A Survivor of Sexual Violence Talks About Why She's Voting This November

Shortly after Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed for the Supreme Court, I got a tweet from a young woman I know personally but hadn't heard from in a while. She shared with me that she had been a victim of rape and assault (something I didn't know about her before) and that the Kavanaugh hearings, and especially the treatment of Christine Blasey Ford, had stirred up all the trauma she still dealt with. I asked if she would be willing to write something about what she's been feeling. That's the piece below. Just a heads up: it is a long read, but it's well worth it.

She wants to remain anonymous (and some details are changed or obscured to keep it that way), but she is very real. And her very real perspective is that Republicans screwed up big time in pushing Kavanaugh. The writer here wants to put the GOP on notice that women are done with this shit, and she wants November to be a reckoning on what men, especially conservative men, have put women through these last couple of years.

I'll shut up now and turn it over to her

A few years ago, I found myself walking into a fancy gala thrown by my college. Most of my peers would be there; I walked in, seemingly feeling confident in a pretty dress, anticipating seeing my boss and my coworkers. Truthfully, the only reason I went was because I had never gotten an invite to this gala, and I wanted to experience it just once (I’d heard that the food is pretty amazing). I found my coworkers and greeted them, but my eyes would wander around the room and around the balcony with an intensity I had never had. I had a classic case of denial, which I had gone back and forth with for months. I found my eventual seat, but then I wandered into the bathroom, crying and hoping I wouldn’t be noticed, or that this would just end soon. I knew just leaving would seem odd, so I decided to stay, despite the fact the person who sexually assaulted me was attending this gala.

Later that evening, I had composed myself, but I still watched the room with the same intensity. I had casual conversations, and I felt like I was permanently set on “flight” mode; finally, someone noticed my unease and offered to talk to me. I started crying. But I didn't reveal why I was watching or looking or even specifically what was wrong. My boss came over and said she wanted all of my coworkers and me to take a photo together. If there was ever a time I wanted to run out the door, it was that moment.

And then, there he was, upon my boss’s request for us to all take a photo together; I found myself within feet of the person who violated me. I was close to just telling her our coworker had emotionally abused me and sexually assaulted me just a few months ago. But there were too many people, and he was within earshot.

I told my boss I didn't want to be in the photo and tried to quietly escape, but she was insistent: she loved all of us, and I had to be in the photo. I found the very opposite side of the crowd, as far from him as I could be, and forced a half-assed smile across my face.

 While this photo was being taken, I thought to myself, “If I ever came forward with this assault, this picture would be used against me.” People would wonder what kind of stupid woman takes a photo with her sexual assailant in it. Why didn't she just, as they say, say, "no" and stick to it? Immediately after the photo, I found myself feeling violated.

Nobody, at that point, knew I had been sexually assaulted.

I am a little bit of a veteran on this topic; that is not something I find easy to deal with and I'm not remotely over any of this. I've gone as far to say to people I have a trauma resume.

At age 13-14, I was stalked online by a boy who told me he would hunt me down, marry me, and beat me on the weekends. That is only some of the fucked up shit he told me. I had to entirely cut myself off from the world. I had to cut off my emails, any and all accounts, because he would find me and pretend he was somebody else. He would find my email and send me pornographic images, and he repeatedly threatened me.

 For a year and a half, I had limited access to the outside world aside from going to school, a place he was absent from because it was cyber-stalking and I had figured out he was from a different state. I had been connected with him from an internet forum a friend of mine made. My parents found out about this because they noticed I was acting oddly. They saw the messages and called the police. The police said it "wasn't a big deal.” They hadn't even really looked at the evidence I gave them, which was numerous emails and chat messages showing what he was saying and doing. I know this because I gave them these materials where he said his supposed name, and I told them his name was in those messages. But they said they didn't know if it was his real name, so they couldn't act upon it. As a kid, I let this go quietly into the night; I hadn’t realized the gravity of their words and their inaction.

I was graceful. I didn't talk about it for probably five years because how the fuck do you talk about that? Who the fuck do you talk about that to? I mean, yes, a therapist, but, I mean real people. At 14, maybe 15 (this went on for over a year, almost two years), how many people your age are there who can possibly understand what it is to be stalked?

Statistically, after one victimization (such as stalking or sexual assault), you are more likely to experience a victimization or sexual crime in the future. I have experienced sexual violence twice. Once raped, once assaulted. Both times were clear-cut situations that could not be misconstrued.

