Two weeks ago, “The New York Times” released the article “Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades,” where they exposed a major Hollywood producer of asserting himself sexually on several employees, models and actresses including Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan. Since the article came out and went viral, many A-list actresses have come forward addressing their own accounts.
While reading many of the victims’ stories, I noticed a familiar theme: Many of them were either threatened to not say anything or were too scared to say anything about what they experienced. This reopened my own wounds of my experience with sexual assault where I didn’t feel comfortable coming forward and was threatened to never speak about it. My experience is just one of many. Whether it is a famous Academy Award winner, an average everyday person you know from school, a family member or even yourself, too many are scared to say something about their own assault. When will it come to a point where this is no longer the case?
I’m not a celebrity nor was the person who raped me a powerful man in Hollywood, but I was shamed for what I experienced–maybe it was because of ingrained double standards I’ve come too familiar with or law enforcement didn’t think it was severe enough to handle.
My first experience was at 21. It was any normal night out with my girlfriends in college at a local lounge we frequented. My attacker was the lounge’s bartender that I had grown to have a crush on. After a night of dancing and drinking, the evening became hazier. The next morning, I woke up with my clothes off in the student lounge area in a dorm building I didn’t live in. Not completely sure of my surroundings, I didn’t know what exactly went down the night before, but I was aware that I more than likely had sex. Retracing my tracks, I found out from a friend that I went home with the bartender and she thought I was safe. I played it off that I was completely okay, but the truth was I didn’t know what happened at all. Embarrassed with the fact of what went down, I became angry that I could allow myself to drink so much to get to the point of not knowing what I was doing. The truth of the matter was, I was roofied. It had also been my first sexual “experience” ever. I had buried that entire experience from my memory shortly after. I was also too embarrassed to act on the situation.
My second experience came two years later, after an exhausting walk to the town over to a drug store. I called an ex-boyfriend for a ride back to campus. He agreed, and we had a nice conversation catching up about what we were doing that summer. By the time we reached my house, he believed that he was entitled to have sex with me for the favor of a ride home. I refused. He kept pushing, and I repeatedly stated no. He forced himself onto me and pinned me down so strongly that it was hard for me to fight back. After a few moments and weak attempts to escape, I gave up. In an instant, someone I once trusted was no longer someone I could trust. I felt disgusted, hurt and defeated. After he finished, he said “It wasn’t that bad after all.” I was livid. I was angry.
Shortly after this happened, I disclosed what happened to a close friend, he encouraged me to report him to our local police. I decided to do so with his help. I confessed my story to two male police officers, and this was their response:
“It wasn’t in a dark alley.”
“It could be seen as consensual as you two had dated previously. You’re just trying to get back at him.”
“Do you really want to ruin his entire life?”
“If you go through with this, you’ll have to experience the situation all over again, it’s not fun.”
No, it wasn’t in a dark alley. Yes, we had dated previously, but they didn’t know our relationship history. I didn’t have any hard feelings towards him. But was my life and what I had just experienced not as important as his entire life? Because no matter what, I will always have to remember that entire ordeal.
I felt defeated. I cried in the room. I told the police officers because I didn’t know what else to do. I decided to not press charges and once again suppressed my feelings.
Society has made it known that rape is bad, but only when it’s in an easily explained situation. The victim is always questioned more than the abuser. What was she wearing? Why would she be alone with him if she didn’t want to sleep with him? If she doesn’t come forward as quickly as society believes she should, why did she wait so long? What is she getting out of this? Many of the same questions I saw come across my social media timeline when victims came out to accuse not only Harvey Weinstein, but also Bill Cosby and Stanford student Brock Turner.
Until society changes the way we view rape culture, men will continue to assault women and feel they are entitled to their bodies. A conversation is needed where we stop saying, “boys will be boys” and stop questioning women when they speak out about their experiences. We need to hold men accountable for the way they treat women, whether it’s street harassment, sexual harassment or sexual assault.
It has taken me years to be able to open up about my experiences. I will never forget reading “Sisters Outsider” by Audre Lorde. I came across the line that said, “I feel, therefore I can be free” and I broke down and cried. Basically, until I understand everything I experienced and actually go through those emotions, I cannot be free of everything I’m holding in. No matter what, I will never be the same. Those experiences will always be a part of who I am and the same goes for every victim that has ever experienced any form of sexual assault.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please seek help by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673). For more resources on sexual assault, visit RAINN the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
3 CommentsLeave a comment
Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you.
