Thursday, April 06, 2006

A Day to End Sexual Violence - Survey Results

About a month ago I posted a link to a web survey asking for people’s experience with sexual abuse. I promised I’d post the results on April 6th in honor of A Day to End Sexual Violence and April being Sexual Assault Awareness month. I’d like to thank the respondents for their honesty and bravery in telling their stories. I’m a big proponent of sharing as a way of healing. And a way of fighting.

I was going to go through the answers and pick out the most poignant or moving experiences but I think every woman’s story fits the bill so I have included all the responses I received.

First, some stats (please pardon the formatting. I wanted to get the information out there more than I wanted to struggle with html issues):

110 people filled out the survey, 103 Women, 7 Men

The vast majority (87) were between 21 and 40.

101 identified as Caucasian, 7 as “other” and 1 each as Latina and African American

68 identified as heterosexual, 31 as bisexual, 5 as homosexual and 4 as Other

I have been
Sexually harassed 86
Molested 43
Sexually assaulted 54
Physically abused 44
Verbally abused 78
Raped 37

I know someone who has been
Sexually harassed 89
Molested 80
Sexually assaulted 78
Physically abused 78
Verbally abused 85
Raped 85

The age at which these events took place ranged from 4 to their present age.

The perpetrators were everyone – strangers, friends, dates, family members, teachers, husbands, babysitters, co-workers

I can’t choose which stories to share so I’ll share all of them.

I asked, "If you are willing to share, please write your story/stories here":

Maybe some other time. Not up to it right now, but also, I find I don't like to "live in it". Telling isn't always healing. After you've told once or eight times, you learn it's not serving anything anymore. You move on. Just like any trauma, you keep living in it and sharing and you defeat your own purpose. Not to say hide it, but perspective; who to tell, when to tell, and when to stop telling because it's enough.

Ex-boyfriend tried to rape me a few weeks after we split up, but I got away. I ran out of his house and took a taxi to a friend's place and never saw him again. So much for staying friends. I was 21. I've also been sexually harassed by a colleague, again when I was 21. I complained to my supervisor but she did nothing. In the end I left the company. He is now harassing other women.

God. I'm sorry; I can't do it. I would be writing for hours, literally, and I feel too emotional and vulnerable to do that right now, especially to a faceless stranger via the internet. What I will say is that I grew up in a very small, virulently conservative and religious, southern town, and one thing that both gives me hope (because I know I am not alone) and makes me feel shattered (because how can we as individuals and as a society continue to tolerate such abuse?) is knowing that my story is not all that unusual.

Father was abusive in every way but sexually, left me with no boundaries or sense of self worth, therefore I was open to a steady barrage of harrassment and molestation from "peers" at school. Same pattern of "peers" taking advantage of me and assaulting me everywhere I went, they were attracted to me probably because I was a trained victim. Eventually I was staying with friends of my grandparents, effectively in the power of their older son (I was 12), he tried to strangle me and force me. I got away. Started to stand up for myself, but "relapsed" into victim status in college getting involved in a christian cult, which messed with me in a mental way that was decidedly sexually violent, but one that doesn't fit into any of these categories. Blah, I later learned it was what they call mind control when it comes to a cult, I was being programmed to be entirely nonsexual, but in a sort of sexually submissive way. It's hard to describe. Since getting out, I've stopped taking shit from anyone and I think I'm recovering.

alcoholic parents = verbal and physical abuse. 1st time I got drunk ever, as a freshman in college, got really sick and went back to my dorm room. passed out in my bed, apparently was followed by a guy at the party. Either I forgot to lock my door or he jimmied the lock (ridiculously easy to do, everyone learned how the 1st week there) and raped me 3 times while I was unconscious/half aware. I have blurred memories of him on me, of pain, of saying no. I woke later with a tennis ball size hickey on my neck, 3 used condoms on the floor and blood on the quilt my mom had made for me. I went back to party to find this guy. And the people there laughed at me. I told women in my dorm to stay away from him, told them what he did to me. He threatened to rape me again. I went to the counselor. She had to tell the dean because I was 17. The dean, did not want a police report because I was under age and drinking on campus. The guy got 1 semester of academic probation.

Too much to tell. Life is multi-dimensional. This sort of thing infects all areas of life like a virus. There is no real end to the story.

