3 year anniversary

Today marks the third anniversary of my last sexual assault. Or as I often refer to it internally, the last time I was drugged, raped, and belittled. But ya know, the first part sounds better. It rolls off the tongue easier and it sounds better to the common ear. Nobody wants to know somebody who’s been drugged and raped when they were incoherent. Nobody wants to know someone directly that has gone through such darkness. And I couldn’t even blame it on the alcohol like Jamie Foxx likes to claim in that one song back in high school. At least not fully. After all, he did put something similar to GHB in my water.

But anyway, every year I get further and further away from the actual incident, I feel the need to celebrate. Not necessarily the act itself but more so the act of surviving it. Celebrating the awful every year is a reminder in itself that I survived. That I made it through another year. It’s been difficult beyond belief and there have been times where I’ve wanted to crawl into a corner, hide away, and sometimes even stop existing. Over these past three years, I’ve drank myself silly, gotten myself into precarious situations, and have tried almost every unhealthy method of healing possible. But recently, something changed. I realized that subconsciously, I was still making myself out to be a victim. I was still making myself out to be somehow less than because of this heinous event. I was giving the monster and the events too much credit and myself nowhere near enough. And I was tired of feeling less than. Even though I was mostly comfortable talking about it and have never shyed away from having a conversation about it, I was still disassociating myself from it and still hadn’t accepted the fact that it was my time to run the Rocky stairs and take more initiative.

Being raped three years ago was the worst thing that’s happened to me. And I’ve been through a lot. This assault was the most difficult to navigate healing, and emotionally draining every time I tried to talk about it with a partner. For obvious reasons, I’m sure, also being diagnosed with PTSD didn’t exactly make things easier either. But what made the decision to actively become a survivor instead of navigating the murky water of the survivor/victim dichotomy was strangely enough, a weekend in Chicago.

I was at a friend’s wedding and I broke when I got to my hotel room. Chicago was the place where I celebrated one year and it was also the place where I had to file a restraining order against my attacker. It brought up so many painful memories and though I had good friends in town as well, I didn’t have my support system. And I hadn’t actively prepared myself for being back in that environment again. So I reverted back to old methods. I had too many vodka sodas and not enough food. I detached myself from feeling during an immensely important event and I was hurting. I was trying to jailbreak avoided emotions and I was having flashbacks in a place where I didn’t feel safe. This sounds overdramatic and like I should have just gotten over it, sure. And broken mental health is not an excuse to be a shitty person.

So what I realized over this weekend was that I was using my personal experiences of being assaulted and being a victim to be a shitty person. To not actively put my self care first and foremost was making me lash out and take it out on people who didn’t deserve it. I was living a vicious cycle of replaying the past when I could have been channeling that anger and sadness into something else. So this year, I’ve decided to shift the conversation and change the narrative in my own head about what happened.

I can never change what happened to me. I can never take back that night and make it different. And to be honest, I firmly believe that we are dealt the cards we are meant to handle. Whether you believe in God, Allah, Buddha, or the great oak trees, we are given some sort of grace and expectation. And I’m nervous about my journey ahead but also strangely excited. I finally feel at a point where I can take on the narrative I am meant to live out and maybe I’ll finally teach these demons in the late night dark corners to jig.

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Anxiety Levels

I thought the anxiety levels were normal. I mean, who doesn’t need a beer before socializing with certain people to calm their nerves? That’s totally normal and kosher, right? The more I analyze triggers, the more overwhelming they seem. Maybe it’s because I’ve avoided dealing with them for so long. Or maybe because I thought deflection and avoidance were keys to success. But i guess that doesn’t work long term. It’s become habit to self sabotage, deflect, and make jokes before dealing with emotions. And i’m such an unbelievable pro at it, sometimes it’s even a little concerning just how good I am at it. But maybe, even with all this self sabotage and deflection, I’m still worth it. I’m still worth something, even without a touch of Maybelline.

I don’t know what to do with all these feelings. I didn’t necessarily like it better when I was numb and avoided anything. But i knew what to do. It was familiar and comfortable even. I knew what to expect. Being numb is easy. It’s everything I knew for close to 20 years and I’m damn good at it. Maybe that’s the experience talking or the underlying triggers I haven’t avoided yet.

But I do know that even with the scars, the commitment issues, and  the like, I’ve still made it this far. I’ve still made something, no matter how slight, of myself. And though I’m absolutely terrified to see where this journey takes me, I’m really actually excited to see where real, honest to Jesus healing takes me. Because even though being numb is comfortable, i think my body is finally demanding some answers. And scar tissue only lasts so long.

