Being Breath

stories from the wilderness of everyday life

A Story That Needs To Be Told.

In light of the Orlando tragedy, this post feels trivial and unimportant. I am like a deer in headlights, uncertain of what to say or how to move in response. Gun laws, LGBT protection, voting, sharing my voice – all important, yes, but I’ve already been doing that. The story that was being told before this tragedy is the one where I feel I can make a difference right now. Therefore, in full love and acknowledgement of those suffering because of the Orlando shootings, I move forward with the telling of this story.

Image credits: Pixabay

 

Oh how I’ve debated about sharing this. But I’ve learned the power of a story. The power to motivate, to inspire, to move. In this case, the story holds an extremely important power: to let someone else feel that  "I’m not alone". I’m NOT ALONE in this.

If this story reaches one other woman who releases tears she’s been holding in for months or years, or allows even one woman to breathe easier because she knows her thoughts, her experiences are not unique to her – that someone else MIGHT understand – then this will have been more than worth the time and vulnerability.

This isn’t a pretty story. But it is time to stop hiding behind our pretty stories and posed Facebook and Instagram photos. It is in the telling and listening to stories like these that we begin to see ourselves, and to see ourselves in others. Through this, we all heal.

I’ve written this over several days and through several moods. I had no idea how much there was to still process. I’ve been angry, sad, at a loss for words…and I’ve kept writing through all of it. While some points may feel disjointed, they are a reflection of the truths as I continue to sort through all of this.

A warning: You will almost surely be repulsed by this story at first. All I ask is that you hold off on judgment and that you keep reading until the end. Allow me to tell my story in full so that you may understand…so that you see as I have.

 

You’ve heard the story of the recently publicized sexual assault at Stanford and the subsequent trial. If not, you can read the story here. Learn about the event, the trial, and the public outrage. Read Brock’s father’s defense of his son here. And take the time to read the victim’s powerful statement here. Then continue on with this.

 

Every time I see another story in the media about this, or read someone else sharing their opinion on the matter, I feel a FIRE in my gut. A burst, a SAY SOMETHING. And not just a “like” on Facebook or a random rant, but say THIS. Tell my story.

I need to tell it, and someone needs to hear it.

 

My initial reaction to the story, after reading only the story of the event and the trial:

I understood the father’s defense. I almost agreed with the verdict.

I heard, ‘ a 20-minute act’ and ‘I had too much to drink and made a mistake’ – and I understood. I thought I did.

Please, please, please keep reading.

My reaction stopped me. How was it possible that I was feeling his way?

I scoured social media for comments on the verdict. Everyone - everyone - was furious. I wanted to find just one comment that justified why I felt this way, why the judge had been right in his sentencing. I was so confused.

please, keep reading.

I’ve done stupid things under the influence of alcohol. I’ve been lustful. But what was actually causing me to understand, to shake my head in possible agreement was far worse. Far more ingrained, far more disturbing when I allowed myself to acknowledge it.

I believed it because it was the story I told myself after it happened to me.

Too much to drink, and it just happened.

 

It’s the story I’ve told myself for years.

 

So many nights ago, this story had a beginning.

Once upon a party, I had too much to drink. I don’t remember actually drinking that much – only 2 or so – but apparently I did. I’d arrived at a hotel room party with some friends, joining others with whom I was at least acquainted.

I remember arriving, having a couple of drinks, and then waking up in the middle of the night in a different hotel room.

It was dark, I was hazy, and I was naked.

And there was a man with his face between my legs.

I knew him, I’d met him before this, but this – this wasn’t supposed to be happening. I knew that much at least. I remember saying no – slurring the no, over and over, trying to push away his head. He didn’t stop.

Was I saying it forcefully enough? Maybe not. I didn’t know, I didn’t care. At that point, I just knew this wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to go back to sleep.

And I did.

I woke the next morning in that same bed with that same man sleeping beside me. Still naked.

There were 2 other people in another bed beside us – a married couple who’d also attended the party. Disoriented and still confused as to how I got there, I stumbled up and tried to locate every item of clothing that I could without waking any of them.

I left that room to find the hotel room in which I’d started the night, to find the friend with whom I’d arrived.

I was either still too buzzed to remember what happened in the next hour or so, or my mind has erased a few painful memories to spare me the rehashing of them.

