sexual assault

day 28: old & fat

Saturday, 4/2/2106 

So I recently bought a book called Ten Reasons You Feel Old and Get Fat. No, I am not kidding. Ha.

Ok before you freak out - no, I do not think I'm fat. No, I do not think I'm old. Am I sometimes afraid that this experience has aged me? Yes. Is that the reason why I bought the book? No. The book is just a KILLER lesson in all things health and wellness, and with a title like that- also a little convicting.  

A few days after the assault, I went to a voice lesson that happened to be recorded on video. I took an Uber with the windows rolled down. Being in the subway, or any confined space, gave me severe anxiety. I felt like I was going to explode while simultaneously crumpling up into a screaming, crying, hyperventilating ball on the floor. I didn't take the subway for weeks. I needed to feel the air on my face. To know that I was free to stop the car and get out at any time. 

When I watched the tape back that night, I realized that the girl on camera didn't look like me. She looked sad and despondent; unable to connect, lost in a million thoughts. Her face was dark and lifeless. I was really taken aback. I'm not sure what I expected to look like. I guess I just didn't think I would look so changed. After the experience of seeing myself in the hospital mirror, I hadn't really looked at myself in the days after the assault. I couldn't. 

"What were you wearing?"

     "The clothes in your evidence bag. My favorite blue long sleeve sweater, leather leggings, booties, and a leather jacket" 

What was I wearing? The question struck me as odd. I guess that if I had been discovered with no clothes on, or had arrived to the hospital in different clothes, it would make sense. But considering the clothes were sitting in an evidence bag in the same hospital as we were, the question seemed redundant. Unfair. If it had been summer, I'd likely have been wearing cut off shorts and a flowy tank top. Or a summer dress. Would that have made some sort of difference to the crime itself? 

They never asked, but I've asked myself, "what was your face doing? It couldn't have been the clothes - leggings and a sweater aren't exactly 'come have sex with me' attire. My hair was frizzy from the rain. So it wasn't like I had sex hair. It had to have been my face. What was written on my face that made them think - 'yes - that girl is the perfect target.'?" 

Some experts say that predators can spot easy targets. Easy targets meaning a person who has already been assaulted or abused before. Did my face unknowingly give me away? 

Or what if it wasn't my face at all? What if it had nothing to do with me? Maybe what I looked like meant nothing. Maybe type was irrelevant. Maybe it was simply because there were only two of us, instead of a group of girls, and two was the only number that fit within their well thought out, and perfectly executed, plan. 

Or maybe type did mean something. Maybe one of their ex-girlfriends looked just like me, or just like my friend... 

I could go on and on and on and on and on and on and on. The rabbit trails are endless. But why keep trying to find logical reason for an illogical display of human behavior? Let's say that in an alternate world, Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler were assigned to my case. They met me at the hospital to ask about the events of that night and sent Finn (Ice-T) to the bar of the incident. He scared the owner into giving him the security footage that showed my friend being carried into a cab and me being led "like a dead fish" (to use the bouncer's own words) in the opposite direction. Through unrelenting detective work they found the guys and dragged them down to the precinct and Elliot questioned them until they broke and admitted to drugging me and then having what they deemed "consensual sex." Rafael Barba prosecuted my attackers and in a ruthless line of questioning managed to trick them into saying why they did it, and actually classifying it as rape. So after a long and arduous process, I get the reasoning behind the crime - the why behind the 'why me?'

...

 I don't think I'd find it comforting. It wouldn't change the events of that night. Understanding why people felt that I fit the bill, won't help me reconcile that I was used to pay it. 

I had to learn to love the girl in the mirror again. To see her beauty. To not study her features looking for the trigger. That took time and patience. And bravery. For a good, long, while all I saw was someone weak. Someone who couldn't fight back hard enough. Someone who questioned her ability to read others. Someone who was angry and defiant, reckless, and stupid. Then, I saw a girl who was tired, who didn't think she could fight anymore. A girl who was broken, hurting, and ashamed. A little while after that, I saw a liar. Someone so full of pride, that she couldn't admit to the pit she was living in. A girl who was past redemption. Unworthy of anything good. Totally and completely alone. Hopeless. I saw a girl who needed help, who desperately longed for it, but didn't know how to ask for it. A girl who was embarrassed that she'd waited this long. A girl who thought she was unloveable. Then that girl let go a little bit. She agreed that she couldn't do it alone anymore. After that, I saw a girl who accepted help, who opened up, who was brutally honest with herself and others, and who made the decision to find healing. Then I saw a girl who leaned on others. Who believed them and allowed them to speak truth over her. Finally, I saw a girl who decided to talk to God again - to ask him why, to beg Jesus to heal her. To throw her anger, hurt, pain, frustration, and deep loss at the foot of the cross and wait. She decided to walk with Jesus again, even if at a slow pace. To believe him, and to stop running from him. And after walking a while, I saw light, and maybe even a little joy. I looked in the mirror and saw a woman who realized she was FREE.

The reality is that our experiences do age us - but age isn't ugly. It's beautiful. 

My face never did look the same as it did prior to that night. Instead, it looks unmistakably different. It looks like I gained a little wisdom and allowed myself to be humbled. Like I learned to love myself and do my best to see myself the way Jesus does. Like I found unshakeable faith, dealt with real pain, and found healing. Like I stood in the face of opposition and asserted strength. I look in the mirror now and I see a woman I'm proud to be, and for a while there, I didn't know if that would ever be possible. 

