First of all, let me tell you about my cat. She's the take no one's crap type, the my way or the highway, the my voice will be heard, opinionated cat. She'll rip you to shreds if you try and take her favorite blanket and heaven help you if you switch her brand of food, but when she is at the vet, something changes about her. She goes limp, she won't make a sound. She's just defenseless dead weight, a completely different animal. Something about that environment completely deactivates who she fundamentally is.
Now me, I'm outspoken. I can't stay quiet when I witness injustices. I cannot let someone's humanity be questioned or threatened before me. I just can't do it. Like my cat, I know what is right for me and I know to be a self advocate... Little did I know even I could be silenced.
I was a sophomore in high school. I was out for a walk by myself and heard three guys coming up behind me and calling out to me, making comments about my body and such. I felt fear immediately, but I didn't know why, so I kept walking. They got closer and suddenly their words turned into actions. I was outnumbered, I was alone, and I was deactivated. Every part of me that had ever known to speak up somehow disappeared and there was no one around to turn to. I did not let it happen, it simply happened and I couldn't make it stop. They left me alone there. The last thing they yelled to me was "I hope you kill yourself, bitch" as they left me behind on foot.
All I thought to do after that was cry and pray. I prayed that they would one day realize what they had done and choose a better path. I didn't go to their school, but I knew where they went, so I made contact with their school to report what had happened to me. The only question they asked me about the incident was "Well... What were you wearing?" I told them it was a pink tank top and Abercrombie yoga pants. They told me I "should have known better."
End of investigation.
It's now three years later and I finally have stopped blaming myself. The growing public support toward sexual assault has been nothing short of eye opening and empowering to me...yet I still kept silent. Something about how I, one of the loudest of people, was rendered silent and defenseless speaks to the seriousness of sexual assault, and more importantly, that it is never the victim's fault. Leaving me alone to hear the words "I hope you kill yourself" and "should have known better" circulate around my traumatized head only made the pain last and keep me silent longer.
When I look back... I think about what I would change about that day and what I could have done differently. The reality is, in terms of preventing it, there's nothing else I could have done. I was disabled by the situation the same way anyone else would have been. The way I dressed was neither provocative nor by any means an excuse or invitation for their actions. The only thing I would have done differently is connect with a victim advocate sooner. That way, I could have had someone on the outside silencing the words clouding my head. I was incapable of pushing through that on my own, I needed someone else to pull me through.
The key to these issues is alliance. Alone we can be silenced but together we will not be ignored.