If you’ve had the privilege to date me, you know I’m weird, lovely but weird. Not a hand holder.

I’m the survivor of sexual assault. I don’t use the word rape because I feel guilty. Not an innocent victim. Went reluctantly but not-forcibly to the hotel room of a Navy man years ago. Was inebriated enough that I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. I got myself into that unsafe bed, and as I was being pushed face-down into that pillow, my body propped into a position I know I didn’t put it into, and my limbs were unable to put up any fight at all, I remembered the PSAs I grew up with. For some reason, I thought if I could only manage to get out the word ‘No’ it all would stop. When that ‘No’ didn’t work, I just laid there and cried.

I walked home from that hotel room alone and quivering around 3am. I recovered quickly. That Navy man must have went back to Florida, unreported. I finally told someone about it three years later. And now I am writing it in public and for the young women and parents out there.

I am guessing what I went through Mr. Akin would consider “illegitimate.” I guess there were other times I should have said no to other men. Should have had the confidence to say no, make them wait.

I should not have walked into that essence shop in Cairo alone last year, where an older gentlemen would proceed to press himself against me.

Speaking of Cairo. That’s also why I’m writing this.

I am headed there next week. And will stay for 5-8 months. This city is known for sexual harassment. Once read that 98% of foreign women report some sort of sexual harassment. Egyptian women are themselves fighting for their rights while also fighting for their freedom. I will join them in my capacity as a foreign woman trying to hold her own independence, strength and worth.

I am sexy. I am an amazing and caring lady.

Costa Rica 2011

 

I am also a dancer who spent her entire childhood looking into a mirror. Was so self-conscious about my fat thighs. Hated much about my appearance. Like most gals I knew.

Last Thanksgiving, I went to Costa Rica. I asked a stranger to take a picture of me in a bikini and I posted it online. Not a huge deal. Others post images of them in less, as performers, as artists, as vacationers. But this was an achievement for me. This was when I felt comfortable with my body. The moment I felt I could be a nice girl and a proud woman at the same time. I didn’t post the picture so that men would react. I posted it for me. To feel strong. It felt good.

It was a long journey after that Navy man; to be able to love and to be able to be left. To understand that my body was mine.

When someone tries to define rape into categories, my guilt pops back up and hounds me. Am I the “illegitimate” one he’s talking about? Should I cover more or less of myself when in Egypt? Does anyone care if I am really proud of shoulders and calves, prefer not to wear sleeves and long skirts all the time? Do I not have a choice? Do I respect their culture, or do I respect myself, or do I have to struggle to find a balance?

If I cover myself every day, will I lose confidence in my body?

My standard of being a decent woman is not a Muslim one. Or a Christian one. My standard of goodness is self-inflicted. As part of humanity. As a teacher and role model for others, of all genders and sexualities. As a dancer.

I will go to Cairo. And I will be amazing.

19 comments on “Don’t Touch Me, Mr. Akin.

  • سأهب ألي شقكة وساط قي وسبوين.

    I don’t know if you even speak Arabic, and probably not so you’ll never notice my horrible spelling, but I am also going to the middle east…I’m going in two weeks, and as a sexual assault victim and a woman, and an American, I have also wondered how to deal with the almost universal self image problems and my desire to have shoulders and calves hang out. I’m going to Jordan, not Egypt, but I suspect I’ll have some of the same issues. I want to dive in Israel, go to Egypt and be on the beach in far less than a Burka. I am going alone, for a study abroad while my husband and children wait for my 8 months of learning to finally come to an end. It’s going to be hard. But I too will be amazing.

  • THANK YOU! This really touched me. I was 13 when it happened to me. Babysitting. A female friend was helping me and she invited over some guys. Something I would never have done. When I was done sitting, we went to their place. He was making advances. I said no. Over and over. I pushed, I hit, I kicked, I rolled him off of me. He got more aggressive and violent. Then I thought about how I would explain the bruises to my family, at school to my other friends… 9 months later I had a little precious baby girl. She is 25 now and amazing! It is such a hard thing to deal with. Being called all the names they call young girls that are pregnant. I cant imagine not having a choice. My parents had wants, but let me decided. At that age I couldn’t fathom putting my baby up for adoption, or abortion, but how would I support her??? My family helped so much. It really angers me to think that any woman would be told she wasn’t really raped, and forced to have her rapists child. Although, if you do choose to have the child, NEVER look at your child as anything less than sheer perfection. Or you will have lost again.

