When You Lose Your Voice
TRIGGER WARNING This article or section, or pages it links to, contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors.
I was a good student in school.
I didn’t hang out with people after school very often.
I had never been around alcohol before college.
When I moved away for college, I walked in without an understanding of relationships, parties, and general social situations.
I went to a party my Freshman year and my best friend’s boyfriend pushed me against a wall and shoved his hands down my pants. She came around the corner and didn’t see what he had done. She didn’t believe me when I told her what happened.
I didn’t know that was assault.
I thought he was just being a drunk boy. I was at a party, what did I expect?
I lost a little of my voice that night.
Later that year, a friend was dating someone who had a second girlfriend. Both girls went to the same small private Christian college.
Of course they found out and went for a drive with their respective best friends in a night of girl bonding.
When we stopped at a gas station for snacks, we found out the boyfriend had been following us. He pulled up behind us and tried to pull one of the girls out of the car. Unsuccessful, he followed us down the road back to campus, swerving all over the place.
He was drunk.
We called 911 when we got back to school but campus security told him to stop driving because the police were on the way.
The dean came out to talk to us…he was so angry…with us.
He asked, “why did you call the police? Do your parents know you swear? If you didn’t party so often and just focused on school, you wouldn’t find yourself in these sorts of situations”
He aggressively questioned us about where the boy’s alcohol came from and was anyone else drinking? (we were not drinking)
He somehow worked our clothing into the discussion as well, something about how we needed to be more “modest”. (we were all in oversized t-shirts and sweatpants, as if that even needs to be mentioned).
He said that next time something like this happened, we needed to call him, not the police.
He was disappointed with us and our “values”.
I was so scared.
I was so confused.
I lost a lot of my voice that night.
Everyone said, “just ignore him”.
My voice didn’t matter.
That summer, I was a waitress. One night after work, a group of new hires headed over to someone’s house to hang out. There was alcohol there and I drank 2 or 3 Smirnoff Ice’s.
That night, a boy thought I was cute.
I’ve never been good at saying no. From a very young age, I was taught that you do what you are told.
Don’t talk back. Don’t speak up. Be quiet. Be polite. Obey.
So a boy thought I was cute. He kissed me. I don’t remember everything that happened next.
I remember loudly and clearly saying no. I remember pushing him away and telling him to stop. He didn’t listen.
I kicked him. He didn’t stop. My “no”, was an obstacle for him to overcome, a battle of wills.
I remember thinking that it was my fault. I was in a bathing suit. I had been drinking.
Boys can’t control themselves right? What did I expect to happen?
As I tried to find the tampon he shoved so far up inside me the next morning, I sat in my bathroom sobbing. I couldn’t tell anyone. What would I say? I thought it was my fault.
I saw what happened to girls in the church and at my Christian college when they had sex before they were married.
I was so ashamed, embarrassed, scared and hurt.
I didn’t know that I was raped until very recently.
Sometimes I understand that the violence against my body was not my fault. Only sometimes though.
I grew up hearing that girls need to cover their bodies so they don’t lead boys to sin.
If a boy is thinking about sex, it must be because my shirt is too tight and it’s my job as his sister in Christ to not be a stumbling block.
If I hadn’t been drinking…if I hadn’t been wearing a bathing suit…if only…if…if
I lost my voice the year I turned 19.
The more stories I read about assault, the more I realize that my experience isn’t out of the ordinary.
More and more women and men are saying, “me too, I thought I was alone”.
So if you are reading this and feeling alone, reading the horrible comments about women who were “asking for it”, if you were told that your body is a distraction to men, that you are overreacting and overly sensitive, you are not alone.
Maybe you are scared or ashamed.
Maybe you have heard over and over again that a woman shouldn’t “let” a man assault her.
Maybe you were taught to be good, be kind and be quiet, to think of yourself last and always put others first.
Maybe you were taught the importance of always being “nice”.
I don’t want to be “nice” if it means staying silent so I don’t make anyone else uncomfortable.
Lastly, I have to add, yes, men are abused too, yes, that is an issue, but right now I’m writing my story and I’m not a man.
It has been 12 years since the night I lost my voice.
I’m finally reclaiming my right to speak.
I will fiercely defend the right of all women to speak.
I am determined to keep my voice, and make sure that my daughters never lose theirs.