What I do know:

-          The ‘friend’ with whom I’d arrived later told me that she and a mutual friend of ours had moved me to that hotel room and undressed me, ‘because they thought I’d be more comfortable’.

-          I tried to discuss the events the next day with other acquaintances that had attended the party – if only so I could fill in the gaps in what had happened. I remember the woman to whom I was talking telling me, “We don’t discuss what happened the night before. What happens at these parties stays at these parties

-          My then-boyfriend, who had not been at the party, blamed it on me, telling me that I shouldn’t have had so much to drink.

-          I never confronted the man whose face had looked up at mine that night. I didn’t discuss it with my ‘friend’ again. I rarely, if ever, brought up that night again with anyone.

Over the years, I distanced myself more and more from that night. It felt, and still feels, as if it were another person who lived through it.

In the process of writing this, I’ve had to re-enter that woman. It is not something anyone would ever choose to do - to be in that position. 

Every time I try to relive that night, to image what she (I) was feeling, to try to remember what she (I) felt in the weeks after, I cringe and my mind tries to think of something – anything – else.

Whether or not I’ve acknowledged it, that is a deep part of my being. I’ve had (have) scars that influenced thoughts, relationships, dreams, visions of my own value and worth, my body image… All from one night, oh so many years ago.

(I remember thinking that night, there in the dark, should I just enjoy this? It is not something I’d ever want to admit, but I’m going all-out-honest here. An incessant need to please other over me, the realization that “no” wasn’t working, that I was frightened and confused and so tired that I wasn’t going anywhere, so…? That that thought might be completely fucked up doesn’t matter. It happened. And it led to fine, I have no control over my body. )

I disconnected myself from that night and from my body. My body became a tool – something not for my pleasure, but for someone else’s pleasure.

The victim in the Stanford case wrote, “My damage was internal, unseen, I carry it with me. You took away my worth, my privacy, my energy, my time, my safety, my intimacy, my confidence, my own voice, until today.

She and I, and so many others, walking with unseen damage.

 

There are many things to which I want to directly respond regarding the Brock Turner case. Those responses are part of the story, like a dialogue that is crucial to understanding the characters. This is not a dialogue with the characters of that story, however, it is a dialogue with the woman who is reading this who needs to hear it.

My responses are the beginning of a story with you.

 

1)      The victim in this case, in discussing meeting her sister immediately after going to the hospital after the assault, wrote: “Instinctively and immediately, I wanted to take away her pain. I smiled at her, I told her to look at me, I’m right here, I’m okay, everything’s okay, I’m right here.”

I’ve done this for YEARS. I still do this. Instinctively, I want to make others feel comfortable. To answer, “it’s okay” – even when I’m not fully feeling that way.

Recently, for whatever reason, the fire within me has been burning away that instinct. It still remains, but I am certainly fanning that fire. To other recovering people pleasers: It’s time to stop saying, “it’s ok” if it isn’t. You owe that to yourself AND to the other person.

I’m telling my story because I’m tired of telling myself, “it’s okay”.

It’s not fucking okay.

I can’t change what happened that night, nor who I became because of it. I can’t re-do the years of staying quiet. What I can do is tell my story now. I can hopefully reach just one other person, one other woman (or man) who needs to hear this….who will find their own way out of the confines of “it’s okay”.

2)      The victim also wrote, “I was not only told that I was assaulted, I was told that because I couldn’t remember, I technically could not prove it was unwanted.

This initially terrified me. I couldn’t remember what happened after I blacked out in the hotel. Initially, I thought that meant I MIGHT have been consenting, drunkenly, all along. I’m still struggling with this, but the amazing “tea analogy” that has been shared around social media is a perfect explanation for why I couldn’t have consented. And if I didn’t consent, it was assault / rape.

(Please - watch that video here)

3)      In response to Brock saying, “Being drunk I just couldn’t make the best decisions and neither could she”, the victim responded, “Alcohol is not an excuse. Is it a factor? Yes. But alcohol was not the one who stripped me, fingered me, had my head dragging against the ground, with me almost fully naked. …..We were both drunk, the difference is I did not take off your pants and underwear, touch you inappropriately, and run away. That’s the difference.”