I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. - Psalm 34:5
<3 B -3.jpg

 

 

 

day 27: hope floats: HIV & hopelessness

Friday, 4/1/2016

Hope Floats is (if you know me) not shockingly one of my favorite movies. Sandra Bulluck? Check. Adorable, feisty, little girl? Check. Quirky grandma? Check. Texas? Check. Often rated one of the worst movies of all time? Check. Handsome cowboy? Chhhheck. #whatsupharryconickjr

The movie begins with Sandra Bulluck’s character, Birdee, being humiliated on a live talk show when it’s revealed that her husband and her best friend are having an affair - all in front of her daughter, Bernice. They move from Chicago to her tiny Texas hometown to start over…

Starting over... there’s something about this notion that we’ve decided goes hand in hand with hope. A fresh start –> brings hope. A new beginning –> brings hope. A new chapter –> brings hope.

But- where do you find hope if starting over isn’t an option? What if you need hope in the circumstance you’re actually in? What happens when you’re driving through a fog so thick that you can’t even see the lights in front of you, let alone find a new road to drive down in order to find hope? What happens when all hope is lost?

It had been two months since I was assaulted after my friend and I were drugged, separated, and taken to different apartments – me under the guise of finding her. I picked up the bottle of pills from my nightstand, took them to the kitchen, opened my cabinet, stuck them on the highest shelf behind all the sauces and spices I intend to cook with, but never do, shut the cabinet, went back to my room, shut the door, got in my bed, under the covers, and began to sob. If I put enough physical distance between them and me, then that horrible thought would disappear too.

There’s this worldwide, mutual feeling that we all know. It’s those first 15 seconds after we wake up, when the reality of whatever we may be facing hasn’t hit yet. And then it does – like a ton of bricks. For me, that moment came every morning, without fail, at about 7 seconds. I’d roll over, look at my bedside table, and BOOM – there it was. The bottle for the month-long course of HIV Antiretroviral Post-exposure Prophylaxis medication sat there, staring me in the face. PEP – as it is referred to in medical circles. Such an odd abbreviation for such a heavy thing.

In the hospital the morning of/after my assault, I was immediately given Plan B, started on a high dose round of antibiotics to prevent STD's, and given a prescription for PEP. I didn’t know my attackers and I was still foggy on everything that had happened, but the evidence collected indicated that should they be HIV positive, I had been exposed to the virus. Taking PEP within 72 hours of exposure is the only way that it’s effective. Once the course is completed, the protocol is to have an HIV test at 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, and one year “after the rape incident.” PEP may make me unbearably nauseous for the next month or so, but I had no choice, I had to take it. So I did. Every day for 28 days. And every time I did, I was poignantly reminded of a night I was desperate to forget. With each horse size pill that I swallowed, a little more of my hope disappeared.

I finished the course of PEP and went to the doctor two weeks later for my first round of HIV testing. It came back negative. I was told that while this was indicative of a good result, I shouldn’t get too comfortable – sometimes the virus can take time to form. The chances were slim that the results would change, but I should keep a realistic view.  Talk about being handed a sliver of hope only to have it quickly taken away. [1 year later, my final test would say what all the others had - I never contracted the virus, I was, and am, definitively, HIV free!!!]

Two weeks after that doctor’s appointment, I rolled over, got out of bed, and reached for my heart medication- glad that I was no longer reaching for PEP. I don’t know where the thought came from. But all of a sudden, my mind was running away from me –  “Ya know, that heart medicine you’re about to take, it slows your blood pressure. It slows your heart. If you took a few extra, all of this would go away. Your hopelessness would vanish. You’d be free.”

Terrified doesn't do justice to how I felt. Where the actual EFF did this thought come from? My life was miraculously saved a year earlier from having brain surgery. Hell, it was saved the night of my attack – it could have ended very differently. And now I was thinking about this?

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. My body shook as I took that bottle of pills to the kitchen. I was devastated. And I was disappointed in myself. I was not raised to think this way.  I’m a Christian for God’s sake. As if I wasn’t ashamed enough already of this whole experience, I was absolutely disgusted with myself for this. I was better than this horrible thought.

But you know what? No, I wasn’t. The human response to trauma can’t be confined to a standardized response. We can’t box it up and say, “this is how trauma looks for [fill in the blank here.]” “Your response is selfish.” “Your response is acceptable.”

I didn’t want anyone to know what I’d just thought. But I knew I had to get it out. I was living with enough secrets, and one more might make me explode. So I texted my therapist, who reminded me of the truth she knew I already knew, somewhere deep in my spirit - first via text, then via phone, and then in-person the next day.  

+ I was not captive – my thoughts have been taken captive :

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ – 2 Cor 10:5

 

+ Even if I felt trapped or chained – Jesus came to set me free:  

He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners [captives]
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Luke 4: 17-21

 

+ - and His word does not return void:

So is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:11

 

At the end of Hope Floats, Birdee says,

“Beginnings are scary. Endings are usually sad, but it’s what’s in the middle that counts. So when you find yourself at the beginning, just give hope a chance to float up. And it will.”

