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Today I planned to work on writing my book. I was updating something in Instagram and came upon this post and I couldn’t get past it:

“Every time I’m annoyed, angered, frustrated, and confused by the proceedings it’s evidence that I am a peacemaker- so I will act like one. I will uphold dignity and wisdom, righteous indignation and humility, hopefulness and resolve…every single person in that room is loved by God. Full stop…. And so… I will listen to them with generosity… If broken people continue to uphold broken policies and ways of treating people that just means I’ve got more work to do because I am a peacemaker.” -Osheta Moore in response to the Kavanaugh hearing

I need to tell you part of my story. It’s time to make peace. The peace that is loud and strong. The peace that speaks up instead of stays silent. The kind of peace that assaults oppression and violence and injustice.

I WAS SEXUALLY ASSAULTED TWO DIFFERENT TIMES IN MY LIFE BY TWO DIFFERENT MEN.

1. Both times I was kissed and groped by men who I had recently met and would have considered a recent acquaintance.
2. Both times THERE WAS NO CONSENT.
3. BOTH TIMES I ACTIVELY DISSENTED, verbally and physically, yet they both kept touching me inappropriately.
I remember being confused because I didn’t know why they would think he knew what I wanted more than I knew. It was especially confusing because each time they told me what I wanted was the direct opposite of what I was clearly saying I did not want- When I kept saying “I don’t want you to kiss me. Don’t touch me there. Please stop touching me. Please don’t do this. Please let me leave.” They each used slightly different words to say “No, it’s OK, don’t worry about it, it’s OK for you want this.”
4. BOTH TIMES I hesitated telling anyone what happened because I felt weak, ashamed, and embarrassed. Knowing when I hit publish and this will go public is a point of hesitation.
I felt weak and ashamed of my weakness; I was not physically strong enough to stop them. I now know these feelings are LIES because the men were weak, not me. They assaulted me, taking what they wanted simply because they wanted it. This line of thinking is immature, foolish and weak.
I also felt ashamed I hadn’t seen it coming in time to avoid it. This is also a lie. Thinking this way means I take a small portion of the responsibility of their actions. They are the ones fully responsible for their actions, not me. Additionally, living in retrospect is not living in reality and shaming myself for “would’ve/could’ve/should’ve” is pointless. Another point of confusion was about the definition of sexual assault. I had always equated it with rape, but I wasn’t raped. So did that mean this isn’t truly sexual assault? Does it have to be rape to be bad enough to be reported? I wasn’t sure, but I also knew that what had happened was wrong and felt violating and I didn’t want it to happen to anyone else.
I also felt embarrassed because reporting them would mean I would share this traumatic personal experience about private body parts with a stranger. The benefit of the doubt I had unknowingly given the men (in the moments before the assault) had been violated, who could I trust now? The men to whom I was supposed to report the incident?

5. BOTH TIMES when I finally mustered up the strength to report the assault IMMEDIATELY my perception and memory were questioned.

“Are you sure?
Are you sure it wasn’t a misunderstanding?
Are you sure they heard you when you said no? This is a serious allegation… are you sure it happened the way you are saying it did?”

 

The first time it was an athlete for a local university. The follow through from the allegations, if more than a slap on the wrist from the campus police, would have affected the course of his life. His education and possibly his livelihood as an athlete would have been severely stunted. The potential of negative publicity for the school from the news of this event getting out into the public I am sure was also a factor. The image of this school and the education and career of their athlete, were deemed more valuable of being protected and defended than the value of justice for violation of my own body, let alone the emotional and psychological repercussions in my life.

In the other situation the man involved was considered an important contact for a religious organization. This man was also from a different culture. Despite me knowing I was very clear in my NO, the excuse of cultural differences was made on his behalf, and once again, the strategic connection this man was able to give this religious organization was more important/more valuable than the character he showed in his actions towards me.

I was also young and immature and lacked confidence, being raised in a culture which valued and praised submissive women (or in the very least obedient children) so I was very aware of the pressure to go along with the implications of this line of questioning. Instead of being concerned with what had been done to me they were concerned I knew what my speaking up would do, “Do you know what this will do to him? To the school? To the ministry?” As if my speaking up would be a violation. I was pressured to keep the peace by saying I was not sure about what happened. Yet deep inside of me I knew it was clear.

So, despite my confusion as to why the authorities would automatically question me instead of start questioning the men, I went with my gut.
Yes. I am sure. In that moment I learned I was that strong.

6. From then on the weight of keeping the peace for everyone else felt too heavy to bear. In the case where I reported to campus police I was questioned again and given long forms to fill out. I remember my hand cramping on a hard chipped desk in a cold room under glaring fluorescent lights, as I described in full detail how my body was violated. Reliving the moments alone except for the two men watching me like I wasn’t to be trusted. After I turned in the form they said they would handle everything from there on out. I didn’t even realize there was anything else I could have done, so I caved to letting the unofficial authorities handle the situation for me even though their lines of questioning showed me that they cared for the reputation and livelihood of the men who violated my body more than the actual violation of my own body. They cared more about keeping the peace for everyone but me, the victim.

Why did I trust them? If I was in a similar situation today there is no way in hell I’d trust them like I did before, but I didn’t realize how much I had been groomed to trust people in authority and not question their decisions- if I did question their actions I would keep it inside, afraid to speak up because I didn’t know what else to do. So when they put pressure on me to minimize the issue and let them talk to the men to “work it out” I went along with it. It was only till years later, talking to a counselor, that I realized I could have- should have- reported it to the actual police.

7. In BOTH cases the only repercussions for the men were to leave me alone unless they wanted to apologize to me, and in BOTH I never got a real apology. Both men said they were “sorry I felt bad and that I misunderstood.” Neither apologized for this behavior. In both cases the authorities urged me to accept these apologies as is and simply avoid these men “move on with my life.”

Being nice, compliant, obedient, rule followers who go along with the way things are and avoid ruffling feathers is not good enough anymore.
THIS IS NO LONGER GOOD ENOUGH.
THIS WAS NEVER GOOD ENOUGH.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

We MUST seriously listen to the people who speak up, not just the people who have the most to lose.

We MUST stop keeping the peace for aggressive, selfish, weak behavior, especially for those who are in places of influence and power.

If the greater good can only be achieved by permitting lesser evils then IT IS NOT A GREATER GOOD.

My dear readers, do not stay silent because someone told you peace is weak and quiet. If something feels wrong deep in your  gut, it probably is. If you are the victim, then first find someone you have established trust with, then make a plan and get real help. If you think you see someone being victimized, assess the situation and speak up or get help or both. Remember you are never responsible for the actions of others but in any situation you can choose how you want to respond to those actions. You aren’t responsible for keeping the peace for everyone else at the cost of your own peace. Your life, your experiences, they matter, but sometimes we have to fight for the peace we deserve. You never know when the lives of others will be affected by your voice, but you know for sure no one will be affected if you don’t speak up. If my voice today helps even one person then sharing my story will be worth it. I will aggressively make waves in the shape of my story to protect and value the peace of the oppressed.

Live like you matter,

Elisabeth