“It is no little wisdom for you to keep yourself in silence and in good peace when evil words are spoken to you, and not to turn your heart to God and to be troubled with judgment of others.” ~ Thomas A. Kempis
When I was in college I began to experience a liberation of myself. After a break up with my high school boyfriend, and of course venturing into the real world alone, I decided that I didn’t want to be “committed…” as if being in a relationship comes with a stray jacket and padded walls to lock in your insanity.
I just wanted to have fun and enjoy my good college years of hanging with friends and getting into a good club or party!
And with the “clubbin” came the heat…and prowl of the vultures who lurked in them. And why not…? I mean I was in a college capital with young military men who were either pending deployments or just getting back.
AND… I can tell you ladies…there were no shortages of the men back then.
But at 18, I wasn’t looking for a husband and for damn sure those guys weren’t looking to make me a “honest woman” at the time. So I enjoyed the freedoms of college life… especially with living in an off campus dorm.
One Friday night I met a nice looking military guy. He definitely didn’t approach me because I was this well put together young lady. If I can be honest, I was one of them damn girls twerking in the club like I was auditioning for Uncle Luke!
Yup… My turn-up was REAL!
Anyway, he asked to take me out the next day, so he rolled through. He had this nice little white Mazda with rims. CLEAN! And even though he was 5’8…he looked good driving it with his fresh fade and caramel skin. So we rolled up to eat at CiCi’s…. yup the damn CiCi’s… AND to make it so bad…I DIDN’T EVEN GET THE BUFFET.
Needless to say we went back to my room to hang out and chill. I’m not sure what he had in his sauce, but he was getting a tad bit too close and personal. With the kissing on my neck, unwantedly, I grew uncomfortable. But I said nothing.
I remember I was wearing a jean dress with buttons down the front. It was such a cute dress with more of a green wash to it. His hands groped and grabbed me around my breast area. Despite my discomfort, I said nothing.
After all… he liked me, right?
His hand crept up my dress between my legs, but I pushed it away. He persisted. I resisted. Finally he yanked my dress and a few of my buttons unsnapped. I remember grabbing it closed and curling up on my bed. I was frozen….NUMB.
He pulled me closer to him, and climbed on top of me, again placing his disgusting kisses on my neck and body. And I said nothing.
As he began to tug at his belt and jeans, I finally asked, “What are you doing?” only to be met with “What do you think?”
“No…No…No…” I mumbled. Weakened by confusion. The feeling of powerlessness crept over me, and my only thought at the time was, “Did I invite sex because I invited him over?” As he continued to touch my body and press his hardness against me, I… said… NOTHING.
I cannot tell you how happy I was to hear a loud knock at my door. My classmate who lived across the hall came over to borrow my notes the week’s prior class. The relief I felt when he walked into my room and stood guard. In that moment, I kept thinking to myself how much I loved that boring class.
The guy left and never said a word.
After passing my notes over, my classmate looked at me and asked, “You good?” I nodded my head. Embarrassed and ashamed to even say word.
Shortly after… I shaved my hair off, kept to my comfortable clothes, and prepared for basketball season. I remained close to my friends, but even still… I never said a word. Even when I grew a bit depressed, I chalked it up as being homesick and dealing with the pressures of not basketball.
I started to detach from things, and eventually I blocked that part of my life out. I buried it. I moved on, and I didn’t think it mattered. But it did. It truly affected my sexuality, trust and security, and sense of self in many ways for years to come. Took me well into my late 20s to heal and forgive myself for it.
While I won’t go too deep, I thought to myself back then that it was easier to have “sexual control” than to actually talk about what happened. You know to be a little wild and go with the flow of things, than to actually open up because I feared that I would again invite the unwanted: the criticism of my decisions, mistakes, and shortcomings. To be judged by a culture of peers who would think…. YOU invited it.
But the feelings and perception is a reality as many “victims of sexual assault often experience short-term consequences including guilt, shame, fear, numbness, shock and feelings of isolation” (http://www.nsvrc.org).
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and this year, as with many other years since the movement began in the 1970s, draws attention to the fact that sexual violence is widespread and is a violation of human rights and dignity. According to the 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey:
- 1 in 5 women in the United States have experienced rape or attempted rape in their lives
- 1 in 71 men in the United States have experienced rape or attempted rape
- 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men have experienced sexual violence victimization other than rape at some point in their lifetime
This month the National Sexual Violence Resource Center is calling on groups whose influence can play a critical role in changing the culture to “Engage New Voices” — from churches, to Greek organizations, faith leaders, coaches and mentors, survivors and caregivers.
A friend and colleague reminded me during our dialogue about the devastation in Ohio and the deafening silence of mental health (particularly among the African American community), that in order to continue to enlarge these conversations, we have to be diligent to invite such organizations to share about these “sensitive” topics at every turn. And he is absolutely correct.
I encourage you to share and take part in the conversation and dialogue. To lead with listening to the voices of survivors so that you too can share the words that may not have been said.
Thanks for allowing me the safe place to share. I invite your comments and please pass this on to another person in your day.