Originally published Thursday, 20 February 2014.
Psssst! Hello, dear reader! Please be advised, the subject matter below may be a trigger for some of you. If this is the case, please know that you are loved and you are beautiful. I will say that several times throughout the post, because it is irreversibly true. If you have experienced this, or know someone who has, please report it immediately. The only thing worse than being assaulted is allowing the perpetrator get away with it. You can't control what happened to you, but you can control the actions you take to help protect other women from having to endure the same hardship you have.
This article first appeared on www.prodigalsister.com. You can read more from Brett there, and be sure to follow her on Facebook for the latest updates.
Yes, the Little Black Dress series is primarily dedicated to singles for the month of February.
However, this post, specifically, is for the one-in-three women who have been torn apart by sexual assault.
It's a hard topic to get into. Few people–myself very much included–have courage enough to say the hard stuff.
But for some people it's easy to make assumptions on this hard stuff without actually having gone through it. Unfortunately (for whatever reason) their voices are louder. That needs to change.
This post is a response to an article I read somewhere in the deep jungle of judgement on the internet. I won't dignify it by linking to it. I'd rather no one give it any more attention.
Essentially it was shaming women who have been raped or assaulted. Telling them that they should stop "crying wolf" because it is their fault they put themselves in a situation to be taken advantage of.
In other words, it was an irresponsible published lie after lie after outrageous, heart-stopping lie.
Ladies, there is a place where you can turn and rest. There is a place where you can recover from the insecurity that dwells in your heart. I hope with all my heart you discover a bit of it here. Because you are loved and you are beautiful.
Don't let ignorant editorials on the internet tell you differently. Forgive me if this one in particular does not do you the justice you deserve.
You deserve justice.
You deserve the world.
Half an inch wide is the crack in my windshield.
I was within the safety of my own car. Driving on the highway.
And then pop! went the rock that sparked a crevice. Small, but noticeable. Enough to do some damage to the glass.
I was following all of the rules of the road. I was driving with my hands at eight and four o'clock. I was following behind the car in front of me with a safe distance of one-two-and-three-Mississippi between us. I wasn't texting. Or speeding.
I was simply driving my car as I have done every day since I was sixteen.
The wheel of the truck in front of me is what pricked the rock alive. It's what made it dance and skip across the road and land on my car.
Virginia law tells me that the driver in front of me at the time is not obligated to pay for the damage.
But, let me be clear: though I am the sole woman responsible for paying for the repairs (via insurance), the crack in my windshield was not my fault.
There are some people in the world (both real life and web versions of it) that would argue otherwise.
They would tell me that I shouldn't have been driving behind a truck.
They would ask me why I even got into the car in the first place. They would shame me for not knowing that driving is dangerous.
They may even try to make me feel guilty for driving behind a truck. They would say that I should have known better. That many other cars have been damaged by rocks before.
I should have learned from the mistakes of other drivers on the road.
The same is true of many of the reactions assault victims receive from people they hoped to trust. Condemning them for their inability to predict a flinging rock hitting their windshield.
What were you doing at his house?
Why were you kissing him?
Why did you wait so long to report this?
He was so controlling–why were you in a relationship with this man in the first place?
These were the questions I was asked by the men and women on the "committee" to decide whether or not accusations I was bringing against a man in my community were true.
This was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life: having to defend myself to a room full of strangers. Unqualified to detect signs of emotional abuse or trauma. Plucking out the truth as told both by me and the person-in-question.
I shared my story with them. And through their questions, it became clear that they believed the situation I found myself in was my fault.
It is no wonder that many of these men go unreported. According to the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network, 60 percent of assault cases go unreported to the police. And 97 percent of rapists will never see prison time.
And even still I am stunned at the ubiquity of literature that shames women for speaking up. That turns the tables and sheets and heartbreak on the victims that are just trying to seek damage for the glass that has shattered in their lives.
It seems as though there is a bigger problem in the world than women "crying wolf" and drumming up falsified assault cases.
No, the bigger problem is that too many women don't have the encouragement, love, respect, support to warn women of the real wolves that plague the nation.
The wolves that seek to devour the unsuspecting. The women who will one day be blamed for the thing they were not strong enough to fight against.
Last May, involuntarily, I stood on the sidelines of a college graduation and watched this man cross the platform. Decked in a black robe. Smile plastered on his face. Tassel swinging from side-to-side.
Knowing that he had just received his master's in counseling. Knowing that he was legally and educationally qualified to counsel men and women with a clean record.
I waited too long to talk to someone about the night I drove behind a large truck. And he was a splintering rock that got away.
Those whose windshields are still intact should not speak about these matters except to encourage victims of sexual assault rather than to shame them.
photo credit: Martha.butterflycaught via photopin cc