When I was 14, I thought that was the worst of men I would see. I thought it couldn't get any worse. I thought my stalker was something special, some kind of special demon hell-spawn that was limited to his mother's basement and his dial-up internet connection as he traumatized girls (I knew another girl who he had done this to). I really thought maybe I’d seen the worst of men. Apparently not.

My first assailant, the man I tried to avoid at the gala, was a successful college student who did cutting-edge research in a field of science, who had seen a Title IX presentation on sexual harassment a combined 40 times at this job where I was his co-worker. This is where we met and subsequently dated.

He invited me to an empty house when his parents and siblings went away to an amusement park. He began wanting to do things I had seen in pornographic images. I said no. I cried. I begged. I explained I was stalked and had issues with these things; he told me I was letting him take the fall for what someone else had done. I was gaslighted, manipulated, and pressured in an unfamiliar house with all the lights off and cornered on a bed. He continued anyway. I feared this would escalate to rape since he began bringing up sex and kept putting his arms around me against my will. I left that house feeling as violated as I had felt the day I talked to the police. I decided to wash away my evidence. His father is a cop who would use his power against me. He would not idly stand by as a crazy woman accused his son of sexual assault.

A few months after the gala, I told the co-workers who had been there, asking them for advice. There was a terrifying proposition I had learned about: the school was running a campaign against littering, and several students’ faces would be plastered on posters throughout the school. My assailant volunteered, and his photo was taken. I wanted to know what school employee I should approach if his picture was about to be hung all over my campus’s walls. I had planned on countering this by posting sexual assault awareness stickers on his face on all of the posters if I came forward and I was ignored, but luckily the campaign never printed the posters.

My assailant is now a high school teacher.

There is a reason I am telling these stories. I’ll get there.

I recovered from the assault, only to be raped by a different man a couple years later. Much like before, I was manipulated, gaslighted, and pressured while dating this man. He cried because I wouldn't have sex with him. He threatened me, too. He told me I was abnormal because we hadn’t had sex. Still, I said to stop. I whined in pain and quite literally felt myself separating from reality after I had told him to stop enough times that I soon realized it was useless.

I won’t be going into any more details.

This man-child was a well-liked student at my college. I had met him through an extracurricular event I volunteered for at my school. Everyone I spoke to seemed to genuinely enjoy his presence. I asked everyone I knew if they knew who he was and what they thought of him. One person went as far as to call him a "sweetheart.” I won’t name him, as I am hoping he becomes irrelevant to the world for the rest of his life, and he is a person I genuinely fear.

The things these stories have in common is that they act as a rebuttal for every idiotic suggestion made in the last week about or toward Christine Blasey Ford.

Why didn't she report it?

Well, I did once. The cops couldn't be bothered to actually look through evidence in detail because it wasn't a "big deal,” and they didn’t think he should have to register as a sex offender because he was a “young dumb kid.” They thought I should just talk to him and tell him to stop. Yes, these are things I was really told. Because of their inaction, he continued to harass me long after their “investigation,” fully knowing the police had investigated him. (I had informed him in an attempt to get him to stop.)

Why didn't she say no?

Well, I did. It didn't matter. In any situation.

Why didn’t she tell anyone?

It was five years before I spoke about being stalked to anyone. I spoke about the latter experiences much sooner because, you know, experience and all with sexual crimes, and after I was stalked I learned more about them.

Why didn't she tell her parents?

My parents only know I was stalked, and that’s only because they saw something and the cops were called. I would have otherwise not told them. Nobody in my immediate family knows about the other two experiences, at least in detail, and I have never admitted something occurred even as they have tried to unravel my sudden sexual assault activism.

Why doesn't she remember the date?

I don't remember the dates of any of these events. I figured out the approximate date, but I didn't exactly mark "Sexual Assault Anniversary" on my calendar. I also cannot remember anything that happened the rest of the day.

Why are you so scared of them if it was so long ago?

It doesn’t matter it happened 20 years ago or 5 years ago. I still fear the last assailant the most. I always will.

We can sit here and comb through every horrible statement made by Republican senators until I die at my computer (or, I guess, maybe get assaulted again). As I watched Brett Kavanaugh cry and blither at his hearing, I saw my rapist crying and I saw his same manipulation tactics. I heard his words in Kavanaugh's. I had a relapse in symptoms. I started freaking out when I went to locations where I had been with my rapist that I visit almost daily because it's on my commute to school. I started having nightmares again.

