After my first sexual assault, I wanted to talk about it. I wasn’t afraid to tell people. Maybe its because I had such a supportive family and they told me over and over again that I didn’t do anything wrong. They encouraged me to tell people exactly what happened so the “bad guy” would get his even though he never did.
The first time it happened I was 8 years old. My best friend was having a “going away” party. I spent the night at her house and was there with her as her mom set up for the party the next morning. My friend’s babysitter, a neighbor and family friend, came by early to help set up for the party. When the man, Bob, got to my friend’s house, her mood changed instantly. She started crying and ran up to her room to hide. Her mother, having no idea why her daughter was acting like this, asked Bob to watch me while to tended to her distressed daughter. Bob was an older man. He had wrinkles on his face and was tall and slender, at least to eight year old me. Bob told me the party didn’t have enough balloons and that we had to go to the store to get some. As we approached his vehicle, he demanded I sit in the front seat and has soon as the car left the driveway, he stuck his hand up my shorts and told me he was just tickling me. He continued to assault me during our & “balloon run”. I remember being terrified and thinking I would never see my family again. When Bob returned me to my friend’s house she was waiting for me. As soon as I got out of the vehicle, I started crying and she did too. She knew what he did without me saying. She begged me to tell my parents. Two weeks later I finally told my mom and dad how Bob had touched me and my best friend.
After that we went to the police, and then to court, and our case was closed with the judge concluding that there wasn’t enough evidence and we were too young to know what we were talking about. Bob remains free. He was never convicted. He was never required to register as a sex offender. He is still married to the same woman. You can find pictures of him with his happy family of five on his kids’ facebook page. Bob remains free of any type of punishment while my friend struggles with substance abuse and can’t get past what happened. Her drug of choice to help her forget is heroine.
When I found out that my mother and sister had been through similar or even worse situations, I didn’t feel alone. I learned how to live with it. I tired to talk about it, but no body wanted to hear it. It made people uncomfortable or look at me like I was broken. So I stopped talking about it. All and all though, the experience didn’t have nearly the emotional effect on me that one would expect. I can’t explain why. It just didn’t. I didn’t truly become scared until the second sexual assault I experienced.
The second time it happened I was 18 years old. I was drunk and have very little recollection of what happened. There is footage of me on security cameras “being friendly and flirty” with the acquaintances and co-workers that assaulted me. There is also footage of my reaction after the fact. There are witnesses to every event leading up to and directly after the assault. I was assaulted in a hotel room by two men. I remember flashes of being face down on a bed and telling them to stop. I remember running to the hotel lobby and telling the workers that the men had raped me. I was escorted back to my hotel room where I laid there alone crying and scared. The next morning, I was so ashamed and horrified. I showered, jumped in my car and started driving. I had no idea where I was going all I knew was I wanted to get away. After three hours of driving, my mom called me in a panic asking me where I was. I told her I didn’t know and started crying. She demanded I come home an d explain to her what happened.
I couldn’t remember what happened. I said I had been raped but I couldn’t remember. My mom told me to go to the hospital and get tested. I refused. What if the trip to the hospital had confirmed that I was raped? What if it confirmed that I wasn’t? Both situations in my mind were equally terrifying. My story got around to my bosses and to my other co-workers. Everyone starting telling their own story of the event or how “they heard” it happened. People were calling me a lying whore. My bosses were blaming me for being drunk. I wouldn’t leave my house or my bed for the next two weeks.
I have told people and talked about my first sexual assault a number of times and after all these years it has almost become normal to talk about it. The second time though, I haven’t even told the man I am going to marry about it. I have an ever lasting feeling of shame, fear and doubt. The first time I knew I was not a bad person. I knew I didn’t do anything wrong. The second time though still haunts me. I am afraid I was wrong. I am afraid if it did happen that I invited them to do that to me. I am still ashamed.
I am sharing my stories to show that this is an all too common occurrence. My mom was raped, my sister was raped, many of my friends were raped or assaulted and other may have been and I just don’t know about it. But I also want to point out that doubting, questioning or making a victim feel ashamed has just as horrible effect on the victim as the actual event.
My first assault could have ruined my life, but my family supported me and I believe that it is because of that that I continued to grow and thrive as a person. My second assault came with a lot more judgment and a lot less support and as a result, I developed depression, I drank heavily, I hated myself, and I developed an anxiety disorder afterwards.
— Survivor, age 23