Thank you, Brittny. I feel that is all I can say to you — because I know how empty other lines are that say that you will get through it or to keep moving forward. THANK YOU for sharing your story with us, knowing that there are still plenty of people out there who will judge you. I admire your strength.
Also, another great resource in Cleveland is the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center — who has experienced a huge flood of calls since the Harvey Weinstein story came to light. https://www.clevelandrapecrisis.org/
Thank you for your comments. I know it’s really hard to talk about these things. I just wanted to comment about your first experience. A few years ago I was roofied too. It happened with a guy I met on an online dating site which is the main way people date in the Bay area. It was our second date and I really liked him. We had a lot in common, we both lived in the city, worked in the same field, and raced yachts on the San Francisco Bay. He was such an ordinary guy that I would never have thought he would do something like that. That’s his MO, he’s such a nice, average guy, like some nice coworker or your boss that you really like working for. No one would ever suspect him of doing such a thing and that’s precisely how he gets away with it. I really didn’t know what happened because I couldn’t remember parts of the night. We met up at a wine bar near my apartment and had a couple of glasses of wine. Then we went to another bar where he said the owner was a friend of his. We had one well drink. I now remember that he went to the bar to get the drinks, I remember the drink tasted a little funny and I remember a weird feeling coming over me when I drank that drink. I didn’t realize it was coming from the drink. I remember him kissing me in the bar and everyone in the bar staring at us but I didn’t know why. Public displays of affection are uncommon in San Francisco and the crowd there was much younger than us. They were in their 20s and 30s. I was in my 40s and he was close to 50. But everyone staring at us was due to more than just us being atypical. I now remember that my face was paralyzed and I could not kiss him back but I didn’t move. I sat straight up on my bar stool. I was like a manichan. I don’t want to go into the rest of the sordid details.
Suffice to say I thought the same thing you did. How could I have allowed myself to drink too much and let that happen? That was much too soon to sleep with a guy I really like. The only thing I could remember was that the night was so strange after that. I went out with him a couple more times because I was trying to figure out what had happened. Sadly, we both liked each other a lot. We crewed together on a boat he races on. He was helping me with job hunting but the other part of it was like 50 shades of gray but it was more like 50 shades of black. I figured out that he was a psychopath and cut off all contact with him. It really took me a couple of years though before I coyld fill in the blank spots of the night he drugged me.
I’ve had a few other bad scrapes in my life including an attempted rape, and an attempted gang rape. The more horrific incidents are the most disturbing ones.
I think the incidents that happened when I was younger are the most disturbing because I blame myself for getting myself into a situation where things can happen. I’ve blamed myself less as I’ve gotten older because I’m more experienced and better at avoiding bad situatuons. However, that does not mean I’m impervious, sexual predators up their game as they get older too. I learn to be less easy to manipulate as I get older but perps learn to be more manipulative as they get older. This all comes from experience. But there are 3 things to bare in mind.
1. One can’t get better at making oneself less vulnerable without experience and those incidents when one is younger are going to happen and that is not the fault of the victim.
2. This point is much more important. Sexual assault is NEVER the fault of the victim. No one asks to be raped. Behavior on the part of the victim is not responsible for eliciting sexual assault. I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay. Paraguayans believe that if a woman walked outside of her village alone for any reason, she would be raped and it is her fault because men can’t control themselves and thus women must be accompanied by someone at all times At what point are women entitled to have any freedom without fear of being assaulted? Are we supposed tonremain in our homes at all times? Must we be covered with a Burka from head to toe because heaven forbid we show just a little bit of skin which might make a man aroused and unable to stop himself from attacking us? Where does it end? I’ll tell you where it ends. Perpetrators are responsible for their actions. No one else is. PERIOD.
3. My third point is that perpetrators young and old are very good at what they do. They plan very carefully what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it. They know they can rely on social taboos to silence their victims. They know the public will shame victims into silence. They know they can use things like a prior relationship or drinking at a party to cast doubt on their actions being sexual assault. This is how they get away with it.
So if you’re a victim, don’t doubt or blame yourself. You are not responsible for some one else’s actions.