By Bobbie White
I have been raped.
I have been raped more than once.
I have been raped more than twice.
Going through experiences of attack in different countries is terrifying. Especially the emotional reality when not sure if we have any protection and who we can go to for help. When it happens at home, where we expect to be protected, our reality is forever shaken. As Americans, we expect to be safe and to see justice where needed. Sadly, this is one of the areas where we still find excess of the opposite.
Because of past experiences and how close I am to Stanford where it happened, I was quick to jump on the bandwagon with fury about what happened with Brock Turner and how the judge has handled his crime, was sentenced, and I was all about signing the petition to get Judge Persky removed.
That being said, the mob mentality being taken against him by the media and society scares me. He is responsible for the rape he committed. I too want to see justice, but he is not responsible for all the other cases out there. With the way our society is handling it, I wouldn’t exactly be surprised if I heard that he ended up murdered or something else just as horrible.
Wouldn’t that be another heartbreaking situation; victims turning into the monsters that hurt them so?
And by the way, how about the amazing heroes involved? Let’s not forget about them. Carl Arndt and Peter Jonsson have become the kind of heroes we hope to be, but were among the few who didn’t let worry about consequences stop them from actually becoming so.
The woman who was raped in this case was also a hero who confronted her assailant in court and told her story. Something that has especially given strength and inspiration to those of us who have lived through the same.
This case may have been the trail of bread crumbs, but it’s not why I’m here today. I’m here to share my story. Not only to help others, but to help myself. I need that to heal. I need to know that through my story, I can help others. It’s been 23 years since the first time it happened to me and so far I’ve barely been able to start.
I’ve been raped half a dozen times. Maybe one or two more, maybe one less. At a certain point my brain starts shutting it out. I go numb and blackout to survive. Even the idea of how familiar it has become is enough to darken my soul.
I’ve wondered what makes me such a target. I get mad, upset with myself and wish that just once I could be capable of fully fighting back. Even if I got beat up and broken, or if I was killed, it would be better. The idea that no one could mess with my head that much for once. Including myself.
We hear a lot about how rape victims often don’t come forward, but rarely bout how it is due in part to being spiraled into a dark mental purgatory from which it can be weeks or even years before starting to recall what happened, let alone make sense of it.
I was a 15 year old virgin who had never been kissed the first time it happened to me. On his 18th birthday, I was roofied and raped by the best friend of my crush in front of my sister and the mutual friend who had set up the night out. She had long-since been resentful and mean-spirited toward me, but I still let her control me. It’s amazing who you’ll spend your time with when you’re young, unpopular and insecure. It surprised me that she felt horrified by what happened.
I didn’t remember anything about it for months, but my sister and the so-called friend with us did. When that friend’s parents tried to talk to me about it the next day after this girl had told them, I had no idea what they were talking about. They never brought it up again and didn’t report it or even tell our parents.
I may not have been able to remember anything at first, but I do remember when the flashbacks started to come. the first time I was at that same friend’s house again washing my hands. As the visions came to me in small but devastating increments, I sat frozen there with the water running over my hands. That was the first moment I started to feel it. I was damaged in a way that I would never be able to recover from. My sister and I both were. We will never be fully OK.
We were in our parent’s motorhome and, in the moments I was conscious, I could see my crush watching in the mirror. I also got up and grabbed my sister by the hair to throw her across the small space in horror when she tried to save me by acting like she was our parents knocking at the door. I didn’t understand what was happening, but that will always haunt me. Her too, I suppose.
It grew like a disease and it took many years before we could confront it. Behind us now lies a trail of hurt and decisions based off that experience that have fed the horrible damage already done to us that may have been lessened if we could have gotten into therapy right away. At that young age, it just wasn’t realistic. And why, out of all people, didn’t her parents do anything? I want them to know what that did to us. I want everyone who chooses to turn the other way to know.
The last time I was raped happened, it happened at a large social function not too long ago. The man who did it was obviously out to “get some” when he got drunk, but was brushed off as a pest by most of the women in the group.
It only took me somehow ending up alone with him and too drunk to fully defend myself (thought there was a lot of me saying NO and trying to push him off) to turn him into more than a pest. My guess is that he felt entitled, partially because he was attractive, and especially to me since we were sharing a room with another friend.
