Monday, March 18, 2013

no means no

"They found those kids guilty in Steubenville," Joey said to me yesterday, as we were sorting through clean clothes in our bedroom.

"Good," I replied as I rolled K's tiny pairs of socks together and began to fold her freshly-laundered onesies.

As I continued to put away clean laundry, I stared at my daughter who was giggling and rolling around on the comforter - occasionally picking up a clean item of clothing and throwing it across the bed.

My mind flashed back to a moment ten years ago. I was 17 years old and drunk, locked in the bedroom of a friend's house with a male acquaintance, who was also drunk.

Yes, he said.

NO, I emphasized. I fought, pushing his arms off of me, his beer breath nearly inducing vomit.

I yelled no louder the second time, and heard a loud bang on the door. I shoved his arms aside once more and managed to give myself enough cushion this time to get away from his grasp and make it to the door, unlocking it. Several more friends stood on the other side, male and female.

"What the fuck, man," one of them said to him. "I could hear her saying no."

I know how lucky I am. I also know how stupid I was. I shouldn't have allowed myself to get drunk and lose control with people I didn't necessarily trust. It didn't matter, though. It still doesn't. Even if I wasn't coherent enough to say no, or fight my way to the door, or lucky enough to have friends who cared, I wasn't a willing participant.

It's easy for people to say that the girl in the Steubenville case shouldn't have had that much to drink. Or that she shouldn't have put herself into a position where something bad could have happened. It's all easy for people to say this because we're adults. We've lived more of our lives than she has. We understand how the world works, and what a dangerous and scary place it can be.

I think back to that night ten years ago, and I know how she feels. We all do. We know what it's like to be young and innocent. To think, "Those bad things I see on the news can't happen to me." To think that people will have your back or respect your wishes when they clearly won't. To drink too much to impress your friends or the guy you like. To feel good about yourself because the guy who likes you is interested in you, and surely it's not because he thinks he can have sex with you.

What happened to me ten years ago has happened to many of us. What happened to the girl in Steubenville is the worst outcome - the hellish ending to those nightmare stories that many of us want to forget.

I look at my daughter as I sort piles of her tiny clothes, and I know I will tell her this story one day. I will force myself to repeat the events of that night if it means instilling just a tiny bit of awareness in her.

What I don't know is that if other parents will have similar talks with their children. I don't know if other parents will teach their children about respect and boundaries, or about how no means no. I don't know if I will be raising a teenage daughter in a society that still blames the victim for her choices rather than persecutes the attacker for his.

I've pushed that night so far into the back of my mind, because it's not something that's easy to think about. It's scary. It's embarrassing, even though it shouldn't be. I shouldn't have gotten drunk, but it doesn't matter: he shouldn't have pushed the limits. He shouldn't have forced himself on me. He shouldn't have kept trying after I'd made it clear that I wasn't interested. I know now that it wasn't my fault. I wonder if he knows that.

And I wonder if the young men in Steubenville understand that now, too.


It Is What It Is said...

I was raped in my dorm room my freshman year of college by the friend of one of the basketball players. I never reported it, although the RA's (who lived across the hall) boyfriend attempted to hunt him down.

I rarely think of it and it doesn't even come to mind when I hear stories like this one. Only your remembrance of your brush with it brought it to mind.

Becky said...

I think as a society we have major work to do. I get why "no means no" came about. But I think it, in some ways, plays into the whole "blame the victim" game that is so prevalent. Really, what we should be teaching and saying is, "ONLY (sober and legal aged) yes mean yes". That puts the responsbility squarely on the (would be) perpetrator. Right where it belongs.

J o s e y said...

My Mom had a similar story that she told me about the time she was date raped by her college boyfriend freshman year. At the time I didn't understand why she would tell me something like that - it was awkward and sad and WEIRD to have Mom tell me about it. In retrospect, it made me be MUCH more careful around men when I was drinking in college (thank God). It's so wrong that our society persists in blaming in blaming the victim.

It's a hard discussion to have, but it's definitely one I intend to have with my daughter someday.

Lollipop Goldstein said...

I have chills down both arms reading this post. I am so sorry that you lived that moment, but glad that you'll tell your daughter in the future. These are the sorts of things we need to talk to our children about unfortunately.

S.I.F. said...

I have been thinking about this so much as I look at my daughter. I got myself into so many bad situations over the years, and it terrifies me to think of her in the same. I want so much better for her, but even if I raise her to be smarter... the world is still a scary place.

dspence said...

Thank you for sharing your story.

Rebecca said...

Thank you for sharing this. It brings to mind the astounding responsibility we have to raise our children to be safe and to respect everyone around them.

Dawn said...

I think of this too as I want to protect my daughter from making decisions that could put her in harms way. I also hope that I raise my son's to respect women and that no means no.

someday-soon said...

I have had dreams about this case. I have been raped...twice and while it didn't ruin me it certainly damaged me. Yes, this girl was stupid. But there is no way, no matter what state she was in, these boys shouldn't know right from wrong. I am horrified that they got the minimum sentence when they didn't only carry out this act once without forethought but they carried it out twice and had no shame. They should have had a more significant sentence. I am also troubled that the media is talking about these "poor boys" and not about the poor victim. Makes me sick that our society still has so far to go on this!

Katie said...

Becky: I completely agree. I almost think that's worthy of a post in itself.

Sarah said...

It always amazes me how often the same topic is on our hearts and on our blogs.

Thank you for sharing your story. It reminds us how easily it could have been any one of us.


Lori Lavender Luz said...

I had a talk with both my kids yesterday (they are tweens) about this case, because they saw it covered on the news and were curious.

They were horrified that people would do this to another person. They were also more impressed with one of the boys' apology (the I'm-sorry-for-what-I-did-to-you type) than the other's (the I'm-sorry-I-got-caught type).

I'm sorry you went through that episode, but I'm glad you had people who had your back.

Michaela said...

I often think about the times as a teenager when I hung out with the neighborhood boys and drank too much...thankfully the only thing those boys did was put a blanket over me and a bucket next to my head...okay we might have painted faces or shaved an eyebrow (not mine thank goodness!) but the thought of physically abusing, raping, degrading never crossed their minds...why these boys thought to even do this needs to be addressed too...they committed horrific acts and didn't see it until they were caught...and the media coverage! They say things like "bad behavior" no it's not bad's criminal! I hope as a society we go back to a time when we raised our boys to wrap their coat around someone, bring them home and make sure they are safe when they are in bad shape.

Hope said...

You know what is really scary about this story? There were several witnesses who DID NOT STOP IT. How you could sit by and watch that I have no idea. It really scares me for my daughter's future, I'm sure I will be super over protective!

Jennifer said...

Thank you for sharing this. I've had some close calls too.

And I also was thinking exactly what Becky said.

I have a son (he's just a toddler now) and I'll be teaching him to respect women (luckily he has a father who shows love and respect to me and the women in his life) and that only an enthusiastic emphatic yes is a yes. If there isn't a clear yes, then it's a no, end of story.

Denver Laura said...

I lived in a house in college with a bunch of girls. We had a keg party one night. After everybody had left (or so we thought). One of the guys went upstairs and started to make the moves on my roommate. She was drunk, had been flirting, but I distinctly heard her say NO. Several times. I had to intervene and kick him out of the house. After that, all of us had each other's backs. It's a difficult position to place your friends so I tried not to put myself in situations where they had to. I'm with you - I hope my daughter doesn't have a story to tell like mine, or yours.