When I was twenty-one, I was a college student studying music composition at UCSD and would regularly go out with friends on the weekends to dance and have dumb, young fun. One night, while dancing with some of my girlfriends at a bar near the beach, I met a club photographer who took some photos of us and asked if the bar could use them for online marketing content. We gave our consent and when he asked me for my phone number - I, of course, gave him that too. He was very handsome and I was flattered. Two days later we arranged to meet again and for me to meet his dog at the park near his house. "He wanted to get to know me better" he told me.
A handsome man with interest in me, his dog and a beautiful park on a sunny Sunday afternoon? Nothing sounded like more fun to me and I agreed to meet him again. After talking for a few hours and playing with his dog, we were having a great time. I was bartending at the time and had a shift that night that I told him in advanced I had to leave for at 4:30. Before running out of time and knowing I would have to leave for work soon, he asked me if we could put his dog back in the house and then he would walk me to my car for a proper goodbye. He lived right down the street and I liked the idea of a proper goodbye.
Upon approaching his house, I waited outside while he let his dog in through the front door and then asked, "Would you like to see my place really fast?" "Sure!" I responded. I got the tour of his quaint and sunny rental. What a lovely and simple life it seemed. When we got to his bedroom I only just peeked my head inside to be polite, not intending on walking all the way into the room. But quickly he pushed me into the room and shut the door quickly behind him. My heart stopped for a second; I was blindsided by his action. He began kissing me passionately and pushed me onto his bed quickly climbing on top of me. My heart was racing and the only thought I had in that moment was, "I'm going to be raped now." I didn't know what to do. I knew he was stronger than me and there was no way of physically escaping. I thought, "How can I manipulate him in order to prevent him from having sex with me?" I began kissing him back passionately. He started to take my shirt off and then I said, "You know what would be even more fun?" Smiling promiscuously at me he asked, "What?" "How about, since I have to leave for work right now, I come back with some champagne tomorrow night and blow your mind even better than I can right now?" He smiled, hesitated for a second and then said, "You promise you're going to come back?" I grabbed him by his shirt, kissed him as passionately and as sexy as I could and said, "Absolutely. It's going to be unforgettable." He looked at me with excitement and said, "Ok, but only if you come back." "Oh, it's gonna be good." I smiled back. He walked me to my car, said eagerly that he couldn't wait for tomorrow night, kissed me goodbye and I drove to work. The next night while clocking into another shift of work I got a text from him asking me where I was. I texted him back saying, "I lied. You're a criminal. You're lucky I'm not calling the cops for attempted rape." Re-visiting my phone after minutes of starting my shift I saw texts from him calling me 'a lying whore' and 'an ugly, stupid cunt.' I blocked him and never saw him again. I'm none of the words he used to describe me that day. What I am? Lucky. Sometimes I wonder why I never called the police. Now that I'm older, I think about why I've silenced myself from talking about this encounter. I was embarrassed for so many years. I was certain people would berate me, telling me that it was my fault for going into his house in the first place. It was my fault for giving a stranger my number. I should've known better. I shouldn't been smarter. I should've been more careful. I - Me - My fault - I'm to blame!
That same year I had another incident. I was running around the park near where I was living at the time and it was the early afternoon. Half way through my run, I was running on the concrete sidewalk with my music blasting through my headphones when a gold, mini van pulled up next to me and stopped. A young man, my age, with long brown hair rolled down the window and said something to me. I took my headphones off and said, "What did you say?" He laughed and said, "I need you to suck my dick." My heart began racing. Is he joking or is he going to kidnap me? I knew I shouldn't have stopped. I took off running as quickly as I could and made a short cut through the park feeling like an antelope zig zagging it's way frantically trying to escape death from a predator. As I got closer to my house I saw a police officer parked on the side of the street and writing a ticket for a parked car. I ran up to him and told him what happened and that I was scared. He acted mildly concerned and said, "Can you describe the gentleman to me?" I explained in detail, the gold mini van he was driving. I told him the exact street of our encounter. I described all of his features. The officer made some notes in his notebook and said, "Thank you, I'll keep my eye out for him." To this day, I strongly doubt he cared to look.
When I hear people say that it's the fault of the women for getting raped because they're dressed too provocatively, they're too pretty, they were out too late, they were asking for it - I'm disgusted. Is this the culture we want to live in? Is this the kind of environment we want to raise our daughters to endure? Is this the kind of injustice we blindly allow to daunt the everyday of our sisters, our friends, ourselves?