I'm not entirely sure which one this is, but I was 13 when I was first sexually harassed/ assaulted. I was in school, and one day I choose to wear a dress when I normally wore skirts. One of the guys, a person that I normally played basketball with and stuff, pushed me into the auditorium coat locker and put his hand up my skirt. When I told the principal, he said that it wasn't "That big of deal" and that I shouldn't be so sensitive.

I was molested by a family member when I was very young. I didn't remember it until many years later, when a bad drug experience caused me to have flashbacks of some events.

younger brother died, entire family was nuts for awhile, older brother touched me inappropriately one night after he'd been drinking. But there'd been years of him hitting me and making fun of me before that.

I dated someone at work, and later broke up with him after going out to dinner with him and not even (!) putting out. This enraged a fellow coworker of ours, who started verbally harassing and abusing me at work, and threatening me. When I went to the owner, he said that maybe this was just part of this man's culture (he was from Hungary) and that there wasn't much he could do. Once, I witnessed a women behind the counter at my favorite Thai place get physically attacked by a coworker (husband? brother?) in full view of a packed restaurant. People in the restaurant stopped him and called the police, and I gave him a piece of my mind. Later, when I told my supervisor at work about it, she said, "well, maybe that's just his culture." What is it with excusing the abuse of women -- in the United States -- because of cultural factors?

The only vaguely sexual molestation I've had was having a man run his hand up the inside of my thigh on a bus. I was too stunned to do anything.

Like, I expect, many girls in junior and senior high school, I suffered years of sexual comments, inappropriate touches, and ridiculous behavior from my male classmates and teachers. In my eighth grade English class, after a seating chart change, I was surrounded by boys. For weeks, the harassment escalated from bra-snapping and playing keep-away with my books to pulling my hair, pinching my butt, and grabbing my breasts. One day, the "attention" got a little loud and the teacher - who had been thus far oblivious to the 4 guys' behavior - turned on me and said "You are always in the middle of this trouble. Get out of my classroom. Go to the office." While I hated the abuse from the boys, this betrayal by the teacher shocked me to the core. I made it to the office before bursting into tears, and spent the rest of the day crying in the guidance counselor's room. I discovered later that one of my girl friends in the class protested my dismissal right after I left and she and one of the other girls explained what had really been going on. Two of the boys ended up with one day detention as a result, and I am glad to say that it never happened in that class again. The worst? The teacher was also my homeroom teacher, and she never, not once, apologized to me. In 11th grade, I was the only girl in my physics lab group with three guys. One of them took to speculating loudly and graphically about my preferred masturbation techniques. After a week of crying in the hall after class, I decided that I wasn't going to take any more of that shit. I came in early, tracked the stupid jackass down and told him in no uncertain terms that if he ever spoke to me or anyone else that way again that I would sue his ass for sexual harassment. His response? Red-faced, he stammered something about not realizing that I didn't like that sort of attention and he was just trying to be funny.

I was walking home from work when I was attacked on the street by a man, put into a car, threatened with a weapon I never saw and anally raped in the car.
Sexually harrassed: age 19, worked as in-home assistant to disabled person, trapped in corner and fondled by employer's friend Sexually assaulted: age mid-20s, boyfriend wanted to have sex without condom, I wanted sex but with condom, he pinned me down. Verbally abused: ages 27-33 by husband (now ex-husband).

At age 8, my family was driving down to Florida for a vacation. We stopped at a hotel in South Caroline for the night, and I wanted to go swimming in the hotel's pool. There were several other children in the pool, most of them older than I was. They were probably about 13 or 14 years old. Two of the boys thought it would be fun to grab me between the legs, I suppose just to see how I would react. I tried to get away and stay away, but they followed me, and even some of the girls in the pool joined in. Eventually, I asked my dad to stop them, and he told me to get out of the pool and we went back to the hotel room.

The first time I was working at a theme park on one of their stunt shows ... only girl on the set at the time. One of my coworkers decided to share with me, in front of everyone, that he was pretty sure if I let them, every one of my male coworkers would fuck me (his term). And then, when I was not flattered, told me I was being oversensitive. Some of my other coworkers looked horrified that this happened, and a few even said, "Dude. Dude!" (What can I say, we were all 18-20. :P) This does have a happy side-note, though. I was still debating going to my supervisor when he ended up approaching me about the matter. Why? Because some of my other coworkers (bless them) had complained that I was being harassed, and that wasn't cool. So it was nice to see that some men are willing to call out other men on their bullshit. I've been harassed other times at work too, but as that was the first time, it stands out a lot more.

