Saturday, May 31, 2014


I've hesitated to write this, but I'm going to write this.

Yes, I am one of those women.

I was raped.

When I was in my early 20s, I was raped by a colleague.  We had been out, and yes we drank too much.  We went back to his place, and we were smooching, and that's as far as I wanted it to go.  He made moves, I said no.  He made more moves, I said NO.  He made more moves, and I said NONONO.

He did it anyway.

And then I felt ashamed.  I never should have had too much to drink.  I never should have kissed him in the first place.  I never should have gone to his place.

He raped me, and I felt ashamed.

My friends, that is seriously messed up.  I held it in for years, believing I had invited what he did to me by agreeing to kiss him in the first place, by wanting him to kiss me.

I did not deserve what happened to me.  Do you hear that?  What he did to me was done to me, it was non-consensual, and it was rape, and violent.  I did NOT invite what he did to me. 

Yes, I am all women.


I believe that most men and most women want the same things out of dating.  And when there are sparks, it's fun to kiss a bit, to see if there is further interest.  Not every kiss is destined to end with sex, and not every kiss is an invitation for more.


I run with mace and a big dog.  I meet my dates in public places, and I think carefully about how to dress attractively without "sending the wrong message."  I am very careful about offering even a kiss.  I know how these things can be misconstrued.  I am also very careful not to treat all men like the creep who raped me, because under no circumstances do I believe that all men are like that.

At work last week, someone asked me out.  He doesn't interest me.  I gave him a polite answer, but there was no mistaking my "no."  (MY answer included the word "No."  It did not leave room for debate.)  I was kind, tried to be light but friendly, but gave the "No."  I told him that I wanted to date only people closer to my age, with young children. (He is older with adult children.)  I said, "I'm flattered, but we're not a good fit, so I am declining."  This is how I believe it should be done: I left him his dignity, but I was clear about my "No."

The next day he came in to my office, called me gorgeous (a nice compliment sometimes, but not exactly office chit-chat and it made me uncomfortable), and acted like my "No" had never happened, and started talking about things we'd do together.  My office door was open, people walking by, and I hardly knew what to say.  What part of "no" didn't he understand? 

I then went to my boss.  I'm on the leadership team, and this person is below me.  I said, "I don't want you to hear rumors, because I know people talk.  X asked me out.  I said no, and I'm not interested, and I did not invite his advances."  Because I know that I have to watch my reputation, that this could easily become something I have to account for.  Because I thought I'd better cover my bases, make sure that this didn't reflect poorly on me, because it would NOT be welcomed by my management.  I tried not to get X into trouble, but I also didn't want to get into trouble.  I've been on that end, too.  My boss quizzed me a bit to make sure I hadn't really invited his advances.  My boss made it clear that it was a good thing I told him because he didn't want to hear this kind of rumor.

I was on the receiving end, but I was the one doing damage control.

Because a man who won't take no for an answer is sometimes a man who won't hesitate to say "She asked for it."

I've learned that lesson the hard way.


Don't feel sorry for me.  Don't believe that my story is special.  Don't believe that I feel hard done by - I don't.

These are my realities.  I was raped.  I have learned some lessons since then, that now come seond nature.  I run with mace so that I won't be molested at 5am while getting exercise.  I am careful about my appearance, in order not to send the wrong message even to a man I'm attracted to.  I remain very alert when I'm out on my own.  If I go out with girlfriends and we park in opposite directions, one of us drives the others to their cars so nobody is out alone in a dress and high heels.

And none of that should be my responsibility, but I take it on anyway, because it's what we women do to keep ourselves safe.  It's not fair, and it's not right, but it is what it is.


Here's a news flash: when men send me messages online that are overtly sexual in the very first contact, I block that user.  When men catcall on the street, I ignore them.  I don't go to certain places by myself at night.  I send my friends pre-date messages, "I have a date with a man named Y, his phone number is Z, an we are meeting at (location) at 7pm.  I'll text you by 9pm to let you know I'm okay, and if you don't hear from me then please follow up!"  I've never met a man who contacted his friends the same way before a date, worried about his safety.

The good guys see me take out my phone and say, "Your friends are checking on you?  Good for you - that's smart," because they have mothers and ex-wives and daughters and friends, and they know how it is, and how a girl must be careful.  The jerks say, "What?  You don't trust me?" and my hackles go up and I suddenly do not trust them.


The reason that #YesAllWomen is important is because if I share a confidence with a friend that I was raped once, all too often she whispers "Me too."

The reason that #YesAllWomen is important is because there is a huge amount of attention placed on women doing everything perfectly - my mace, my not-too-sexy outfits - when it really comes down to this:

Men:  No means no.  A short skirt is not an invitation to fuck.  When I walk down the street, I'm not looking for commentary, even if I'm wearing high heels.

Most men know this.  I know that.  Most men aren't pigs, and they don't treat women in these ways, and when they know my rape story they, too, cringe.

Most men know that on a date, when my blouse is a smidge lower than I'd wear to work, it's not proof that I want to sleep with them; that when I invite a kiss, I am only inviting the kiss in that moment, not more.  Most men, when rebuffed, back away instead of insisting that I spend my time with them.

But women encounter ridiculous threats all the time.  Often, a man I'm dating is taller and fifty pounds heavier than I am, so if we're kissing and I say no and he decides it's a yes, the truth is I'm not going to be able to stop him, and that is a reality that I carry with me.  I know that at work I have to protect my reputation, even when all I said was "no" and I wasn't the one initiating dating or encouraging it, because *my* reputation is at risk.


I want to raise my daughter to grow up and love men.  I want her to feel comfortable in her skin, to wear what she wishes.  I want her to feel safe, whether she's in a bikini or in a board room suit.  I want her to experience playful kisses from suitors.  I want her to feel strong and powerful, on an early morning run, or out in the woods with a backpack.  When she says "No," I want her to be heard.  I want her to feel sexy, without feeling at risk of violence, even when she's not in a relationship.  I want that for myself, too.


I don't have answers.  I don't know how to change societal norms that place all the responsibility on women to manage men's behaviors. 

#YesAllWomen.  Even me.

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