TW: date rape, sexual violence, rape

Dear 24,

So you were just date raped a month after your birthday at the cutest bar you’ve seen in the Valley yet. You don’t remember much after a couple hours in. You know it wasn’t the Blue Moons because you watched the bartender open the bottles & you had one an hour plus you had a huge meal before hand. And yeah, he was attractive with that freshly groomed beard of his. He pulled out your chair and said you looked beautiful in a dress you usually wore to work once a week. Yeah, he served our country as an engineer. And yeah, he diffused some IEDs that probably saved some lives in the process. He works on rockets now, and you assume he still does because it’s been some time since you blocked him from calling every week. But you went up to his room because you somehow were transported to a house party. And you just wanted to go home to sleep. Next thing you know, he’s bent you over the bed that smells like the sheets have just came out of the laundry. All you wanted was space to breathe and figure out how to get home to Hollywood. You didn’t want to be assaulted and if you even wanted to use the back door at all, at least he could have used some lube to start.

You grabbed the bed and screamed “Get off me. No, holy fuck no. I don’t want this” but that only made his grip that much tighter. Nobody in the house heard you, or at least they didn’t come barging through the door to help you. You were immobile, I get it.  You said no but he still went for it. He can’t use the defense that he didn’t know you didn’t wanted it or that you changed your mind. You set it halfway through the date and there was precedence that you weren’t on board.

Just don’t go to his apartment again, even though you were looking for his roommate to give you your stuff back to burn at a bonfire next week. He’ll be there and he’ll grab you by the arm and try again. He’ll still push you against the wall when you say no and he’ll still try to seduce you. Don’t believe any of it and leave as soon as you can. And call 911, power through the panic attack at the police station parking lot, and fill out the paperwork.

But remember this. This was not, is not, and will never be your fault. You said no before, during, and even after. You showered the scum off your skin with water probably hot enough to burn Satan off somebody’s soul. He didn’t listen — he covered your mouth with an old t-shirt for Christ sake — and he will always be the monster in this. He will never come out the good guy, no matter how many voicemails he leaves you or texts he sends, saying it’s the best sex he’s ever had.

It’s like your mom reminds you when you say you had another nightmare. You can’t let the bastards win. And monsters only haunt closets as long as you feed them.

Love, me

If you’ve been raped or sexually assaulted, please call 911, visit your nearest emergency room, or call RAINN at 1-800-656-4673.

Trauma

Every time you speak about sexual violence you’ve experienced, you get this look from people that’s half pity half not knowing what to say and with a dash of something else that goes beyond words. People are usually well intentioned in their responses – because after all, saying the right thing usually never happens – but every so often, there’s a person who equates it to being your fault. That you somehow brought it on yourself and that the person who committed the crime is blameless or didn’t really mean to do it. But like with every negative comment, those are the ones that stick with you the most. Because you’re often already saying that to yourself, whether or not you’re aware of it. The look itself is hard to communicate in words but you know it when you see it. You get used to it after a while.

For me, the last time I was sexually assaulted, I went into a tailspin fueled by shame, guilt, and a garden variety of other emotions. I had already been through this type of violence thrice before so I thought I had a handle on the aftermath—but looking back, you never really do have a handle on it. At least, not at first. But something about this time, about being drugged on a first date while I told him no several times before, during, and after really set me off. I did everything you’re supposed to do. I wore modest clothing, I didn’t flirt too much, and I told him no. I fought back. And he, being the monster that he was, still attacked me.

It took a while for me to start going towards the light and realize that I couldn’t do this on my own. I started associating more with people that understoof and would help remind me that the PTSD diagnosis wasn’t a be all-end all. It was just a chemical imbalance working against my favour. It wasn’t a death sentence, even when it felt like it. Or when I couldn’t find the oh shit bar to hold on to in order to find the light.

Though it’s vastly uncomfortable, speaking about my experience with sexual violence has helped tremendously. It helps break the stigma of what a rape victim is ‘supposed’ to look like, because my experiences are not the cookie cutter variety. And if there’s anything I’ve learned from fellow survivors, it’s that the shame and the guilt of not having the ‘perfect scenario’ will often stay with you for longer than expected. Often times, the perfect scenario we’re looking for doesn’t exist, nor do I think it ever will. There is no cookie cutter version that wins every court case and brings every rapist to justice. And the shame comes out of the woodwork at the strangest times. It gets easier, sure, but some days are fantastic and other days, well, you need a pint of ice cream, a good support system, and a way to get the pain out without hurting yourself. And I’ll be honest, I’m still working on it. Some days, I do well, and other days, the guilt is that overbearing helicopter parent we all wish we didn’t have.

But all in all, speaking about it and challenging people when they wonder why people don’t report, I ask them whom they blame first. Do they blame the victim or do they blame the perpetrator? More often than not, they say the former. Our first instinct is to victim blame because that’s what we’re taught in social circles, in movies, or in other forms of media. The stereotype of a sexual assault victim is a woman in going out clothes that’s attacked by a stranger in an alleyway late at night. Watch any Law & Order SVU episode in one of the early seasons and half the time, this is what happens. So it’s not totally their fault for blaming the victim first. But it is incredibly contradictory when we question survivors’ stories and then blame them for not reporting it and taking another assailant off the streets. It’s a nuanced crime that is the only one I can think of where the victim is often more questioned than the suspect and perpetrator.