Simple story. Boyfriend wanted sex, I didn't (was a virgin at the time of the first one), he won. Thru force. The other ones were, respectively, fear of violence, drunkeness, woke up to find him fucking without my permission.

My immediate reaction to every instance of violence and sexual misconduct that I've experienced has been to blame myself. That has never changed. Everything else - the people, my relationships with them, the circumstances - changed as I grew older but my guilt has remained the same. My husband, when I met him, was the most beautiful, gentle, intelligent and caring man I'd ever met. I loved him deeply and I still do. But he has continued the cycle of violence that he experienced between his parents as a young child, and I cannot in good conscience have children with him and let it go a generation further. I recently realised something, though: if I wouldn't bring a child into our situation, why would I remain there myself? So I left three weeks ago.

My stuff is really quite minimal, mostly schoolyard taunting and garden variety street harassment. The school stuff hurt the worst, because it occurred during formative years: I was more or less constantly mocked for my appearance ("ugly", skinny, small-breasted, etc.) from first grade through junior high school by both boys and girls, and sexually harassed by one boy in particular in junior high.

Stranger with a gun broke into my dorm, came into the bathroom where I was taking a shower, put a gun to my head, threatened to blow my head off and rubbed himself against my backside. I never saw the assailant's face, and the assailant never found. Was unable to find an affordable and competent therapist at the time - was given not very useful anti-depressant medication with terrifying side effects instead (got tachycardia, thought I was about to die). Got therapy from a clinical social worker about 6 years later after a breakup, which helped to me resolve this issue and deal with my depression. Am still of the conviction the average psychiatrist is a batshit moral cripple who should be kept away from anyone in psychic pain though.

Went on a date and was, unfortunately, drugged and raped
My father sexually abused me for several years. While there was no intercourse, other things were done. My family is still in denial about him, although they pretend to care enough to keep not let him be around his granddaughters alone.
I know plenty of women who have been subject to varying levels of abuse. My mother was harassed and touched by the priest who presided over her husband's funeral. For some indeterminate time my brother molested me. I would normally call it rape, but I wasn't sure what definitions you were working with. I know it went on for some time, but can absolutely not remember all of it. When I was 8 my mother caught him. My father ordered him to apologize, which he did. It was never mentioned again.

My mother's car broke down. She accepted a ride from a stranger who drove to the woods where he raped her. She put him away for ten years.

My ex-boyfriend was very abusive, verbally, mentally, and sometimes physically. He once held a semi-automatic assault rifle on me for a few hours after punching me.

no I am not willing to share

In retrospect, I realize it was a form of bullying. I wore second hand clothing and was obviously not one of the rich kids, but I was in gifted classes, pretty, and socially awkward. Some of the boys apparently thought that they could intimidate me into "knowing my place" as a sex object. They would surround me, try to grab at my ass and breasts, shove pornography in my face, and ask me vulgar questions. Going from one place to another around the schoolyard was a frightening ordeal. Their hounding of me also made it hard for me to have friends-- girls I'd known for years didn't really like to hang out with me at the school because they would get hassled, too. I didn't have words to make the adults understand. Clear cut terms like sexual harassment weren't in common use at the time, and when I said a boy grabbed my bottom, the adults tended to go into a sort of denial mode. I'd get told that boys that age don't know how to act around pretty girls, they have no self control, and that they probably just liked me and didn't know how to tell me. I had no help from adults in dealing with the situation, and it didn't stop until a couple years later when a swipe I made at a harasser with a pencil ended up coming just short of poking him in the eye. It was semi-accidental (I was on the bus and it started up)-- but I let them think I was dangerous.

Throughout high school I was called a dyke and touched inappropriately (e.g., grabbing my breasts and crotch) because I spoke my mind and had short hair. In college, raped by a friend of a friend. He came into my bedroom after I had gone to sleep, drunk; he told my friends he would "check on" me. I woke up to him having sex with me, and when I yelled for him to stop, he didn't, and held me down until he finished. Also in college, I was molested by a professor in his car, after a meeting. I jumped out of the car and never went to his class again.

Fortunately, I've led a pretty uneventful life. I do seem to be a real verbal-abuse magnet. My ex-fiancé was relentlessly emotionally and verbally abusive, while firmly convinced that he was a victim of "feminism" because he couldn't get all the hot women he felt entitled to. Quite a bit of the abuse was gender-specific. When he found out I had scored higher than he did on the Analytical section of the GRE, he acted very confused and said, "But men are more logical than women!" It took me far too long to extricate myself from this relationship, even though it was only 3 1/2 years.

