Sexual assault

Once again the headlines tell us that another powerful man has spent decades sexually assaulting women. This story is so common that it is people’s shocked reaction that’s surprising.

Women are open targets and nobody wants to talk about how common this is for females on this planet.

The combination of being taught to be nice girls and to please others and not to get angry, combined with the refusal of others to acknowledge something this horrible is happening, makes the circumstances perfect for assault. Not to mention the fact that we are rarely believed and are put through such an embarrassing and shaming process it’s easier to keep our mouths shut and pretend it didn’t happen.

There are women in my life who I know for a fact were victims of incest when they were younger. What I find interesting is these women are the first ones to scream ‘gold digger!’ when a woman accuses an athlete of assault. They also say things like ‘I don’t have many female friends because I don’t trust them. I trust men way more than I do women.’ It sounds impossible, doesn’t it? But it’s the strangest thing, and I admit that before I worked on healing my own traumas I felt somewhat the same way. A professional might be able to explain it better, but what I see happening is when we’re assaulted we blame ourselves and that blame turns into self-hatred and self-rejection. We display that outwardly by hating and rejecting other women. Sometimes covertly and sometimes overtly.

People were shocked at the amount of hatred and venom directed toward Hillary Clinton in the last election. I wasn’t. It’s easy to get women to hate another woman when deep down they hate themselves. She was just the outward projection of our own self-hate.

Every woman you know has a story of being violated in one way or another. She may not want to admit it, but when pressed she’ll say, “well, there was this one time,” or she says things like, “well, this happened but it was no big deal,” because that’s how we live with it; by minimizing it.

I could fill pages with the incidents that happened in my lifetime, but here are just a few of the times I was assaulted to varying degrees;

When I was eight whenever I went to my friend’s house her Uncle would grab me and pull me to him and repeatedly kiss me and hug me really hard in a strong grip and I couldn’t get away. The adults would say, “he really loves kids!”

The summer after my freshman year of high school I got drunk at our block party and blacked out. When I came to I was being sexually assaulted by two boys who had been my friends since first grade. A group of boys that I had also known my whole life were watching and laughing. I remained friends with these boys for years afterward.

When I was twenty I hired a lawyer to do some legal work for me. He always scheduled my appointments right before lunch so when I walked in he’d say ‘let’s go to lunch.’ I would go with him and then spend the lunch feigning off his advances and suggestions that we ‘go to his boat so he could play with my tits.’

Just this past summer I was having a great time at a concert with some relatives and friends. As I was listening to the band and dancing I felt someone grab my ass in both hands and squeeze and shake it really hard. I thought it was my female cousin goofing around until I heard my sister say ‘hey!’ That’s when I turned and realized it was a male friend that had come to the concert with us. A married male friend whose wife was in the bathroom.

This is a small sampling of a lifetime of incidents. I promise you, every woman you know has a story. We rarely even mention the catcalls that are yelled at us as we’re simply walking down the street because it’s become an accepted behavior.

A female learns early how to keep functioning among the males who assault us verbally and physically. Very often it starts with a family member. Sometimes we tell and usually not much is done. Some measures might be taken but more often we’re just told to stay away from that relative. The shame and turmoil it would cause in the family is harder to face than just keeping it a secret and brushing it under the rug.

So we go out in the world and encounter other men and situations as we go to school, live our lives and make a living. We learned in childhood how to bury these assaults and keep functioning, so we do that in the outside world as well.

What is a woman to do when she’s trying to further her career but has to put up with sexual bullshit from the man who is her boss? Or when she’s trying to support her kids alone and needs the job? Or a student has a teacher who is preying on her? The same thing she learned to do in childhood with the males who assaulted her; she deals with it by burying it and soldiering on.

It’s mind-boggling when people say, “Why didn’t she call the police or tell someone? If it happened then why did she keep working with him?’ Seriously? Pay attention to the reactions of people when women do come forward. It’s no wonder 2 out of 3 rapes go unreported. Who wants to deal with the shame and scrutiny?

Look at how many women come forward to publicly accuse these men of decades of abuse, and still there’s doubt that the women are telling the truth. One powerful man gets the benefit of the doubt over dozens of women. We have given them a pass for decades.

We even elect them president.

I shake my head when the men in my life say, “That won’t happen to my daughter. I’ve taught her to be strong and she has great self-esteem!” Yes, low self-esteem is the reason someone is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds in this country. Not to mention this is another subtle way of laying the blame at the victim’s feet. If only she’d had better self-esteem!

It’s long past the time for an honest conversation about what we’ve swept under the rug and accepted as the price we pay for being female in this world.

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