He was a rapist. And just like I feel about most rapists, I doubt it was his first time. Partially because of his “not again” type reaction when I laid there in that same spot at the hot tub motionless and crying.
Even with that already having gone down, I can remember him later in the night, once I was passed out in bed, crawling on top and trying to push himself inside of me. It was enough to bring me half into consciousness, but not fully awake. That was one of those situations that had become way too familiar and I shut down completely.
He fled the event and hotel before the rest of us woke up the next morning. There was confusion about his abrupt and mysterious exit, which included a lack of paying for his portion of the room and a vague text about a family emergency, but I hadn’t yet told our buddy who got the text and had been sharing the room. When I did tell him a few days later, I remember asking him if I should press charges and his response being that he thought my attacker had learned his lesson. I was weak, I was confused and I was terrified about being victimized again, so I did nothing.
The time before that, shows other ways rape culture further hurts victims. Years ago, a wealthy man who frequented the golf course I worked at had been tracking me like prey for weeks. He finally got me in a vulnerable situation after many attempts, fed me drinks, and asked me to go take a look at his new fancy sports car. A friend mine who had been bartending at the establishment we were drinking at admitted later to knowing something was off when she drove by and saw us in the car, but did nothing.
I don’t blame people in her situation the way others may. I recognize that without experience, they may know by instinct that something is wrong, but they are confused and flee due to feeling uncomfortable without fully processing the idea that someone needs help. That doesn’t make it okay, but I get it.
Anyway, I called my family for help from the hotel he took me to. They picked me up and it was finally my sister’s chance to fight back. Like a bull seeing red, she charged forward with demands that I go to the hospital and press charges. I did go to the hospital and that experience was almost as bad as the assault.
They made me stay there and kept me up all night while they poked and prodded at me. They confiscated the new clothes I was wearing and treated me with different levels of disdain and judgment. For being drunk, for not remembering every detail, and for not feeling sure about pressing charges. They made me feel like the one in the wrong and victimized all over again by these people who I thought were there to protect me.
You’ve probably been wondering since the beginning of this blog post why and how it has happened to me so many times. I’m sure there’s a lot of different reasons, and we should all fight rape culture by turning away judgmental thoughts, but I’ll still tell you my theory anyway.
I was heavily raised in the Catholic faith and have always been a “thick” woman. Growing up, everyone and everything around lead me to hate my body and sexuality. It’s a miracle that I found my way out of that. Especially with my experiences with rape starting at such a young age and having no experience with romantic love or intimacy of any kind.
But I did.
Now I pride myself on being a body and sex-positive woman who struts it as an advocate and role model to help other women. Yes, I drink. I also take risks, put myself out there and dance in the rain naked. I’m damn proud of it, too. That being said, I am also cruelly aware that the good comes with the bad, but actually falling victim to these kind of predators when my goal is to help others be happy and see the beauty of their own bodies and sexuality…it’s devastating. I do that through living by example, which is not always easy and tends to be one of the things that puts me in the spotlight. Turning these intentions into something so dark and bad is heartbreaking and something I will never get used to.
I have a female friend who recently insinuated that I must not be being honest about how many times I’ve been through it, I’m being dramatic about what really happened, am doing something to bring it on or am just straight lying. This is one of the part of rape culture we hear about but can not fully understand, especially the damage it causes, until it happens to us or a loved one. Like the hospital and legal system, it is a trauma in its own and one that skews a victim’s mind, reality and ability to cope.
Thank God for those friends and others of you out there who remind me why I am the way that I am, why I’m doing it and why it’s good. Thank you for showing me details of situations and survivors that are similar to me and reminding me of what is right and wrong. I will never be fully healed from what has happened to me, but if I can pull good from my experiences in which to help others, I can cope. I am finally ready to add this to my battle as a warrior. Both for myself and for others.
This is a sensitive topic with many different points of view. I invite your feedback as long as conversational and not hostile.
And to those of you who have been through it, I encourage you to tell your story. Whether publicly, privately, as a comment on this blog or directly to me. You are not alone.