In junior high school, a boy in my choir class came up behind me in the hall when no one was around, reached between my legs and wiggled his fingers against my vagina. At church on Easter Sunday when I was 13, I was an alter girl (Episcopalians have women in those roles). After the service one of the men from church, whom I didn't know well, found me alone and yelled at me about how it wasn't a fashion show up there. There are many other incidents of sexism, these were part of my first awareness of it and stayed with me because they shocked me so much, and there was no one to go to about them. I told my mother about the guy at church but she didn't do anything.

Standard stories - raped by babysitter as a toddler, molested by grandpa as a little kid, abused - physically and verbally - by partner as a young woman. How sad that these are standard. No one has ever been punished for their acts.
We had been having marital problems, because he is a domineering control freak. He was mad one morning because I didn't want to have sex with him. So he held me down and forced me. He is a foot taller than me and outweighs me by 60 lbs. Not much I could do.

Verbally abused by my mother. Date rape at 15 [fought him off, eventually]; lived with a verbally/financially abusive partner for six years.

Dunno if this even counts as harassment, but I've had my bra strap snapped, nasty graffiti written about me, the typical high school stuff. Only one incident of each, really.

When I started sixth grade, I was ten years old (an autumn baby.) Boys and girls on the bus asked if I was a virgin and offered to set me up with someone.
I was raped and beaten weekly for several years in my early 20s by my live in boyfriend. He was an alcoholic and an artist, from one of this country's wealthiest families. I have not seen him for 12 years. He broke my jaw, made it impossible for me to wear shorts/short sleeved shirts (bruises) and choked me to unconsciousness twice. It is only pure luck (and an irregular cycle) that allowed me to escape getting pregnant by him.

Many instances, but the one I have never, ever talked about was being molested by the town's retarded man. I would have died rather than report it.

1) Sexually harassed - for a period of time between about 12 - 15. I developed large breasts very early. My classmates - girls - several times pressured me to lift my shirt and bra and show them off. We were in a hidden area. I didn't really want to, but I was surrounded (literally), and felt considerable pressure. Later, in another school, three or four of the older boys made me a target, making loud, suggestive comments whenever they saw me. I never reported it; the other girls told me "if you'll just ignore it, they'll stop". But how to ignore it? I felt mocked and humiliated for something I had no control over - big boobs. Even as late as college, I planned to get breast reduction surgery when I could afford it. That idea has faded over the years, as middle-age spread has made my breasts more proportioned to the rest of me. But I still wear fairly loose, shape-hiding clothes. 2) Molested - 12 and 13 or so. I was taking accordion lessons. The teacher came to our house and we practiced in my bedroom with the door shut so the noise wouldn't disturb the rest of the household. I resisted, but only passively - tried to keep the door open, but he insisted. Tried to have my sister in the room, too, but he said no distractions. I was actually kind of interested - just discovering my own sexuality - so didn't tell my parents for fear I'd be punished. Fortunately - my mom was in the house, after all- it didn't progress beyond his finger in my vagina, and me touching his penis. 3) Raped - I almost hesitate to classify it as such. I didn't until the past year, when I started reading feminist blogs, but the memory has bothered me for years and years; it left a much greater effect than I realized at the time. I was in bed, asleep. My non-live-in boyfriend had been out drinking. He jimmied the lock and broke in and woke me up, drunk, wanting sex. I said 'No' several times, but he kept pressing it. I was so groggy (it was the deepest part of my sleep cycle) that I finally gave in. It wasn't rough; in fact, I slept through about half of it I think. But now I think, "What the hell made his right to sex more important than my right to sleep?" If he was still around, I'd be chewing his ass about it. Not rape, but revealing of the male feeling of entitlement to sex - the same boyfriend and I were having sex during my period. He was well-endowed; because of my swollen tissues, a certain position and depth of penetration that he wanted, HURT. I said so. He made accommodations, but not before exclaiming, "Damn you and your period!" Instantly, I went from enjoying the sex act to feeling like a slab of meat. It didn't matter that I hurt; what mattered was that he had to do something different to get himself off. It seems little. I certainly don't compare it to the forcible rape experienced by so many women. And yet, as I type this up, there is a roiling in the pit of my stomach, and my eyes are prickling. With those five words, what I thought was a nice guy demonstrated that I was just a convenient fuck for him. It shattered something inside me, I think.

