If you ask him, he’ll say he didn’t do it
Published: Thursday, October 25, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
It’s estimated 80 to 94 percent of sexual assaults go unreported.
It’s taken me a long time to admit I fall under that statistic.
For years, I compartmentalized what happened to me. I pushed it to the back of my mind. The few times it would creep back into my consciousness, I was quick to tuck it away.
I wasn’t raped, so I told myself what happened didn’t really matter. People have gone through worse. It wasn’t a big deal. I just had to let it go. I justified never telling anyone.
I was 13 years old. I sat in the back of the school bus. It started nearing the end of the route; only a few us were left. I was talking to a boy, someone I looked at as a friend.
We were flirting as much as two awkward middle schoolers are capable of flirting. I remember it being fun and silly. He was a popular kid – I didn’t mind the attention.
I was wearing a yellow tank top and a brand new turquoise-striped cardigan.
I don’t remember what was said. I made some sort of joke. I remember laughing. So when he climbed into my bus seat, I wasn’t concerned – I thought we were just going to continue being goofy. But then he forced himself on top of me. When I told him to get off, it was like he didn’t hear me. Things stopped being funny.
My back was against window and he was pinning me against the bus wall. He felt me up. He pulled down my shirt. He exposed my right breast. I didn’t consent. I told him to stop.
He was on top of me for less than minute. The bus stopped. He stood up. I pulled my shirt up. He bounced down the aisle and out the bus door to his house.
He didn’t say a thing. I didn’t either.
I was in shock. I felt empty.
I didn’t know what to do. I just knew I was angry. He was the first person to see or touch that part of my body. That was not what I wanted. He was not who I wanted.
I confronted him the next day. I told him I was angry. I told him I wasn’t OK with what happened.
“Don’t act like you didn’t want it,” he told me. That’s when I decided to keep it to myself.
I played out what I thought were the possible scenarios in my head. What if the school administrators didn’t believe me? It would be his word against mine. He would tell them I led him on. I was flirting with him. I convinced myself it was my fault. I didn’t push him away aggressively enough. I must have done something to make him think it was OK. I must have sent the wrong signals.
If he got in trouble, it would be moments before the whole school found out what happened. He’d tell everyone I was crazy. All his jock friends would hate me. What if the whole school sided with him? The thought of everyone knowing how he touched me made me anxious. So I kept my mouth shut.
I decided to stop sitting in the back of the bus. The cool kids weren’t that cool.
The altercation didn’t shatter my existence. It didn’t tear me down or make me think less of myself. But it shouldn’t have happened. I’m disgusted we live in a society where he felt those actions were appropriate and felt no guilt.
I’m disgusted I accepted the blame for something that was never my fault.
I regret not reporting him. While the fallout following may have been horrible, no one knowing what a scumbag he was is even worse.
I did a good job of avoiding him, associating with him politely when I had to in any classes we had together. Sometimes I was tempted to ask him if he remembered that day on the bus because I’m convinced it wasn’t a big deal for him. I doubt that day sticks out in his memory at all.
Then there was the day during sophomore year he called one of my openly gay friends a “faggot.” My friend was collecting money for charity and he had the audacity to sling a derogatory slur at him.
I flipped out. I lit into him. I told him off. I yelled in his face.
It felt great.
But having addressed why I truly detested him back in middle school would have felt better. I was young and scared, but I still wish I came forward.
Thursday night was Take Back the Night – an event aimed at empowering those who have survived sexual assault. I don’t consider myself a survivor. I didn’t experience the same horrors other women have – but what happened to me is still important.
I know there are so many girls just on this campus who have gone through similar things, who brushed them off as “minor” occurrences. But just because people have endured worse doesn’t make what happened to me, or anyone else, irrelevant.
My story isn’t special or uncommon. That’s what makes it so awful. For every one person who is strong enough to file a report, there are dozens of us too scared or embarrassed to speak up.
This is something I’ve kept to myself for the past seven years. I want to implore others not to minimize what they may have gone through. It matters.
What you did was wrong. I don’t blame myself anymore.