My story starts like so many others I’ve heard… I was in college. I was drunk. It was late. There was a boy. I should have known better.
Those last 5 words are the ones that hurt the most. Not because they are true, but because I believed they were true.
Because I believed so many others believed they were true. So many people I could have turned to for help, but didn’t because of the shame surrounding those 5 words.
The police officer who stopped me as I walked home with no shoes and a torn shirt. He asked me if I had been drinking and gave me a hard time because I didn’t have my purse (I left it behind as I ran out of his house once he passed out) and I didn’t have my ID to prove my age. I remember thinking “WHY AREN’T YOU WORRIED ABOUT WHERE MY SHOES ARE AND WHAT HAPPENED TO MY SHIRT AND WHY I’M CRYING?” But I didn’t say anything before he left, because I kept thinking, “I should have known better”.
The roommate who drove me back to his house the next morning to get my things. When I sat terrified on the front seat when we pulled up, and I begged her to go inside and get them for me, I thought to myself, “WHY AREN’T YOU ASKING WHAT REALLY HAPPENED, AND IF I’M OK?” But I never told her the truth because I kept thinking, “I should have known better”.
The friends and family and boyfriends and now husband I have in my life who support me as a mother of 3 sons, an activist, a feminist, and a champion for women’s rights as I fight in the movement to end violence against women. When I commit my life to offering survivors of violence a voice, and I don’t feel I have one myself, I ask myself, “WHEN AM I GOING TO ADMIT THAT ITS NOT MY FAULT?”
It’s not my fault that I was out drinking with my friends.
It’s not my fault that he tricked me into going to a party with his friends, that ended up not being a party at all, but rather an empty house where he attacked me once his friends gave him the wink and left.
It’s not my fault that I was too terrified to report it to the officer because he caught me off guard by his lack of compassion and disinterest in my crisis.
It’s not my fault that I never told my friends, because all I really wanted was for it to go away.
It’s not my fault that I don’t talk about my experience to my peers and family, in an effort to champion victims experiences. Because it’s not my fault that I still feel shame.
Because those 5 words are pervasive in this rape culture we live in, and those 5 words are what keep us silent.