Trigger warning: descriptions of sexual assault
One thing that I’m really thankful for regarding my experiences with sexual assault is that I almost never blamed myself. It’s something that a lot of survivors deal with even though sexual assault is literally never the survivor’s fault. I wasn’t very educated about consent and sexual assault back then, but despite that, it was almost always very clear to me that I wasn’t at fault.
The first time I was sexually assaulted, it was by two boys in my brother’s boy scout troupe. We were all somewhere around ten years old. We were giving each other dares in their basement and they essentially coerced me into taking off my shirt. Of course kids take dares very seriously, so I didn’t feel like I had a choice. Clearly not my fault.
The second time happened soon after. It was at another boy scout gathering. A young boy purposely tagged me by planting his hands square on my chest. Also obviously not my fault.
Then came N. The first time he sexually assaulted me, he felt between my legs without my consent within our first week of dating. I pulled his hand away more than once, but he’d go right back to it anyway. I was too uncomfortable/shocked to say anything and didn’t want to “ruin the moment” for him. This was the only time I blamed myself. As we talked about it afterward I said it was “half my fault for staying silent.” I wish I’d known that a) silence isn’t consent, b) he should’ve asked first and c) that nonverbal cue was pretty damn clear. He must’ve known I wasn’t okay with it at the time.
As he and I talked about boundaries (mostly for the purpose of him trying to expand them and get away with as much as possible) I told him that my chest was off limits. He touched me there three times anyway. Even if I hadn’t clearly defined that boundary, he still had the responsibility to ask first. When I broke up with him, I cited his lack of respect for my boundaries as one of the reasons. His reply: “This isn’t my fault.”
Next was P. He was actually respectful… just not very good at talking about anything sexual. He was deeply uncomfortable with it (as was I) because of a Catholic upbringing. And that’s where the issues began. I knew that going to second base would be scary for me because of the experiences above, so I told him not to touch me there until I made it clear that I was ready. I didn’t tell him what happened with N. Anyway, P didn’t know how he would know when it was okay. He was too uncomfortable to talk about it, so one night he just went for it and hoped for the best. I was almost ready at that point, but the fact that he touched me there uninvited made me freak the hell out. I made my expectations clear and he violated my consent anyway. Again, obviously not my fault. Thankfully, he knew that and learned from it. We dated for a few months after that and both of us worked hard on honing our communication/consent skills. Hooray for happy endings?
And finally, there’s Z. The day before we started dating, we had a conversation about how we both like to take it slow physically in relationships. And then he goes ahead and touches my chest anyway without consent. He too took 100% responsibility (as he should) and tried to make it right. It didn’t work, but kudos to him for trying I guess.
Victim blaming, whether done by the survivor themself or others, is a very common issue. I’m glad that it’s not something I’ve struggled with. And if someone did attempt to victim blame me I could a) shut them down in a heartbeat with the tools that feminism has given me and b) if I felt like telling my story (which I should never have to do to make this point) it would be clear that I’m not at fault. In all of these cases I was obviously being taken advantage of, my clearly stated boundaries were being passed or my boundaries weren’t clear in which case the perpetrator should’ve opened their mouths like a normal human being rather than forever damaging my life.
No, it’s not my fault. And I should never have to explain myself. (Ironic I should say that when I just did explain myself. Whatever. Maybe some victim blaming jerk will learn something. I can only hope.)
Thank you for reading this article. You can find my backstory here.
Related content: How is That My Fault?