#MeToo (Trigger Warning)

I have been thinking about sharing my story for many years. With the #Metoo movement trending, I think now may be the time. I am not looking for sympathy or pity. I am not looking for attention. And I feel a little pissed that I need to even say that I am not. What I am doing is sharing my story so that some can garner a greater understanding on how violence, sexual assault, and misconception is rampant in our culture. I am one of countless women you will encounter in your life time who have been changed forever by someone who is abusive. We have been told to be quiet about it. We have been told we will be judged about what happened to us. We have been told that it was our fault. We have been told that if we share we might be a preexisting condition. We have been told our story is not a worthy of a public audience. I reject what I have been told. I now share my story.

I have been raped 2 times in my life. The first time was when I was 17 years old. It would be considered date rape since I knew my attacker. He created a circumstance which lead to me having to spend the night at his house. We were just “friends”. I trusted him. In the middle of the night he attacked me. I froze. I did not move, I did not scream. I was paralyzed. My temporary paralysis made it a little difficult for him. But he kept trying. I remember falling back asleep with tears streaking down my face afraid to move.

When he drove me home the next morning, I did not speak a word to him. But he had a mouthful to say to me. He told me that if I said a word about it, he will tell everyone I am a whore. They would believe him because his family had money and I would be trying to ruin his reputation. He also said that I had to have lunch with him every week or he would tell everyone what happened. He picked me up at school every week for “lunch”. I would sit there and barely speak, he would go on and on about whatever. When he would drop me back off at school, he would always threaten me.

It took about 3 months for me to tell someone else what had happened. But once I did, it felt like a great weight had been lifted and that next week was the first time I did not go out to lunch. As soon as someone else knew my story, it did not feel like  it was a secret anymore and I no longer cared who he told. I don’t think he ever told anyone. But I sure did, even those who refused to believe me. But I let him torture me for 3 months.

The assault itself was bad. Yet, it was the emotional trauma I suffered week after week that did me in.  And the only reason I even told anyone was because my best friend saw a change in me and asked what was going on. Her and her mother listened and gave me support and the strength to stand up for myself.

The second time I was raped was in Milwaukee, WI at the GenCon gaming convention. I was 20 years old. I do not want to go into all the details. This event touched many lives and many that may read this blog. I do not want to trigger them.

I was raped by a stranger who got access to the hotel room I was staying at. I was heavily intoxicated from the night before. I was passed out. I was awoken by my friends asking me if I wanted that creep on top of me. (A bunch of us shared a hotel room at the convention.) I was not fully aware of what was going on. I awoke hours later by myself in the room. I knew something was wrong. My body felt violated. I had a foggy memory and pain in places I should not. Confused and emotional, I took a shower to wipe off the feeling of being dirty off. (Did not know I should not take a shower.)

Later I began to put the pieces together. Several people were coming up to me an asking if I was ok. Once I had confirmation as to what happened to me, I feel apart. I called my boyfriend at the time. He could not understand me and thought I told him that I cheated on him. It took one of my friends telling him they were taking me to the Police Station for him to fully grasp the situation. He eventually met me at the hospital.

At that time, Wisconsin law stated that you could give consent intoxicated. Therefore, even though I did not know the person and had witnesses, the police would not even going to question the individual. They said I could of consented and not remember. The rapist was from a well-established family in Milwaukee who was doing his residency as a medical doctor at the local VA hospital. Did I want to ruin his life? My rapist was also known to my witnesses. He was helping run the convention and was friends with the organizers. When my friends went to the organizers of the conference, the organizers took my rapists side and let him stay at the conference.

I still went to the hospital and had a rape kit done. My boyfriend at the time met me at the hospital. I stupidly insisted to stay at the conference because I was not going to let some asshole ruin my vacation. (Probably made this choice because of the first rape.) My boyfriend booked a room and regaled me with boring stories of WWII military maneuvers so I would fall asleep.

The next day, I was going to my friend’s hotel room to meet a bunch of people for dinner. I was in the elevator and a floor later my rapist stepped in. The elevator was packed with people. But I will never forget that ride up a few floors which seemed like forever. I got to my friend’s room, broke down and asked him to take me home. That night three of my male friends drove me back to Chicago.

This time I told my parents. I was soon in counseling. This counseling would last on and off for years. I would get triggered and have to go back. I could not sleep. I was scared of being in hotel rooms. It affected my relationships. At times, it affected my work when I was working in university housing.

Today, I am strong. I get triggered less often and when I do, I recognize it. I don’t watch certain movies. I still have the occasional issues with hotel rooms. I have a loving partner who is supportive and understanding. I have many friends who made sure that I was OK. Many of those friends were amazing men. Whether they stayed up all night with me because I was scared to sleep, or encouraged me to go to counseling after a work training triggered me, or just held me when I needed. I was lucky to have both male and female advocates. You know who you are and I am grateful for you being in my life and helping me on my healing journey. (Paul, Jeff, Eric, Michael, Glen, Wendell, Tim, Tracy, Jenny, Mary, Dino, and so many more.)

25 years later, the assaults are still fresh in my mind. But I learned that I am a survivor. I have also learned so many women have stories just like mine. When we hide these stories, it makes society complacent. I want the world to hear these stories. This is not the time for complacency. It is the time for action. When so many states are trying to change their definitions of what rape is, we need to stand and say NO! When rape culture invades our everyday existence, we need to scream back, you will not make me a victim! You will not make me worthless!! You will not make me at fault! Get out there and vote! The midterm elections are important and we can change the landscape of our state and federal government by electing people who will give us justice and a voice. I am a survivor.

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