Think you won’t be a victim?

First-Person Experience

Gwen Poole, Photography Editor

To my peers, I’m considered strong and not the type of girl one would think of as the typical “victim” in a story. In all honestly, I would agree — I know how to handle myself in scary situations and don’t ever let people take advantage of me.

And yet, it just goes to show that anyone, even those we consider strong women, are affected by sexual assault.

I first became aware of rape and sexual assault at an early age with my parents constantly telling me to be vigilant around men especially when alone and to cover up for fear that some man would be unable to “control himself.”

When I got my license, my parents wouldn’t even let me drive late at night, reasoning that “there are crazy people out and you’re a girl.” This excuse used to make me so angry that hot tears would slide down my cheeks. I kept thinking about my brother, who was allowed to stay out late and drive around with his friends, because as they said, “he’s a boy, it’s different.”

The thing that really got to me, however, was that my parents taught me to be careful of strangers — when what they should have worried about were the kids I joked and hung around with every day.

It happened one night at a party, which I guess makes sense because wherever a mix of drugs, alcohol, and teens are, something bad is bound to follow.

When we got to the house, I could already tell people had been drinking and smoking. Right away though, I noticed a guy I knew who was downing shots like they were water. I usually have a really good sense of noticing people to be careful of, but being there with familiar faces and my friend, the sense of danger moved to the back of my mind.

Everything was going fine; I was talking with some girls who were also sober and listening to some music, when someone yelled that a group was going to go walking around the block to get some air and just be stupid out in the open. Being the protective person I am, I noticed my friend had joined that group and I rushed to her side.

I stayed toward the back of the crowd so I could see everything and make sure things were fine. It was dark and cold, and suddenly I felt a big presence right next to me.

The guy who I had been concerned about earlier had dropped back into step with me. He started asking all these questions and since we sort of knew each other, I didn’t see any problems. By now we had fallen back a considerable distance from the group to the point that their screaming had turned to an almost whisper.

All of a sudden he started telling me how beautiful I was and how he didn’t know know why I was single, which began to scare me. I said “thank you” as I quickened my pace in an attempt to rejoin the group.

As soon as I felt him put his arms around me, my breath caught in my throat. I casually pushed him off and nervously laughed, telling him to stop. Again, he grabbed me, but this time put one hand on my butt. Immediately, I began trying to push him off, but because he was twice my size, it was difficult.

When his hands grabbed my breast so hard it left marks, I lost it.

I pushed him as hard as I could and ran back to the house, where the group we had been walking with had already arrived. I went to look for my friend so we could leave, but the crowd of bodies offered no assistance. I heard him at one point come inside and start yelling my name, so I hid in the garage the remaining two hours we were there.

It wasn’t until I got home and cried myself to sleep that night that I realized what had happened. I knew these types of things happened all the time to girls — some cases being way more violent — but I never in a million years would’ve thought it would happen to me.

I never told anyone that mattered or confronted my attacker about what had happened, because in all honesty, I was ashamed and it didn’t dawn on me that I needed to. In my mind, what had happened was something that had to be handled privately and on my own, if handled at all.

Being violated in such a way has changed my perception of guys, and as a result, has caused me to develop a fear of being intimate with anyone.

It’s a sad place we live in where young girls have to deal with these situations. I personally have begun to overcome my fears, but for some who have been through worse, relief is almost impossible. My only hope is that the people who commit these crimes will be punished.