CVIndependent

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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

I am male. A close female friend was raped by an old acquaintance of mine.

I knew this guy when we were tweens. I didn’t really care for him as we got older; so it goes. It turns out that a few years ago, he raped my friend in an alcohol-blackout situation. I don’t know more than that. She says she considers the encounter “not strictly consensual” and confided that this guy didn’t react well when she tried to talk to him about it. This isn’t something she’s “out” about.

My feelings toward this guy are pretty dark. Now he’s moved back to town, and I see him around, and some good friends of mine who stayed in contact with him invite him to stuff. I don’t know what to say or how to act. I know I don’t want to talk to him or be his friend. I would like to tell my other friends about this guy so I don’t have to see him, but I can’t, because it’s not my story to tell. I would rather just skip social events he’s at. But without an explanation, I doubt my friends will understand, and it feels like I’m surrendering my friends to someone who assaulted a dear friend. I told someone once to please not invite him to something, or I would skip it. They were confused, and it felt like an awkward ask.

What should I say to my friends about this guy? What can I do to keep him out of my life?

Angry Confidant

“I don’t like hanging out with Chuck and would appreciate it if you didn’t invite him to the party/show/bris/whatever.”

“What’s the issue between you guys?”

“Look, we go a long way back, and it’s not something I want to discuss. It’s just awkward for us to be in the same place.”

That’s the best you can do without outing your friend—without telling a story that isn’t yours to tell—and it’s likely your mutual friends will be confused by the ask, AC, but you’ll just have to be at peace with that. You could add something vague that omits identifying details (“He did a shitty thing to a friend”), but any details you share—however vague—could result in questions being put to you that you can’t answer or are tempted to answer. Even worse, questions will be put to “Chuck,” and he’ll be free to lie, minimize or spin.

My only other piece of advice would be to follow your close female friend’s lead. You describe what transpired between her and Chuck as rape, while your friend describes the encounter as “not strictly consensual.” That’s a little more ambiguous. And just as this isn’t your story to tell, AC, it’s not your experience to label. If your friend doesn’t describe what happened as rape—for whatever reason—you need to respect that. And does your friend want Chuck excluded from social events hosted by mutual friends, or is she able to tolerate his presence? If it’s the latter, do the same. If she’s not making an issue of Chuck being at a party, you may not be doing her any favors by making an issue of his presence yourself.

If you’re worried your friend tolerates Chuck’s presence to avoid conflict, and that being in the same space with him actually upsets her (or that the prospect of being in the same space with him keeps her from those spaces), discuss that with her one-on-one and then determine—based on her feelings and her ask—what, if anything, you can do to advocate for her effectively without white-knighting her or making this not-strictly-consensual-and-quite-possibly-rapey thing Chuck did to her all about you and your feelings.

It’s really too bad Chuck reacted badly when your friend tried to talk to him about that night. If he’s an otherwise-decent person who has a hard time reading people when he’s drunk, he needs to be made aware of that and drink less or not drink at all. If he’s a shitty person who takes advantage of other people when they’re drunk, he needs to know there will be social and potentially legal consequences for his behavior. The feedback your friend offered this guy—the way she tried to hold him accountable—could have prevented him from either fucking up like this again (if he’s a decent but dense guy) or taking advantage like this again (if he’s a shitty and rapey guy). If he was willing to listen, which he wasn’t. And since he wasn’t willing to listen … yeah, my money is on shitty and rapey, not decent but dense.


I’m a single straight man. A friend recently told me her 20-year marriage hasn’t included sex for the past six years. Kids, stress, etc. I offered to have sex with her, but only if her husband approves. If I were her husband, I would want to know. But I think it’s unlikely her husband would approve our coital encounter.

Have I done wrong?

