I have never been sexually assaulted

I have never been sexually assaulted.

When I was five-years-old I went to an in-home daycare, run by a woman who had a son and some daughters (a combination of my age at the time and the years that have passed make me unable to remember precisely how many). The woman’s daughters were older than me, but younger than the boy. He may have been in grade six or even in high school — to me he was just a “big kid.”

I didn’t like this boy because he forced me to sit on his lap and wouldn’t let me up, causing the other kids to laugh and his sisters to say that he liked me. He had some kind of pet rodent — a hamster or a gerbil, maybe —  in a cage on his bedroom dresser. The promise of holding this small creature was irresistible, so I allowed myself to be led into his room where he promptly locked the door. The dresser was a little bit tall for me so I had to stand on tip-toe to peer into the cage, the locked door forgotten. My hands were on the dresser to steady myself when I felt my jeans being swiftly yanked down. I immediately began crying and the boy, unable to quiet me, allowed me to pull up my pants and opened the door so I could leave.

There are snippets of other memories from my time at that daycare, albeit hazy ones: Lying on his bed, staring at the sliver of my flowered underwear showing through my unzipped pants. Pretending to have a stomach ache so I would be allowed to stay in the kitchen with his mother, drinking shots of Pepto-Bismol until my mom picked me up.

… What else happened that I can’t remember?

I begged my mom to take me to another daycare, but didn’t tell her why. I was deeply embarrassed and didn’t have the words to describe what had happened.

I didn’t forget what had happened really, I just stored it away. It wasn’t until I was 19 that the memories resurfaced, and I told my mom. Fourteen years had passed by then, so I could not give a concrete statement. Neither of us remembered the names of anyone in the family. No report was made.

I have never been sexually assaulted.

When I was eight, I was riding my bike down a main street in my home town when a group of men drove by. I would never have noticed them if one hadn’t yelled, “I WANT TO LICK YOUR PUSSY!” to me through the rolled down window as they passed. The men probably laughed and quickly forgot, but I didn’t. The words burned in my stomach and, again, I was the one who felt ashamed. I wasn’t even angry at that man or his friends, only embarrassed that this had happened to me. As a result, I never told anyone, and anyway, what crime had occurred? No report was made.

I have never been sexually assaulted.

One day when I was 13, I was walking down the hall of my junior high between classes. I was alone, and saw a boy I didn’t like walking towards me. He and another boy would often say nasty things to my friends and I. Once they followed us for several blocks, loudly talking about what they could do to us, bragging that we wouldn’t be able to stop them. As he got close to me in the hallway, I edged towards the wall in order to get as far away from him as possible, but it didn’t help. The boy shoved me up against the wall, pinning me and my arms full of books. He put his face next to mine as he shoved one hand up my shirt, rubbing the crotch of my jeans with the other.

As I walked into my classroom, my face burned with shame, hoping no one had seen. When asked, I refused to tell anyone what was wrong. I lied and said I just didn’t feel very good. It never even crossed my mind to tell anyone. I was completely humiliated. No report was  made.

I have never been sexually assaulted.

When I was 15, I knew a boy who was a couple years older than me whose father let us drink at his house. So we did… A lot.

One afternoon I was there drinking with two boys and I drank so much I became sick. I threw up over the side of the front porch — so drunk I was incapacitated. One of the boys (who later went on to marry a friend of mine) came up behind me, unhooked my bra, and fondled my breasts as I vomited.

The next morning, I received a phone call from a friend, who told me that the boy had told everyone that we’d had sex. I couldn’t remember much of about had happened, but I knew this wasn’t true. I was on my period and hadn’t brought any tampons with me, but when I woke up my tampon was still exactly where I had placed it before I’d begun drinking.

I couldn’t talk to any adults about what he’d done —  I wasn’t supposed to be drinking and didn’t want to get in trouble or get my friend’s father in trouble. At the time, I believed the drinking was the secret that needed to remain hidden. This was the 80s and, as John Hughes had taught us, “pass out/put out” was a valid way for boys to have sex. No report was made.

I have never been sexually assaulted.

When I was 18, I lived with my boyfriend. One night, I went to bed before him. I was sound asleep on my side when I woke up to find his penis inside me from behind, my underwear pushed to the side. I was shocked, but it never occurred to me that it was rape. He was my boyfriend. When I asked him what he was doing, he accused me of making him wait too long for sex and begged me to let him finish. I did. Years later, after I’d broken up with him, a female neighbour told me he’d raped her. No reports were made.

I have never been sexually assaulted.

I keep repeating this because none of these incidents are included in statistics of sexual violence against women and girls. I am far from alone. I am certain that every woman can relate to at least one of these incidents. And that most of these incidences are never reported.

There are many reasons why girls and women choose not to tell anyone about their sexual assaults. We don’t tell because we don’t understand what is happening, or because we are ashamed, embarrassed, and afraid. We don’t tell because we don’t want to be told that we “asked for it”, that we “enjoyed it,” or that we are liars.

When we do tell, every question registers skepticism. We must tell the story the same way each time, and are forced to relive the assault repeatedly. We must not remember new details, regardless of our age or intoxication at the time, because it inspires doubt. We must be prepared for our behaviour before, during, and after the assault to be analyzed and know this behaviour can be used to discredit our stories. We know that if we fail to be what is considered a reliable narrator, we will be told that we deserve punishment for falsely accusing an innocent boy or man and for trying to destroy his future. We must report immediately after the assault and we must not shower, even though we have never wanted to shower more. No matter what we do or say,  someone will say,  “No one can know for sure what happened, unless they were there.” As if women are so inherently untrustworthy, their words cannot be believed unless someone literally saw the assault take place. If there is a female witness, she also becomes untrustworthy — she is biased, of course. Our assaults and responses to these assaults must fit a narrative that is accepted by society or we are discredited.

So when you ask why women don’t speak out, why they don’t report, why they remain silent for years and decades, I don’t believe you. You know why.

Deidre Pearson is currently a student at The Evergreen State College and lives in the United States near Portland, Oregon.

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