Out of work and driving for a car service to make ends meet. A drunk female passenger was flirtatious, to the point of putting her hand down my pants while I was driving on the interstate in moderate traffic and heavy snow. I was too stunned to protest effectively, and trying to not wreck the car, so I just ignored the fact it was going on. Got her to destination, got her out of car, and went back to work with an 'icky' feeling that lasted about two weeks. At the same job, I also had a very, very, very drunk male passenger try to kiss me - hardly abusive but definitely an unwanted intrusion into my personal space. The first two (of three) women I have dated were molested. One by a cousin, the other by a foster child her grandmother was caring for. Both of the perps were female children about age 10 to 12. Someone else I know was held captive and brutally raped for a day or two by her boyfriend and a friend of his. To this day, about 15 years later, she still has 'damage' that prevents her from having children.

I'm not quite sure if this qualifies for the survey 100%, but I was subject to what I call 'sarcastic sexual harassment' at high school for many years. I was sarcastically catcalled, called 'sexy' whistled at, given verbal abuse about my apparently unacceptable appearance, and occasionally groped and hugged and otherwise touched by people as a joke. The joke was that I was apparently so physically repulsive that it was humorous to even think about some man being attracted to me enough to grace me with molestation.

I was fifteen, and at a swim meet. In my area, three schools practiced together, and one of the senior boys offered me a ride home. We made out for a little, and I was ok by that. Surprised, but it wasn’t a bad thing. Then he tried to put his hand down my pants. I said no so he choked me, slapped me in the face and pulled down my pants. He ripped the tampon I had in out of me, threw it at me, hit me in the face again, forced me to give him a hand job while choking and biting my neck. My wrist was sprained in the course of the event. Don't ask me to call that fucker a friend. This was not a friendly event. But we had been. My mother called me a slut when I got home. Then she slapped me and went to bed.

How has it affected your relationships?


My sister and I were both abused by the same family member. We both grew up with depression, which followed us into our adult years. We both sought treatment at the same time and have made it out ok, but we're both troubled by this aspect of our lives and live with regret and shame. It has made me, especially, prone to crippling sadness and outbursts of anger. She had an obesity problem most of her life.

Affected my ability to trust, and years of physical/verbal abuse has left me with IBS like symptoms and panic attacks.

It's made me more cautious, more choosy, more pushy about getting exactly what I want from a relationship and not putting up with any crap. I am now in a very happy relationship with a feminist guy, and we're getting married in a few months. But I don't have many male friends. I don't trust men very much.
I'm 35 and have been in a loving, abuse-free relationship for 8 years, and I'm just now beginning to come to terms with the impact of the sexual/physical/emotional abuse on my life. I feel afraid much more than I would like to. I have social anxiety, caused in large part by emotional abuse.

Apart from the loving, long-term relationship I'm in now, I've failed miserably at maintaining other relationships, including friendships with both men and women. Much of the time I feel like a failure and wish I hadn't been impacted as much as I obviously have by all of the abuse. I was very suicidal when I was younger but, thankfully, failed on the one attempt I made. I am clinically depressed, and much of the time sadness weighs on me. I have a lot of rage inside of me, and I'm trying to learn to turn it outward, where it belongs, instead of using it against myself. I have a long history of eating disorders, but fortunately am finding the strength to develop other coping mechanisms. My refuge for the past 5 years has been therapy and my lover. I often feel that I don't deserve to be with him. One thing I still struggle with is knowing that a lot of the abuse came at the hands of family members -- people who were supposed to protect me, people who, I'm certain, loved me, but who also were human and fallible and committed crimes against me. I don't know what to do with that knowledge sometimes; it hurts so much. I think a lot about what the philosopher Gabriel Marcel said about living without hope: hopelessness is the belief that time is plugged up. In other words, if you have no hope, then time has stopped, and nothing will change. Things will always be as they are right now. When I was younger, I couldn't imagine my life changing; I couldn't imagine living free of the abuse; I couldn't imagine loving or respecting or honoring myself or finding someone else who would. To some degree, I'm still not free, even though I no longer allow those people to abuse me. I'm still not free because the structures that developed in my mind during those years and decades of abuse are still there, and they are still helping to determine who I am and the choices I make. I'm trying to rid myself of them, though. It's just a very long, hard struggle.