Married Asshole Refuses Intercourse To Affectionate Lady

If discreetly getting sex outside her marriage allows your friend to stay married and stay sane, and if she doesn’t get caught, and if the sexual connection with her husband should revive after their kids are older—a lot of ifs, I realize—then the condition you set could result in your friend and her husband getting divorced now, which would preclude the possibility of their sexual connection reviving later. (Although we shouldn’t assume that sex has to be part of a marriage for it to be loving and valid. Companionate marriages are valid marriages.) That said, your friend is free to fuck some other guy if she doesn’t like your terms. Finally, MARITAL, unless you’re brainstorming names for a My Chemical Romance cover band, there’s really no reason to use the phrase “our coital encounter.”


I’m a straight 45-year-old man. Good-looking. Three college degrees and one criminal conviction. Twice divorced. I’ve had some intense relationships with women I met by chance—one knocked on my door looking to borrow an egg—so I know I can impress women. But online dating doesn’t work for me, because I’m only 5 foot 7. Most women online filter me out based on height. The other problem is that I’m extremely depressed. I’m trying to work on the depression (seeing a psychiatrist and a psychologist), but the medications don’t seem to do much for me. This is probably due to my alcoholism.

I’d love to start my online profile by boldly proclaiming my height and my disdain for shallow women who disregard me for it, but that would come across as bitter, right?

Serious Heartbreak Over Relationship Travails

There are plenty of 5-foot-tall women out there, SHORT, women you’d tower over. But there are very few women who would respond positively—or at all—to a man whose online dating profile dripped with contempt for women who don’t want to fuck him. Rejection sucks, I know, but allowing yourself to succumb to bitterness only guarantees more rejection.

And first things first: Keep working on your depression with your mental-health team, and please consider giving up alcohol. (I’m sure you’ve already considered it. Reconsider it.) No one is looking for perfection in a partner—and no one can offer perfection—but if dating you is likely to make someone’s life harder, SHORT, they aren’t going to want to date you. So get yourself into good working order, and then start looking for a partner. And since you know you have better luck when you meet people face-to-face, don’t spend all your time on dating apps. Instead, find things you like to do and go do them. Maybe you can pick a presidential candidate you like—one who supports coverage for mental-health care?—and volunteer on their campaign.

On the Lovecast: A drug that cures heartbreak? Seriously. Listen at savagelovecast.com.

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Published in Savage Love

It was a rude awakening to examine the murky underworld of human trafficking while working on this story about the Second Annual Anti-Human-Trafficking Conference, sponsored by Coachella Valley Sexual Assault Services (CVSAS). The event will take place Friday, Oct. 18, at the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort and Spa in Rancho Mirage.

According to a July piece at BusinessInsider.com: “The United States, along with Mexico and the Philippines, was ranked one of the world's worst places for human trafficking in 2018. In the U.S., there is no official number of human-trafficking victims, but estimates place it in the hundreds of thousands. … The most human-trafficking cases have been reported in California, Texas and Florida, but every state in the U.S. has reports of human trafficking. … More than 300,000 young people in the U.S. are considered ‘at risk’ of sexual exploitation.”

A large percentage of individuals who are trafficked wind up as sexual slaves—because selling sex so lucrative. A July article in USA Today noted: “Annual profits per victim were highest in developed countries, because traffickers can charge more for sex acts. The International Labour Organization estimates annual rates of around $80,000 per victim in developed countries. … In 2018, one in seven reported runways was likely (to become) a victim of child sex trafficking. … The U.S. State Department’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report found the Department of Justice opened significantly fewer human-trafficking investigations in 2018 compared to 2017, dropping from 783 to 657. It also reported significantly fewer prosecutions: 230, down from 282. Victims are still arrested for crimes they were forced to commit by traffickers.”

Against this disturbing backdrop, the Independent spoke recently with Winette Brenner, the program director at CVSAS.

“Our goal is to provide supportive services regardless of your race or socioeconomic stance. All of our services are free of charge,” Brenner said. “We have a 24/7 hotline, and we provide individual counseling, advocacy accompaniment, community resources and referral services. It’s any help that you (the victim) need as far as we can provide within our scope of (involvement in responding to) sexual assault, domestic violence or human trafficking. That’s what we’re here for—and we’re here for the victim and the significant other and the family members, because when a crime is committed, it doesn’t only happen to the victim; it affects the whole family as a unit.”