Ok, listen – I love Sandra. I do – but like, what a load of MALARKEY. Give hope a chance to float up and it will...? Girl, please. I was giving hope ALL the chances. I was lying on the ground blowing into the air in case hope needed a little push. I was releasing balloons with the word “hope” written on them in Sharpie – ok, not really the last one, but I was close to not being above trying it.

Hope doesn’t need a chance to float up. In fact:  Hope deferred makes the heart sick... Prov 13:12.

The great thing is this: hope isn’t some far off ideal that we aren’t really sure about. Hope is found in Jesus, and Jesus is the truth.

God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf.
Hebrews 6:19

 

I had accomplished the fleeing and now it was time to take hold of the hope. Sometimes you have to grab hope by the horns, hold on for dear life, and see where it takes you.

It wasn’t a new start that would give me hope – it was hope in Jesus that would give me a new start. 

If you have been the victim of sexual assault, oh sweet love, I am so sorry. Please, please, seek professional help to begin the process of healing. It is scary, but it is possible. If you would like help in finding help, please reach out via the contact page. If you are in NYC, I cannot recommend my therapist highly enough and would happily pass her info on to you. You are not alone. It is not your fault. You are VALUABLE, beautiful, and worthy. Nothing that anybody does or says can take that away. There is a God in heaven who has called you by name. He says that “you are beautiful and there is no blemish within you.” Even if you can’t believe that now, there are others who can and are praying on your behalf. If it feels dark, keep fighting - keep pushing. You WILL rise out of the ashes + into the light.  

if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-273-8255 and get help.  life is worth it babe - even if it doesn't feel that way right now. 

- all my love, B

 

day 22 : pride + happy eyes

Sunday, 3/27/16 

“Your eyes look happy. Like there’s light in them again” 

Of all days, today, on Easter Sunday, the day that we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead, one of my pastors told me that my eyes looked happy again.

Two days after the assault, I was in church. It felt strange - like I wasn’t in my body.  I felt like I was watching it all take place while hovering above it. Everything seemed disjointed - like all the seamlessly moving parts were somehow now separate. Or maybe that was me. 

I couldn’t say or sing the name of Jesus. I would will the word to come out of my mouth, but it didn’t. It was like pushing on the gas when the car is in park - screeching, spinning, dying, to be set free. I felt like if I sang those words of worship, I would be a liar. So I just stood there. 

13 months later, I stopped going to church. The weight of that unvoiced hurt, anger, and deceit became too much to carry. I started to fear that people would see through me - that they’d see this ugly thing that I was so desperate to conceal, and that when they did, they’d reject me and no longer deem me fit to serve in church. So I left. 

My last day leading my team, one of our pastors pulled me aside and asked me why I was really leaving. I said that my new job was very stressful and I couldn’t continue to lead and serve well while performing well at work. He asked me again. I said the same thing. He asked again and even, semi-jokingly, asked if it was because of a guy. I stuck to my script. On the inside I was absolutely screaming the truth, but I couldn’t bring myself to say it. My pride wouldn’t let me. 

That’s the thing about pride - it steals the things we cherish the most. 

First pride, then the crash - the bigger the ego, the harder the fall - Prov 16:18.. 

     (Dang, sometimes the truth in love hits you where it hurts.)

My pride clouded my ability to see the truth. My church was my HOME. The people there were my family. The very last thing that they would do is reject me due to brokenness. It’s the exact opposite of who they are and what my church home is. 

My pride stopped me from asking for help. Even with my pastor staring me in the face, my pride pushed those words of truth down until they were swallowed by an awkward laugh and a lie.

My pride didn’t want anyone to see me as anything other than great. When one of my leaders asked me, “hey- how are you really doing?”, my pride answered for me.

My pride couldn’t stand the thought of being lumped in with the stigma of victim.

My pride told me I could do it alone.

My pride didn’t like the truth - that I actually needed community to heal.

My pride lied, and then it led me to a dark wilderness. 

stolen from my 2013 insta which was stolen from Pinterest.

stolen from my 2013 insta which was stolen from Pinterest.

In Luke 4, the Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness. (Luke 4:1, NIV) 

It wasn't accidental, aimless wandering..the Holy Spirit LED Him there for a purpose. In reading it, one would conclude that purpose was to be tempted by the devil.

To me, this is one of the most beautiful depictions of Father and Son that the Bible offers. Ha- I can see your face in my mind, like - "tempted by devil, beautiful depictions of Father and Son…? Okay, crazy lady"- but bear with me, I’m going somewhere! 

God needed Jesus to experience that wilderness. The Bible later says that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, yet did not sin (Hebrews 4:15.) So if He hadn’t been led to this wilderness and been tempted by the devil, that wouldn’t hold, which would make the word of God false. God, the Father, allowed, Jesus, His Son, to experience something really tough, knowing all along that He could do it. 

But I wonder if Jesus knew that He could do it. I wonder if the human part of Him ever doubted His ability to make it through. He had to rely so heavily on His Father during that time - in fact, the only weapon He used to get through it were His Father’s words. I mean Satan was tempting Jesus. That means he was offering Jesus things that He actually wanted, and Jesus resisted for 40 days and nights - WITH NO FOOD. I think it’d be one thing to be constantly tempted on a full stomach - but to be tempted by someone that you can’t stand for a prolonged period, AND be hungry at the same time? No, freaking, thank you. 

