Tag: Sexual Assault

April Showers Remind Me of My Bill Cosby

Writing publicly is a scary thing. This is especially true of first-person narrative. Putting yourself out there. Myself, I dived into the blogging deep end.

My first real post was about being shoved face down into a pillow. Sexual assault. And this was before I had told my family or friends directly about what had happened years before. I had told a total of one single soul about it. When I first told the world of my story, shying away from the word rape, I was mighty nervous.

I wrote about my shame, my guilt, my non-reporting and the added guilt from that major lack of action. What I had done was to look him up online; I knew he was a Naval officer from Florida and a few other details. In his profile picture, he was eating a large hoagie sandwich pointed towards the camera. That hoagie I now connect loosely to Bill Cosby. I acknowledge that is odd of me to do. I still associate that hoagie with unrelenting tears.

In any case, one day years ago after stalking his profile for awhile, I intentionally let myself move on. I stopped stopping at his page cold turkey. I shut it out. Hoagie included. Even made the difficult decision to forget his name.

April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). And every year since I was assaulted, I have paid close attention to April, reflecting personally and trying to grow in my own awareness and supporting others.

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I should have paid more attention before my own assault, but I didn’t. Not until it happened to me. You are so right, Lady Gaga.

One’s family are often the hardest to tell. My friends who are spoken word artists and dancers have shared with me that they expressed their stories artistically and publicly before approaching the subject with those closest to them. It was the same for me. My parents first learned about this thing I was once so ashamed of by reading my blog. It turned out that several family and friends were inspired by my act to tell their own stories. I was far from alone in being a survivor, I was just the only one in the family to bring their story to a public space.

 

Nearly 1 in 5 women, and1 in 71 men, in the United States have experienced rape or attempted rape some time in their lives (Black et al., 2011).

Forms of sexual violence include • Rape or sexual assault • Child sexual assault and incest • Sexual assault by a person’s spouse or partner • Unwanted sexual contact/touching • Sexual harassment • Sexual exploitation and trafficking • Exposing one’s genitals or naked body to other(s) without consent • Masturbating in public • Watching someone in private acts without their knowledge or permission

Less than 2% of stories are false reports. And prevention is possible.

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All of us have a role to play in preventing sexual assault. We can:

  • Intervene to stop concerning behavior
  • Promote and model healthy attitudes and relationships
  • Share our own stories openly with family and friends
  • Believe survivors and help them in finding physical, mental, social, and legal support
  • Create and strengthen policies to promote safety
  • Assess and address the risks (to ourselves and others) in our environments (homes, clubs, campus parties, religious schools and institutions, businesses, military bases, post-conflict areas, Las Vegas, SnapChat, Tinder…)
  • Educate adolescents and young adults in how to combat rape culture and unhealthy sexual behaviors
  • Hold those who harm others (including our sons, uncles, nephews, fathers, aunts, sisters) accountable
  • Ensure that they get appropriate help
  • Promote positive messages and behaviors through marketing campaigns and advertising content
  • Invest funding to make sexual violence prevention a social responsibility priority
  • Use tweets, posts, and status updates to spread the word about Tuesday, April 5th, the national day for action.
  • Visit the SAAM blog for campaign updates and prevention resources: www.nsvrc.org/blogs/saam
  • Update online profiles or websites with a SAAM background, teal ribbon, or logo.

My start to blogging was surely intense. Sharing my stories publicly has been easier ever since. Life has also been easier in some ways since lightening that particular, loaded story that I now realize had been weighing me down. Life in my own skin is now more real (once I had shed that guarded surface) and life by a partner’s side is possible now that I can connect (once I had allowed for my nerves to truly carry by lifeblood/energy in and out). I can now see how writing about sexual assault made my life better. It was one of the scariest things I have ever done, but I would never have wished I had done otherwise.

So, now is the end of March and we have the beauty of Easter, Purim, Holla Mohalla, Nowruz… but less than a week before April begins. This post is meant to give everyone a running start into making Sexual Assault Awareness Month a beautiful thing. Spring renewal. Opening up our narrative like a blossom. This April, let the showers wash away guilt, shame, fear. Share what you have to share. Share this if you agree.

 

 

Don’t Touch Me, Mr. Akin.

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.

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