Two images seem to be on a loop in my mind since this hashtag started trending.
The first, walking home after work many years ago. The bridge was dark, not well lit and I knew this, that’s why I always took the busier Osborne street route to get home. You always have to think strategically, plan your routes, send a message that you’re on your way-in case you never make it, someone will know to look for you, keep your phone in your hand… I never wear headphones when I’m walking places, it scares me cause it inhibits my senses, I can’t hear if someone is coming up behind me.
I had almost made it across the bridge when a hooded figure appeared, up from the stairs. He wasn’t tall, I remember him as round, round face, round build… he ran from behind and as he passed me he grabbed and cupped my crotch. I stood there stunned, unsure of what had just happened, afraid to walk forward cause at the end of the bridge there were bushes- what if he was hiding in them waiting for me? I tried telling myself ‘it’s no big deal, nothing happened, just keep walking, you’re fine’, what I’ve come to realize is that when you get that sick scared feeling in your gut, it is a big deal, and you’re not ok and something did happen.
But you don’t know what to call it, you think of other women, their stories and traumas, you think of survivors, and rather than say I was sexually assaulted, you bury it; ‘just some strange happenings on my walk home last night…’, I can recall now that I called my boyfriend at the time to come meet me, I was shaken and couldn’t walk the half block to make it home.
The second image is more haunting, it’s more disgusting and it’s harder to talk about for the shame it left me with, that overwhelming feeling that somehow it was my fault.
I woke up in a dark hotel room, I was in bed, naked. All I could see were these dark figures all around the room. I still have no idea how many of them there were. I remember repeatedly asking where my date was, calling his name. I remember being extremely confused and feeling paralyzed- how do I get out of this room? Where is H (we’ll call him).
It was only much later that it occurred to me that I had been drugged, and the whole thing was a set up. I had met H through a trusted friend, he seemed like a stand up guy, what soon to be doctor isn’t?! He invited me to a faculty party at a hotel. The first “friend” he introduced me to was the same one who was in that dark room, the same one who kept telling me H was at a party in another room, the same one who got into bed with me.
I fled the room in a sheet unable to find my clothes in the dark, but not before this guy got his hands on me- that’s how I was certain I had been drugged, the confusion and fear and then this odd pleasure for just a moment when he touched me and then disgust and panic washed over me and I ran. As I opened the door coincidentally there was H.
I waited in the bathroom while he found my clothes. He walked me to my car, while I tried desperately to convince him nothing happened and that I had done nothing wrong (which is just ridiculous to me now, and really reinforces social structures and norms that have taught women it’s their own fault, they were asking for it, etc etc). I guess I liked him, and I wanted him to like me??
We learn so much. I buried this deep for a long time because I felt embrassed, ashamed, dirty, like it was my fault, like if I didn’t give it any life then nothing really happened, but it’s always there.
As I read through the #metoo posts, the stories that friends and women everywhere shared I felt, for the first time, that I wanted to share too. That I would be safe and understood, loved and supported. Every survivors story has contrinuted the weaving of this huge safety net for us all.
Thank you sisters, peace and love, courage and strength to you all.