Remedial

I recently became a volunteer advocate at the Rape Recovery Center, a local nonprofit that provides counseling services, a crisis hotline, and hospital teams for survivors of sexual violence. In order to become an advocate, one must complete a 40-hour intensive training program. I’m at the midpoint of my training now, and while my experience so far has been one of empowerment, solidarity, and fulfillment, it’s also forced me to re-examine and really process (for the first time) my own rape.

I’ve come to realize that due to many contributing factors, I have yet to take the time to really process what happened to me, and how it’s impacted me physically, cognitively, and spiritually even now, a few years after the fact.

My initial response was one of damage control. Immediately after regaining control of my body, I sped to a pharmacy to pick up a plan-B pill, inquired a private feminist Facebook group that I was a member of about STI testing, and took the proper steps to ensure that my perpetrator would not be able to contact me again.

A member of the aforementioned Facebook group took it upon his (or her)self to notify my father of what happened to me. This member screen-shotted my original post about inquiring about STI testing, and emailed it to my father, which gave me more damage to control.

I’ve been floating around from day to day, somewhat numb, ever since. I’ve always been kind of a distant person, but since this occurred, I’ve been even more withdrawn, even less in-touch with my emotions and my ability to connect with people, especially men.

A guy that I’m not personally friends with DM’d me on Facebook the other day, and asked me if I was a rape victim.  I responded in the affirmative, and he proceeded to tell me that I’m so much stronger, and my spirit is more alive since I was raped.

I found this response both appalling and offensive, for a handful of reasons. First of all, this man does not know me. He didn’t know me before the rape, and he doesn’t know me now. How, then, can he feel confident in making such a statement? Furthermore, I was strong before this happened to me. Nobody needs to experience sexual violence in order to become strong. I had the strength to cope with this trauma before it even occurred, and I refuse to credit this incidence for giving me any such thing.

As for my “spirit being more alive,” I have felt quite the opposite. This incidence swiftly changed me into the cynical, numb person you all know and love today. I struggle with my emotionality every day of my life. I don’t know how to connect with people. I don’t even know how to process my own emotions without enduring a full-fledged panic attack. My sense of security has been breached, and I’ve realized that there are infinitely many things that are completely out of my control.

The man who made these comments did so with good intent. However, he does not know my experience, and therefore should refrain from telling me what it did to me. Perhaps I’m over-reacting, but I don’t feel like anyone is qualified to make such bold statements about an incident that had such a severe impact on my life except for myself.

Anyway, I am sincerely honored and excited to become an advocate in my community, and hopefully be the support that I so desperately needed when this happened to me. It’s going to be triggering, difficult, exhausting work, but I feel like taking it on will be a healing experience for me, overall. It will, however, force me to rely on others for support when the burnout inevitably hits, and discouragement sets in.

So I’d like to thank my amazing support system in advance, for helping me through this.

M.

 

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Denunciation

I’ve heard a lot of bullshit regarding the ousting of sexual predators disguised as prominent and powerful men (i.e. a lot of hoopla from dudes exclaiming just how scary it is to be a man nowadays, The War On Men, etc.). I’m not quite sure which I find most disturbing-the sheer number of celebrity men finally being called out for their sexual offenses, or some of the reactions to these allegations from normal, everyday dudes.

I get it, you’re shocked. You don’t want to believe that someone as likable as Louis C.K. (your favorite comedian!!) ACTUALLY masturbated in front of numerous women. Or maybe you can’t believe that these women finally spoke out. Or worse, maybe you can’t believe that actions like his could potentially result in consequences.

I don’t speak for all women, nor would I ever attempt to, but I personally was not shocked, because I know that these things happen. And I know that oftentimes, the offender is someone you would have never expected.

You see, it’s scary being a woman every day. As girls, we learn very quickly where our place is in society, and that it’s safer and smarter to submit to the men who have power over us than to fight back or speak up. The brave women who have spoken up against their abusers over the past few months gain nothing from doing so, except for possibly allowing their perpetrators to victimize another woman.

