Saying “no”

I want to tell you what happened to me last night. I am sad to tell you it also happened to hundreds, possibly thousands of other women last night. In the past, it has very likely happened to your sister, daughter, wife, mother, or friend. It has also probably happened to you. Last night, I had sex with a man. I did not want to do it. I put myself into a situation where it could happen, but I did not want to. I did not say yes, and I did not say no. I said nothing.

After it happened, I felt. I felt afraid. I felt violated. I felt used. I felt dirty. I felt disgusting. I felt like an idiot. I felt that it was my fault.

Do you want to know why I said nothing and why I made a decision that put myself into that situation? It’s because I was afraid he would be mad if I said no and that he would tell “everyone” what I did. I’m 46 goddamn years old. I’m intelligent and strong and fucking amazing, and I was afraid to stand up for myself.

For several years, when I was a little girl, I was raped and tortured by a member of my family. He literally held his hand over my mouth so I could not scream, and he whispered in my ear, “No one will believe you if you tell.” Last night, I was transported to that time, not because I was being mistreated but because I believed what my abuser told me. And even after years of therapy, I still do.

Recently women and men have been sharing their #metoo stories to raise awareness of the magnitude of the problem of sexual assault and harassment. I want to suggest that what happened to me last night is a result of a culture in which women (and men) believe they have no choice but to accept what happens to them, whether they are raped or violated or touched or spoken to in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.

We believe it’s our fault. We believe no one will listen or care or understand — even when we know our friends and family have had the EXACT SAME EXPERIENCES — so we remain silent.

I’m sharing this story today because I want you to know you are not alone. I want you fathers and brothers and husbands to know this is happening to women you love. I want you to teach your daughters that they don’t ever have to say yes, or remain silent, when they feel pressure to engage in sexual behavior. If you think 9 or 12 or 14 years old is too early to hear that kind of message, I want you to know I was 9 when my abuse finally ended.

I didn’t say no. But I’m saying it right now. No. Fucking. More.

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