I also wonder what it’s like as a parent to know that you’re sending your kid into a hard situation where they can choose right, or they can choose wrong. God loved His Son, Jesus, so much (Matt 17:5, John 3:35,)  and I just have this picture of God in my mind, cheering Jesus on from heaven - like - “C’mon Son, you can do it! What have I always told you? You’ve got Me, I’m all You need! Keep pushing. Keep fighting. I WILL get you through! Trust Me!”

And see, Jesus believed Him.

So how come in my own wilderness I had such a tough time believing that God would cheer me on, His daughter (2 Cor 6:18, Gal 3:26,) in the same way? 

Maybe it’s because I couldn’t figure out if Jesus led me to that wilderness or if I wandered in on my own...  

I’ve said before that I needed that wilderness - I needed to go there to get here. I’ve always been someone that insisted on learning my lessons the hard way (much to the utter dismay of my parents growing up.) But did God need me to go there to get here? I doubt it. But I don't doubt that He loves me so much that He allowed it to play out that way, keeping me safe as it did.  

What I’ve realized is that how I got there doesn’t change that one constant - God loves me. He loves me wildly, fiercely, and passionately. It’s only a love like that that can light the way OUT of a dark wilderness. 

Eight months later, I finally found my way back to church thanks to the unrelenting love of my friend, Andrea. She knew that I felt wildly uncomfortable coming back to church, but it didn’t stop her from making sure my butt was, and is, in a seat every week. She encouraged me to be honest with my pastors and stood right next to me while I tearfully opened up about what’s been going on and asked tough questions. She sat with me through tears and arm-crossed worship. She is the epitome of “a friend loves at all times” (Prov 17:17.) Our church has this hashtag #sheissisterhood - and that’s what Andrea is, she’s Sisterhood- and no amount of writing will be able to give her her due. 

Andrea: aka my very own Gilmore Girl&nbsp;

Andrea: aka my very own Gilmore Girl 

It’s been six weeks back at church and my pastor told me today that my eyes look happy again. I guess the eyes are the windows to the soul and all that... Because in all this time, it never even dawned on me that I was sad. And today, on a day when my eyes look happy again, I realize that for the first time in a long time, I am happy, and I feel the light beginning to shine. 

day 15: consent | jokes on jokes

Sunday, 3/20/2016 

I did literally nothing today. I laid in bed all day and watched 'Covert Affairs.' So if that can be called “doing something,” well, that’s all I did. I think I needed a day to just not think. 

Annie Walker is my hero. Like, if I could be a fictional character, I'd be her.&nbsp;

Annie Walker is my hero. Like, if I could be a fictional character, I'd be her. 

The past two days have been tough for me - I’ve thought a lot (cue the jokes.) But Friday night keeps replaying over and over in my head… 

On Friday, I was out watching Day 2 of March Madness, and I could not hide my feelings when Texas lost to freaking Northern Iowa at the buzzer.

Basketball is no football to me, but sports are sports. I’m from Texas, therefore I’m patriotic, and as long as they’re not beating North Carolina (my loyalties run deep,) I want my Texas boys to win. So the look of shock, sadness, and utter dismay that took over when Paul Jespersen made a three at the buzzer to boot Texas from Round 2, did not surprise my roommate (who was out with me .) But it sure did shock the group of guys standing one table away from me. 

Now, I don’t know if this is a southern thing or not, but it seems to be that a girl residing in New York city, with a remote knowledge and/or liking of sports is an anomaly. It’s weird. Weird as in I have had at least three guys jokingly propose to me over my ability to discuss football ‘on their level.’ (so. many. reasons. not to accept those proposals in that one little phrase right there - ew.)

Anyway, this group of dudes waltzes over to me with the various comments about heartbreak - a word to the wise: nobody who has just witnessed their team lose wants to hear some dumb joke about said loss or rehash the specifics about why they lost, how they lost, or if they could have done something different to make them not lose. No one. 

“Can we buy you a drink to ease your pain? Don’t worry, we won’t roofie it. HAHAHAHA (as if they’ve just told the joke to end all jokes) Weeeeeelllll Jared might roofie it, but we’ll make him stay right here with you while WE get the drink. We’ll watch him the whole time. Nothing to worry about here!"

Ok bro, I don’t wanna be that girl, but REALLY? In what world is that a funny joke? Actually, remove the funny part of that statement - is that even a joke at all? 

It’s a weird, weird world we live in, that we joke about rape. It’s even weirder when you tell someone maybe we shouldn’t joke about roofies, and they don’t get why. 

This guys literal inability to understand why that’s not funny, makes me nervous for the next generation - what are we teaching them? Are we teaching young men and boys that roofies are a joke to be laughed at? Are we teaching young girls that their lucidity in giving consent is not important? Living in New York, I hear young people’s conversations on the street, on the train, and on the bus, more often than I’d care to (I pity the poor adults that had to overhear my friends’ and my teenage conversations!) and I’m disheartened at the value they seem to place (or not place) on their bodies and their sexuality. Yesterday, while walking home from a run, I heard a girl who couldn’t have been more than 16, defending herself to a young boy that called her a “worthless ho,” with, “Boy, my p***y so tight, I ain’t no ho.”  