Sexual-assault victims who contact CVSAS either at the La Quinta office or via the around-the-clock hotline (800-656-4673) are provided with an advocate to accompany them to Eisenhower Medical Center to meet with members of a Sexual Assault Response Team, including a forensic nurse (who would perform an exam and gather evidence of the assault) and a member of local law enforcement.

Brenner said that in July, 18 victims sought CVSAS support; in August, 14 victims did. Those numbers are higher than average—but far from unusual.

“The number of victims each month can vary from a low of around seven to a high of around 16 to 18,” Brenner said. “The fall and winter months tend to be less active, but from March through September, the numbers go higher.”

CVSAS also offers one-on-one and group counseling, and visits schools with presentations on prevention, intervention, how to recognize healthy/unhealthy relationships, and red-flag warning signs of abusive behaviors.

“The presentations are for all school ages, and can include parents, because it’s important for parents to know the signs of their child being in trouble,” Brenner said.

The Anti-Human-Trafficking Conference is important, Brenner said, because human trafficking is not only a global problem—it takes place locally, too.

“Our goal is to bring awareness and knowledge about what’s going on in our own backyard,” Brenner said. “We want people to be able to recognize what human trafficking is, and recognize the number of layers that human trafficking represents. Our theme this year is ‘Educate to Eradicate.’ It’s so important that we educate to end it. … It’s going to take all of us.

“We work extremely hard to stage fundraisers to raise the money to keep this conference free of charge for the public. It’s really important to us to get as many people as possible to come and get this information.”

One of those fundraising events is slated for this Wednesday, Sept. 18, at the Mary Pickford is D’Place theater in Cathedral City. It’s a special screening of the film Trafficked starring Ashley Judd, Sean Patrick Flanery, Anne Archer and Patrick Duffy, among others.

“It’s a red-carpet event, and one of the film’s producers, Conroy Kanter, of KK Ranch Productions, is going to be there to conduct a Q&A after the showing,” Brenner said.

Tickets are $12, and the screening starts at 6 p.m.

Brenner said the conference will feature powerful presentations.

“One of our speakers represents an agency called Destiny Rescue that works with human trafficking in Cambodia and in the Los Angeles area,” she said. “They will be speaking about how human trafficking evolves and how people get trapped in it. Another speaker will talk about the social impact and advancement of human trafficking, as well as how active bystanders can make a difference.

“We’ll have a session about social media and dating apps, talking about how people get involved (through those means) so easily in human trafficking. … Another of our speakers will be a deputy from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Anti-Human-Trafficking Task Force, who will give a talk on ‘Human Trafficking 101’ and give us tips we need to know.

“Our keynote speaker this year is the executive director of an agency named Saving Innocence. He’s a very powerful speaker about human trafficking, the different layers of it and what it looks like, and what to do when you see it. We’ll also have Tika Thornton, who is a survivor of human trafficking at a very young age in the L.A. area. Currently, she works for a sex-trafficking task force out of Long Beach. Lastly, a presenter from Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Palm Desert will show some self-defense (tactics) so that if you’re in a (threatening) situation, you could use these tips to get yourself out of that situation.”

I asked Brenner for an example of how a local resident might unwittingly come in contact with a human-trafficking victim.

“When you see a child in front of a bank selling candy, as innocent as that seems,” she said. “If you speak to that child, you may find out that, even though they are in the La Quinta area, they are from Rancho Cucamonga or San Bernardino. If you ask questions like, ‘Where are your parents? Why are you out here by yourself?’ they totally scramble to come up with answers, because they’ve also been groomed. You can be guaranteed that somewhere in the parking lot, there’s someone watching that child, and if you talk for too long, that’s a red flag, and they’re going to run.”

Brenner said human trafficking is an issue that affects the entire community.

“We have the border right here,” she said. “Straight down Interstate 10, you have all of these truck stops and places where kids can be taken. So we just want parents to be aware and gain more knowledge—and it’s not going to cost you anything except a little bit of time.”

