By Kasey Woods
One day, not too long ago, at the same time as the rays of the morning sun began to creep over the jagged sidewalks of Brooklyn, I was being sexually assaulted in a building hallway.
What started off as a ride home from a friend’s friend, after a night out, ended with me involved in an aggressive, hostile and combative situation where I narrowly escaped being raped. My aggressor wanted me to just accept what was happening. “Come on baby. Just chill” he uttered to me as if it were my fault my attack wasn’t going smoothly. He wanted me to stop fighting back. He wanted me to stop repeatedly saying no. He wanted me to stop yelling at him to leave. He wanted me to just shut up and accept his fingers being jammed into my vagina. He wanted me to not be horrified when I realized he was attempting to enter me with his penis. He wanted me to meekly allow him to shove my head into the wall and use his weight to suppress my power. He wanted me to be an easy conquest, but I wasn’t. I fought back, and I fought hard.
The guilt lingers in a way that you never completely shake off. I spent most of the immediate hours after my attack rewinding every intricate, minute detail of the evening to see where I could have gone wrong. What could I have done differently? I mean, he was nice. Annoying, but nice. Damn, did I let that goodbye hug at the end of the night linger too long? What about when he grabbed my butt by his car? I just told him to stop and keep his hands to himself – maybe I should have become more irate. Why did I accept his offer to take me home instead of just calling an Uber? Maybe I could have avoided this. Maybe I share the blame. These thoughts and others seeped in and out of my mind for hours as a cried on my friend’s couch until my eyes were dry and pained.
After urgings from my network and support system, I went to the hospital to be examined. What resulted was me being treated by a staff of doctors and nurses who were not only completely untrained in interacting with women who have been violated in such a manner, but were also quite literally ill-equipped to handle sexual assault cases. Aspects of my exam had to be postponed because the hospital did not possess the items necessary to do them. My doctor, a third-year resident, admitted sheepishly that I was only the second sexual assault case he had ever directly handled. Though he was nice, and his demeanor helped provide a light during a very dark situation, watching him bumble through the numerous steps of my rape kit was unsettling, at times, to say the least. The seven hours I sat in that hospital combined with the intrusive and invasive nature of my exam opened my eyes to why so many rapes and sexual assaults go unreported. Who wants to feel violated again? At one point, I almost stood up and left after yet another hour had passed. But I understood why I needed to stay there and complete the process and not give up.
Even while at the hospital, as I waited for hours, my thoughts continued to churn obsessively in my head. Did I even deserve to be there? There are women and men who have been brutally raped and abused, does what happened to me even count? Did I get all the details right? Am I willing to press charges and possibly ruin someone’s life? I mean it’s not like I was raped…
So many women go through this type of violation and would rather blame themselves instead of the person who assaulted them. This becomes even more convoluted when the person that breaches various levels of trust is someone you know. But honestly, who do we really know anymore? Instagram posts and Facebook pages provide a false sense of security and familiarity that the people we allow in our lives often haven’t earned.
Though I was able to halt my attack before I was raped, before getting the results of my rape kit, I was unable to confirm with absolute certainty that the numerous penetrations that occurred as I was shoved on that wall in that pitch dark hallway in Brooklyn, were solely his fingers and not his penis as well. But it doesn’t matter. I was sexually assaulted. I was violated. And for the two minutes (that felt like 20) that I fought with a guy who three hours earlier seemed like a perfectly fine individual, my body felt like it was no longer mine.
If I had any doubt about the nature of my encounter, I don’t anymore. Nothing says I was sexually assaulted like filling a prescription for your preventative HIV/AIDS medications.
But this article is bigger than my story, and I don’t want sympathy. I wouldn’t know what to do with it if it were bestowed on me anyway. What I want is to offer empathy to others who have endured any type of sexual assault. Please know that there are various levels of violation that constitute sexual assault so don’t believe that your experience doesn’t count. If an individual has any type of sexual contact with you and you 1.) Did not give your consent or 2.) Explicitly said no, then you have been sexually assaulted. Simple. No long definition and thesis needed to explain that one. Our bodies are ours, and every one of us deserves to be safe and protected from harm.
Let’s face it, completely eradicating sexual violence on women (and men – 9 percent of sexual assault cases are men) is sadly impossible. But hopefully by continuing to discuss these issues aloud, demanding justice and providing support, resources and adequate assistance to those who have been violated, will enable more sexual assault victims to come forward with their stories.