I just wonder if between entertainment, politics, social media, and how insanely easy it is for anyone to access porn - are we giving the next generation a fighting chance at self-respect? Do young girls know where their worth is found? Are they being taught to value their minds above their bodies? Are we teaching young men that women have far more to offer than what they can provide in the kitchen or in the bedroom? 

I don’t remember much from my sex education class in middle school besides that it was short. I may be wrong here, but I don’t remember consent being discussed. I think it was assumed. I don’t fault my school for that - I think the assumption of consent might partly be a generational thing. My parents have said to me on more than one occasion that the fact that my generation has to worry about roofies is shocking to them - they didn’t even exist back when they were in college. But the world has changed, and if our tools of education aren’t evolving with it, well, as one of my pastors says, “if you ain’t helping, you ain’t helping.” 

I mean, I would assume, that a grown ass man in a bar at least knows one female that, if she were roofied and assaulted, he’d be horrified, and would therefore never make a joke about it. But, here we are. 

Assumptions will get us nowhere. But change will. Now, I’m the first to admit that I hate change. In fact, I abhor it. But when change is absolutely necessary (as in there is literally no other option because I’ve explored them all,) I can get my butt in gear and do what needs to be done. 

The fact that schools anywhere are teaching abstinence as the only form of sex education BLOWS MY MIND. Like, we’ve established that I love Jesus. I get the whole waiting till marriage thing. I think that is a great thing to hope and pray for for your kids, teach them, and lead them towards. I’m not poopoo’ing that. But it’s statistically very unlikely that a teenager will wait to have sex until marriage that in not educating them, we’re setting them up to contract STD’s, HIV, and get pregnant. 

However, all of this is a moot point if we fail to consider the issue of consent. Consent has somehow become confusing…. how? I don’t know. But if police officers are confused by it (well, how did you tell him no? Uhhhh I used the word, no….?) we can bet our sweet asses that kids are confused by it. I mean, rape porn is a thing. Did you know that? It’s an actual, money making, thing. The idealization of rape. How is that legal? The porn industry as a whole disgusts me, but that? I can't. Porn is one of the most easily accessible things on the internet. It pops up constantly when you’re not even searching for it. If young people, whose hormones are absolutely raging, come across it, are we really shocked that they don’t look away? And are we surprised when they go back for more? And when their minds are being filled with that garbage from the age of 13, 14, 15, 16, why are we surprised that their view of what sex is meant to be is skewed? Why does it surprise us that college boys turn to roofies in order to act out those fantasies? 

We’ve got to completely change the way we teach young people about sex. That’s initiative #2 on my big dreams list for I ARISE; to tackle sex education in this country. I want a country wide mandate that states that schools must prioritize and enact a comprehensive sex education course that includes abstinence, protection, contraception, and above all else, consent. If we have come to a point where we have to spell out what consent is, so be it. Let’s do it. Let’s train up our kids in the way we want them to go.

Consent: 

  1. cannot be given when a person is unconscious
  2. cannot be given when a person has been drugged (so if you drug a girl and she says yes, it doesn’t count.)
  3. cannot be given when a person is black out drunk 
  4. can be redacted at any point without explanation 
  5. is non negotiable 
  6. is not about equality or a a political agenda
  7. is not to be automatically assumed 
  8. is only the person’s to give and take away as they deem necessary
  9. is not limited to sexual intercourse but also includes any other sexual activity 

If there is any confusion about whether or not consent has been given, chances are it has not been given and it’s time to step away. 

Consent is the biggest part of sex education because without it, it’s not actually sex - it’s rape, assault, and abuse. There’s no such thing as consensual and non-consensual sex. There’s consensual sex, and there’s rape. And that piece of the puzzle is missing from what we’re teaching today’s kids. I’m just not ok with that.  

day 14: choosing to care | a real actress

Saturday, 3/19/2016

This is the post I never wanted to write. The one that when I first realized where it was going made me think, “oh my gosh, I’m a statistic.” But maybe, since it’s the one I’m most afraid of, it’s the one that most needs to be written. You see, this post will be an “a ha!” moment for some people that knew me growing up. Some may even know who is referenced in this writing. It’s not so scary to write about an attacker I, nor my readers, know. It’s a lot harder to write about a predator that I, and some readers, do.

This post cracks open the door to a conversation about revictimization. It reveals that April 26, 2014 was not my first experience with sexual assault.

That was one of the first 10 questions the police asked me in that hospital room - "have you ever been the victim of sexual violence before?” For some reason, having to answer, “yes,” filled me with the greatest sense of shame. Multiple studies conducted by The National Sexual Violence Resource Center “suggest that sexual victimization in childhood or adolescence increases the likelihood of sexual victimization in adulthood between 2 and 13.7 times.” A 2010 CDC report concluded the same. I don’t go into it much, but one day I will, because it’s a conversation that needs to be had, and there is SO much to it. 

 

So here goes… 

Today I cried in my Saturday acting class because I’m afraid to care. (oh yeah, welcome to the first, and potentially most cliche, post from someone you will now be able to clip into the world’s actor stereotype. Oy.) Crying over your art or career in front of other people is not an enjoyable experience. I remember when I first arrived for my freshman year at college, I was really afraid to cry in front of people. Boy was I forced to get over that fast.  