It all came flooding back because of the constant questions I found myself answering in my head for Christine Ford because of old white men and Susan Collins. And my responses are nothing special: I echo the responses of many sexual assault victims who are sitting silently with their traumas haunting them daily, or at least every time we nominate another sexual assailant to a high position in politics.

Speaking of the senator from Maine, Susan Collins reminded me of how, when I told friends of mine about my assaults, they asked me when I would get over it. Some people even told me they didn't want to be my friend any longer due to the severity of my trauma.

Susan Collins reminded me of why my assailants are wandering around without consequence.

Susan Collins reminded me of why the cops didn't think my stalking was at all serious. She later stated that Ford was assaulted but not by Kavanaugh. I have never known who my stalker is (there's no certainty the stalker gave me his real name) and that is a terrifying reality. I do not walk around claiming some man was my stalker willy-nilly. I may never know who he is or what he looks like or where he lives.

But I also have two situations where I know who they are, and for Susan Collins to think these two situations are the same is offensive to every survivor out there. Their faces and their voices are burned into my memory and are perhaps the most haunting aspect of these events; I could not forget it if I tried.

Susan Collins standing up there praising Kavanaugh is no different than when I told people what these men did to me and they refused to believe it because he's a "nice guy.” I argued with people. I cut people from my life. All because they refused to think someone can be different behind a closed door.

I woke up the Friday morning after hearing Kavanaugh and Ford feeling nauseous and defeated. I went to bed that night seething with rage.

All I have learned is when you have evidence, it's not enough. Not a big deal. When you tell friends, it's not enough. He's a nice guy. They could be lying because they're friends with the victim or assailant. Maybe they don't remember being told or don't want to come forward. When you even do a rape kit, it's not enough. You might have said yes. There is always some counter argument, unless you are wearing a camera. So unless walls become sentient and can soon testify, it is near impossible to have real corroborating evidence. And even then, it might have just been a normal night for the four walls where this took place, so they might not remember it.

To add insult to injury, the two assailants would not think they did anything wrong and would deny my accounts. (The stalker actually emailed me and apologized five years later, which is a weird as shit way to apologize considering he stalked me and still had one of my emails a half-decade later; I did not accept his apologies.)

And don’t mistake my anger for hatred of men. I do not hate men. I hate the rape culture they have fostered. Both of the men who committed these sexual crimes identified as Democrats and even sometimes called themselves feminists. There is a very real issue with men thinking sexual crimes are limited to dark alleys and the full intention of raping someone, instead of realizing the world does not fucking revolve around them when a woman says no.

I hate that Republicans have decided to turn #MeToo into #NotHim and blatantly deny the existence of this culture. Men on both sides of the political aisle are responsible for the collective trauma of women, but there is a big difference between an assailant resigning in disgrace, such as Al Franken, and another getting elected as president or serving on the highest court in the land.

I am coming forward with my traumatic stories in all of my anonymous "glory" - for the lack of a better word - because I am still seething with rage. I am tired of every idiot with a mouth and half of a brain giving me an opinion on what sexual assault is like and when it doesn't matter anymore.

Republicans, by disparaging Christine Ford, you have disparaged all sexual assault survivors. You have forced us to answer to society once again. We went to work and heard people talking about Kavanaugh. We went to the doctor and saw Ford crying on the waiting room television. We sat at family dinners and listened to opinions of people we know and love and realized we could never reveal what happened to us to them. And please, don't tell me about the falsely accused, because a false accusation is rare.

The investigation of Kavanaugh was a sham, and all of the horribly insulting things you said to survivors who were strong enough to come out in record numbers will not be forgotten. My faith in the system has never been lower; in fact, my faith is nonexistent. You have disparaged us for the last time.

I am pissed. I am coming forward. And I will not soon forget the circus you have put us through. Although I've stopped short of detailing these events publicly, I am getting more vocal, trying to tell people what sexual assault is really like.

Let's just hope one of us activists reaches your daughters and granddaughters before a predator does, senators, since they're the only women you care about anyway.

Republicans, I will vote for, campaign for, and donate to your future Democratic opponent with the same level of rage I felt when America told me my trauma wasn't as important as a man's reputation.

And please, don't you forget it. I won’t.