  • I read this post through the Mary Tyler Mom page. Just wanted to say thank you. I shouldn’t have gone into that basement, and I shouldn’t have been there alone and drunk. But I was. Maybe I should have said “NO” more and cried less? I suppose mine was “illegitimate” as well then. Unreported. Unacknowledged by me for years, except with guilt. Im glad she wrote this. It was actually therapeutic for me to read in a strange way. I dont talk about it much, but i am glad im not alone in my strange form of guilt….thank you again for posting this. We shouldnt be ashamed of ourselves. we should be proud and not afraid….

  • Thank you for your courage to post this and to Mary Tyler Mom for sharing the link.

    To address your Navy man experience: you exercised poor judgment but that does not make what he did right. A good man would have put a blanket over you and slept in a chair. The man you were with did a bad thing to you.

    As for Cairo, I did an two week internship there. That was a few years ago, so I don’t know what has changed since the revolution. I will say it is the only place I’ve been where I was uncomfortable going out on my own, specifically without a man. The one time I was going to try to explore on my own I headed back to my hotel after 10 uncomfortable minutes after having rude noises made at me by a variety of men including the city police and the US Embassy guards. (At least at that time US Marines guarded the interior of the Embassy, but Egyptian officers guarded the perimeter.)

    I tell you that not because I want to scare your or dissuade you from going. I tell you because I want you to steel yourself because you may be faced with some very uncomfortable situations. I hope your are not, but I want you to be prepared just in case. Good luck. I hope you have an amazing time. (I found Cairo fascinating despite the uncomfortable situations.)

  • I was 20 and still a virgin. He was in the Army, an old friend from childhood. I made the 14 hour drive to visit him on base after I worked all night. By the time I got there I was hungry and exhausted. I got there. He didn’t give me time to eat, just locked the door, blared the music, and threw me on the bed before I knew what was happening. I was confused, ashamed, scared. I was crying and yelling no. Nobody could hear. When he was finished some of his buddies came to the door. He threw a brush at me and said, “Do something with yourself.” This was 26 years ago. I finally said something 7 years ago when my brother was going to invite him to his wedding…I couldn’t bear to face him. For the most part my family was supportive but some of them said, “What did you expect?” I’m not sure what I expected but I certainly didn’t expect to be raped. There, I said it. I was raped. I’m sorry to ramble but thank you for being brave enough to tell your story. I cried because it made me think of mine. I rarely talk about it. And my husband (of 12 years) has a hard time understanding sometimes. But he puts up with my issues and loves me for me.

  • We’ve all been there, on both sides. Was she drunk, sure. Did I like her, you know it. But real men know when she’s drunk and throwing herself at you because of it. Real men know when she’s passed out and needs help.

    Rapists know how to make a person vulnerable. Rapists know only what they want. It doesn’t matter what you wear, how much you drank, how long you knew them, or where you went. It is the rapists’ fault, not yours.

    A real man never would have put you in that position. I know, I tucked her in, kissed her forehead and walked away.

  • I saw this Tweet from Violence Unsilenced in case you’d like to share your story with a wider audience:
    @VUnSilenced Are you a survivor/blogger who wrote about Akin this week? Email links to webmaster@violenceunsilenced if you’d like to share.

  • Your journey shared with all of us shows us your power. Keep sharing your experiences in your own words and we will continue to learn from you.

  • I gave in, but it was still rape! And in the armed forces culture here, so many women have been assaulted. Was in the news alot, now it’s all quiet again! Stay strong! And glad to say I’ve taught my 14 year old daughter to defend herself, apart from the fact her older brother would kill them! An unwise choice is not a reason to rape!

