What is sexual assault?

Unfortunate and unpleasant events that I experienced this past Wednesday night made me realize that I might not know what sexual assault is and has me now asking this question. Womenshealth.gov defines sexual assault as:
Sexual assault and abuse is any type of sexual activity that you do not agree to, including:

  • inappropriate touching
  • vaginal, anal, or oral penetration
  • sexual intercourse that you say no to
  • rape
  • attempted rape
  • child molestation

Sexual assault can be verbal, visual, or anything that forces a person to join in unwanted sexual contact or attention. Examples of this are voyeurism (when someone watches private sexual acts), exhibitionism (when someone exposes him/herself in public), incest (sexual contact between family members), and sexual harassment.

Although I now realize that what I experienced could be classified on the milder end of what seems to be a spectrum covering everything from verbal sexual harassment to rape, a part of me knew I’d been assaulted almost immediately. In thinking about what happened the following day, I felt nauseated and disgusting. I cleaned my entire apartment, changed my sheets, washed my towels, took out all my trash. Showered. Despised the fact that my shower’s water pressure is pathetic and that the hot water doesn’t last very long. I could not concentrate on anything other than how gross and ashamed I felt and how much anger was building up inside of me. I was torn between not being able to think of anything else, replaying the night’s events in my head and physically shuddering and trying to block out every image from my mind as I did.  It made perfect sense to me then that so many assault and abuse victims develop OCD, eating disorders, and other mental health problems.  In fact, I think it’s pretty miraculous when they don’t.

My assault falls under inappropriate touching and unwanted sexual attention. I think the reason I was unsure as to label is as assault stemmed from how subtle it seemed at the time. What began as a seemingly harmless, albeit alcohol-induced massage turned into unwanted and repudiated sexual advances that, if not for my adamant repetition of “No”, use of and threat of additional force, and the two men who were involved having a very minute sense of morality, I could have been raped. And while I’m very glad I wasn’t, my experience brought with it overwhelming feelings of stupidity, shame, guilt, and disgust with myself. What made it worse was that I fucking drove the bastard home the next day(he crashed on my floor).

I received a text message on Thursday from the one I had first met (the other was his cousin whom I met that evening) wishing me a good day. I wanted to vomit. He sent me an email the day after that apologizing for “things getting out of hand” and saying that it had been bothering him a lot. I didn’t respond. I missed a call from him the day after that saying he’d left me two messages and wanted to check in to see how I was doing. I had been working on formulating a response to the email and finally sent it. In it, I asked that he never contact me again.

I’m hoping he doesn’t, but unfortunately, he still has access to my apartment community. I know for a fact that he came to the complex to get his mail (he used to live here but recently moved) over the weekend. Every time I walk outside, I pray that he’s not there. Every time I see a man who looks remotely like him, it makes me want to turn and run in the other direction or hide. The events of that night are what I think about before I fall asleep at night.

I considered contacting the police. Unfortunately, I have no evidence of what has happened. It would be my word against his (probably), and I have no desire to be made to feel even worse than I do. I made numerous mistakes that night that would be brought out into harsh light that I am already too aware of now. Never again will I go out with a man that I don’t know well alone (or with a friend of his) and let him drive. Never again will I agree to go out with a man after having consumed any amount of alcohol previously during the day. Never again will I go out so late at night with someone I do not know well. Never again will I let men I don’t know well into my apartment. I imagine I’ll add to this list.

When I think back on things I did – letting them into my apartment, going out so late, going out with people I don’t know well after I’d had several drinks already, letting them drive instead of meeting somewhere – I question what the hell I was thinking. A large part of me answers, “You weren’t.” But, we are always thinking something. I believe I was thinking that, to a degree, I was invincible (which is ridiculous in and of itself seeing as I’d just read The Gift of Fear and learned that 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted). I could control myself and/or the situation. I was powerful. And yet, in imagining I was more powerful than I really was, what I actually did was give any power I had away. And who’s to say how power is to be executed? What made me think that power meant overcoming two men who might get the wrong idea? Why couldn’t power have been wisdom to keep me from entering a potentially dangerous situation? How I had limited, you, power!

I’m still processing what happened, and I know that this processing will continue for potentially a long time. I’m considering seeing a counselor because I could foresee this spiraling into something I would like to prevent. I know this will affect how I view men and relationships and dating, though I’m not entirely sure how.

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6 thoughts on “What is sexual assault?

  1. We all do things that we will later regret. That does not mean that we did anything wrong. You did nothing wrong. They did. Do not allow feelings of guilt or shame to take the powerful role here. Why should you feel ashamed when it was someone else’s behavior that is shameful? The fact that women have to take the precautions they do to protect themselves from unwanted advances from men is shameful. We should not have to act or behave or be different than our nature tells us because others are unable to respect our personal boundaries.

    You are an incredibly strong woman whether you feel that way or not right now. I know the damage that can be done by the feelings you are trying to take on. Find the support you need, nurture that part of you that has been so deeply bruised so that it doesn’t turn into something much worse. Do not let this experience kill the fire and spirit you carry within.

    Sending you love, tears, hugs, support, understanding and honor for you and your pain, as well as your strength.

  2. Excellent post even though it was generated by such an unpleasant experience. Most people have no idea what sexual assault can be and so many are left to deal with the aftermath with no support.

  3. foxchild – “The fact that women have to take the precautions they do to protect themselves from unwanted advances from men is shameful. ”

    I wholly and completely agree. Thank you for your love, support, and friendship. I could not do this without you. :hugs:

    goldenferi – Thank you. It is amazing how subtle sexual assault can be and also that so many of us don’t even know how to define it. While it says something terrible about our society, I think all women should be educated with this information. Unfortunately, it seems a necessity.

  4. My sorrow is deep, Aerolin.

    You underwent a trauma of mind, body and spirit, and I hope you will seek out the support and counseling that is available to you. I believe it will make a huge difference. From your strength and place of strength you will have an impact on others throughout your life and use this to help other young women. Perhaps get involved in the support and counseling available to young women who have been sexually assaulted. Your evaluation of what occured, is invaluable to all women. 1 in 4 women are sexaully assaulted, 1 in 3 are physically or sexually assaulted. It’s appalling.

    You keep going and you keep making a difference. You will go on to help many others. In strength, not shame, MW

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