When I arrived to one of the most highly ranked acting conservatories in the country, I had never been in a play. If I’m being really honest - I didn’t actually like plays…or I didn’t think I did. I didn’t know anything about writers, or theatre history, and I certainly had no clue that there were different techniques to acting. Here I am sitting in orientation and our dean starts talking about how we will dive into the worlds of the Stanislavsky technique, the Adler technique, and the Meisner technique…. Huh?! When the cute boy next to me leaned over and asked me if I wanted a toothpick, it was about the only sentence that sounded like English. 

The first week of classes when our teachers asked us what our favorite plays were, I had to embarrassingly admit (every single time) that I didn’t really know any plays, so I didn’t have one. (The only play I remember seeing up to that point was a high school production of “Our Town.”)

The first time I gave that answer, it just kinda fell out of my mouth. Word vomit tends to be a problem of mine. After I said it, I vaguely considered going back to my dorm that night and googling “best plays” and just picking a title for next time the question was asked. That idea was soon quashed when I heard the amount of follow-up questions involved to one’s favorite play answer. I was so embarrassed. Sitting in my first week of classes being talked to about art and craft and what it means to be an artist, and I was dumbfounded. I had certainly never identified as an artist. What had I done? Why had I come here when I was accepted into plenty of amazing musical theatre programs? I would have definitely been able to answer their questions. 

Seven months earlier, I got very sick [see day 12.] Over the course of nine days in the ICU I went from being a healthy 18 year old to a really not healthy 18 year old. My doctors became the authors of my life. They narrowed down the list of schools I’d been accepted to by distance to major medical center. I could not be more than 10 minutes away via ambulance. 

That left two schools. A week before decision day, I’d signed and sent off my papers to another program. A double major BM/BFA program. But one of the assistant deans at NCSA, would not stop calling my house and telling me to "just come visit." Sensing I could use a break from the monotony of school and an endless cycle of doctor’s appointments and tests, the headmaster of my high school and my mum suggested a visit to North Carolina. If nothing else, it would be a pretty three days.

My mum and I were standing in the drama office after a meeting with the assistant dean, and the drama school secretary, when she suddenly called from her office, “oh Becky, Gerald is driving over to performance place now - he can take you over there so that you can observe the senior’s acting class.” 

Now is as good a time as any to tell you that being observant is not my strong suit. Neither is talking to people that I don’t know.

This little, white-haired, older man, with a newspaper hat on, came shuffling out and motioned for me to join him. I gave my mum a hug goodbye and off I went. I was intrigued - I’d never seen a real acting class before and had no idea what it entailed. Also, I tend to think little old people are cute, so I was cool with him being my carpool leader.

As we climbed into his equally cute BMW, I decided the correct move was to make some small talk. 

B: “I’m Becky - I’m deciding whether or not to come here for acting school. Uh, classes. Uh to the drama school, I mean.” 

G: “ Oh that’s nice. I hear it’s a pretty good school.” 

                         awkward silence

B: “That’s good. Have you seen any of the shows here?” 

G: “A few, yes.” 

                         awkward silence 

B: “So you must like theatre then?” 

G: “I do.” 

B: “Have you ever done any theatre?” 

                         as he pulls into a parking space marked “DEAN OF DRAMA"

G: “Here and there. (chuckles to himself) Come on, we don’t want to be late!” 

B: (incoherent words, sounds, and head nodding as I stumble out of the car and realize that I just asked one of the most revered pioneers of American theatre, if he’s ever done any theatre.)

I was MORTIFIED. In a state of mortification. Is that a word? I don’t know. But that’s where I was at. 

Thank the good Lord in heaven that Gerald has a sense of humor. Later that day, as I sat in his office, I was told that if I wanted to be an actress - a real actress - I needed to come to NCSA. If I went to one of the other schools I’d been accepted to, I’d be successful. I’d likely see many of my dreams come true - but if I wanted to last, to have longevity, he and the rest of the faculty of NCSA needed to teach me. It felt honest. And it was one of the only times in my life where telling someone that I wanted to be an actress didn’t embarrass me. For the first time since I could remember, the word didn’t fill me with some sense of shame. 

I’d spent the last 10 years performing in musical theatre. I'd taken I think I took two 1 hour acting classes once, and when I was twelve, I began to take private acting lessons. I wanted to be an actress - "a real actress” (hello, Moulin Rouge.) The artistic director at one of the theaters I worked at suggested to my parents that I take private lessons with one of his company members who I had performed with, and taken group lessons from, many times over the previous two years. 

My pre-teen years were a trying time for my family and caused me to put up some seriously fortified walls. It was almost as if he knew that - like he had x-ray vision and could see that behind my tough exterior, I was crumbling into a million pieces, and my vulnerability was just waiting to be exploited. I had a callback for the role of Abigail in "the Crucible” at another theatre, so my mum scheduled a private lesson for me to go over the material I’d been given. I was so excited. I’d never auditioned at an equity regional theatre before. I didn’t totally know what that meant, but I knew it meant something. I remember walking into the building for my initial audition and being in awe of how big it was. How professional it all seemed. How real. When I got a callback, I couldn’t believe it - it was the first time I ever felt like a real actress. 

After my lesson, I never wanted to feel like that again.