And don’t give me that nonsense about “false accusations,” because only 2% of rape cases turn out to be false, which is no higher than any other alleged crime, according to the FBI. And if you ARE worried about facing a false accusation, why not just ensure that you’re conducting yourself in a manner that could never be misconstrued as sexual harassment? It’s not scary to be a man nowadays. Y’all still hold the majority of systemic power. It’s scary to be a sexual predator. So make your life easier by just not being one. Problem solved.

Finally, we’re being listened to. And furthermore, action is being taken against these malicious men. And if that’s not reason to rejoice, then I don’t know what is.

Frankly, if you’ve ever sexually assaulted another human being, I want you to be afraid. I want you to be looking over your shoulder all the time, anticipating a consequence that could ruin your career even, like you ruined your victim’s sense of safety.

In a perfect world, we’d identify all these perpetrators and put them behind bars so that perhaps one day, women would be free to explore their world without the constant, inhibitory fear that we could be harmed, raped, or killed at any moment by someone who can easily overpower us. Maybe one day, we can go for a jog at night, after the sun sets, and not worry about the possibility of our own 20/20 episode.

M.

Aloof

Want to hear another tragic tale about how yours truly embarked on a quest for human companionship and, in turn, got royally knocked on her ass again? Okay, here we go.

Today’s story starts where the majority of stories of this sort start nowadays: The Tinder.  It started with a mutual right-swipe of the finger, and an impressive pun in the form of a pickup line. For anonymity purposes, we’ll call him simply by his initials: “AL.”

No one is immune to the alluring power of a good pun, not even me. So I humored him.

AL was intriguing. The kind of intriguing that kept us talking for six consecutive hours on our first date-we even got ejected from the little diner that we were having brunch at for staying too long. He had a way of conversing that kept my mind firing at a rapid pace, and the conversation flowed effortlessly. He was genuinely interested in what I had to say, and would often push me to provide more substance to my answers in order to understand me better.

We talked nonstop, both in person and over text message. Our dates increased exponentially in duration, as well as in frequency. We’d spend an entire day together, visiting the planetarium, loitering aimlessly downtown, showing each other books we were interested in at Barnes and Noble. He even bought me one of the books I’d mentioned and gifted it to me the next time I saw him.

He was polite, respectful, a self-proclaimed feminist with hypersensitivity to consent and ensuring that I felt safe, validated, and comfortable at all times.

His friends seemed to really like me.

AL was also a pretty boy, in every sense of the word. He was muscular, had a neat, slick hair cut, scruffy facial hair, and dark brown eyes. He was a bit narcissistic, as well as greedy; money-hungry. He talked a lot about money, and how important it was to him that one day he’d be “loaded.” I didn’t fully understand or agree with this hunger for tangible wealth, but was encouraging and pleasant whenever these conversations arose.

Overall, AL was quite the stand-up guy. He was the type to send me a message after a date thanking me for my company, and expressing how sincerely he enjoyed spending time with me. He told me when he missed me. He was a forehead-kisser, as well as a snuggler. He owned stuffed animals, and wasn’t shy about expressing his emotions or love for Disney films. He’d heat up a rice bag in order to keep my toes warm in his freezing apartment, and offer to make me coffee in the morning before I went to work. In other words, and all-around sweetheart. And in other, OTHER words, too good to be true.

From one day to the next, the text messages went from engaging to aloof. We went from seeing each other all weekend and a couple times during the week to not at all. I saw it coming. Or ending, rather. Not that it was anything per se, our entire story lasted for a duration of a month and a half.

Then, on Friday, AL asked if I had time for a chat after work. My heart sank into my stomach, and my suspicions were confirmed.

He came to my apartment and flopped back onto my bed, his hands covering his eyes. He couldn’t commit to me, he said. He ran into a girl he still had deep feelings for downtown earlier that week, and he has to see what becomes of them. I bit my lip. Disappointed, but not surprised.

I shrugged and told him I understood. He apologized. Again, and again, and then again. Profusely. I wasn’t upset, but told him that I swiftly would be if he apologized again. I didn’t cry. I was stoic. All I wanted was for him to leave.

He wishes he’d ran into this girl a month and a half ago, before he’d ever met me. (Read: he wishes he’d never met me.) So that I wouldn’t become “collateral damage” to his devastating situation that forced him to “hurt” me.

The whole ordeal lasted an entire hour.