The Second Annual Anti-Human Trafficking Conference, sponsored by Coachella Valley Sexual Assault Services, takes place at 8 a.m., Friday, Oct. 18, at the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort and Spa, 71333 Dinah Shore Drive, in Rancho Mirage. Admission is free. To reserve a spot, call 760-568-9071, or visit www.eventbrite.com/e/2nd-annual-anti-human-trafficking-conference-tickets-71752641081. Seating is limited, but if space is available on the day of the conference, walk-up guests will be accommodated.

Published in Local Issues

Tax credits for renters. Consumer protection for student borrowers. More homeless shelters that allow pets.

Those were among the hundreds of ideas that California lawmakers killed Friday, as they winnowed down a huge stack of bills in preparation for the Legislature’s final sprint before the session ends on Sept. 13. Chairs of the appropriations committees announced their decisions in a rapid-fire ritual—and, in the Assembly, over the shouting protests of people who oppose a bill to limit vaccine exemptions.

Here are a few noteworthy proposals that lawmakers snuffed out Friday as they acted on legislation in the mysterious “suspense file,” where bills can die with no public explanation:

Rainforest protection: As the Amazon rainforest burns, a bill aimed at protecting tropical forests went up in smoke. Taking aim at goods such as soy, rubber and palm oil harvested from clear-cut land, it would have prohibited the state from doing business with companies whose products contributed to deforestation. Lawmakers ultimately sided with construction companies that opposed the measure.

Student loans: With student debt skyrocketing, California lawmakers proposed stricter rules for student-loan servicers and the creation of a borrower advocate to respond to complaints. But the bill withered under opposition from major student loan servicers, banks and credit unions.

Gun control: California has a “red flag” warning law that allows law enforcement to temporarily remove firearms from those deemed by a court to be a danger to themselves or others. But legislation that would have trained officers to execute these “gun violence restraining orders” stalled, because lawmakers want the state agency that trains police to focus on something else: the new standard for police to use deadly force.

Homelessness: Many homeless shelters don’t allow people to bring their pets. SB 258 was an effort to change that by giving state grants to shelters that allow homeless people to bring their furry friends. Meanwhile, AB 516 would have made it difficult for cities and counties to tow vehicles from people living in them.

Housing: Affordable-housing developers have complained for nearly a decade that the state needs a permanent funding source to build more units for low-income tenants. But lawmakers chose not to advance a bill that would have done just that—to the tune of $500 million annually. Also, in a loss for tenants paying high California rents, lawmakers squelched a bipartisan effort to increase the tax credit renters can claim on their state returns. And a bill that would have given landlords more incentive to accept Section 8 tenants by providing a tax break was also nixed. More landlord-tenant fights now loom, as a controversial measure that would limit annual rent increases heads for a key vote.

LGBT equality: Though it’s illegal for an adult to have sex with a teenager in California, if the age difference between the two parties is less than ten years, the adult is not required to register as a sex offender. But that exception only applies to heterosexual intercourse, not oral or anal sex. Gay-rights advocates pushed a bill to extend the exemption to cover LGBTQ relationships also, but it got caught up in a political fight between Democrats running for a Senate seat in the Central Valley. Lawmakers declined to advance it, despite backing from the Los Angeles County district attorney. They’ll likely consider it again next year.

Campus sexual assault: With the federal government rolling back protections for college students who are assaulted or harassed, some Democratic lawmakers have been trying to re-create such protections in California—over the objections of some universities. Jerry Brown vetoed such a bill last year, and the effort stalled again Friday when lawmakers decided that SB 493 won’t advance this year.

Shopping: Fed up with ridiculously long paper receipts and fearing the chemicals they often contain, a San Francisco assemblyman pushed legislation that would have largely banned receipts at large retailers, unless customers requested one. But the bill was criticized by grocers who like old-fashioned receipts and pundits who deemed it “micromanagement in the name of progressive politics.”

Food stamps: California has one of the nation’s lowest participation rates in CalFresh, the state’s name for the federal food-stamp program, leaving $1.8 billion in federal funds on the table that could be helping hungry people. Despite no registered opposition, lawmakers held a bill that aimed to dramatically increase enrollment in the federal food aid program, but didn’t say why.