  • I just read this, and I just want to say thank you, realllllly thank you, for sharing. I worked with dozens of women who were sexually assaulted, most of whom by men who were their “friends,” and who have felt so conflicted and sometimes even destroyed since. I’ve had my own experiences with abuse and unhealthy relationships with men that brought me to a) be involved in women’s rights, whether case work or advocacy and b) report on these issues — and I just want to thank you for sharing your story, it’s so brave and always more difficult to tell your own story, and hearing how far you’ve come is really inspiring — for me in my own issues, I’m not there yet, but hearing your story and seeing women like you who are facing their issues but demanding a healthy life and taking control back gives me hope that I’ll be there some day too.

    –Anonymous

  • Just wanted to give my support! I’ve been in Cairo for almost a year now. I am not a survivor like you, but I am a feminist, and I do believe that there is no such thing as “illegitimate rape”, there is only consensual and non-consensual, and if you did not consent, then it is definitely rape. So i say all power to you for overcoming the hardships, loving your body, and taking risks and living life to the fullest. As for the sexual harassment, it is difficult. It still irks me that I can’t wear proper clothes for the weather. I have a hard time in general to give up traits of my personality to adapt, especially if they conflict with my principles. Despite what you wear, you will still get harassed simply for being a woman, but sometimes covering more might draw less attention and save you from some harassment. Choose the area well! I always think of the parents of the men who harass women, particularly the mother who teaches her child that she herself has no value outside of her body. It is surely a shame. Above all, trust yourself and what you feel!

  • (Trigger warning)

    I was 23 and the guy was a boyfriend I’d been seeing for just about 3 weeks — we’d had consensual sex together, but then he’d started doing things like lying about using condoms (he’d say he’d put one on, but then I’d realize he hadn’t.) He’d also been very selfish and cruel and dismissive at times. I was brand new in the country, didn’t speak the language, was sick, and didn’t have much money or many friends. He’d come into my life like a guardian angel at first, helping me when I got lost. He always hosted travelers from around the world, and at first it seemed like he was a hospitable, generous guy. Now I realize he just wanted to be seen that way so he had power and could deny accusations of cruelty.

    He’d been dismissive of me that morning when I was upset about missing my family, so when he tried to initiate sex, I wasn’t feeling overly amorous. I told him to touch me instead of having intercourse. He did that half-heartedly for two or three minutes, then flipped me over and got on top and forced himself into me. It hurt, and I told him to stop, but he didn’t. He wouldn’t listen. I finally pushed him off, and thankfully he didn’t try it again. I started crying even more, but I hadn’t consciously realized what he’d done was rape. I was just upset that he was treating me badly. He tried to soothe me for a minute, then left abruptly and got on his computer to mess around. I kept crying, thinking he was coming back. When I realized he was not returning to the room, I grabbed my stuff, told him I was leaving, and ran away. I cried for a long time, but it wasn’t for many months I realized the name of what he’d done.

    I still don’t feel like I was a “legitimate” victim. Akin sure wouldn’t think so. I’d had sex with the guy before and I was in his bed engaging in sexual activity when he did it. In so many people’s eyes, my “no” wasn’t legitimate, not something to respect. In their thinking, I wasn’t an innocent victim: I had it coming, I should have expected it.

    Due to that, I have trouble calling it rape. It was also short and not too physically painful afterwards, so I feel like I didn’t have it too bad compared to others. Classic minimizing… I wouldn’t say such things about someone else’s experience, but I have about mine. I also was mad at myself for hanging around with him after the first signs of trouble, but I was young and vulnerable and confused. I only saw him one time after that, at a party, and I realized there that he truly was a selfish jerk. So at least I got myself out quickly.

    It’s been over 3 years now, and I’m in a much better place. For a while I had a lot of trouble with intimacy and it was hard for my current boyfriend to understand. I’m mostly okay now, although every now and then it hits me. I’ve tried to channel my feelings into being kind to others and fighting for women’s rights and against rape of all kinds. (Sometimes I have to take care of myself, though, and duck out from advocacy for a bit.) Thank you for sharing your story. It’s very hard to do so, and I’ve never shared mine publicly with my name attached. But I believe our stories are part of a loud chorus of voices rising up against violence and rape. We’re sisters (and brothers) fighting a good fight. I wish you the best in your continued work!

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