What steps do you take to avoid sexual assault?

Social researcher Jackson Katz asked hundreds of men what steps they took on a daily basis to avoid sexual assault.

Katz states:

“At first there’s a kind of awkward silence as the men try to figure out if they’ve been asked a trick question. Then the silence gives way to a smattering of nervous laughter. Occasionally a young guy will raise his hand and say ‘I stay out of prison.’ This is typically followed by another moment of laughter before someone finally raises his hand and soberly states ‘Nothing, I don’t think about it.’”

The column on the right is what women answer.

Misconception

I’m drawing a line in the sand. If you don’t support women, get the fuck off my page.

This morning I came across a video of Donald Trump speaking to the people of Mississippi that still has me shaking in anger. After Dr. Ford finished her testimony, President Donald Trump, stated Dr Ford had a very compelling testimony. The man then proceeded to turn around and make a mockery of her testimony while speaking to the people of Mississippi. Laughing with the crowd at the very words Dr Ford said.

As someone who recently had to stand and face her attacker while speaking to the events of a night I never want to remember but will never forget I am broken. I’m broken for Dr Ford, women and our nation as a whole.

The strength it takes to speak up, to sit across from the man who raped you, to be traumatized and victimized again and again just to speak up for what is right is gut wrenching. Nobody should have to sit through baseless “suggestions” from opposing council that you wanted to have sex with your attacker, that you wanted the attention or that you in fact convinced him to have sex with you. But we do. We do this because we don’t want anyone to ever endure what we have. Because we want that man to realize what happens in the dark will be brought to light. Because we’re letting men know that if they hurt us, there will be repercussions.

And for the women who support these men, the women who defend them? Shame on you. Shame on you for standing up for a monster. Shame on you for victimizing the victim. Shame on you for not looking at cold hard facts because you so desperately want to believe you son, husband, father or boyfriend isn’t capable of something like this. I’m disappointed in you not only as a woman but a human being.

Now I want to speak to the biggest misconception surrounding all of this:

JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE ISN’T CONVICTED DOES NOT MEAN THEY DID NOT COMMIT THE CRIME.

The system is broken. The odds are never in a victims favour despite being the victim because the government would prefer to let one rapist go than convict one innocent party. And for anyone who wants to argue that victims lie and these men are innocent I have some cold hard facts for you:

“Research for the Home Office suggests that only 4% of cases of sexual violence reported to the UK police are found or suspected to be false. Studies carried out in Europe and in the US indicate rates of between 2% and 6%.”

So why do we speak up? What’s the point? Why allow someone to berate us and tell us what their client is paying them to say didn’t happen? Why do we put ourselves through a year of waiting just to go to trial? Because we have to. Because we’re tired of this and the only way this changes is if we keep talking. The more we speak, the less our voice shakes.

Trials rarely fall in the victims favour but you know what? That man will think fucking twice before assaulting another woman.

I found my voice, I won’t lose it.

February 2, 2017

This is, bar none, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write. I’ve been putting this off out of fear. Fear that once I start I won’t be able to stop. Fear that writing this will create more wounds on my already battered soul and fear that I won’t be able to convey just how traumatic this experience has been.

Should I start by telling you that being raped caused me to have a mental breakdown and later left me suicidal? Or would you like to hear how it’s changed my relationship with my family forever? Or perhaps that I lost life-long friends out of both alienation and harassment? Or maybe, you’d like me to share how giving up on myself caused me to gain 50lbs and absolutely despise the reflection looking back at me in the mirror. There are so many points in which I could start with, how is one to choose?

To begin, I’d like to take you back to before I was raped on February 2, 2017. You see, if you’d have known me then, you would know that I’ve always struggled with my weight and self image. You’d know that I’ve always resented the person I saw in the mirror. I craved the attention and affection of others because it was sadly hard to come by. I carry words both men and women have said to me since I was a child. However, if you knew me you’d also know I reached a breaking point. That at 25 I decided enough was enough. There were a series of events in my life that were out of my control at the time, so I decided to regain some of that. From baby steps to large leaps I worked harder than ever before and accomplished losing 65lbs.

This accomplishment helped change my perspective on life. Sure, my body and life were far from perfect, but I learned over time that this was more than okay. I gained confidence, security and was ready to conquer the world. I became incredibly proud of who I was and was happy with how my life was turning out.

With my newfound outlook and weight loss came the attention and affection I once desired. I was no longer a ghost in my own life. And, overtime I began to realize I didn’t need the attention and affection of others. All that mattered was how I felt about myself. It hurts me to tell you that there was a vast difference in how I was treated while obese to when I was thinner. Enduring this first hand had left me determined to remain humble. In short, I chose to see the good in people and take them for face value for everyone deserves a chance.

Following February 2nd, 2017, this changed.

I’m no longer proud of my accomplishments.