Reptiles: California is still on track to ban the importation of alligator and crocodile products, such as handbags and shoes, starting next year. In a win for animal-rights groups, lawmakers tabled AB 719, which sought to delay the ban until 2025.

Tax credits for filmmakers: With Georgia and other red states passing restrictive abortion laws, a California Democrat proposed giving $250 million in tax credits over five years for film productions to leave those states. But the proposal stalled amid criticism that it amounted to an effort to bribe companies to boycott.

Water in your beer: Every gallon of beer or wine made in California uses five to seven gallons of water, a precious resource for a state recovering from a prolonged drought and constantly worried about the next one. Major beer companies got behind a bill to require regulators to come up with guidelines for breweries and winemakers to recycle that water (for cleaning and other nonpotable purposes), but it wasn’t enough to convince lawmakers to say “cheers.”

CalMatters reporters Rachel Becker, Jackie Botts, Elizabeth Castillo, Ben Christopher, Matt Levin, Judy Lin and Felicia Mello contributed to this report. CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Published in Politics

I’m a 21-year-old woman, and I have an IUD. I’ve had sex with quite a few men, and one thing seems to be almost constant among them: trying to fuck without condoms.

Many of the men I’ve been with seem to be perfectly fine and terribly eager to have sex without condoms. This has always angered me. They generally assume or make sure I’m on birth control, which they immediately take to mean condom-free sex is welcome. I don’t want to have sex without condoms without being in a committed relationship. I know people cheat, and monogamy doesn’t mean STIs won’t happen, but it’s a risk I’m comfortable with. I’m so annoyed by how often men try to get out of using condoms (it’s often persistent, even with people I’ve been seeing a while) that I want to start lying and saying I’m not on birth control.

The risk of a baby seems to be the only STI most men are concerned with. Is it all right for me to lie and say I’m not on any birth control and explain why I lied later on if things get serious?

I’m Understandably Distressed

Let’s get this out of the way first: You’re right, IUD; sexually transmitted infections (STI) do happen to people in monogamous relationships. People cheat; people lie; people contract; people transmit. A 2015 study found that people in consensually nonmonogamous (CNM) relationships were no more likely to contract an STI than people in monogamous relationships. The reason? If a person in a monogamous relationship screws around and doesn’t use a condom, they can’t ask their partner to start using condoms again without drawing attention to their infidelity. If someone in a CNM relationship asks their primary partner to start using condoms again—because a condom broke or fell off or didn’t wind up on a cock for some other reason—they’re drawing attention to their fidelity.

Moving on … right again, IUD: Babies do seem to be the only STI many men are worried about. Australian researchers conducted a large study about stealthing—the deeply shitty, rape-adjacent practice of surreptitiously removing the condom during intercourse—and they were shocked to discover how common this deeply shitty practice seems to be.

“The researchers estimated in advance that approximately 2 percent of the sample would report having been stealthed,” sex researcher Justin Lehmiller wrote in a blog post looking at the results of the study. “In fact, 32 percent of the women and 19 percent of the men surveyed reported having experienced stealthing. … A majority of both groups reported discussing the event with their partner afterward, and most also reported feeling emotionally stressed about it. A majority also considered stealthing to be a form of sexual assault. These results suggest that stealthing is not a rare occurrence, and we would do well to study it further.”

The researchers didn’t ask heterosexual men about being stealthed, and as Lehmiller points out, there are some scattered reports out there about women poking holes in condoms before sex or retrieving them after sex. We don’t need a study to tease out the motives of these women—they want to have a child and don’t care whether their partners do (and that is not OK)—but we could use a study that asked heterosexual men about their motives for stealthing. One question we should put to these assholes: Are they more likely to “go stealth,” i.e., to sexually assault a woman, if they know her to be on some other form of birth control? Or are they just so wrapped up in their own momentary sexual pleasure that they don’t give a shit about babies or any of the other STIs?

