I said that I didn’t want to have sex. Twice. I said I was tired, that I had a headache, that I really just wanted to go to sleep. He even said “okay” numerous times and yet still forced himself on me. Yes, a guy I had been seeing for a few months in college date raped me. According to a report release by the Justice Department in 2014, only 7 in every 1,000 college students experience a sexual assault as opposed to the long touted report of 1 in every 5. I find the report disheartening and only a piece of the information out there. Sexual assault and date rape specifically is such a complex issue that it takes many women years to realize that they were assaulted, if ever. It’s important to understand that date rape often goes unnoticed in the scheme of sexual assault.
I was no stranger to dating and being sexually active. As an outgoing, confident college student, I’d had my share of one-night stands and drunken escapades. I had never before been in a situation where I didn't feel in control. But my date rape was different. We’d been dating for a few months. I had feelings, albeit mixed ones, for him. I trusted him. And so I trusted that when I verbalized numerous times that I didn’t want to have sex, he would respect me.
But he didn’t. He groped me, undressed me, and got on top of me. And when someone who you trust forces themselves upon you, there’s a huge array of feelings. Guilt, betrayal, shame. Should I feel bad for saying no to him? Was I really just being dramatic? Should I just suck it up and let him do it? I was flooded with so many conflicted feelings that I actually started crying. He paused, looked at me and said “are you okay?” I muttered about being fine. Then he continued assaulting me.
I stopped calling him shortly after that day and my friends never really asked why we stopped dating. A few months later though, I was out at the bar with two of my girlfriends. One told us that she just broke up with the guy she was dating because he forced himself on her. She explicitly told him when they first started dating that she was kind of old fashioned and wanted to take it slow. They’d been dating for a few months when, while making out and fooling around, he forced himself on her. She expressed the same sentiment, that’s it’s hard to say no when it’s already happening. Not to someone who you thought you could trust. She immediately broke up with him after for not respecting her wishes.
That’s when I told them about my story, about my date rape. I recounted the shame that I felt for being “dramatic” and “over-reacting” to the situation. But I no longer had to feel any shame to come out and say that what happened to me wasn’t okay. It wasn’t something women should have to “put up with” as part of dating someone. Surprisingly, the third friend came forward with her own story. About her freshman year boyfriend forcing her onto the bed. Picking her up and locking her in the bathroom with him. All three of us had experienced sexual assault from men we thought we could trust.
If a simple conversation with just two of my girlfriends in college lead to stories of sexual assault, how many friends had experienced the same thing? How many women have a similar story to tell? Sexual assault happens every day on college campuses and isn’t always some case of drunken frat boys. It happens to every type of women and from every type of man.
I hope more people realize and understand why it may take women five, ten, twenty years to come forward about their assault. The shame of being dated raped by someone you know and trust is so much more than the physical aspect. It messes with your mind, causing you to re-think every aspect of that incident and blaming yourself over and over so many times that it can take years to refocus and finally say "yes, I was date-raped and I'm here to tell my story."
My ex-husband had a hard time understanding why I so strongly insisted that was happened to me was date rape. He thought I could have tried harder to say no, that surely any guy would have listened if I really meant it. Though he was raised by feminist parents, it is just not a part of our culture to classify my story as date rape. And that is the problem. Sex is never an entitlement and we must raise a generation better than our own.
This is why I refuse to congratulate Casey Affleck on his Oscar. As an artist, as a feminist, and as a freaking human being, I won't "separate the actor from their work." I won't support the Woody Allen's, Bill Cosby's and Casey Affleck's of the industry. Actions matter. Justice matters. All the women still living in fear, still hiding their assaults, are slapped in the face when celebrity men in power are rewarded despite being sexual predators. We all need to be loud and persistent in speaking out, making sure that women understand that they do not have to “accept” sexual assault from someone that they’re dating or someone with whom they have a familiar relationship.
Art has the ability to reflect the best of what the world can be. I envision a world where women own their bodies and their choices... and men aren't let off the hook because their "contributions" to society are supposed to somehow outweigh the terrible crimes they've committed.
I believe that creating art is a human instinct; a right the good and inhumane are both entitled to. But the Oscars are supposed to reward the highest in our field, and the Academy MUST have an opinion and a voice that reflects the vision we collectively have for our country and for humanity.
I would hope that sexual predators are not a part of that future.