More often, I find myself resenting them. Perhaps if I were still 200lbs this wouldn’t have happened often creeped into my mind. I wanted to go back. I wanted to be the sick, miserable person I was before because in my mind, being a ghost in my own life was better than this kind of attention. I began to cover up as much as I could. I closed myself off from getting to know anyone. I loathe attention and affection of any sort and still do to this day.

I cannot tell you what it’s like to loathe the person you’ve worked so hard to become. Not only did I have a hard time appreciating my triumphs, they brought me a significant amount of anxiety.

Determined to undermine what I had become, I did my best to avoid being seen and heard and retreat into myself. From avoiding people, to dressing in dark clothing with hats and sunglasses as large as my face. I wanted the least amount of attention as possible. I wanted to go back. I wanted to be ignored. Daily tasks became hurdles I had to overcome. Walking around in public left me shifty and weary of my surroundings for months. Untrusting of the person who would serve me coffee or the man walking down on the opposite side of the street. Being hyperaware every second of everyday became increasingly exhausting. To the point that I struggled with leaving my home.  To the point where I let my life fall back into the pit of self hatred, to the point of regaining 50lbs.

This monster, who I never want to remember but will never forget has left me to be a prisoner in my own life. He creeps his way into my thoughts on what are said to be my “better” days and has sabotaged my accomplishments, my life, and the lives of those around me. You ask me to explain in detail how this monster has impacted my life and the truth? This horrendous event hasn’t just impacted my life. It’s impacted the lives of the people that surround me. This has shattered the lives of my loved ones to depths I will never be able to repair. My father, during my breakdown, had to witness his baby girl fall apart in the middle of the street. My mother, the strongest woman I’ll ever know, dealt with the brunt of my anger and frustration. My sister, who I lived with at the time, had to bare witness my downward spiral and having the police respond to fearful suicide watch calls without any real grasp as to what was happening and my best friend? My best friend put her life on the back burner trying to support me to the point where it took a toll on not just her mental but also her physical health. I pushed people away. I cut others out. I harassed friends on my darkest days and alienated them on the others. You see, when you’re in it, you don’t understand. You don’t see it.

It’s hard for me to sit here and admit that I had a mental breakdown. To admit that I was suicidal. To tell you in my darkest hours I’ve said some of the most heinous things to the ones that I love. It hurts me to say that I’ve spent a lot of time the past eight months resenting and blaming the people who stuck by me for where I am today. I now realize that if it weren’t for them I probably wouldn’t be here. All that has happened wasn’t out of punishment rather it was out of love and support. They were working for me not against me. I can’t bare the thought that I pushed them beyond their breaking point time and time again. They’ve had a front row seat in my life slowly falling apart and in saying this my heart breaks but also swells knowing they never gave up on me despite having given up on myself.

And now? They sit on the sidelines in hopes that I rebuild all while living in a constant state of fear. Fear that I will be swallowed by the depths in which I fall. Fear that I haven’t fully recovered. Fear that they cannot protect me every second of every day. They don’t say this, but I know. I know from the rapid depletion of my father’s health over the past six months. I know from the way my mother now looks at me. I know from the words my best friend will and will not say.

I miss my life. I miss my friends and the girl who truly felt as if she had life figured out. It wasn’t perfect, but she embraced it knowing that didn’t matter. I often breakdown because all I want is to go back. To rekindle the friendships. To regain that confidence. To my job that I loved. To being proud of the reflection in the mirror for she embraced her flaws. Now when I look in the mirror I see an empty shell. I often tell those who are close to me that if you shook me, I would sound hollow. That the echoes in my body would carry on for a life time. I find myself struggling to move forward because all I want is to go back. I miss my life and who I was but in writing this I’ve come to realize there is no going back. That I am no longer the same person I was before my life quite literally fell apart nor will I ever be. I am forever changed by these events and all I can do now is learn to live with them. They are as much a part of me as the blood that runs through my veins.

The events over the past year weigh me down more than I’ll ever be able to convey. I have many regrets, but I now know that I’ve carried this guilt for far too long. With tears running down my face I now see that all of this is not my fault. I realize that this, this is the impact this monster has had on not only my life but the ones I love.

On February 2, 2017, I was raped by a monster and this is how it’s impacted my life.

What would make you happy?

I sit here with this question ringing in my head since a friend so bluntly asked me this on Friday.

“I don’t know.”

I sat there struggling to find words because I realized I have no idea.  I continued to tell him that I don’t know if I will ever feel happy again. I explained that I may appear happy, angry or even sad but I don’t feel it. I don’t feel it inside. I feel nothing. I feel like an empty vessel. I think if you shook me I would sound hollow and the echoes would carry on forever.

I began to sob and without thinking he pulled me towards him wrapping his arms around me. We sat there for what felt like a lifetime in silence while I sobbed on his shoulder aching to feel something. Anything.