Moving on to your actual question …

Can you lie? Of course you can. Should you lie? In the case of a casual-sex partner who might not have your best interests at heart, i.e., some total rando you want to fuck but aren’t sure you can trust, I think you can lie and should lie. This lie doesn’t do him any harm; it’s not like you’re telling him you’re on birth control when you’re not. And if telling this lie inspires some rando to be more careful about keeping the condom on (sometimes condoms fall off by accident), then it’s a lie that made the sex safer for you and for him.

And if you get serious about someone you initially lied to about having an IUD—if some dude makes the transition from hot rando to hot boyfriend—and he reacts badly when you tell him the truth, just say (or text) this to him: “I could have waited to fuck you until I was sure you were a good guy. But then you would have missed out on all the awesome sex we’ve had up to now. Would that have been better? And by coming clean now, I’m basically saying that I think you’re a good guy that I can trust. I know that now, but I didn’t always know it, because I’m not psychic. Now, do you want to raw-dog me, or do you want to complain?”


My girlfriend opposes sex work because she believes it oppresses women. Early in our relationship, she demanded to know if I had ever paid for sex, because she couldn’t be with me if I had. And I told her the truth: “No, never.” She didn’t ask if I’d ever been paid for sex. (One guy; he blew me; no women were oppressed because no women were involved; it happened twice.) Do I need to tell her?

Two-Time Gay For Pay

Nope.


My partner is too embarrassed to raise this question with his doctor: Is it safe for me to drink my partner’s urine? He’s HIV-positive, but his viral load is undetectable. I know that other STIs could potentially be passed on to the watersports receiver through urine. My partner has been tested for everything and has no other STIs.

He is worried that his urine could contain enough of his antiretroviral drugs (Tivicay and Descovy) to do me harm. He is particularly worried that I might suffer from the side effects of those drugs. I am not currently on any medications. I believe that his fear stems from when he was on chemo drugs for something else. Nurses treating him then advised me not to use his hospital bathroom so that I would not possibly be exposed to any chemo-drug residue.

I know that you’re not a doctor—but could you ask a doctor for us?

Ingesting Medicines

“This one is easy,” said Dr. Peter Shalit, a physician who has been treating people with HIV/AIDS for 30 years. “Tivicay and Descovy are very benign medicines with very little potential toxicity in standard doses. If one were to drink the urine of someone taking these medicines, there would be essentially no Tivicay, as this medicine is excreted by the liver, not the kidneys. The remnants of the drug are excreted in the feces, so to get significant exposure to secondhand Tivicay, you’d have to eat … well, never mind.”

As for Descovy—that’s actually two medicines in one. First, the bad news: Emtricitabine and tenofovir alafenamide, the meds in Descovy, are excreted in the urine. And the good news: “The amount of Descovy that would be in one liter of urine is much less than a single pill’s worth,” said Dr. Shalit, who is also a member of the American Academy of HIV Medicine. “Since these medicines are intrinsically very safe to begin with, in my opinion, the health risk from exposure to the small amounts that may be found in urine is negligible. Don’t worry about it.”

On the Lovecast, Andrew Gurza on dating with disabilities: savagelovecast.com.

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Published in Savage Love

The last two years have been like a horror movie playing out in super-slow motion. Even though progressives made some fantastic gains on Election Day, I find myself exhausted and sad. And ever since Brett Kavanaugh, it’s gotten worse.

I've stopped watching the news—any news. However, I still scroll through comment sections on Facebook, and I hear conversations in bars, at the grocery store, at the office … and I am horrified, because now we are talking about rape—specifically, rape in the 1980s.

Things were a lot different in the ’80s. We were taught through film, TV and books that rape was something that happened to you in a dark alley, or at a rest stop, or in a parking lot, usually late at night, by a total stranger (often black). We were taught that good girls didn’t get drunk, didn’t dress provocatively, didn’t go out alone, and never brought men back to their homes—because that was “leading him on,” and if something happened, we were “asking for it.” It wasn’t until later in the decade that we started to discuss what we called “date rape.” I’m not sure why we had to qualify it with the word ”date” to separate it from “real” rape.

