I was sexually assaulted by four different men before I knew it was wrong
Content Warning: This Letter to the Editor contains details of sexual assault. If you or someone you know is suffering from trauma due to sexual assault, please consult this list of resources: William Jewell Student Health Center, MOCSA, William Jewell Office of Counseling Services or William Jewell Student Life. Please note that Student Life is a mandated reporter of assault, whereas the other resources listed are confidential. If you need immediate counseling, contact the MOCSA hotline at (816) 531-0233 or (913) 642-0233, or chat online with a trained staff member.
Growing up, I was taught about consent. I knew “no means no” and that if people touched my body without a “yes” it was wrong. But as I grew up, I started to view my body and sexuality differently.
I was a late bloomer. I didn’t get my first boyfriend until I was just about 18 years old. We talked about sex, and I knew it was important to him. I was excited to experience what I’d heard my friends talking about. After I lost my virginity (a phrase I am not particularly fond of), I began to think that sex was to be expected. I was there for enjoyment, and even on days when I wasn’t up to it, I let him use me for sex. There were many days where I did not consent and came out of the experience feeling worse than before he started. However, I thought that was how relationships were supposed to be and that as long as he said he cared about me it was fine.
The next relationship I had was primarily focused on sex. I did not like that, so I told him we needed to stop having sex. I hoped that it would allow us to grow closer emotionally, but every night I would go to see him, he would coerce me into sex. Rarely did I want to, but I believed that my relationship depended on making him happy and entertaining him.
There was a night I said “no” explicitly, but we still continued, and I allowed it. Afterward, he apologized and said he felt terrible, so I assumed it would be fine. After two relationships where consent was never at the forefront, I was beginning to think it was the same with every relationship. I was very wrong.
A month before I came to college, I went on a date with a man seven years older than me. He kept asking for me to come over, and I was very uncomfortable at the thought of being alone with him. I decided that we could meet at a SONIC Drive-In. I did not want to go, but I felt the need to appease him. Immediately after entering his car, he was forcing me to kiss him and proceeded to put his hand down my pants. We were in public, in daylight, and his two-year-old kid was in the back seat. I attempted to talk to and play with his kid to try and get him to stop. After a few minutes I made an excuse and left. I did not tell anyone, and I went home feeling empty.
I thought that he was just an anomaly or that I was somehow to blame. Like, maybe I said something to him that made him think that was what I wanted or that it was just expected out of me. My mom never talked about sex very much and my dad only made jokes about it. How was I supposed to know anything about sexual assault when all I knew were the extreme cases I watched in “Criminal Minds”? I was convinced it wasn’t really sexual assault because I didn’t end up bloody or with bruises or left in the middle of nowhere.
When I came to college, I thought I would be safe. I knew campus was small and hoped it would be easy to assess which guys to avoid and which ones were keepers. I went to see an upperclassman boy. It was the third time we had spent time together. He wanted me to spend the night, and I did not. He wanted to have sex, and I did not. He continually tried to take my clothes off, and I said “nuh-uh” every time. He continued regardless. I did not want to ruin his fun or be a downer. After a while of repeating “nuh-uh,” I just stopped saying anything. After, he apologized, and I told him it was no big deal. I left feeling empty and swore I wouldn’t tell anyone.
I’m happy to say that I did tell someone.
That someone is the reason I understand now that I am not something for men to use. My body is mine and is not for someone else’s entertainment. I finally understand that rape is not just the brutal and rough action depicted in crime shows. Rape is every time someone says “no” or “nuh-uh” or “not tonight” or “maybe later,” and the other person proceeds anyway. It took me 20 years to finally understand what rape really is, and it’s heartbreaking that it took that long.
I don’t know if anything could’ve stopped my rape, but I think I could’ve recognized sexual assault a lot sooner if I had been educated on more common forms of assault. I like to think that our generation will be the one to stop rape and sexual assault, but if we refuse to talk about it or don’t educate ourselves in the first place, it’ll never get better.
Everyone needs something different when it comes to trauma, so it’s important to respect boundaries. However, the only way to make the world a better place is to open up about our experiences and hope that someone will be there to listen and understand and help you through it all. It’s our job to be the understanding ones. The ones who want to help. The ones who will teach their friends, family and children about different forms of sexual assault and that their voices matter. No matter your story, no matter how much you think someone won’t listen or that you’re alone, there will always be someone who cares. Speak up, and act now.
If you or someone you know is suffering from trauma due to sexual assault, please consult this list of resources: William Jewell Student Health Center, MOCSA, William Jewell Office of Counseling Services or William Jewell Student Life. Please note that Student Life is a mandated reporter of assault, whereas the other resources listed are confidential. If you need immediate counseling, contact the MOCSA hotline at (816) 531-0233 or (913) 642-0233, or chat online with a trained staff member.
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