And its often because our own bias why survivors don’t immediately come forward. We’re – at least I was – often more worried about anticipated questions of what we were doing wrong more in correlation to questions about the person who violated us in the most intimate of ways. We’re worried that we’ll be part of the statistic majority where our perpetrator goes free, instead of the minority where they get time behind bars.

Sexual violence is a messed up crime. It’s one that’s complicated, nuanced, and often far more twisted than anyone can really understand, unless you’ve been through this act of violence. It tears at you and affects more parts of your life than you can anticipate. And it often comes back to visit when you’re at a good point in your life. Sure, you’ll have ways of dealing with it head on when the bad days come, but that doesn’t mean the trauma still won’t try to throw you for a loop.

So how do we actually protect the survivors and help bring the assailants to real, honest, and legal justice? We believe them. We believe their stories. We throw the book at the rapists. And we realize that we have wronged them in the past but we can commit to doing better, even when it’s uncomfortable and even when it’s difficult. We protect them and we help them understand it has never been nor will it ever be their fault. And that there is no one way to experience sexual violence. But there is one way to treat the survivors–with respect, dignity, and your belief in them.

Taking a look at the women’s march on Washington that is currently happening globally, I wish I could be in the thick of it, linked arm in arm with other women, with fellow allies, with fellow countrymen. But I’m sitting in a coffee shop here in Texas, worried about political involvement in my uterus , in our healthcare system and in our jail cells while drinking fair trade coffee, getting over a cold, and trying to helplessly find organizations to donate time & money to instead. I’m listening to music that goes beyond inspiration and resolution and am reminding myself to speak up, to speak out, and to intentionally listen to commentary and livelihoods that differ than mine.

I started Dear July in part because I was desperate. I was having nightmares, falling on bad habits, and trying to remind myself constantly that I’m better than this, that this terrible event does not and will not ever define my steadfast humanity. I started Dear July because I wanted people to realize that sexual assault and gender violence knows no boundaries. It knows no colour, no status, no barriers of any sort. And I am better at getting my words out on paper than verbally out loud. I am better with a pen than I am with a sword. And I am mightier when I am vigilant and when I am learning.

Dear July is my version of a call to action. A call that this goes so much thicker, murkier, and grosser than anyone who hasn’t been through it knows the depth of. I’m not rational when I talk about this, I can’t think with a clear mind when I do. I’m too close to the subject matter and am vehemently angry when somebody can’t see that we have a long way to go in terms of getting people to report, actually believing them when they do, and having people actually uphold the law when they’re prosecuted and are found guilty by a group of their peers.

This women’s march on Washington has me utterly invigorated, inspired, and in need of revamping so that Dear July can be an adequate place for information, help, and so much more. Leave a comment below of what you think would be the most helpful for getting someone out of sexual violence as well as reputable sources for anyone looking for help!

3 most asked questions and my common answers

Ever since coming forward about my history with sexual violence, I’ve seemed to get a few questions on repeat. And though I have my go to answers if the audience either isn’t willing for me to take them down the rabbit hole or if I’m not up for the excursion, it still never gets easier to answer when a grumpy old man asks “well honey, boys have their needs too. You must have been wearing something tight to show off that young body” and you just want to scream, “No, you senile old man, I said no. That should have been enough” but you have to be polite because, well, old people.

The most common questions I get are often “Well, what were you wearing?”, “Why didn’t you trust your gut?” and “How do you feel about mandatory minimum sentencing for rape and sexual violence?” I’ll break these down below.

 

When someone asks “What were you wearing?” or something to that effect, they’re expecting to me respond with “Oh, something slutty”. They’re usually hoping that they can simplify an assault down to what I was wearing, as if that justifies that at all. So usually, people are surprised when I answer “A knee length dress, flats, and a blazer, not like it matters.”

 

Why didn’t you trust your gut? When I was trying to leave, I asked for water and was in the middle of calling a cab so I could get home safely. And it still happened. But usually I say “Trusting your gut isn’t always indicative of a violent assault, and I was in the middle of trying to leave”

 

And finally, the most challenging one to answer, How do you feel about mandatory minimum sentencing? To put it simply, hell yeah! The way our justice system views sexual assault and violence is absolutely absurd. Though there are laws and rules in place, it’s still immensely a gray area and up to the lawyers, judges, and juries to shift their perceived blame from the survivor to the perpetrator. And though I am all for putting these vile scumbags behind bars for life, I am also realistic and know that this will take time, it will take effort, and people’s minds don’t change overnight. It’s why you hear “he’s such a great swimmer, athelete, scholar, etc, This would ruin his life” more so than you hear “She deserves our empathy and help. This man took something from her she can never get back”.

