CW: Sexual assault
April 28, 2021 is Denim Day. A day where millions of people across the world will wear jeans with a purpose, support survivors, and educate themselves and others about all forms of sexual violence.
The day started in 1999 in response to a Judge in Italy who dismissed a rape case because he said the survivor’s jeans were too tight, therefore, she would have had to have helped her rapist get them off, thus admitting her consent. You can also search #DenimDay2021 on your favorite social media platform and get the info.
So I’m wearing my jeans and telling my story.
Made a Deal
The first time I was sexually assaulted was before I was in 2nd grade when I was riding my bike home from swim team practice. One of the older boy teammates stopped me and reminded me of the deal we made; that if he let me throw the nerf football that day at practice, I would owe him a favor and he promised it wouldn’t hurt.
I remember laying on the grass behind the Holiday market, and a sharp pain “down there”. I don’t remember how long it lasted, just that when he was done he said I could go. I got on my bike and went home.
Because I was late coming home, my grandma and grandpa asked me where I had been and I told them what happened.
My grandpa got really mad and my mom started crying on the couch. The next day I was at the sheriff’s office and the nice lady asked me to point on pictures of a naked child and tell her what body parts were called and where I was touched.
If you’ve seen Law and Order SVU – you can put together what that was.
I didn’t truly realize what happened to me until I was a freshman in college and the person I was dating talked about how he was molested as a child by a neighbor. Hearing him talk about his trauma caused my memories to click and I thought, “Omg that’s what happened to me.”
When I was younger, all I remembered was that he was bad and he had done something bad to me and my family made sure I wouldn’t be around him again. His family went to our church, but after the assault him and his mother no longer attended.
However, I grew up in a small town so the next time I saw him it was at my high school ag classroom. He was dating one of my FFA classmates even after he had graduated. I never spoke to him or made eye contact, but I was very uncomfortable.
The next time I was assaulted was New Year’s Eve my senior year of college. There was a boy I had thought was really cute, but he had never given me much attention, until that night.
I think I remember telling the girls I was fine and it was okay that I was going home with him. I was drunk, so was he, yet I still got in the car with him.
When we got back to his place things started escalating. I told him I was on antibiotics and allergic to latex, so I didn’t want to have intercourse. Well, that didn’t stop him.
Out of my fight, flight or freeze responses – I froze.
I remember asking to take a shower after it was over, he showed me where it was. I remember his demeanor to me was like I wasn’t even a person. I’d become an inconvenience when he was through with me.
I cried in the shower, trying to come to terms with what just happened. I didn’t have a way to get home, so I got back into his bed. I couldn’t sleep. I went out to the kitchen to get a glass of water at one point, still in shock, just trying to piece everything together and come to terms with my reality.
I watched the clock tick down to 7:30am and woke him up. I said my car was parked in the garage and the meter starts at 8 am on weekdays and I didn’t want to get a ticket. It was New Years’ Day – a holiday where meters don’t run.
I slammed the door and didn’t look back when I got out of the car.
I drove home, laid on the couch, and just stared at the back of it for hours. I was hoping for sleep – none came. I called my friend around 9am and we went to a local restaurant, I told her what happened and saw the look on her face. I think she knew it was rape before I did. Later that day I went and got Plan B.
The next time I saw my assaulter was at the country bar and I asked him swing to dance. (if you are thinking “WTF?!” that’s okay. I can still barely believe I did this.)
As we were dancing, I leaned in and demanded “What the hell was that the other night?”
He immediately knew what I was talking about.
He started apologizing frantically saying “he didn’t know what happened” and “nothing like that has ever happened to him before”, “he didn’t know what came over him”. If you need a reminder, I told him I didn’t want to have sex and he raped me anyway.
I told him it was fucked up and to never do that to a girl again. Then I walked away.
I had to see him at work for the next year but didn’t say two words to him. I never said anything to my bosses – I didn’t want to make a mess and figured I confronted him, so I was fine to deal with him sparingly. Last I heard he moved out of state.
Unpacking the Trauma
I attended Take Back the Night at my college for two years, but I didn’t feel my story should be told because I asked to go to his place and it wasn’t violent.
I didn’t feel like my story counted in comparison to others.
I’m sharing now for three reasons:
- It’s my story and I’m ready to tell it.
- To show at least one more person that they are not alone.
- To take part in bringing awareness to this issue and our country’s rape culture.
To be honest, I’m still afraid of the shame or stigma that may come with telling this story and how people may see me. I’ve mentally prepared myself for any victim blaming questions or statements.
Some people may think that I should have been more responsible. Maybe you’ll notice parts of the story and go, “Sandra you shouldn’t have gotten so drunk and gone home with him”, or “Sandra you shouldn’t have made him think that you wanted that.”
And if you notice those things, I hope you can also notice that a man put his penis inside me when I told him that I didn’t want it there.
To all the people who worry that “the world is a scary place, and you never know when you’re going to get accused of something.” I’d like to ask you to check your heart. It’s been a scary world for many and still is.
Simple advice is to never assume you have a right to touch someone and always know they can rescind that permission. Communicate if you are unsure.
My story isn’t remarkably special, but I think that’s what should stand out to you. Women are sexually assaulted way too often. Sexual assault is nuanced, it’s messy, and it’s personal, but one thing is very clear.
No means no.