I’ve been wanting to write about this ever since the Kavanaugh case began, and I’ve always been very open and honest about what happened to me, years back, but I’ve also been trying to focus on only positive feelings during my pregnancy. For those who don’t know, I was raped when I was sixteen years old, by a guy who was one of my closest friends (at the time). He knew me as a person, was close with my mom, spent hours at a time in my personal space and old home, we went on adventures, and we helped each other through teenage drama/heartache. It was a late, weird night that turned into an actual nightmare for me, and a night which changed my life permanently. I watched every second of the Kavanaugh case and would like to say honestly, that it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to watch and the most frustrating for me; I don’t view this as a Democratic vs. Republican issue AT ALL. I view this as a societal issue and a true lack of compassion for victims, especially women who deal with any form of assault, whether that’s sexual assault, verbal abuse, etc. I would also like to say, I am not here to write about whether or not Kavanaugh assaulting Ford is true, or not. I know what I believe to be true, but that’s not what this post is about.
We need to start listening and changing the way we view victims. Victims of all sorts are always blamed. Does that make any logical sense? It doesn’t matter how long it has been since Ford said she was assaulted (it doesn’t matter when she told her husband, or the world), OR, what party she stands behind. I will say, as a survivor of sexual assault, coming forward and being open about assault doesn’t bring about anything for the victim, but PTSD, fear, and due to our societies lack of compassion, a lot of shame and regret. No one who was ever assaulted came forward to gain something, because there is no reward system for victims. I did personally feel incredibly brave and stronger after speaking up (at the young age of sixteen), but that didn’t wipe away the negativity and pain which followed my honesty. Coming forward is terrifying and Ford had nothing to gain from doing so, which I would know very well.
At age sixteen, I finally spoke up about what happened to me (a few months after the sexual assault) and I sat in a small, dank room with a rude detective, telling him the uncomfortable and scary details of that night (over and over again). I can still smell the coffee on the detective’s breath and the weird odor from the room I was in. I was asked questions which made me feel as though somehow, I caused the rape. He did, in fact, ask me, what I was wearing (classic shaming). Ladies, you can walk around naked and that doesn’t give ANY man the right to touch you.** I was made to feel embarrassed, foolish, and wrong, despite the fact that I had done NOTHING wrong. I pressed charges, charges which never went to court (weeks dragged on and I felt emotionally drained), because my local police department failed me, 100%. They allowed him to bring in close male friends (who went to our school), to be interviewed about what I was accusing him of, after he was waived up to age eighteen (opposed to the age he was when the sexual assault occurred, which was seventeen), and he was slapped in the face with serious sexual assault charges. I know he was shocked, because he never thought I’d say a word.
His friends who were interviewed called me provocative, a slut, and a liar. They verbally assaulted me in the hallways of my high school, threatened me, and I lost “friends” after everything I went through. Years later, when I was dating my ex, the same guy who raped me threw beer bottles and cans at my pickup truck and home (more than once), and he had a severe altercation with my ex, in front of my house. The pain and continued harassment lasted way beyond the night I was sexually assaulted. I had to explain to a newer officer of my township, after reporting the beer bottle incident to the police, that I had desperately tried to press charges against him when I was sixteen and no one would help me.
My mom went off on the detective who failed me (having my back as much as she possibly could), explaining to him how incredibly common rape is, even in the military (she handed him a packet of rape statistics), but sadly, many don’t speak up (because it’s traumatic). I never blame anyone for keeping traumatic experiences hidden in the shadows, because I truly understand how hard it is to say the powerful words out loud, but as a writer, I knew I could help others feel less alone by being brutally honest about the trauma I endured. I’ve had strangers reach out to me after I first wrote about being raped on my blog, years ago. I heard from people in other countries, people I went to high school with who had no idea and young girls dealing with different levels of bullying/abuse. I’m glad I spoke up. I was in therapy for years, was prescribed medication for anxiety and depression (I no longer take anything), dealt with sleepless nights, drank a little too much, partied hard, and I was diagnosed with not only major depression, but also Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
(I tried my hardest to have a “normal”
high school experience, which was impossible…)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an adventure (and not a fun one). I am proud to say, I have come so very far since that time in my life, but I still have moments of insecurity and PTSD never leaves you. You learn to live with it. Pain changes you, permanently.
For anyone whose questioned Ford, based off of the details she remembers from that night (and again, I’m not here to discuss what’s true or not)…trauma snaps you into fight or flight mode. You may not remember every detail, because that is your body/mind’s natural reaction to a traumatic event (assault, car accident, robbery, etc.) and actually, a way of protecting you and keeping you focused on survival. I know from my own experience, that I didn’t remember every detail, but I remembered enough, which is what catapulted me into an unforeseen darkness. I remember what I was wearing, the temperature, the time he arrived at my house, what he was wearing, and the music I was listening to before he arrived at my house (Kenny Chesney). I remember the taste of vodka entering my mouth hours later after I was confronted head-on with the painful realization, and the hysterical phone call I made to my friend at the time, trying to explain to her what just happened to me (impossible).
I remember picking up my lace thong off of the floor, which he had ripped off of me, and looking at my changed reflection in my floor-length mirror. There were bite marks on me and by the next day, subtle bruising. I punched the mirror in my bathroom around three am, leaving a bruise on my fist and a small crack in the mirror, feeling angry, betrayed, and out of control. I felt as though he had taken something from me and I had lost full control over myself, my emotions, and my life. It was one of the worst feelings I’ve ever endured. I don’t think I had ever hit or punched anything either, prior to that night (totally out of character for me). I can tell you so many, painful details from the night I was raped, but I cannot tell you the exact date, nor can I tell you why it happened to me, or how a guy I once trusted turned into a monster. School doesn’t prepare you at age sixteen for what life throws at you with no warning. I was forced to grow up and after experiencing such an immense trauma, I lost my naivety and innocence.
Ford should not be blamed for only remembering certain details from her assault, because that is common and natural. No one should ever be questioned or judged the way she’s been (regardless of what you believe to be true) after coming forward with something as personal as assault. She also shouldn’t be blamed for coming forward, despite how many years it took for her to do so, and as I said before, this horrible case has nothing to do with political parties. It has to do with a wake up call; we live in a world that needs to change and a world that needs to teach young men (and boys) not to rape, assault, and shame women, regardless of their status or mindset. I don’t care how much money you come from, where you went to school, who you partied with, how educated you are, or what title you possess. I care about how you treat humans, animals, and the planet. I care about how you present yourself to the world and what you bring to the table, and I don’t think we will ever repair the damage that was done during the Kavanaugh case, but it is never too late to make positive waves. His case triggered emotions in many and it has awakened a lot of quiet souls.
When I turned eighteen I got my very first tattoo, a small script which reads “breathe” on my wrist. I got that tattoo to remind myself, no matter what I was, or am feeling during the day, to simply look down and take a deep breath. I could finally breathe again. I had survived so much and I would never allow another person to steal away my happiness and strength.
(This was taken after signing for my first tattoo, in New York City, at age eighteen…)
I remind everyone whose endured trauma to keep fighting and to never give up…I’m the happiest I’ve ever been and I’m thankful for beautiful days and the beautiful people in my life. There is light at the end of every tunnel and it takes time, but we learn to fight through the darkness, instead of fearing the dark.*