The obvious, it's hard to trust. I've had a hard time figuring out who I am, and I'm afraid I focus on the surface things too much. Like how would *I* dress? Lately my partner (legal husband to be and father of our approaching child) and I have really been discussing sexual politics as I've had a "jump" in putting my head together. I've been trying to figure out my sexuality, and it's been hard because I've been trained to be so penetration centric when my innate sexuality is vague and more about touching, closeness, and that's erotic and good in its own right, not to mention romantic. Lo and behold, he likes that himself and now we're moving beyond our old penetration-as-sex definition together.

loss of self esteem and boundaries, inability to have emotions, never feeling safe anywhere, unable to maintain friendships or romantic relationships, many years of working to heal.

It took me an extremely long time to be okay with being close to/trusting/comfortable around others (new friends, acquaintances, dates) after my experience. After I broke up with the perpetrator I was stalked for almost 4 years, about which the authorities in my town and my school did nothing and belittled me for getting "worked up" over it. This has not only made me distrust authority figures and feel they work against me rather than for or with me, but also made me extremely sensitive to people who want to get too close to me.

I'm not even sure yet. I don't know if it's possible to know.

Married the wrong guy because he seemed strong enough to protect me, instead was emotionally distant and somewhat abusive.

At first I was afraid of men who I saw as sexual (i.e. not close friends, or family). If I was looked at too long I would withdraw behind the male friend I was with. If I was touched, even on the shoulder, by a man who was hitting on me I reacted violently. I am better now, I still hate being hit on by men to whom I do not give any indication that I want to be picked up. I flinch when men I know shout near me, become angry when I don't know them, and still jump when /anyone/ raises their hand quickly. I am one of the least affected women I know. The molestation was never reported, and my parents, one of whom was a police officer at the time, still do not know about it. The verbal abuse ended when I broke my engagement, and the harassment goes on. As a woman with a relatively small frame and ddd breasts, I seem to be "asking for it" obviously the facts that I am not christian, and still have premarital relations justifies it.
It has affected my self-esteem.

I am more wary of how I flirt, with more concern to how I am presenting myself at all times. Many men see what they want to see, so I have to be more careful what messages I send through my words and actions.

I lost trust in my teachers for a long time. Not until my senior year of college did I meet a teacher who made me realize that I was pushing all my possible mentors based on the failings of that 8th grade English teacher. A few years ago, in a "legal issues in education" class for my MAEd (Masters of Education), I tried to relate these jr/sr high experiences to the class and shocked myself by bursting into tears all over again. I still feel so angry with those boys for thinking that their behavior was okay, and I feel furious and betrayed by my teacher's failure to protect me, and worse, her immediate assumption that the girl in the middle had to be the problem. I am now a teacher of teenage students. And though I hadn't really thought about it before, when making up seating charts, I never isolate the girls from other girls.

It was one of several events that gave me a tendency to see things from a woman's viewpoint. I am not homosexual, so thankfully, the rape didn't really affect my sex or love life, except I hate coercion in any form.

Two unpleasant marriages and two attempts at living with men, at 45 I finally stopped trying to have any romantic or physical relationship.

I don't trust anyone. I won't let anyone in.

I don't know if it's really affected my relationships. But I am generally afraid of black males as a result of the incident.

It really brought home to me that sexual harassment does happen in the workplace, and it really, really sucks. It made me incredibly angry, and I get reeeeally angry at people who think it's just a lot of uppity women being "oversensitive." It didn't really affect any of my relationships; anyone I've told this story to seems to think I was right to be angry, and that my coworkers that reported it were right to do so. Some of them seem surprised something like that can happen "in this day and age," but don't doubt it happened.
I'm cold all the time. I surround myself with sarcasm, but that's only to hide the insecurity. In a way, it was good, because it steeled me, and helped me to embrace rad fem...I hope I can help other women to grow out of this stinking manure.

When I was 17 I reported some severe sexual harassment and assault that had been going on for years at my high school. I won't go into detail (the last court case to do with it just ended a couple of months ago; eight years after I put in the initial complaint). It just really struck me that it was okay and everyone 'got on and had a great time' until all the stuff was talked about. At that point, those of us who talked were evil vindictive sluts out to ruin other peoples' lives and the boys who had victimized dozens of people over years were victims. Forevermore I'll be associated with that dark chapter among some people and there's so much more to me than what those assholes did to me and how they almost got away with it. Really drove home for me exactly why most people stay quiet, especially the worse that the actions are.

I've got a low opinion of my physical appearance, which manifests itself in certain insecurities. I have also, in the past, used sex as a way of bolstering my self-esteem; I'm not certain this is entirely a bad thing, although there were times when I had sex that, after the fact, I wasn't sure I'd wanted physically so much as emotionally.

