“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
Unless you live under a rock, you know what this quote is in reference to. You also know that there is much more to it. Much more than locker room banter and boys will be boys. They justify sexual assault. Reinforce rape culture. Encourage the rhetoric portraying women as objects to be used at the whim of men.
It’s not okay.
Yesterday, on Twitter, in light of the released tapes, author Kelly Oxford asked women to tweet her their first assaults. At some point over the course of the night, she had received over a million responses. I read them for hours last night and into the wee hours of the morning. It’s heartbreaking. They are still coming in, over 14 hours later.
Women: tweet me your first assaults. They aren’t just stats. I’ll go first:
“Old man on city bus grabs my p****y and smiles at me. I’m 12.”
“60 year old neighbor who said he could ‘help’ me rake leaves. I was 8.”
“Man rubbed against my a** on the train then blew me a kiss. I was in fifth grade on a school trip.”
“I was so young (8?) that I didn’t understand what happened for two decades.”
“I was 14. When I said ‘don’t,’ he laughed. Sexual assault isn’t just rape, folks. It devastated me.”
“I was 3. It continued for three ears. I still have nightmares.”
“Man sitting next to me at public library groped me under the table. I was 10.”
“From 5-7, assaulted by 10yr old neighbor boy. He waited of me every day outside to get me alone.”
“First one at age 4 by my great grandfather.”
“I was 8 years old at a county fair.”
“I just thought of four before the time I was 20.”
“A family friend grabbed my a** then winked and licked his lips at me. I was 11.”
“Roofied. Age 20.”
“A** was grabbed in a haunted house when I was 13. I didn’t LET him do it.”
“My close friend date-raped me 5 years into our friendship.”
“Having a hard time typing specifics. Classmate, boyfriend, drunk at frat party, boss, boss, instructor, co-worker.“
“I was 6 or so. Two older boys put their hands down my pants. My brother was there…told my dad. I got in trouble for it.”
“And rape culture is so pervasive I paused to wonder if mine (junior-high breast grabbing) was even worth mentioning.”
If you think rape culture doesn’t exist, read the last two tweets again. One got in trouble for what happened to her and the other wondered if hers was even worth mentioning. This is not a distraction. This is not locker room banter. This is unacceptable. Yet, it is perpetuated every time men and women, mothers and fathers, dismiss sexual assault by saying boys will be boys.
It’s not okay.
Sadly, these aren’t isolated incidents. Someone you know has a story very much like the ones above. It could be your sister, your mother, your cousin, your friend. It could be you.
One of those stories is mine. It is me.
We aren’t simply someone’s daughter, or wife or mother. We aren’t simply statistics. We are human beings. We deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
Some of the women who told their stories had never spoken up before last night. There is shame in the silence. As Christians, hell, as decent human beings, we need to do better. Women need to know they have a safe place to tell their stories. That every incident of sexual assault is worth mentioning. That every incident of sexual assault is not her fault. That every incident of sexual assault is wrong. That every incident of sexual assault will not continue to be dismissed as boys will be boys. Regardless of how old they are.
It’s not okay.
Rape culture is real. “It is a culture in which dominant ideas, social practices, media images and societal institutions implicitly condone sexual assault by normalizing or trivializing sexual violence and by blaming survivors for their own abuse.” Carleton University sexual violence prevention policy.
If you are a victim of sexual assault, this is a safe place. There are too many of us with me too stories. You are not alone.
National Sexual Assault Hotline
(Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)