 

At some point, I’ll make a post of how to spot rape culture in all its raging glory and how to combat it head on but this post is long enough. I’ll also create a post of the 10 most common questions I get that dives into my answers more so. Happy holidays everyone, hope you’re venturing into a safe environment, and if you aren’t, I am holding all the good faith and sending all the love your way.

 

You deserve a good life. You deserve to take up space. And you deserve to heal on your own terms.

This will be the first in a series of letters to either the month or perpetrator in real sexual assaults. There will be frank discussion of sexual violence & assault so be prepared. Take care of yourself first.

Dear July 11 (and a little of July 13th too),

I wish you never happened. I wish that we could have just gone our separate ways when the sun went down and came up the next day. But you just had to be a pain in the ass, didn’t you? Quite literally and figuratively, if you get what I’m saying. I don’t think I sat right for almost a week. And I think there was blood.

So why didn’t I go to the hospital? Or at least a police station? Because the guy was a rocket engineer. Apparently they’re not actually scientists like we all thought before. He quite literally worked on rockets that go into space, if they don’t blow up once they launch that is. He free-lanced in Iraq for the Army as an engineer, making sure their guns worked right and that God forbid, if they needed a bomb, it went off on time and in the right way. And had almost zero chance of causing friendly fire. So you see, a spry short woman that talked a lot of shit wouldn’t have much motive to be believed. Because after all, though he didn’t wear a uniform, he still served our country. He still furthers our space program And he still has more letters after my name than I do. It wouldn’t have mattered if I said I wasn’t going to sleep with him or that he said that he was convincing enough, even if the answer was still no all the way until the end.

As soon as my gut started saying I should go, my head said, “You should probably get a glass of water and get some air. You should be good to drive, but 4 drinks over a few hours, you never know” and that’s when things start getting hazy. It was the first time all night I hadn’t watched my drink or seen the bartender pour it himself. But after all, what’s going to happen with a glass of water? Who in their right mind would drug a glass of water? Doesn’t that usually happen with mixed drinks or at a frat party? That’s what I thought too, until that night.

Next thing I knew, he was bending me over the bed, ripping my underwear off, and I froze. I couldn’t move. I didn’t know why what was happening was happening, and I didn’t know how to stop it. Then I woke up, sore and ripped. I knew what had happened but I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe someone who worked on rockets for a respectable company would do something to someone who said no, fuck no, get off me, and thought sticking his dick where the sun don’t shine was an acceptable response. Because, clearly, that’s what good people do to nice girls in work dresses, flats, and a reasonably nice blazer. Right?

Why on Earth did you choose me? I’ve already been through this, why did I have to go through this again? Was it because none of my exes really raped me, they just tried to? And you wanted to let me know how it really felt to have something so personal get so violated? I’ve been asking why for so long now that I don’t think i’m ever going to get an answer anytime soon. It’s like group said, we may never understand why we were chosen but we were. And it doesn’t diminish our shine any less just because some fucktard decided to take what wasn’t his.

Anyway, I left early the next morning, stunned and in shock, only to go back to bed and take a steaming hot shower when I got home. That’s why I realized that I forgot my blazer and need it back so I could burn it. And then he raped me again. So I left, showered, and tried to forget, all over again.

But I guess, it’s like the nurse I mentioned to at the hospital after intense stomach pain that I might have PTSD because of some rocket engineer raped me, that I’m such a pretty young girl and it’s clear that any man would want me in his bed any day of the week. And that I should be thankful an engineer wanted me, of any other broad he could have had, . Or the off duty cop that said I’m too good looking for my own good. I shouldn’t open my mouth unless someone’s standing at attention. And I really should try not bringing so much attention to myself, while I’m not wearing any makeup.  But I think it’s the looks they gave me that really got me. That I was broken, that I was feeble, and that I was over-reacting. That feeling disgusting or broken after being sexually violated was somehow an inappropriate response.

It’s so good to know that, even two years later, people don’t know your name but they seem to still think your dick is God and has an open door policy anywhere it’d like to go. And I can’t help but think how lucky I am to be alive. It’s nice to know that even though you were the worst weekend of my life, I’m still standing, and I’m still finding my way. But I’m not going back to you. And I wish I filed charges or at least had some sort of evidence against you besides some burned embers of a dress but I don’t. So I’m finding my own way. And I like to think that every day I get up, I say “Not today, Satan, not today”

If you’ve been sexually assaulted, please for the love of all things holy, call someone. Call 911. Call RAINN. Call somebody. You deserve help and you deserve justice. And I will always believe you, even if you think it’s a complicated hot mess. I believe you and I always will.