I told him that it’s his life, and he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do. I told him that I’m more than fine, I’ve dealt with MUCH worse, and am actually quite comfortable going about life in a solitary fashion. He’ll go his way, I’ll go mine. Most people are temporary, including him.

That sounds so final, he winces.

But it was final. That was the end of our fling.

It’s disappointing because whatever we had escalated so quickly, and absorbed all of my time. It’s going to be an adjustment, the absence of someone I’d been consistently interacting with for over a month. But that will be that, and I will inevitably stumble upon another suitor that may or may not waste more of my time, and all of this will be but a blimp on my rearview.

I’ve never been “dumped” before, and it’s certainly not my favorite feeling in the world. I’d prefer to not allow people to gain positions in my life where they have the power to hurt me. And it will probably be quite some time until I do so again.

AL, you were a good guy. But not good enough to hurt me the way you probably think you have. You’re just another guy who tugged at my emotions for a short time, and then dipped out. There are dozens just like you, and I’m willing to bet that there will be more to come.

I’m not heartbroken, I’m not hurting. I’m not doubting my worth or likeability. But I am withdrawing into myself slightly further than I was before this experience.

M.

 

 

 

Me, Too.

Recently, survivors of sexual assault united in posting the simple words “Me, too” to their social media platforms in order to raise awareness of just how widespread the issue of sexual violence really is.

I’ve read the statistics. I’ve listened to countless stories of survivors tell their stories. I’ve sat through numerous lectures on how to avoid rape, which, by my avoidance, turns another into a victim.

All indicators of the alarming likelihood that it will one day happen to me.

And it did. And then it did again. And again.

The first time, it was Halloween. I didn’t dress up that year. I wore jeans and a sweater, and went to a friend of four years’ to celebrate. The next morning, everything hurt, and I was groggy and disoriented. I passed out in my grandmother’s kitchen, where I was living at the time, falling into her frail arms. I reported him to the Sheriff’s office, tears streaming down my face as I retold the events that occurred on my favorite holiday, and the cops showed up at his work to interview him. But my friend of four years refused to speak to them, so there was “nothing they could do.” We haven’t talked since.

The next time, it was a Tinder date. He was charming, blonde hair, blue-eyed, big muscles. We went to Fuji Sushi and then saw The Revenant for our first date. The next time I saw him, he invited me to his place to watch a movie. I warned him that I was not open to anything physical, and after being assured that he would not try anything with me, I accepted his invitation. He mixed us each a drink in his kitchen while I flipped through a Cards Against Humanity deck placed on his coffee table in the living room. Hours later, I couldn’t move my limbs. “CONDOM,” I tried to bellow, his body forced on top of me, my toneless arms and legs dangling off the sides of the bed. It was 5 AM when I finally came to, and I tried to sneak out of his house without him waking. Just as I had my hand on the doorknob, I turned to find him behind me. He wanted to know why I wasn’t staying till the morning for breakfast.

Round three started with a young man I encountered at the mall. I was walking, by myself, in broad daylight, and he stopped me, grabbed my face, and kissed me. We were complete strangers, but I found it somewhat charming at the time. We started seeing each other regularly, and one day, he came over when my roommate was out of town. I exclaimed that he was hurting me, and after he was finished, he tapped me on the arm and said “sorry for abusing you there” and left.

And then there was the time at my formerly favorite night club. My roommate and I were there for a friend’s bachelorette party. We entered the dance floor, bopping to the rhythm, and found a group of girls to dance with. A man in perhaps his mid-twenties burst into our circle, grabbed me around the waist, and turned me around. My roommate motioned for us to leave the dance floor, but as I was trying, he lifted my skirt up and grabbed my ass. He then spun me to face him, put his arm around me tighter, and proceeded to kiss me. I couldn’t shake him off of me until he’d stopped kissing me, and by that time, my roommate had successfully exited the floor.

I’ve dealt with sexual harassment at work. I’ve had men catcall horrific things at me while walking around downtown, sometimes men double and even triple my age-their malicious stares looking my body up and down as they lick their lips in preparation to tell me what they’d like to do to me.

