Locker Room Talk and Trauma

This post isn't about Donald Trump. It's about Women. It's about you, and it's about me, and it's about sexual assault.

I don't give Donald Trump credit for much. I'm still in a place of holding out for someone to say "Haha, j/k, Trump's not really running." I know it's not going to happen. He's definitely running. I do my best not to get riled up by anything he says because I don't take him seriously as a candidate. I was not surprised when his "Locker room talk" video was released. To me, it's par for the course for him.

What I was surprised about was my emotional response. I've been writing this post in my head since it became the number one topic of conversation. For anyone who has ever been the victim of sexual assault, myself included, these words burn. Despite reliving the trauma, I'm really glad that it's opening up a dialogue. The amount of women who have been sexually assaulted is staggering; in fact, I don't know any women who haven't been verbally assaulted at the very least. But here's the deal: NOBODY EVER TALKS ABOUT IT.

Let's talk about it.

I've addressed verbal assaults twice on my blog. You can read them here [Enough is Enough] and here [What I wish I would have said]

I'm not going to go into any detail of the times I've been physically sexually assaulted. My social media accounts, including this blog, are all public, and there are too many pervs who would get off on the details.

When it happened when I was younger, I thought it was my fault. I used to try and rationalize it away - "He didn't really mean to." "I could have done something more to stop it." "What did I say/do that allowed this to happen?" I've come to terms with those things - I came to a place where I could say with a surety that I had been assaulted (even claiming abuse was difficult for me). I'm not angry about those times anymore.

What I am angry about is the most recent time it happened.

It was in June of this year. I was a thirty-one-year-old woman riding a bus home from UCLA where I'd spent several hours in Powell Library writing comments for my students' final progress reports. A man got on a few stops after UCLA and ended up right next to me. As the situation unfolded, I felt the blood drain from my face. I kept thinking over and over again, "Is this really happening?" The bus driver kept telling people to move back because the bus was filling up. He didn't move. He was the one who needed to move because he was blocking the aisle with plenty of room behind him. I kept waiting for him to move. He never did.

I'm angry because I said nothing. I didn't know what to say. Have you heard about assuming positive intent? Sometimes that's the wrong thing to assume. When I realized there was nothing mistaken about what was going on, when what was happening really sank in, I removed myself from the situation. I went to the back of the bus and waited for my stop. I was shaking. I was scared. I was embarrassed. I was furious.

WHY DIDN'T I SAY ANYTHING?!?! Why didn't I yell at him or push him away? I'm a strong, confident, intelligent, independent woman. But in that moment, I was paralyzed.

Is this really happening?

Is this really happening?

Is this really happening?

Yes. It really happened. It happens all the time. And perpetrators get away with it all the time. It catches us so off guard. There is shame, even though victims shouldn't be the ones who carry the shame. Why would anyone ever think that violating the comfort and safety of someone is okay? That's what's shameful. But I still can't shake the shame of losing my voice when I most needed it - losing my voice when using it might have meant saving someone else from an assault.

While I hope there isn't a next time, the likelihood is that there will be. The way we talk about women is deplorable. All over the world. The way some women talk about themselves is devastating.

"Locker Room Talk" is NEVER okay. "Boys will be boys" is not okay. For the most part, people can't control their thoughts, but they can certainly control their words, and especially their actions. I am the mother of two daughters, and I know that the odds of them facing some form of sexual assault is just about 100%. It makes me sick. It has to stop. We have to stop giving perpetrators passes.

Nearly every woman in the world carries trauma from sexual assault. I'm reliving that trauma right now. Many are. Please, please, please, let's not stop talking about it. Let's stand up for one another. Let's take the shame away from victims and put it where it belongs.  


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