Trigger warning: this post contains graphic details of sexual assault. It wasn’t easy for me to write and I don’t think it will be easy to read.
I wasn’t surprised when another accuser came forward about the US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. One of the awful lessons of the #MeToo era is that where there is one victim, there are usually more. I don’t know if the men who sexually assaulted me have assaulted others. It haunts me.
The news of Deborah Ramirez being sexually assaulted at a party by having Kavanaugh put his penis in her face was particularly jarring for me. When I was 18, at an acquaintance’s home after a long night of partying, I experienced a similar assault. I could see everyone shift focus to my right. I saw movement, heard the unmistakable sound of a zipper, then laughter from the guys in the room. I remember thinking, ‘he’s taking his dick out’ but before I could react, he moved closer and stuck his flaccid penis in my right ear. I ignored it. Tried to think of it as funny.
But it wasn’t funny. It was gross and it meets the Canadian definition of a sexual assault. Earlier that night, he and a friend tried to remove my pants while I slept on the couch. I engaged in a game of tug-a-war over my pants. Drunk, they gave up and fell over laughing. I came to the party with these guys; I was in an unfamiliar town with no means of transportation. I just pretended nothing was happening.
Looking back, my first thought is still that it could have been worse. Maybe because at 18 I had already experienced 4 sexual assaults? And maybe because the discussion around consent in my home was limited to warnings about driving in cars with boys: if I allowed a boy to drive me out in the country, he might say ‘cock or walk’. The message seemed to be if I got myself into such a situation, I would be responsible.
Each of the incidents below is a story in and of itself, but I want to just get it all out. I’ll likely come back to some stories in future blog posts, but right now the thing I want to do is just purge it all.
- Between age 12 and 14, I was sexually assaulted twice by adult male family members
- Between 16 and 19, I was sexually assaulted once by an intimate partner and 3 times (wait, 4 — I just remembered another instance) by male ‘friends’
According to the CDC “the term ‘intimate partner violence’ describes physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression (including coercive acts) by a current or former intimate partner…intimate partners include current or former spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends, dating partners, or sexual partners. IPV can occur between heterosexual or same-sex couples and does not require sexual intimacy.” Read more about IPV in my earlier blog post
I guess this list is my way of going gently into these stories. It’s harder than I thought it would be to write. I can’t stop thinking about other people. People I care about. If the abuser is dead and no longer a threat, should I chance upsetting someone who loved them and never knew? How will these stories impact our daughters, should they read them?
I hope the answer to these questions is the more women speak out about sexual violence, the more it will become unacceptable. More women will feel supported and empowered to disclose sexual assault and press charges against their abusers. This is my hope. We have a long way to go, as evidenced by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who alleges sexual assault by Kavanaugh, having to leave her home due to harrassment.
One the other hand, young people in Ontario Canada, as CBC News reports “walked out of class on Friday to protest the provincial government’s decision to repeal a modernized version of the sex-ed curriculum” that features consent as a pillar. In the faces of these young people I see determination and I feel hope for the future.
I didn’t grown up with a consent-based sex ed curriculum; neither did men my age. I know we have to do more than just change education around this subject, but it’s part of the long-term work needed for a solution. Police and parents need to encourage reporting of any incidents, while the justice system needs to be reformed to eliminate victim blaming.
Educate. Encourage. Reform.