Ever since that first encounter, I’d received the message loud and clear: my body was not mine. The words “no” and “stop” and “you’re hurting me” were a waste of breath.

I’m not telling you all of this to compete with the numerous brave survivors who came forward to publicly share their stories. I’m not telling you all of this in pursuit of sympathy. The damage has been done, and I am coping with it the best I know how. No amount of sympathy can reverse it.

However, I am adding my story to the record in order to provide examples of behaviors that lead to assault, so that we as bystanders, or even potential perpetrators, can begin to recognize them, and intervene before someone’s body gets violated.

Sexual assault happens to all demographics, so this isn’t even a lecture at the men to pull their shit together. It will take a societal change to eliminate rape culture, and replace it with consent culture. But it starts with recognizing concerning behaviors, and then DOING SOMETHING about it.

No amount of “rape prevention tips” will prevent a rapist from raping. We as a society must stop tolerating non-consensual sexual behavior.

I am not entitled to anyone’s body, and NOBODY is entitled to mine.

Say it with me.

M.

 

Dalliance

This is going to be one of those posts where I give advice that I shouldn’t have to give.

Piece of Advice #1: If you are not divorced, DO NOT TELL PEOPLE THAT YOU ARE DIVORCED.

I kid you not, I have had this happen to me twofold. And I get it, the incidence of divorce in my little corner of the world is extraordinarily high-MOST LIKELY because young twenty-somethings are advised from a very powerful organization that shall not be named to get married right after they exit high school (girls) or after they complete an honorable full-time mission (boys and girls if they want to).

So, they do it.

And so, 3-4 years later, a lot of them get divorced. It’s a sad, hard fact that I find rather discouraging, but so is life.

I have encountered two individuals whose reality this illustrates. And for the record, I have nothing against dating divorced men. I get it-we all have pasts and we’re all moving forward trying to find happiness for ourselves. But I DO have a lot of objections to dating a man who has not finalized his divorce, thus making him STILL MARRIED.

Guys, at the very least, I feel that if you’re going to start dating after you leave your marital relationship, you should at least be transparent about the status of the marriage so that your prospective future romantic interest can make an informed decision on whether or not to date you.

I thought that this was common sense, but apparently, I could not be more wrong.

Piece of Advice #2: DO NOT PLAY WITH PEOPLE’S BODIES, EMOTIONS, OR TIME.

The most recent not-divorced-liar-pants that I encountered played with all three.

You see, he and I have history. We liked each other in high school. But for some reason, or many, he didn’t do much about it, as I was “probably interested in someone else.”

Fast-forward a few years, and we reconnect. Thanks to Facebook, I knew that he’d been married. So I asked him point-blank about the status of his divorce, and he responded in the affirmative, that he was a single person. Nothing for me to worry about, or so I thought.

He took me on a handful of dates over the course of the past couple months, and we had a great time. He made out with me, brought me wine, took my hands in his, and told me that he wants me to be his future.

He said some rather frustrating things, too, such as “I don’t want you to wear leggings in public, because people will look at your butt” or “Be a good girl” when I was out with friends. Being possessive, as if we were in a relationship that he wasn’t willing to commit to.

He didn’t make time for me, and I didn’t pressure him to. I’m a “cool girl.”

I saw him once a week at first, and even less after that. But he’d send me gushy messages about how badly he misses me and wanted to “cuddle me for 27 hours” in addition to other pathetic nonsense. He always “wanted to see me super soon.”

So me, thinking that he and I were dating, would decline other offers from perfectly suitable gentlemen, and sit my ass on my couch, waiting patiently for him to show up, and sometimes, he never did.

But alas, the gushy text messages and rather suggestive Snapchats persisted, and my frustration multiplied.

Until yesterday, when I woke up to the realization that he had blocked my text messages, as well as my Snapchat account.

That’s right, folks. I have been ghosted.

Now, I can’t get a message through to him, thanks to his immature handling of the termination of our situationship, but I have some words to say, and they simply must get out, so here they are:

Dear Non-divorced Bachelor,

I have spent most, if not all, of my dating life feeling like a toy. Feeling taken advantage of. I’ve been assaulted, exploited, lied to, and hurt more times than you can count on your fingers. And you have only added to that number. How is it that some people are capable of earning someone’s affection and then slapping them in the face with it shortly thereafter? It’s a level of cruelty and selfishness that I will never truly understand.

