Talking to Kids about Sexual Assault


My friend and I went to an all campus party and met up with her boyfriend and his friend. Their relationship was new and I'd only hung out with him and his friend a couple of times. It was dark and the music was loud and there were several kegs of beer. We danced until we were sweaty and drank too much and my friend left with her boyfriend and I Ieft with his friend. As we made our way across campus, we stopped to make out and I invited him back to my dorm room because my roommate was never there. 

Once there, we lay down on the soft carpet on the floor and continued making out and it escalated to oral sex and it was fun until it wasn't. Suddenly, he flipped me over onto my back and pinned me to the floor. I asked him to let go and he wouldn't and I struggled with his grasp on my wrists and his full weight on my body and he said all those cliché things men say like "Just relax..." and "You know you want this..." and "You're gonna like it." I writhed beneath him and repeatedly said "no" and he continued to hold me down while he fumbled with my jeans. 

I wasn't on the pill and he didn't have a condom and I had never had intercourse with a man, partly because I had a deep fear of pregnancy. I was a working class girl trying to escape a working class fate and college was the answer. Pregnancy often derailed girls like me. 

He was able to unbutton my jeans but when he let go of one of my hands to adjust himself, I bucked and used my free hand to flip him off of me and onto his back. I scrambled to my feet and yelled for him to get out and I kept yelling until he bolted from the room, probably afraid that someone was going to hear. I shut and locked the door, put myself back together, and sat on my roommate's bed until my breathing calmed and my heart stopped racing. But I didn't want to be alone.

I walked to my friend's dorm and knocked on her door. She'd been asleep, her boyfriend in her bed, so she stepped out into the hallway and asked me what was wrong. I told her everything that happened, shocked and breathless.

She listened and then said:

You were drinking.
You led him on.
He's a nice guy and would never do that.
Nothing really happened.

She was one of my closest friends and she said all the things that people say to discredit victims. I left thinking she was right. Technically, he hadn't raped me; he'd just tried. On some level, however, I must have known that she wasn't right because I didn't trust her after that and our relationship was never the same. 

About a year ago, I told this story to my children who were 11 and 15 at the time. In many ways, mine is the perfect story because it has so many of the elements that are used to discount victims' stories.

I told them because I want them to know that alcohol may impair your judgement but that doesn't mean that you deserve to be hurt or justify you hurting someone else. I want them to understand that consent is ongoing and once one person says "no," it doesn't matter why they want to stop and or what came before. I want them to remember that "nice guys" don't pin a woman to the floor and tell her she'll like it. I told them because I want them to understand why so many women don't tell anyone and so that they'll be better friends than mine was. I also want them to understand that if it could happen to their mom who they think is one of the smartest and strongest women they know, it can happen to anyone. 

Many parents want to protect their kids from the harsh reality of the world we live in but we have to talk to them about sexual abuse, assault, and harassment so that we can give them the information they need to protect themselves, to stand up for others, and to change the way society sees and handles these issues. Most women I know probably have a personal story to share but if you don't or you can't share yours for whatever reason, feel free to use mine. Let mine be the cautionary tale. You can start by saying, "This happened to a friend of mine and it's important to talk about."