I don’t speak often in this public a venue about my personal experiences when it comes to rape. I’ve talked with assault victims and their families. I’ve talked to those who deal with safe touching, relearning intimacy after assault. But talking about the assaults directly-no.

Let’s talk reality. One out of three women will experience sexual assault or abuse in their lifetime. That means every third woman in your life, from mom to sister to aunts, etc., at least one has been in that situation. Let that sink in. Reflect on how many women you know in your life. Then count it out. Not so nice when you can see faces to names,right?

Two, most abuse occurs between intimate partners or people who know one another. So, your sister’s boyfriend? He might not be that great for her physically or emotionally. Look at your list again, now the stats there are three out of four. Still with me?

Three-women are taught to be good, be quiet, to not talk about these things. But men can brag about conquests and are applauded for such conduct. If you applauded, look at your list. See those faces and see how you’d explain yourself to them.

Now, let’s talk about my story. I don’t want sympathy. What I want is for both men and women to stop blaming the victims. Victims never ask to be raped. Do you ask a murder victim’s family if they deserved it? Do you ask if a suicide victim deserved to die?

I was first assaulted at age sixteen. I had gone to a party at a friend’s home. Bunch of us from a few different schools, yet at first, I was okay. After a while, I went to my friend’s bedroom to put my sweater down and grab a book. Yes, I’m that much a wallflower and a geek. What I didn’t expect was to be followed.

Earlier I had met a guy from another school, seemed nice, but I didn’t encourage him. Seems I didn’t discourage him enough. He invited his friends to join him where I was and they locked the door.

I said, no. I begged all six of them to stop. But none of them did. How they weren’t missed, I have no idea. I have no idea on how long I was caught in their trap. Finally, when they were done, nothing much was said, though tons were implied. Why? Some were football players, some were wrestlers, and they knew I could get them in trouble. But nothing beats the one who asked me for my phone number so he could call for a repeat performance.

I walked home, over five miles. I was scared, terrified, and ashamed. What had I done wrong? How had I brought this on myself? I never told my parents, nor anyone else blood related. Why? I’d be blamed for what happened. What did happen was two very good friends noticed the change in my behaviour and confronted me.

I owe them. They saved my life as I was bordering on suicidal. Yet, their love for me was great enough to force me past that bad time. It took years.

The next time I was nineteen. I was living in New Hampshire, bartending. I didn’t watch the news, so I had no idea the area I lived in had experienced assaults. I came home from work, went to take my laundry to the laundry room and was attacked. Threatened.

I didn’t want to report it. Why? I was nineteen. I bartended and I freelanced for a living. I knew the police would look at my life and blame me. Yet, I did end up reporting it. It ended up going to nowhere because I was right, my life was considered not suitable. Whatever that means.

It took me years to come forward to talk about this. I have to fight people who say I shouldn’t dress a certain way, etc. They don’t realize I had on sweatpants and a sweater the night I was raped in NH. So clothes were not the issue. The guy didn’t know my name, just that I was a convenient target.

My fear of being blamed, my fear of being told it was my fault, that I should act like this, dress like that…it should not matter.

What does matter? Teaching males they must control their actions. That no matter the clothes, job, or whatever, there is no excuse to rape or assault a woman. Yet, we live in a world where we use the excuse, “Boys will be boys.” That’s a cop out. Boys will act the way you teach them and nurture them unless they inherently lack empathy.

Rape and abuse is not about sex. It’s about power. It’s about using sex as a physical, dominating weapon against someone else. It’s taking away a person’s right to safety, security, and the right to enjoy being touched by someone who loves them. To say it’s about sex means you have never in your life had your own personal power ripped from you. It takes a long time to recover it and few ever do fully.

Many will talk about the women who falsely accuse men of rape. Those women are despicable and make it harder for those who have been raped to be taken seriously. They are the ones who end up sexualizing rape even more than normal. Yet, the numbers show this happens less often than most people think. Why the discrepancy? Media. Everyone jumps on that bandwagon, yet rapes don’t get the respect or press they deserve unless it’s a serial rapist.

Why am I writing this? We have a misogynistic president in office who thinks it’s okay to hurt people, assault women, and physically threaten any female who stands up to him. Since November, my PTSD has been in full force because it’s been open season on- African Americans, Muslims, LGBTQs, non-Christians, and women. I know there are more, but it’d take a whole page to list his racist views.

This meme that played out today triggered rage within me. Not for me-but for every woman out there who will be harassed, assaulted, and raped- and their attackers will say that the President can do it, why can’t I? Domestic violence sucks. Abuse sucks, rape sucks.

Thing is, it’s a crime. Yet, throughout the world, it’s not treated with as much respect as murder, embezzlement, or kidnapping. Though there is a caveat- if a woman rapes or abuses a male, there is a harsher sentence passed. Which makes every woman ask- why report it if I’ll be treated unfairly, my sex life becomes fair game and my assailant doesn’t face the same shit I do?

Women own their bodies. I don’t give a shit about old patriarchy laws. Why? Because for all those laws, there are equally old laws that allow women equal rights, such as the Celts. Here in America, there’s this talk about Christianity, abortion, and more. I put this challenge before you-would women need abortions if they had birth control when and how they asked? Would women need to have rape insurance, because a state is basically admitting they’re all about male prerogative and not female? If religion is your excuse for your behaviour, then perhaps your religion is the problem. If you cannot treat a woman how you want to be treated, then you’re not living your life how your religion requires.

As a victim, and I hate that word, I say to others who’ve been assaulted, “Don’t give up. Report it. Know that there are others who will hold you and love you for who you are, not what was done to you without your consent.”

Violence against women is wrong. Violence against anyone is wrong. However, until we as a society stop shaming victims, then each one of us are perpetuating this crime. There’s no more excuses. You either stand against this behaviour or you condone it by saying nothing.