Shamed Into Silence

I said no. Actually I said please, no, to him, as if manners would make a difference with someone who was forcing me to do something I did not want to do. It is something I will never forget, the part where I said please, please in a sentence where I was pleading with him to please not force me.

 

There was no confusion about it; at least I don’t see where the confusion could have been. There were no mixed messages. I told him no. I told him I didn’t want to be there. I asked him to please let me leave. I asked him to please not make me do what he was making me to do.

 

Later he took me home. We made small talk in his car as if what had happened had been consensual in any way. It wasn’t. There was no part where I said yes, no part where I said anything to him that could have made him believe I was interested.

 

I told people, though when I did it was with shame, as if the shame was on me and not him. I told people because somewhere in the deepest part of me I knew that what he did was wrong.

 

He confronted me in a crowded bar. He told me I wanted it. He told me that I went along. He left out the part where I asked him to please not force me. He left the part out where he did things that made me fear for my life.

 

People told me I was confused. People told me I was drunk. People told me I was desperate.

 

People told me he never would have done that. Even after he did.

 

I was 17. He was in his 30’s.

 

For years I convinced myself that everyone was right, that I must have done something to make him believe it was ok. I must have been desperate. I wasn’t forceful enough when I said no.

I told myself I wasn’t forceful enough when I said no, more than once, with tears in my eyes.

 

It is over 30 years later and not much has changed, except that I know that desperation had nothing to do with it. I know that my no was clear. It is something that should not have taken 30 years. It is something that shouldn’t have taken 30 seconds.

 

I was shamed into silence when the shame did not belong to me. I know that there are other women who understand that even if they are not out from under it.

 

Forget a society that still blames victims and celebrates those committing sexual assault. What we women do to ourselves in the aftermath is worse, yes, aided by a society that, even to this day, seems unable to understand sexual assault.

 

 

I look back often at that 17-year-old girl who was confronted in that bar and wish I could yell in her ear. I wish I could tell her not to back down, that he did everything she said he did. Instead all I can do is tell that woman who is turning 50 that it was not her fault, that she did nothing wrong.

 

Sexual assault is not your fault, unless you are the garbage assaulting someone. We all need to be on that page and stop the silence.

 

Please don’t tell me you’re sorry after you read this. Just please do better. We all need to do better.

 

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Sexual Assault and The White House

img_4311Donald Trump is guilty of sexually assaulting several women, at least if you believe the allegations popping up in the media over the past several days. Interestingly enough, these are not allegations that have ever been attached to Donald Trump before, despite a long history of making comments that could be construed as sexist. The allegations are gaining traction right before Americans cast their vote for the next president of the United States.

 

I won’t call these women liars or, in any way, attempt to discredit them. We’ve come far enough in this country, at least I hope, to understand the nature of sexual assault as well as the reasons victims don’t come forward right away.

 

Still, something feels very political about these allegations, even if it is just the timing, and I  can’t help but notice that Donald Trump is being painted with a brush that glosses right over a former president, and the man who happens to be married to Donald Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton.

 

Making it feel even more politicized was a powerful speech given by our First Lady, Michelle Obama. It was a very powerful speech with a message meant to empower women, but something really bothered me.

 

Michelle Obama spoke about Donald Trump’s words and the ugliness behind them. She spoke about parents being afraid to turn on their televisions out of fear of what their children might hear. It made me wonder if Michelle remembered a little ways back to a time when parents were wondering how they were going to explain what oral sex was or whether or not it was considered sexual relations. That was a conversation many parents could no longer avoid thanks to a story in the news about our president and his intern.

I listened as Michelle spoke about being shaken to her core. But I had to wonder why it was only Hillary Clinton’s opponent that had her shaken, had her trying to save our young women. What about Bill, Hillary’s husband? They have sold themselves as a partnership from day one, so why are they getting off so easily?

 

If a woman, or women, comes forward and claim they were raped, sexually assaulted, or sexually harassed, do we only believe them if we don’t like the accused? If the accused is a governor or sitting president, do we disregard their claims? The answer seems to be yes, whenever Bill Clinton is involved.

 

As Michelle Obama vilified Donald Trump, she gave Hillary Clinton a huge pass by conveniently forgetting the history attached to her partner, Bill. You can’t call out one while the other refuses to even address the allegations. And let’s not forget that Bill Clinton settled a sexual harassment suit while a sitting president. Does that not shake Michelle Obama to her core?

 

The shame is that it was a very powerful speech with an important message, but it also shows how far we haven’t come in terms of sexual assault in this country. We twist the message and exploit the victims for our own political gain and then say that we are trying to empower our young women.

 

Believe what you want about Donald Trump. The guy certainly makes it easy to think the worst about him. His attacks on the women coming forward, his claims that they were not attractive enough to sexually assault, well, they’re more of Donald Trump being Donald Trump. But while we’re recognizing that Donald Trump is capable of ugly, let’s not forget that so is Bill Clinton.

 

Like Michelle Obama, I am shaken to my core, but not just by the allegations against Donald Trump. I consider the allegations against Bill Clinton to be equally upsetting and worthy of answers. So hate Donald Trump. Think what you want about him, but stop conveniently letting Bill Clinton off the hook just because you really want his wife to win the election. She owes us answers too, and “when they go low, we go high,” is not an answer.