My teacher explained to me that we would do an exercise that they often do at callbacks - especially for roles as serious and complex as this one. The director would want to see my chemistry with the actor cast in the role of John Proctor. I froze. Confusion and disbelief took over and then all of a sudden I found myself doing some ninja moves to break free before it got any farther and run to the bathroom. Maybe that was something that real actresses in plays did to prepare. But I didn’t want to. He was my teacher and he was trying to help. I must have misunderstood… Maybe being a real actress just wasn’t for me. So I didn’t say anything to anyone, and the cycle of intermittent abuse continued. 

I don’t really remember my callback, only that it wasn’t very good and I didn’t get the part. I do remember wanting it to be over as soon as possible. I never auditioned for a play after that.  

Sexual assault of a child is dark. In fact, I believe it is one of the darkest, lowest, and most depraved forms of sin and evil that exists. There’s no way to paint it as a pretty picture. To try to do so would be almost criminal. But I needed to be at NCSA. I needed to learn all the things that the faculty there would teach me and I needed the personal growth it would provide.

As we’ve established, I believe in signs - and nobody else had used the words real actress to me in five years. Seven years later, I can tell you that this was God at work in my life. If those words hadn’t been used, I don’t know if I would have gone. Only God can do that. Only God can take the darkest of the dark, and allow a little light in. I did a lot of healing at NCSA - I don’t think I ever would have found my voice if I hadn’t attended that school. If I hadn’t found my voice, if I hadn’t learned to bravely access the truest parts of myself, and put them on display, I likely wouldn’t have this blog. What Satan intended for evil, God used for good. 

Right then and there, I rescinded my paperwork from the other school and signed new paperwork to confirm that I would like to attend NCSA in the fall. 

I had all these ideas about how my life would look when I graduated from NCSA and arrived in New York. Not a one of them came to be. To say my confidence was knocked is the understatement of a lifetime. Six-ish months after moving to NYC (and three months prior to my attack,) I was introduced to my now acting teacher, Vance. He’s walked with me through the past 2 1/2 years with a lot of grace, patience, and encouragement. He’s been privy to lots of tears (NCSA broke the no crying habit,) frustrations, deep conversations, stops and starts, and back and forths about quitting. He’s been tough on me, but with an underlying spirit of gentleness that I will probably never be able to repay. And his acting class is bomb. 

But lately, I’ve felt so stuck. My work has been blah. And that’s almost worse than bad. I would rather you be able to say, “that’s the shittiest shit I’ve ever seen” than “well that was okay.” 

Okay = blah

blah = hell 

He has waited for me to realize this on my own. And today I realized it. And then, in his ever-annoying way, he made me expound upon my feelings to the entire class. Acting school may have taught me how to identify and talk about my feelings, but it doesn’t mean I like doing it any more than I did when I was 18. 

Expounding went something like this: "I just think that what I did today was horrible. I don’t even want to watch it because it’s blah. All of my work is blah and I’m not sure why. And all of a sudden I care about my work again and that’s so annoying because up until recently I didn’t care and now I do and I want to be great and not lame and now I’m crying, why am I crying?" 

I have a real ability to make myself not care. And since my life didn’t pan out the way I thought, and bad things happened, I decided not to care. In fact, I refused to do so. And here we are on day 14 of this 52 day journey, and I realize I want to care again. And not only that, I do care again. I care about my life, I care about my art, I care about my family, I care about my friends, I care about my classmates, I care about my colleagues. I care about my mistakes. I care about my wins. Caring is scary because it means you can get hurt. But isn’t it better to get hurt than to be blah? Isn’t it better to try and epically fail than not try at all? Isn’t it better to love and get your heart broken than to never know love at all? 

That all sounds so lame. Very very lame. But it also sounds so true. 

Lame but true. That’s a trend that I don’t think will ever not be. 

When my expounding was done, I was met with encouragement and commiseration from my classmates and from Vance. Why I expected anything else? I don’t know. It could be that I’m slightly stubborn. 

And so I’ve decided to actively care. The only reason not to would be because I have given into fear. And as has been determined the past 13 days, that’s no longer an option. 

 

 

if you have been the victim of sexual assault, oh sweet love, I am so sorry. Please, please, seek professional help to begin the process of healing. It is scary, but it is possible. If you would like help in finding help, please reach out. You are not alone. It is not your fault. You are VALUABLE, beautiful, and worthy. Nothing that anybody does or says can take that away. There is a God in heaven who has called you by name. He says that “you are beautiful and there is no blemish within you.” Even if you can’t believe that now, there are others who can and are praying on your behalf. If it feels dark, keep fighting - keep pushing. You WILL rise out of the ashes + into the light. - all my love, B  

day 8: rape & the righteousness of God : a glimmer of grateful light

Sunday, 3/13/2016

I watched the documentary “The Hunting Ground” today. I also had a conversation about the righteousness of God with one of my pastors. Talk about juxtapositions. 

These are two conversations that don’t go together. And yet, deep down in a place somewhere looking to get a little light, I know that they kinda do.

I know this because the idea that God is righteous in ALL circumstances, even circumstances that are heinous, is at the very core of my grievances with Him and this whole experience.  

Only 36% of rapes, 34% of attempted rapes, and 26% of sexual assaults get reported to the police. (National Institue of Justice)

26% of rapes reported to the police lead to an arrest. Of that 26%, 20% are prosecuted.” - FBI Uniform Crime Reports - 2010

The documentary is full of statistics, but these two haunt me and I have to do the math for myself:

- In 2011 reports from a 2010 study called "the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey” (which took place with the support of the National Institute of Justice and the Department of Defense) stated that 1 in 5 women had been raped or experienced attempted rape. Other outlets report 1 in 4, and some 1 in 6, so to be somewhere average, we’ll go with 1 in 5.

