you could possibly add to the shame, women that experience rape and assault are further exploited by the abortion industry. They are told that any potential child from rape should be unwanted and disposed of in a timely fashion. They are touted as primary examples of why abortion should be legal, and their most intimate violations become subject for public debates. Politicians and public figures (pro-choice and pro-life alike) speak of these violations in extreme, compassion-less ways: victims should not have to carry the child of a monster, or victims should look at the rape (and potential children conceived) as a blessing. Both extremes claim to want only what is in the best interest of the survivor, but neither seems to understand the complexity of rape and sexual assault.
This is a conversation that desperately needs to occur, but must change. Sexual assault is not pretty, but it is currently a reality. When we are ashamed of things, we sometimes cope with their existence in harmful ways. We must keep the focus on the crime that has been committed, not whether or not we like the victim. We cannot continue to utilize the violence of abortion to cover up the crime that has been committed: abortion will not magically heal the victim or erase the crime. The more men and women that speak out as children conceived in rape, the more difficult it becomes to ignore that abortion, even in cases of rape, perpetuates violence against our most innocent.
I propose we begin to re-frame this discussion. What can we do to implement change in our own homes? April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. In my next post, we will hear from several women that have experienced sexual violence, and the impact it has had on their lives.
Do you remember your middle school or high school reproductive health class? When I think back to my education about periods and “How babies are made” my memories are brief. I can remember short parts of videos or awkward condom demonstrations and disgusting pictures of STDs. Does this sound familiar to you?