If you didn’t feel the things you said you felt for me, then why did you say them?

If you did feel the things you felt for me, but then stopped, why didn’t you tell me?

It’s not fair to leave me to guess what it was that made you cut me off. Because I take the things that I say and feel, and the things that others say and feel, seriously. I foolishly trusted you.

But, thanks to you, I am left to speculate.

Was I too clingy? Was I not attractive? Did you get what you wanted from me, and now I have nothing left to offer? Were you just bored with the game you started with me, and are seeking out a new opponent?

Because that’s the way I see dating relationships now-they’re nothing but a game. You can’t trust the one you’re up against; don’t get too close, don’t give too much away. Make sure you’re always the one who cares less, or triumph will never belong to you.

And, in the case that you get bored, just go find yourself a new one. There are plenty of opponents eager to play.

But as for me? I’m done playing now.

 

M.

 

 

On Love

I run the risk of making myself out to be a bitter, petty spectacle, but hey-that beats dealing with feelings in a self-destructive manner. If this doesn’t work, my plan B is to consume a lot of cadbury eggs and then poke at my chubby self in the mirror for an hour.

(side note: Easter has way better candy options than Valentine’s day. Mini Cadbury Eggs > those Sweetheart candies.)

(side note to the side note: the aforementioned side note is not a plug for one holiday over another. All holidays are created equal. But the ones that feature Cadbury Mini Eggs are slightly more equal.)

Contrary to popular belief, I actually love Valentine’s Day, despite my lack of a “significant other.” I hate when people are like “We shouldn’t need holidays to make sure our loved ones feel loved! We should make them feel that way every day!” Frankly, we (I’m speaking for the general public) don’t have time or the funds EVERY DAY to wake our loved ones to heart-shaped pancakes and present them with thoughtful cards that we totally didn’t just barely scribble on in the car before thrusting it in our loved one’s face. We knew it was a Special Day, okay? Our handwriting is always that shaky and illegible. You know what? I’ll just read it to you.

My point is, Valentine’s Day is fun. It’s a day we can plan ahead for (but probably won’t) and take time out of our hellish schedules to really connect with our significant others and remind them that we love them even though we are so busy and so tired all of the time from being adults 24/7. It’s unifying and comforting-knowing that millions of couples are displaying their affection for their loved ones at the same time because there’s always room for more affection. It’s beautiful and cheesy and mushy and gushy and pathetic and I LOVE IT.

No, I’ve never had a “Valentine.” I’ve just coincidentally never been in a relationship on February 14th over the past 22 years of my life. What of it?

And no, I’m not even the slightest bit sad, bitter, or petty about it. I’M NOT, STOP GIVING ME THAT LOOK.

I mean, I’ll admit-I did my share of comparing my single life to the coupled individuals roaming the mall, arm-in-arm, as I loitered around solitarily, hoping to find a little something to treat mah-self today. Luckily for my wallet, I didn’t find anything. I must admit, for just a moment, I felt a bit sad-recognizing that all these couples were compiled of individuals that have found somebody that (presumably) understands them and loves them and is willing to work through each others’ problems and differences and I applaud that! Because it’s not easy to do. My record of tolerating a boyfriend is like 6 months sooooo I’m not saying I’m a quitter, but if the shoe fits?

Anyway, I’m not one of those bitterly single people who are going to spend their evening wallowing with a bottle of wine and a chick flick tonight. (But if you are-more power to ya! You be the best wallower you can be. Wallowing feels GOOD.) I’m really comfortable with being by myself. And I acknowledge that human relationships just haven’t been a priority for me up to this point in my life. I have so many priorities that I can’t possibly squeeze any more in! And for that, I must suffer the consequences-which include a lame Valentine’s Day.

Reading back through this post, I have no idea what my point was, and you probably don’t either. All I know is that I was feeling a little melancholy on my way home from the mall earlier but that is no longer the case. I’m off to eat some Mini Cadbury Eggs.

Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all.

M.

 

 

 

 

Irascibility

I thought I was over my self-proclaimed “angry feminist” phase. Boy was I wrong.