I don't know why it's taken me so many years - about thirteen years - to be able to talk about the day when I escaped rape. I don't know why it's taken me all these years to convince myself that that situation wasn't my fault. As a young woman, a product of the 1980's and growing up in the US, I've been conditioned to take blame, to be accommodating, to be polite, to not cause a ruckus, to not be aggressive, to stay in line, to be sexual, to be sexy, to not be intimidating, to be pure, to want marriage, to smile, to be likable, to be feminine. I'm so sick of it. I'm over it. One of my first podcast episodes is called A Transition from a Patriarchal Society. It was posted in early 2018 and it wasn't until recently that I re-visited that episode. I was curious to refresh myself where my stance was on the patriarch back in 2018. In analyzing my own piece, I remember feeling cognizant of not sounding 'too feminist' with the idea of keeping the conversation inclusive to all viewpoints. I didn't want to come off as angry, preachy or with hostile. I wanted to be calm and collected because I thought this would lead to allowing my voice to be heard better. I understand why I felt the need to be amicable to multiple type of perspectives but the person that I am today refrains from apology. There's no other way to speak about the uneducated and illogical patriarchy than with passion and satiated anger. I used to be timid of telling people that I'm a feminist. I used to tell people that I'm an equal opportunist. Fuck that. If you're a feminist then that automatically qualifies you as an equal opportunist. If you're a person that denies association with being a feminist then you're either a misogynist and/or a coward. A feminist is a person who believes that men and women are to be treated with mutual respect and with equal opportunity. When I fight for feminism what does this mean? It's the demand for equal rights for every human. It's equal pay whether you're a man or a woman for the same work. It's equal opportunity for all people no matter the color of their skin. It's the opportunity of total control of reproductive rights. It's the choice of staying at home to raise your children - man or woman. It's the choice to have a thriving career. It's the acceptance of expression and emotions that men, too, feel. Feminism is the inclusivity of men and women living together and within a system of equal rights. Feminism fights for equality. Feminism is the progression of society and the refuge for our humanity. When I speak to people who admit to having a strong disliking toward feminists I have to ask them why. Often times they will tell me that feminists are angry man haters. First of all, this statement (which I promise is verbatim of what is said to me) immediately indicates a red flag toward ignorance. And second, Feminists don't hate men. Feminists are fighting for equal rights and how this pertains to men is that we, as women, need their support. The only truth regarding this statement is that a lot of feminists are actually pretty angry. But men would be angry too if they were forced to live their every day without all of their human rights. My dad gets angry when he hears that the government wants to tax soda more heavily thinking that will incentivize the American people to drink less soda. He doesn't think it's the governments right to tell him what he can and can't do to his body. Oh really dad? This makes you angry? Well, it makes me angry too.
When I speak frankly to people about my feelings towards feminism, the patriarchy stagnating the United States and my frustrations of being oppressed because I'm a female - people seem to always remind me that I don't have it that bad and that it could be worse. Oh yeah, you're right... I could be living a Congolese village without electricity and clean water or I could be living under the Taliban regime without education and my basic human rights.. does this mean I need to sit down and shut up? That is so insulting and I refuse to be thankful for the oppression that I've endured within my life since I was 7 years old. I refuse to be quiet about the sexual assault I've had to silence myself over for the past decade. I refuse to make less than my male counterpart just because I'm a young, childless, American woman. I refuse to be quiet now. And the only thing I know to do right now about this anger that I'm feeling in my heart is to talk to others. Is to share my passion and to remind women that we will never be heard if we allow them to mutilate our voice.
Let us be reminded that we live in the era of the post #MeToo movement - let us not let that die now. Let us continue to share our stories of assault - no matter what form of assault that comes. Let us be heard and let us hold each other up together - men and women. We must fight together for each other. We will be stronger when we are together and equal. Men to support women and women to support men. We sadly have a long way to go within this constant battle for our human rights but let us keep our anger loud and heard.
I think it was because of all of the courageous woman who voiced their opinion and shared their horrific experiences during the height of the MeToo movement that led me to feeling comfortable in sharing my experiences openly. I'm thankful for this movement. Because of this movement, life is different now; I can feel it. I can share my story and be heard and not blamed. This wasn't the case back in my twenties; only would I have been blamed for carelessness when it is he who is deserving of punishment. I've told my story of escaping rape to a few women within the past few years and they, sadly, relate and understand immediately having gone through similar situations - some actually having been raped.
Almost every woman I've spoken to regarding sexual assault has a story of her own. This has to stop. If not for our generation then for the generation of our children.
What is my call to action with this piece? We, as women, need support. Stop looking at the word feminism as a negative connotation rather as an opportunity for our society to grow and become stronger. Catch yourself the next time you judge a woman when hearing her story about being sexually assaulted. It's ok for women to wear short skirts and tight shirts; that is never justification for rape. Raise your sons to respect women and their bodies. Raise your daughters to be strong, smart and wise against the injustice of misogyny. If you need data pertaining to women's rights in order to jump fully on board with the women's movement then educate yourself and be an active participant in joining the conversation. Don't be scared of being a feminist be scared of the consequences of not.
I constantly wish I could live in a country where women have equal rights alongside men. A country like Norway and Iceland. But what I'm reminded of - time and time again - is that if I want to fight for change and to make this world a better place then I have to fight in the heart where the darkness breeds. And that, to me and for me, is no better of a place than within the US.
If this is a battle that I need to help others continue fighting then I consent. Let's fight.