“I had no power, I had no voice, I was defenseless.”
It took me three years to read the letter from the victim of the Stanford/Brock Turner sexual assault case. Three years. I always followed it pretty closely. I read other articles, Twitter threads, shared facebook posts. I felt sick to the core each time I read a new outlook, whether siding for or against the suspect. A pit in my stomach when people discussed his swim times and the bright future he had ahead of him and that this was just a mistake, a misjudgment of character if you will. He was a good, well-rounded kid. A star athlete, a great student.
I wondered why I never read the victims point of view. I had probably scrolled passed it or wondered about it. But why had the thought of it make me sick? Sweating even. I wasn’t sure. Until I was faced with it. For my Women’s Gender minor I faced one of the biggest adversities I had faced in a few years in a class. For a simple discussion board, I had to read and react to the victim of the Brock Turner case letter to him during the trial. This flipped my whole world upside down.
Flashback to summer 2015. Me and my friends decided to drive up to a college in our state. It was Fourth Of July. A friend from our hometown had a house where he went to school, and well we had no plans. We were close to a few of his friends from school and thought it would be a nice change from the usual stuff we always do. The day and drive up was filled with fun and excitement. One of my best friends had work that next morning so we had agreed to have her stay sober and drive so we could make sure we made it home, as the school was only 45 minutes to an hour away. We wore red white and blue, had jello shots, and the perfect fourth of July jungle juice ensuring we’d have a great night. Never once that night had I questioned my safety or anticipated anything else happening. As the night started early we drank, laughed, played games and met tons of new people. One person in particular stuck out to me. He wasn’t by any means my usual type, but he was funny. He was really easy to talk to and probably the most friendly stranger there. He wasn’t a close friend to any of the people I knew there and was invited more by being a friend of a friend. He asked me questions about where I went to school, my major and other things. I never got a weird vibe from him or he never came off pushy or abrasive in any way. I kept drinking. I stopped counting my drinks. I went to the fridge and got myself juice again, and again, and again. There were laughing and jokes. I kept telling everyone that my best friend in pharmacy school was going to be a doctor. And my other friend was going to be a teacher. I was so proud of them. I remember going on and on about how I hate Chinese food. And that I transferred home from a college further away but I loved coming home and loved where I lived. I remember I think I put my hand on his shoulder at one point. Maybe that was flirting? I’m not sure. What I don’t remember was implying in any way I came there to have sex that night. Nor that I wanted to leave with anyone. I wanted to make friends. I always did. I loved meeting people, and being social. I never imagined that putting me in any danger. I remember there being a garage where everyone was playing beer pong earlier in the night. He asked to go in there to talk more privately. I in my state didn’t see anything wrong with this so I followed. That’s where everything took a turn for the worst.
I remember him pushing me up against the wall to kiss me. I kissed him back. It was aggressive. He’s not really my type. I thought to myself, but we were just kissing. His hands were all over my body, he was grabby and forceful. I can remember politely pushing his hands off a few times, it wasn’t what I wanted. Things escalated from there. I wore new denim shorts that night, they had 5 buttons all the way up. Every time I had to go to the bathroom I had to bring my best friend with me cause she would have to help me button them back up. He ripped them open with one swift tear at my shorts, the only sound in the now pitch black garage was my buttons flying across the floor. The room was spinning even though I couldn’t see. My stomach was now in my throat. He put his hands around my neck and smashed his face into my chin, ears, and neck. I took both my hands and pushed against his chest, but I wasn’t strong enough. I remember slurring I needed to get back to my friends. She had work in the morning. We wanted to leave by 2. He ignored it. He put his hand on the small of my back and lunged me toward the ground. The ground of the garage was cold against my bare legs. I kicked and he put his weight on me. Tears were streaming down my cheeks at this point. I knew what was going to happen, and I have never felt a fear like a point where you know something is going to happen, and you have no power to stop it. He pulled my shorts down, not all the way but just enough. I cried as he put his hand on my mouth. He wasn’t kissing me anymore. He threw me around the garage like I was a doll. Dragging me to corners, resting me on what felt like a lawnmower. Careless and reckless with my body like I didn’t matter, or wasn’t even human.
I laid there for what seemed like forever but was probably more around 5-10 minutes. I shook with sobs. After a few minutes passed I came out of what felt like a blackout and flailed my body. I kicked and screamed and hit, he rolled off when I finally hit whatever his soft spot was. I flew out of the garage to my friend coincidentally realizing I was gone for awhile and coming to find me. I landed right into her arms. Paints ripped and undone, my shirt hanging off me and my hair destroyed. She got me out of the house and we began to walk to the car. Still shaking with sobs I walked a mile that night silent, with no shoes on. I had left them behind in pure terror. I went to bed paralyzed with the emotional pain that night and woke up a different person.
