About 10 years ago, when a mentor/teacher from an educational environment grabbed the sides of my head and forced his tongue in my mouth, I remember freezing in horror for a few seconds before trying to pry his hands off the side of my head.
Maybe this is why it was my fault.
I pried his hands from me and shoved him away, and I remember thinking, why? Why would you do this?
In fact, I remember stupidly asking the question out loud.
“Why would you do that?”
We exchanged tear-filled and angry words for a while, and I grabbed his hand at some point when he tried to touch me inappropriately again.
Maybe this is why it was my fault.
The next day, I went to a close friend, and I told her what had happened, and she was outraged on my behalf, until about a week later when she began speaking to my perpetrator again, who was also her friend.
I’m not sure you were innocent in this whole situation, she said. You’ve been known to be flirtatious in the past.
Needless to say, my friendship with said friend ended a short time later, and I spent the next three months agonizing over the situation.
Was it my fault? Should I have done something differently? Should I have ran on the spot instead of debating the situation with him?
I did not tell anyone about the situation for many years. Mainly because due to his longevity in our professional environment, I felt sure he would be chosen over me, and I would be kicked out.
In fact, I didn’t even realize I had been sexually assaulted until several years later when I conducted an interview about sexual assault. Like many others, I had thought sexual assault and rape were one in the same.
After about two months, I sought counseling. I remember a defining moment for me was the counselor asking me, did it ever occur to you that this person who said it was your fault was never your friend to begin with?
Yes, I replied. But I thought it made me a bad person to think that way.
Nearly a decade has passed; I have moved on, and I have healed.
My circumstance was not anywhere near as violent as what some women have gone through, and I recognize that – but as Portales Arise Sexual Assault Services Director Leigh Ana Eugene always reminds me, there is no bad or worse; sexual assault is sexual assault – but by the same token, I do understand what it feels like to feel angry, guilty and devastated, because someone violated your personal being.
I know what it feels like to question every moment of the situation. Should I have done this instead? Should I have said that? Am I a bad person?
The truth is if such a situation were to arise now, I would likely handle the situation differently, but I also recognize that I was in no way the bad person in the situation back then, and I did nothing wrong.
My one regret to this day is that I told no one. I did not hold this individual accountable for his behavior, and I came to find out later, that more lives were negatively impacted because of this.
If someone in your life ever crosses that line, do not silence your voice. It is so important to have a voice in this regard.
If those of us who have been a victim of sexual assault do not stand up, the bad guys win. They get to continue making victims of others.
I can’t imagine how hard it must be. You have to relive the situation as you recount it to authorities; you get scrutinized. In fact, I recently had a sexual assault survivor tell me, if she had to go through it again, she would not report her situation as she did before, because of the judgment she suffered at the hands of others.
But we have to hold the bad guys accountable.
Please, please, do not silence your voice.
Take your life back.
Hold the bad guys accountable for what they did.
If we don’t, who will?
And for those of you that might end up on the other side of the spectrum, listen to country song “Take a Drunk Girl Home” by Chris Janson for a life lesson.
Two people being drunk doesn’t excuse taking advantage. Learn this lesson now, so you don’t find yourself in a bad situation later.
Alisa Boswell-Gore is the editor of The Chase and is a graduate student currently pursuing her master’s in communication. You can read her blog at www.renewcommunications.com/blog