I was 19, with an infant child, working as a cocktail waitress in a busy nightclub. He was tall with blue eyes and adorable blond curls. He came in a few times and eventually asked me out on a date.

I said yes. I got dressed up—a black mini-skirt with ruffles, spike heels and a leopard-print blouse. We went to the club where I worked, and we had a lot of drinks. We danced a little … and he was so attractive.

He took me back to his house. We smoked pot and drank some more, before he offered to drive me back to my apartment. Once there, I invited him in.

Yes … I invited him in. I was attracted to him. I wanted the night to continue, and if I am being completely honest, I have to admit I was considering getting intimate with him.

I was not given a choice.

We sat on my couch, and he started kissing me hard—too hard. I tried to pull back, but he had my head in a vise-like grip. He forced his tongue down my throat … and I knew. Before he pushed me down, I knew. I put my hand on his chest and tried to push him away, but he was strong and determined. I decided not to push very hard, because I was afraid he would make it worse if I did.

I had an out-of-body experience. I could see him on top of me, as if I was looking down from the ceiling. Thankfully, it was over very quickly. He came, got up and pulled up his pants. He kissed me on the forehead, told me he’d had a great time and walked out my front door. I heard him drive away.

I lay there for a long time, paralyzed. I took that famous scalding hot bath, and I cried dry, wracking tears until the tub got cold. All those warnings I’d heard came back to me: Why hadn’t I listened? I was stupid and foolish.

I was never going to tell anybody what I had “let” happen. We whispered about those girls. “She was raped” somehow meant she was tainted, ruined. We thought of her as dirty and slutty—completely deserving of her fate: “Well she should have KNOWN better.”

We didn't report our rapes in the ’80s. To report meant being labeled as a slut, as damaged, as dirty. To report meant getting essentially raped again in an emergency room, by a doctor collecting “evidence.” Reporting meant going to court to get emotionally raped by your rapist’s lawyer and possibly the judge. To report meant everybody knew and whispered behind your back. To report was the equivalent of putting yourself on trial for the crime of being raped.

I was in denial. I prayed no one would ever find out. I started to have the nightmares. I was walking down the street in broad daylight, and I would see him. He was always wearing all-black, always silent. He would see me, and I would try to run, but my legs wouldn’t move, and he would catch up to me, push me down and rape me right there on the sidewalk. The street was typically one from my childhood, a street I had taken on walks home from school. The rape was always much more physically violent than the one I had experienced.

Depression and a suicide attempt followed. I was in a locked ward for eight weeks for my own protection.

It came out during a therapy session. My therapist looked at me with such compassion, and said, ”Honey, you were raped. You were raped, and it wasn’t your fault.” This simple statement rocked my world. The dreams disappeared, and I stopped blaming myself for what happened. But I still felt tainted, soiled. I am one of tens of millions of women who had this experience.

Years went by; decades went by. Today, I don’t often think about the time I was raped—or at least I didn’t until the Supreme Court hearings.

Tens of millions of women, like me, have been triggered. Millennial women are crying out #metoo. Even some men are now revealing the truth about the rapes they have experienced. This can lead to anxiety, depression, a return of nightmares, and reliving the rapes.

Those of us going through this need compassion, nurturing and unconditional love. Please believe us when we tell our stories, even if we can’t remember the details, dates and names. Please reassure us that we are not ruined, not dirty. Remind us that it wasn’t our fault. We need you right now. We need men to believe us, to show us that not all men are violent. We need to heal from the freshly re-opened wounds we are experiencing; whether you thought Ms. Ford was telling the truth is not the issue. Rape is the issue.

The time has come to change the language we use. We used to say, “No means NO.” Now we must learn to say, “Only yes means yes.”

I left my rape behind for 30 years. I’d have left it alone forever if I could have—but perhaps this is my chance to finally be free. I can make a decision to feel those feelings without harsh self-criticism. I may not want to, but I get to process my rape today. As scary as it is, I can allow those petrified feelings to thaw and really feel them for the first time. I’m not anywhere near there yet, but I have hope that such a day will come soon—the day when I can finally set myself free.

Published in Community Voices