I woke up that afternoon with bruises up and down my body. I threw up a few times that day. My head throbbed. I didn’t speak to anyone for days. I skipped my best friend’s birthday cause I couldn’t imagine being around other people. My mom thought I was severely hungover. I slept for 18 hours a day that entire week. I deleted my social media. I refused to tell the campus police or anyone else what happened. I changed forever that night. It took me two years to tell my mom, and with my dad passing away in 2016, that was something he would fortunately for whoever did this to me, never know. I slowly told friends. I withdrew from all things I cared for. I refused therapy. I shuddered away from the affection of any man. I either got too drunk to forget most nights or opted out of drinking out of fear. I had severe trust issues towards any male that still linger to this day.
I victim blamed for months. I didn’t even know his name. How was I so careless? How did I manage to separate myself? So much that no one could hear my cries? I mulled my mind over and over wondering if I said the trivial, No. I looked in the mirror disgusted. I didn’t want to be myself anymore. I wanted to step out of myself and never come back. Everyone in my life encouraged me to call campus police. Why? So I could be humiliated and he could get away with it? I was 19 years old. I had already lost faith in the justice system, in men, and in the world. But more than anything I lost faith in myself. I drank uncontrollably. I began to spiral down a hole that would seem to swallow me whole for a few years. I became a “party girl”, I had no feelings. I didn’t want to ever love. Fuck relationships. Fuck trusting men. They’re the enemy. I avoided the OBGYN. I didn’t care about my physical health anymore.
It took me awhile to grow from this. After a while, and a lot of growing up I realized the fight I had in front of me. A fight women around me, closer to me than I ever knew had been fighting too. I mattered. My body mattered. My opinion mattered. My voice mattered. I became an advocate for all things women/sexual assault. I had cared about things I never really cared about before and wondered how I went my whole life without it.
I started saying that dirty word people always avoid saying. Feminist. I realized the fight for political, social and economic equality was nothing to be ashamed or afraid of. I fell in love with the inspiring female leaders who were not afraid to stand up for themselves and I wanted to be them. I became a strong fighter for equal pay, gay marriage, transgender rights, education and so much more. I spoke out on sexual assault in the workplace and in schools. I wanted to help anyone who didn’t have a voice. Anyone who ever felt defenseless, or silenced in any way. But I never spoke out for myself. I never forgave myself. And I never forgave the man who didn’t know my name but took my body that night and kept it. That was a huge emotional bump in the road for me. Working on myself. I wanted to help everyone else, I wanted to be there and help everyone else heal but I never once cared for me. This ruined relationships, interfered with school, my mental health and so much more. 15 minutes of one night, drove the rest of my life off track. I had found myself defeated so many times. And it’s something I still struggle with every single day. I felt like I had been thrown so far from myself and couldn’t find my way back.
I wish I could say there was a solution. An “Aha” moment where everything gets better. I wish I fought it. I wish I fought it tooth and nail like the amazing woman who fought Brock Turner. I wish being a scholar, an athlete, or having a clean record didn’t matter. I wish rape was treated the way drugs, burglary, or even DUI is treated in this country.
I wish women didn’t have to fear to have fun, getting drunk, or walking alone at night. I wish my body belonged to me. I wish I could hug every woman who has ever gone through this, and I wish I couldn’t guarantee there’s a woman reading this right now with tears streaming down her face cause this very thing happened to her.
In the victim letter to him, she compares us to lighthouses. She describes how even though you can’t chase every boat trying to save them all, if you stand there and shine, and just put out the most light you can, you can make the smallest difference in someone’s life. I guess that’s what I’m doing here.
I can say this is an important fight, one we will not give up. We won’t live in fear and we won’t live in silence. I’m glad I have the freedom to write about this, and put it out there and encourage other women to do the same. My best friend said something the beginning of this year that stuck with me. We decided on January 1st, 2018 is our year. The year of women. The year we stop taking everyone’s shit. If the man whose name I don’t know is reading this, I hope you never forget me. I will never forget you, and I will always thank you. I will fight for my voice, and every other victim until I can’t fight anymore. C. JoyBell C once said, “The strength of a woman is not measured by the impact that all her hardships in life have had on her, but the strength of a woman is measured by the extent of her refusal to allow those hardships to dictate her and who she becomes.” Here I am, and I’m just beginning.