I have issues. I

I feel powerless in relationships frequently and have a hard time remembering that I get to decide who I want to be friends with, date, marry, etc.

Fear of intimacy and commitment. Paranoia--are they being nice to be nice or do they want something. Timidity/passivity.

Honestly...I'm not sure it has had any effect although I'm sure many others would disagree.

lots of therapy. married again 8 years later to a wonderful man. no issues.

hate any presumption from anyone that if something goes wrong you must have done something, sometime to deserve it.

Oh, I'm completely fucked up when it comes to romantic relationships. I'm now too old to have children and have yet to find a man to have an emotionally healthy relationship with. I will more than likely be the "spinster" aunt until I die.

I've never had an intimate relationship.

I was brought up in a climate of fear.

I am afraid of men. I cannot have a relationship with a man. I am too afraid and I can't trust them. I am a radical feminist and almost hate men. All the male figures in my life have abused me in some way. This has led me to my current opinions.

I still have nightmares that he's coming to kill me. My other relationships are fine, I met a nice man who is now my husband who helped me to get rid of any demons from past relationships.

I've become angrily feminist.

I am completely heterosexual, but I have little trust of men. I'd like to find true love and be married some day, but I have yet to put myself in a position to meet a genuine candidate. Instead, I entertain myself with the occasional "Boy Toy" (much younger man), or relationships that I go into knowing they will never be more than "casual".

Every little bit of my life has been determined by a thousand abuses. I can’t imagine how I could have been without them.

I have problems confronting issues, and facing hostile opinions. I am afraid of being who I am.

I kept my self respect but shut off any acknowledgement of the sexual side of myself for ages. Only after I'd met a man who loved me as I was and made me feel safe could I start enjoying being a woman.

It's made me sometimes hate sex. I cry about 20% of the time I have sex with my husband. It's made me nervous around people I don't know very well, and even men I do know. I ended several relationships because I couldn't bear having sex.

I didn't feel trusting enough to enter into an intimate relationship with a man for a full ten years after the assault.

I don't trust my own judgment the way I used to. I was with him during a very difficult time of my life, and he undermined me every chance he got. It took me 5 years before I could even think about pursuing a new relationship.
I am distrustful of men. I pretty much expect the worst of them, and am constantly shocked when individual men treat me respectfully. I did not feel comfortable being alone with a man who was not my father until I was eighteen years old, as I fully expected (and rightfully so) that these men would try to have sex with me. I feel as though I have to overcompensate in every way now because I guess you could say I carry a pretty big inferiority complex around on my back.

I do not trust anyone. For years, my pattern of relationship was the abusive one, until I learned better. I still have problems trusting people.

Oddly, I don't think the rape had much effect. The successful self-defense helped a lot, probably. The verbal abuse has made dealing with relationships harder. I tend to freak out a lot and I think I have PTSD to some extent.

Actually, I really feel like I escaped unscathed, especially compared to friends of mine who were coerced into sex in one way or another. Overall, I've been pretty confident in my relationships as an adult. I know what I want and what I do not want, and am not afraid to say so. At the time of the incidents however, I felt sick. I had no good way of reacting, no way I could prove I wasn't the lesser being that sexual harassment tries to make you into. I think the worst was seeing that guys I was around daily and felt to be on equal terms with did not feel the same way about me. There's a definite sense of betrayal. However, the nasty graffiti was mitigated by one of my friends getting to it and writing a scathing reply before I saw it. Having a support network to reinforce the knowledge that I had self-worth and agency definitely helps.

Not really, though I ended up staying a virgin (technically) until I was 20.

I have not seen him for 13 years. I have been married for 10 years (to a different person obviously) and have 3 children. I have been profoundly affected by this and fear that I will pass my fuckedup-ness on to my 8 year old daughter. I don't have any ability to deal with anger. Any expression of anger scares me. I don't know what healthy anger is.

I carry around the "secret", I am depressed.

I hate men. Not just because of him, because of all of the ones I've ever met.

unable to trust anyone!

I am wary about opening up to people that I don't know very well. I also no longer associate with some of my family.

