TW: Graphic Details about Rape & PTSD.
I wrote this in the midst of the Stanford Rape Case’s travesty.
(Note: I am purposefully capitalizing the sexual assault Survivor’s pronouns and any words relating to Her to offer Her some of my respect for Her ordeal and perhaps, give Her a smidge of Power back.)
I’ve been following the story of the Stanford former champion swimmer, Brock Allen Turner, and the Woman he sexually assaulted as his sentence (if you can call it that) was handed down by Judge Aaron Persky. You simply must read the entire story to get the picture of the horrific injustice that was inflicted on an innocent Woman as She was unconscious from drinking too much at a college party.
Much has been said about the Survivor’s drunken state… that She deserved it, that it really is so common as to be irrelevant. She was unconscious when She was assaulted. Even if She was conscious (which she was not) still, She was in no shape to consent.
The incredible Survivor’s letter that was read aloud in court can be seen here: Here Is The Powerful Letter The Stanford Victim Read Aloud To Her Attacker. She recounts how Her life has been ruined by this attack and trial. Yet the judge, in his comment during sentencing said about Brock Allen Turner, “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him … I think he will not be a danger to others.” Fuck the impact on the Survivor.
As can be imagined, the backlash from women around the United States has been swift and intense. A brilliant piece by Katie J.M. Baker of Buzzfeed, entitled We With Pitchforks, aims to shame Brock Allen Turner, imprisoning him for life, all over the Internet, with shame because he never expressed remorse, apologies or was given an appropriate sentence.
What Happened With Me
I feel a kinship with this amazing Survivor because I, too, was young (I was 18-years old), very, very drunk and was raped with very little memory of the experience.
The legal drinking age in Florida at the time was 18 and I took advantage of that, spending inordinate amounts of money I made at a fast food restaurant on alcohol. I had loads of cash because I was still living at home. I felt free for the first time in my life.
I went to a local restaurant/bar (a famous chain) almost every night after work, drinking a few drinks, eating appetizers and socializing with the boys and men at the bar. The bartender and servers got to know me well because I was (and am) an awesome tipper. I would get delightfully tipsy, sometimes drunk, but could always get my bicycle-riding ass home at the end of the night.
However, this one evening, I met three men and they asked me to join them at a table. I jumped at the chance… they were adorable! I had just been paid and bought round after round of drinks for all of us. I shot tequila for the first time, several shots on top of the amaretto and creams I regularly drank.
One minute I was at the restaurant and the next memory was being on a bed, a gun to my head and being raped by each of the men, one by one. Then memories disappeared again and the next time I woke up I was at one of the guy’s houses, in his arms and hurting so bad it took me a great deal of energy to unwind myself, get up, call a friend (no cell phones) and get myself home.
Where I looked in the bathroom mirror and saw a face I did not recognize. My lips were bruised and bloodied, cuts exposed the trauma I’d endured on my face. My eyes swollen, not quite black eyes, but I expect I was slapped or punched in the face more than once.
I turned from the mirror and stepped into the scalding shower. And scrubbed my body, including the cuts, scrapes and many, many bruises I had all over my stomach, neck, arms, thighs and, most especially, my breasts. It looked like they had used razor blades? Sharp knives? Definitely fingernails. The bruises looked like they had grabbed my flesh as if it was bread dough, squeezed and twisted it. I could see finger mark bruises in several places. When I washed my bottom, the washcloth turned red; I was bleeding out of my anus.
And then, while showering, the image of the gun flashed into my head. Had I tried to fight and they felt they needed to threaten my life to make me lay still?
I especially scrubbed my vulva and vagina. My sore, swollen and bruised vulva. I used a washcloth and tried to shove it inside myself so I could get their filth out of my body. I soaped my fingers and used them to swipe the semen out of me. I know I was in the shower a very long time.
I didn’t cry at all. Of course I know now I was in shock. It took several days before I could think about it enough to feel.
And then cry. (Which I continued doing for years.)
But that day, I did not cry. I was due to go to work at the fast food restaurant so got myself dressed and had my dad drive me to work. (He kept asking, “Where is your bike?” I didn’t know.)
When I got to work, my manager took me aside and asked where I had been the night before. I was confused. Did he know something happened? My friend who came to get me that morning also worked with me, told our manager I had been raped. As if that part of my privacy being exposed wasn’t enough, the manager of the restaurant I had been at the night before called and told my manager that I stiffed the waitress and bartender over $300. Suddenly I remembered I gave one of the guys cash to pay the server when I went to the bathroom. Apparently, he pocketed it. And the server saw me leave a hefty tip… and one of guys grabbing it as he left the restaurant. I was so embarrassed and promised to pay them back immediately.
Talking to my manager, he asked if I knew anything about the guys. I actually (somehow) remembered they were servers at a local Mexican restaurant. My manager and the manager at the restaurant paid their management a personal visit and got the three of them fired that day.
That was the extent of my vindication.
Nowhere along the way did anyone suggest telling the police. It never even crossed my mind. If it happened today and I saw what happened to this assault Survivor, I would never dream of reporting my rapist. Why? It doesn’t change a thing. And, if anything, it smears, smashes and humiliates the Survivor even more… again and again.
It took years of therapy and rape survivor support groups to forgive myself for being drunk that night, to finally believe it wasn’t my fault, that I had not asked for it. The cuts and bruises healed over the first week or so. The inner torment lasted over a decade.
I no longer cry about the experience, have integrated it into a part of my life story and share it when I see a woman beating herself up for putting herself in that position. I beg her to see the reality that we never ask to be raped or sexually assaulted, even if we were out-of-our-minds drunk or drugged. It might take her years and years to grasp even a seed of what I say, but at least I offered her a counter to the screaming voices in her head… and the fucking crap “friends” and family might be saying.
So I share here for the Woman who was terrorized by Brock Allen Turner and Judge Aaron Perksy so She might know She is not alone. I am another woman who knows and understands the shame and humiliation they try to push into our Souls via our vaginas. I also want Her to know there can be joy in Her life again one day. I want to tell Her how proud of Her I am She faced this animal in court even if the judge buried Her in shit with his sentence.
She is not alone. I will think of Her and send Her healing light every single day.