I’m writing this without the intention of clicking publish. I think because whenever I imagine publishing something like this, I get shy, and worried, and afraid. I become anxious and wonder if anyone would believe me. If people would blame me. How it might impact other people’s lives. But I think I need to write it. For me, and maybe for other people, if I ever click publish.
The main reason I’m inspired to write this is because of the continuing coverage of Dr. Ford, and all she has gone through to share her story of what happened to her at age 15. A potential supreme court justice assaulted her as a teenager. I believe her. And if I can believe her, hopefully, other people will believe me.
My first experience of sexual abuse left the deepest emotional scars, and even thinking about it continues to make me anxious, afraid, and filled with so much shame. I was 8, maybe 9. My parents used to go on a date night every Saturday, and for years they hired a babysitter to watch me and my older brother. But around the time I went into 4th grade, my brother was considered old enough to watch me, and even started getting paid to do so.
I know we used to hang out. Play video games. Watch TV. Eat pizza. Eventually, he invented a game called seatbelt, where I would sit on his lap and try to escape. He’d wrap his arms around me, and I’d struggle to get out. At that age, I don’t think I thought of it any differently to playing tag or any other silly game we’d make up.
I don’t think it happened all at once. I believe the game was already established before the first time he touched me. His hands would move down and I would stop him. I said no. But we would play again and he would do it again. Eventually touching me again. Over my clothes. Under my clothes.
I was a kid, and I knew it was wrong. But it was also my first sexual experience, and it felt sorta nice. I guess that’s why I feel so much shame. I didn’t tell our parents. I didn’t tell a teacher. I remember telling a friend at school, and her even saying that is was sexual abuse. I think I shrugged it off, believing my brother loved me and would never hurt me.
It went on for a long time. Years? I don’t know. Definitely multiple times, every week for months. I’m not sure what exactly made it stop. Maybe when I told my parents that I was old enough to stay home alone, that I didn’t need him to be my babysitter anymore. Or maybe something happened. I really don’t remember. I just know that eventually, it stopped.
When I was about 13, I went to a party at a friend’s house. I think it was for Halloween. There was a boy I liked at the party, who was maybe 16 or 17. We went into the kitchen and started kissing. But he then was pushing for more, wanting a blow job. I remember wanting to leave the kitchen but he was blocking the way out. I blamed myself for going into the kitchen in the first place, for wanting to kiss him, for putting myself in that situation. As soon as someone opened the door, I ran out.
At about 21 years old, I was a happy, healthy college student, living an amazing life in Maastricht. I went on lots of dates and was pretty sexually confident. One evening, I met a nice, handsome young man, I think at a party. He walked me home, and we started kissing at my door. He was at least a foot taller than me, which I found kind of appealing at the time. I said goodnight and opened the first door, but he stepped forward and closed it behind him, with both of us in the confined space before the second door that would lead to the stairway up to my apartment.
He wanted more. I knew he wanted more. He was kissing me and pushing against me, and I kept trying to be polite, pushing him back and saying I’d see him again soon. He kept trying to kiss me, trying to convince me to let him in. I remembered thinking, is this how I would be raped? I knew self-defense, but in a tiny room with a man a foot taller than me and significantly stronger than me, what hope did I have to truly fight him off? I kept being polite and saying no, I’d see him tomorrow. I kept saying bye. Eventually, he left.
The next day, two of my close male friends paid him a visit, telling him to stay away from me. They told him that he had scared me. That I had pushed him away and said I wasn’t interested in more. He didn’t realize that he had upset me, didn’t even know how much the encounter had terrified me.
So what now? I was in therapy for years and truly have no desire to go back into counseling right now. I’m happy in our current life. The abuse explained my issues with depression and severe phobias in my teens and early 20s, but I went for therapy and dealt with those. I learned coping mechanisms.
And yet, with all this stuff around Brett Kavanaugh, and sexual abuse, and what’s “normal”, I suppose I’ve been triggered. I would be horrified if ANY of these things happened to Harley. I hope that she can grow up in a safer world. I hope that I can protect her and that as she grows up, she will know that she doesn’t have to be polite, she can make a scene. I want her to know that sex is amazing with happy, exuberant consent. That reluctance, worry or being polite has no place in sexual encounters… unless that’s your kink and you’re actually exuberantly consenting to playing reluctance.
In the wake of all the triggering news, and a complete inability to avoid it, I want to add my voice to the chorus of women saying #MeToo. Dr. Ford is not alone. This happened to me. And I believe what happened to her.
It’s also a realization that there are many more incidents that didn’t even leave a lasting impression. Moments when men exposed themselves to me. Or the catcalls on the street that made me walk faster or be afraid. The times I was groped or harassed in bars and clubs. But that was normal. How disgusting is that? It’s NORMAL to face sexual harassment and assault on such a regular basis that it takes truly horrific incidents to leave an impression.
I keep thinking of this tweet:
Every woman I know has been storing anger for years in her body and it’s starting to feel like bees are going to pour out of all of our mouths at the same time.
— Erin Keane (@eekshecried) June 28, 2018
It’s like I feel the rage inside me, buzzing up from my guts. Like the bees are ready to pour out at any moment (did you guys know that I’m actually afraid of bees? Fun fact). Maybe this is that moment. But it’s ENOUGH. I’ve had enough of men thinking they are entitled to women’s bodies. I’ve had enough of men thinking that they can act without repercussions. I’ve spent enough time carrying anyone else’s shame. This is my body, and it is magic. It made a person, it survived near death, and it is amazing. I don’t need to hold the guilt, shame or fear any longer.
I believe Dr. Ford. I believe the millions of women who have been harassed, abused and assaulted. And I believe myself.