I am a sucker for a good podcast, and I scrolled upon one this morning featuring the topic of feminism, which naturally peaked my interest. The discussion participants included a male host, and a male political science professor at a notoriously problematic university (I won’t name names, but this particular university can’t make it into the Big 12 due to their some fundamental, problematic issues in the way they run their institution). You can listen to this podcast for yourself here.

Anywho, I was expecting this professor to advocate for feminism, and to support the progression of gender equality within society. You can probably guess from the title of this post that this was not the case. This political science professor spent his allotted interview time defending traditional gender roles. The take-away message he presented was that perhaps some of the things that feminists have (and will) accomplish are categorically good things, but come at a devastating cost to society.

Professor Bigot’s argument was that yes, women should obtain Bachelor’s degrees, in agreement with the counsel provided by the leaders of his church. However, if women choose to continue on to develop themselves academically, they are delaying childbirth, and neglecting to fulfill their divine roles in the home, even if they have no desire to become a housewife. He feels that a woman should spend the “prime of her life” reproducing and raising the resulting offspring. Ring, ring, the 1950’s called. They want their societal norms back.

He then later in the interview expressed that if it were his daughter that had a more “brainy” predisposition, he would support her in cultivating her fullest potential(presumably after she’d taken full advantage of her child-baring years).

This professor, full of contradictions, argued that one of the many problems with feminism is that feminists view women who choose to be housewives as inferior, and this makes housewives feel unfulfilled and consequently unhappy with their decision to become housewives in the first place. To the contrary, the feminism that I’ve come to advocates a woman’s right to choose for herself what her life will look like, whether that be a life of motherhood and domesticity, or that of scholarly study and professional development, or anything in between.

Because this man obviously knows what the female experience is like, he explained that women who devote their prime years to academia and professional spheres tend to experience a crisis at age 30 because they did not devote themselves to motherhood when they had the chance.

However, I have plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that perhaps it’s the ones who did not pursue their interests because they felt obligated to give up what they really wanted out of their lives to set aside their desires and dreams to adhere to traditional gender roles. Multiple women that I know personally have shared with me that once they become empty nesters, they feel a sort of crisis in which their primary role as a mother has been fulfilled, and she is presented with this newfound free time in which she begins to contemplate the “what if’s” and feel remorse for not choosing an alternate path.

That, my friends, is my worst nightmare.

Now, let me make one thing VERY clear. I have no objections to a woman who willingly chooses to abide by traditional gender roles, so long as it is a conscious choice, made after years of serious contemplation. Additionally, I am the biggest advocate of education for all genders. This is an issue that I am extremely passionate about, perhaps due in part to growing up in a community where traditionalism was emphasized, and nonconformity was regarded as disobedience.

I have not been this upset in well over a year about the issue of gender roles, but this podcast tore open some wounds that I thought I’d partially mended.

I guess what it comes down to is the issue of control and power. I refuse to allow anyone, especially men, impose their myopic worldviews and values on the lives of women. Men of this type seem to think that they are entitled to control the opposite sex, and that their opinion on what women should be doing with their lives is somehow significant.

If you think about it, societal norms were implemented by men, and for men. I’m no history expert, but I am not aware of an active form of consent to traditional gender roles by women. Nobody asked us what we want for ourselves, they told us. And that makes me physically ill.

I will not be controlled by anything or anyone. The only thing dictating my life is my own cognitions. Women, what you want out of your life matters. In fact, what you want out of life should be your priority. We only get one shot at life, and there is simply no time for regret.

My views on feminism can be summed in one simple statement: Everyone deserves to live authentically and everyone else should mind their own damn business.

Enough with the pressure to conform to some silly, arbitrary role. This burning anger I’m experiencing this morning has revamped my drive for accomplishing my academic and career goals, none of which include any kind of adherence to a “predisposed” role that some have decided is a one-size-fits-all, but in reality has no consideration for individual differences.

I typed this entire post with shaking hands and burning cheeks, and my first draft had a much more colorful vocabulary, which I have censored for the children.

I know I’ve beat a dead horse here, but until society eases up on dictating peoples’ life decisions, I will not be at peace.

Down With The Norm, indeed.

M.