I was never raped. I allowed it to happen.
This is the lie I told myself for the past decade.
The recent events involving Brock Turner, the convicted rapist and former student of Stanford University, has unearthed memories long ago buried.
I wear a scarlet letter R, which has permanently affixed itself to my body, buried by years of suppression, self-doubt, self-hate, and humiliation. I shoved it into the furthest depths of my soul, but it’s screaming to be heard, to be revisited, to be healed.
I can no longer silence the memory; flashbacks exist in every heart-wrenching article on the Stanford rapist. It’s a constant reminder because, like his victim never getting justice, neither will any person who was raped. There is no amount of justice to restore a victim whole.
At age 22, I enjoyed the highs of life. Drinking and dancing were commonplace within my happy existence. Working two jobs throughout college, I rewarded myself often with the late-night club scene. My life was happy, fun, and free. Until it wasn’t.
That fateful night, we laughed, we talked, we drank, and we left together. His face is etched in my mind, a face I try to forget. A name, I want to forget, but can’t. He is a figment of my imagination, a sadistic nightmare, a past life memory, anything to erase the truth. In a moment of unease, I took sex off the table. I apologized and asked him if he was OK with that, if not he could take me to my friend’s house. He assured me he wouldn’t try. Getting to know me, he said, was the goal.
That was not the case.
I foolishly believed that I could take him on his word. In the end, I gave up fighting. I was no match for a man twice my size.
In our world, Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than women in general. I am a statistic. It’s a continuous rollercoaster of lying to myself for fear of the truth, of repercussions, and to survive.
I drank too much, I left with him, and I put myself in this vulnerable situation. This would be their defense and a major reason as to why a report was never filed. Terrified of what they would say about me, I would be ripped to shreds, all my past would be brought to the forefront, every mistake scrutinized. I would not win because of the choices I made.
But I never said yes. I am a silent victim and still bear the scars, remember the fight, and the moment I chose life over death by giving up. To this day, I carry some form of survivor’s guilt. My not speaking up has opened the door for his next victim.
As a mother, I look upon my innocent children’s faces with a debilitating fear they, too, will be a statistic. Rape culture is victim blaming, monitoring their choices, but never blaming the one who committed the crime. It was rape culture that stopped me from saving another woman susceptible to him, a cowardly mistake I must live with for the rest of my life. Native American communities across the U.S. are riddled with similar occurrences and until we recognize it and fight back, it will continue to impose itself upon our world.
This is our reality. This is the consequence of rape culture in America.