That's hard to pinpoint. I've only had three lovers, and have been celibate for the past 25 years. I don't date, and did very little even before I quit. But I think it's made me very suspicious of men's motives. (To clarify, I think "it" is unspoken societal expectations as much as my direct experiences.) In a dating situation, I was always worried about what he would "expect" from me, no matter how nice he seemed. I remember one date who casually slipped his hand inside my bra to cup my breast, right in the middle of a conversation. He pulled it out like he had been burned when I vehemently protested - but this was our first (and last) date! I had done *nothing* to make him think I would welcome sexual advances. I couldn't really relax in a dating situation; I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. But even in non-dating situations, I feel that, from the male viewpoint, I am judged "less". I am a female, and short. I have seen blatant disbelief in men's eyes when I spoke of helping Dad roof the new house, or fixing a waterline. I am female, therefore I am incapable. Not all men - not even most men (I don't think). But because I have seen it in a fairly large percentage of men, I know I constantly wonder if the man I'm talking to sees me as a competent person in my own right, or someone to be indulged while she plays at being grown up. It's very frustrating.

what relationships? I live in isolation

I am sickened, appalled, and angry that these things happen. Regarding people in general I won't let them into my life if I get the feeling they've got a dangerous streak or a general lack of respect for other people. With the women I date, I strive to be honorable, compassionate, and respectful.

It destroyed my self confidence and made it so that I feel a lot of anger and anxiety around young males of the same type who tend to harass me. In fact, I feel a lot of anxiety around my peers in general, I have social anxiety disorder which means I fear social situations a lot.

I turned into someone who used sex as a weapon. I figured if it could be stolen from me then I should get something out of it. Even if I had had support, my entire school turned on me. I showed up Monday bruised in the face with teeth marks visible down my neck and a sprained wrist. I went to the nurse, she wrapped my wrist. I’m pasty assed white, and as a medical professional, wasn't she supposed to ask? I mean really, black and blue on the face seems like a problem to me. She glared at me the whole time... I'd gone there to try to tell. Try for justice, vengeance, something... but it was obviously my "fault." I ended up suppressing the memory for half a decade. In that time I'd been sexually assaulted by another former friend, and I'd managed to rape myself many many times in the process. What else would you call it when you fuck someone so they don't have to take it?


What can I say after that? Only that if anything like any of these things above happens to you, no matter how "insignificant" you think they are, tell someone. Because it is not insignificant. A bra snap or a snide comment can live on in your psyche for a long time, and can escalate as the perpetrator gets more permission to continue because of our silence. And if that person you tell scoffs or is mean or makes it seem like it's your fault, find someone else. And keep trying to find another person until someone believes you and is on your side. Unfortunately you are not alone and it shouldn't be hard to find someone to be your champion. Perpetrators won't be stopped and men won't be taught that it is NOT ok to touch a woman or say things to a woman or do all the things listed above until we start telling and start protesting at the top of our lungs that IT IS NOT OK! My one regret is not telling someone about what happened to me and therefore catching the bastards.

Live strong ladies (and gentlemen). It is not OK.


DecemberFlower said...

Reading my own story on the internet is a strange experience.

Sassy Pants said...

Thank you for sharing it.

Texas Jaye said...

Thank you.

I can't read everything here, but I will say that for many, many years, I didn't what had happened to me was abuse until I read or heard what someone who had been abused would share.

It is difficult to read about what happened to me with someone else's words.

Compassion. Live in this moment. Treat yourself with compassion. Healing takes everyday for years and years and then some.

kate said...

This illustrates in bold the oppression of silence. Oh, the years I thought my experiences being constantly harrassed since about 6 years old were just because I was 'bad' or a 'slut'.

Thank you to those who told their stories, I don't feel alone, it also helps me to believe that yes, I was not responsible. Thank you also sassy for encouraging this truth-telling and a safe place to do it.

We need to do this more often people, everywhere to start to chip away at the culture of silence that keeps us oppressed.


kate said...

This illustrates in bold the oppression of silence. Oh, the years I thought my experiences being constantly harrassed since about 6 years old were just because I was 'bad' or a 'slut'.

Thank you to those who told their stories, I don't feel alone, it also helps me to believe that yes, I was not responsible. Thank you also sassy for encouraging this truth-telling and a safe place to do it.

We need to do this more often people, everywhere to start to chip away at the culture of silence that keeps us oppressed.


Musicallyspeaking said...

Thank you for sharing that. It's horrifying and tragic, and every word is true.

Mrs. Harridan said...

Wow. That was pretty amazing.

I guess it's true that pretty much every woman has gone through some sort of sexual violence (myself included).

Thanks for sharing this. And thanks to the women who shared their stories.

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