I’m a strong believer that when you feel the urge to do something like start your own business, write an article, or travel, you should do it. However, it usually takes me three or four signs from the universe to build up the courage to speak out in my writing. This particular topic has been on my mind since I heard Emma Watson’s moving speech to the UN on behalf of feminism, and again, when I read Lenny’s (Lena Dunham's newsletter project with Jenni Konner) interview with Bobby Exckstein about sexual misconduct on college campuses. What really pushed me forward was when Emily Heller, a comedian I met in high school, posted: A Confession addressing the horrors victims of assault go through when they decide to come forward. Having been sexually mistreated by men numerous times in my life, this issue is both scary and incredibly personal. But unfortunately, most women I know have been be mistreated by men. Some cases are small and juvenile, while others are egregious. Either way, It should not happen.
For me, it was my junior year of college and I had recently transferred to UCLA. The city scared me a bit. Coming from a small town in Northern California, LA seemed endless and wild. It was the first week of school and I knew no one. I had befriended a girl who invited me to a frat party. This fraternity was probably the nerdiest fraternity around. They were also known for throwing parties where both men and women were invited.
I had just started a prestigious internship and knew I didn’t want to stay out late, so I told everyone ahead of time I was going to walk myself back to the dorms. Normally, someone would have walked with me but I felt confident. It was early and I didn’t drink that much. After two orange juice and vodkas served in red solo-cups and some group photos, I headed home.
About halfway up the hill, I started to become disoriented. I called my new friend, “Something's not right.”
A man I didn’t know walked up behind me and took my phone.
“Hello, hello?” She asked.
“Hi, I have your friend, I’m going to walk her home.”
“No you aren’t, who the fuck are you?! Where are you?”
The was the last she heard from me until the morning.
As I lost the feeling in my legs, I tried to sit on rock and tell this unknown man to leave. My vision blurred until it was gone; I could hear a group of sorority girls walking past and one said, “I’ve seen drunk people before, she’s not drunk, someone call 911.”
I tried to talk. I tried to talk so many times but my mouth and body were frozen. It’s a bone chilling experience to be unable to communicate while being hazily aware of what’s going on around you.
Everything I remember from that night is in pieces. I have spotty memories of my clothes being cut off in an ambulance, and of the paramedics laughing at my tattoo. I remember desperately trying to communicate. Then there’s blackness.
My next memory is of being shoved into a bathroom by a nurse, my toes curling at the cold linoleum floor, shivering under the paper thin hospital gown. She shouted at me to get dressed, throwing a bag of vomit covered, tattered clothing in my direction. In a daze, I grabbed onto the long metal handicap bar to orient myself. I didn’t know where I was. I walked through the emergency room and eventually, someone pointed me in the direction of the dorms. I hiked a half mile in my high-heeled, strappy knee high boots, trying my best to hold together the back of the hospital gown.
A security guard in a van started following me. I was terrified, shaken, numb, and walking as fast as my slut boots would allow. In retrospect he was probably just making sure I made it to campus safely. I got to my dorm, showered the vomit from my hair, and sunk to the floor crying under the warm water. As the tears and water rolled down my face, I examined foreign limbs that were supposed to be my own and a shell of bruises that covered my shattered and cracked body. It looked like I’d been hit by a car. My knees were cut and bloodied, a porous ocean of purple and blue ran up my thigh to my hip. What happened?
After I collected myself as best I could, I went to file a police report. They told me there was nothing I could do. To my knowledge, I wasn’t raped. It was my word against ghosts and since I couldn’t remember the face of the man or the women who helped me there wasn’t much to go on. I asked why a drug panel hadn’t been done, and if we could do one now.
No, we couldn’t. Apparently roofies leave your system after 8 hours. I was mad. I wanted answers. Hospitals are supposed to be places where we feel safe. I know the EMTs who laughed at me and the nurse who tossed me out like a bag of trash, see a lot of alcohol abuse. I guess they were treating me like any other college student who drank too much, figuring I’d learn my lesson through humiliation, if they they thought anything about it at all.
Everyone at the party remembered a man there that no one knew. I remembered that I put my drink down when we went to take photos. The party throwers are, to this day, some of my closest male friends. When all this went down, we didn’t know each other very well. It’s hard to believe such an egregious thing could happen to someone in your own house. I later found out everyone thought I was lying about the experience. It wasn’t until they got to know me that they realized I would never lie, especially about that.
When I went to take my insurance to the hospital, the guy behind the counter almost chuckled as I gave him my ID and explained what happened. “Oh I saw you,” he smirked. I snapped, “And you didn’t help? In what world is it ok for a young 20 year old girl to walk out of hospital alone in just a nightgown and skanky black boots?”
Now that I’m raising a young man, I often ask myself the question, “What can I do make sure this person becomes an honorable human?” I want him to be the kind of man that shuts down locker room jokes when boys are making crude comments about girls. I want him to be the kind of man who stands on the subway when a pregnant woman boards, offering his seat. The kind that never leads anyone on and broaches intimates experiences with women with caution and respect.
Emma Watson is right, it’s not just women who need to band together to address the sexism in this country. We can’t do it without men. We need to hold one another accountable and realize that sexual assault and mistreatment are more than rape; it’s a grotesque culture of inequality and objectivism. We are all human and should treat each other with respect and kindness.