I’ve kept playing this over and over in my head. I apparently made a poor decision to drink too much. I’ve held myself in blame for what happened next because of that. But as she said, when I was drunk, I did not aggressively attack another. I passed out. If someone would have just carried me to bed, or had to drive me home that night, I could have apologized for my selfish actions and moved on. But someone (many someones) didn’t. They moved me, undressed me, … and honestly, beyond what I remember of that one man, I don’t know what else was done to me that night.

 

4)      Brock Turner’s father wrote, “His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.

This is the phrase that, at first, I nodded my head to. I felt sympathy for him. I thought, “yes, I understand. 20 minutes and his life is ruined. Too much to drink, a stupid night, and everything he has done in his life is down the drain. All because of a choice he made.

That. THAT is what came to mind. Not HER life is ruined. Not too much to drink, a stupid night, and everything she ever thought about herself has been altered. Everything she felt about her body, safety, sexuality, intimacy, … everything she will think and feel from here on out is forever scarred. And this is all because of a choice that SOMEONE ELSE made. It wasn’t the alcohol that forever changed her. It was the assault.

SHE doesn't have the option to serve time and move on. Her scars are permanent.

 

5)      A friend of Brock Turner’s also wrote a statement of support for him. It is this one that punched me in the gut when I read it, because it was my frightened voice in print. It was everything that I’d told myself over the past many years. She wrote, “I don’t think it’s fair to base the fate of the next ten+ years of his life on the decision of a girl who doesn’t remember anything but the amount she drank to press charges against him.”

 “The woman recalls how much alcohol she drank, which was a lot. She was no doubt about to black out if not already. I’m sure she and Brock had been flirting at this party and decided to leave together. Just as they did she passes out, which after that many drinks, anyone would. At the same time, Brock, having a few too many drinks himself, is not completely in control of his emotions. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that alcohol increases emotions and feelings. I think this is all a huge misunderstanding.”

I don’t even know where to begin. “Alcohol increase emotions and feelings”, and of course, they both had too much. I’ve been blaming myself for years. Too much to drink. I am the girl who “doesn’t remember anything but the amount she drank”. Or at least I thought I was.

The victim in this case remembers waking in the hospital and the humiliating experiences she went through, the pain – physical and psychological. She remembers the stories that have been told, that are being told.

She “re-members” – she brings it into the being of herself.

She remembers a lot more than the amount she drank.

I remember the top of his head. I remember the feeling of my hand in his hair as I’m pushing against his head, trying to push it away.

I remember saying no so many times.

I remember the confusion, the humiliation, the rejection of my story when I shared it, the blame. I brought it all into my being.

I remember.

I obviously wasn’t “in control of my emotions” that night. But I didn’t assault anyone. That night, I didn’t forever scar anyone else.

 

That friend also wrote, “This is completely different from a woman getting kidnapped and raped as she is walking to her car in a parking lot. That is a rapist. These are not rapists. These are idiot boys and girls having too much to drink and not being aware of their surroundings and having clouded judgement. I’m not saying that is every case because I know there are young men that take advantage of young women and vice versa, but I know for a fact that Brock is not one of those people. He is respectful and caring, talented, and smart enough to know better.”

Since I have started writing this, new evidence has emerged that Brock took photos of the victim before and during the assault and sent those photos to friends. This evidence is obviously disturbing, but certainly adds to the character of a “rapist”.

I have had an extremely difficult time calling what happened to me a “rape”, because it looks nothing like what other rape victims share. I wasn’t forcefully assaulted several nights by my father or tied up somewhere and aggressively raped. I drank too much, passed out, and woke up naked with someone going down on me. Is that rape? Technically, yes. There was obviously no conscious consent. But descriptions like these above make me question myself. Were we just idiot boys and girls having too much to drink and having clouded judgment? Yes, yes we were.

But one (or more) of those boys / girls are also more than idiots. At least one is a rapist.

It has taken me days to write this. I will never have said all that I need to say, but there needs to be an ending – a pause where I open the story for you to read.

Thank you for reading until the end.

I want to add my deep gratitude for the victim, whose brave words inspired me to move forward with the telling of this story.

May my words ripple out and influence someone else to finally feel free to tell their own story.

May the effects of these stories create enough change so that stories like these never again need to be told.