Ok so:

If 1 in 5 women in America are victims of sexual assault and there are about 157 million women in America   - that takes us to 31,400,000 women assaulted.  

- only 36% report their rape = 11,304,000 reported rapes 

- only 34% report attempted rape = 10,676,00 reported attempted rapes

- only 26% report sexual assault = 8,164,000 reported sexual assaults

The math in all of those situations brings you to at least 20,000,000 unreported assaults. So regardless of the fact that we can’t measure which 1’s in 5 experienced what version of assault, we can assume that 20,000,000 sexual assaults of some kind are unreported. 

Talking about rape only, 26% of the 36% of reported rapes (11,304,000) lead to an arrest - ok so that’s 2,939,040 arrests which = 8,364,960 cases without arrest. 

Of the 2,939,040 arrests, 20% are prosecuted - so 587,888 prosecutions, which = 2,351,152 cases without prosecution. 

So why does it shock people that survivors are hesitant to press charges? Especially when 98% of rapists will never spend a day in jail. (RAINN.org) Why report and go through the grueling process of attempting to bring a perpetrator to justice with those odds? 

Trying to give logic to that night and my decision not to press charges is a never-ending cycle. 

Trying to reconcile it with the righteousness of God is on another level.

But then I get a glimmer of light. And that inner conversation with God goes something like this: 

"What are you grateful for in that situation?" 

"What? Are you serious? What am I grateful for? Are you (expletive) kidding me?” 

“No.” 

“I’m not grateful. There is nothing to be grateful for.” 

“Really? What were you afraid of that night?"

“I was afraid that they wouldn’t let me leave. I was afraid that they would kill me. I was afraid that she’d been taken forever. I was afraid that I would have to call her mom and tell her that she wasn’t coming home and that I had no idea where she was. I was afraid that I was responsible for a horrible life she may be subjected to by whoever took her.” 

“And did that happen?” 

“No” 

Once I found one thing to be grateful for, it was a lot easier to come up with some more:

  • I’m grateful that my friend got out of that apartment.
  • I’m grateful that she doesn’t remember what happened there.
  • I’m grateful that this didn’t taint our friendship - she doesn’t blame me and I don’t blame her.
  • I’m grateful that I don’t remember the bulk of my time inside the other apartment.
  • I’m grateful that I had someone to call the next morning who answered the phone.
  • I’m grateful that my parents had the means to fly to New York from Europe.
  • I’m grateful that this was not the time that these criminals escalated to something even worse.
  • I’m grateful that I’m alive.
  • I’m grateful that I have amazing family and friends who have so graciously walked with me through the healing process.
  • I’m grateful that I’m not alone. 

I’m stunned to see even this tiny glimmer. 

Gratitude is a weapon of worship. It is allowing me a glimpse into where the righteousness of God exists in this situation.

My thoughts often veer off to,  “why did God save my life? Why me? Why not any of the other millions of people facing potential death each day?” 

In our conversation, my pastor stops me in my tracks - “stop trying to make yourself worthy of the righteousness of God; you’re not and you never will be. That’s the beauty of it. When you rest in your unworthiness, you honor His righteousness.”

This may seem harsh. I may never see the righteousness of God in that night. But somehow, it was exactly what I needed to hear. It removed the all-about-me attitude that was blocking me from seeing what I do see:  

- I do see that I not only survived, but fought my way through the recovery, and have come out the other side stronger and with a blazing passion to fight for change. So when God tells me that He will never let me be pushed past my limit, I know He’s right. (1 Cor 10:13, the MSG) 

- I do see that something guided me in the direction of home. So when God tells me that He will never leave me or forsake me, I know He’s true. (Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV)

- I do see that instead of this pushing my friend and I apart, we are closer than ever. I also see that my friend who helped me came, regardless of our history. So when God says that a friend loves at all times (is always loyal) and a brother is born to help in time of need, I know He cares about my heart. (Proverbs 17:7 NLT) 

- I do see that this experience has been one of the greatest trials I’ve ever faced, but that through it, I’ve experienced more growth than I could have imagined. So when God tells me to consider it a sheer gift when tests and challenges come my way because it means that my faith-life will be forced into the open, allowing me to become mature and well-developed, deficient in nothing, I know He is always on my side. (James 1:2-4 The MSG.)

- I do see that within hours of originally posting this blog, I had quite a number of people reach out to say that they were also survivors of rape or assault, and felt like they finally had a voice; or that their friend went through this and is struggling and they were sending it along so that they would know they aren’t alone. So when God says that He works all things together for good, I know that He can take even the most broken situations, and use them for good. (Romans 8:28 NIV.)

Now let me be abundantly clear - I AM NOT SAYING THAT RAPE IS RIGHTEOUS. What I am saying is that in my own personal experience, I am beginning to see that even in the most UNrighteous situations (caused by free will,) God can take what was meant for evil, and He can use if for good. And that right there, is in fact, the righteousness of God. 

So I’m understanding it just a little through the lens of gratitude. And this little glimmer of light shines ever so much brighter with each passing second.