Trigger Warning: The content of this post may be triggering for people who have experienced sexual assault.
I was in college. I was drunker than I should have been—much drunker—and I was flirting with a boy. We kissed sloppily. One thing led to another and I left the bar with him. We went back to his place where he pinned me down to the bed and I said, “No.”
He called me a tease. He said other things too. Words that I fear might be true about me but somehow I got out of there. I wasn’t even fully dressed when the heavy door to his apartment slammed shut behind me.
One in five women and one in sixteen men were sexually assaulted while in college and I’m one of them.
It’s a story I wouldn’t tell in church and this week I find that particularly upsetting. It was only a few days ago that a video was leaked in which a political candidate brags that he can do anything to women and get away with it.
Since then, I have heard women in my social network—and a few men—quietly reveal their own stories of assault and rape. Some of them were in college too. Others were not.
They have confessed that this news has triggered them and they’ve asked for prayers from their sisters and brothers in Christ. I’ve read every word. I’ve whispered prayers for each one of them but not without wondering why I haven’t felt just as triggered.
But, I know why.
I’ve convinced myself that it wasn’t that bad. I’ve told myself that it could have been worse and it is a whole lot worse for way too many people. I don’t even want to list the statistics. Others have not escaped. Others have been grabbed and touched in ways that have betrayed their worth and violated their wonder.
I have a long list of reasons as to why it wasn’t so bad for me including the fact that I was drunk and that I’d left my friends. I was dumb. I should have just gone home. I knew I didn’t feel quite safe and I kissed him anyway. I could go on but to put it bluntly: I blame myself.
It is easier to attach my name and picture to this blog post than it is to look my sister or brother in Christ in the eye and confess this truth. But, there it is: I blame myself for my own sexual assault.
There is a mighty chorus of Christian voices reminding us all that this news cannot be dismissed as “locker room banter” because words matter. This isn’t a new idea.
It isn’t all that revelatory except for the fact that it’s been 15 years since that drunken night and I still believe what that boy said about me. I’m still trying to wash away the shame and find the courage to believe that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God.
The Rev. Elsa Anders Cook is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ who has served churches in New York City, Maine, Washington and Pennsylvania. Follow along in her adventures in ministry and writing at http://cookingwithelsa.org. You can also find her on Facebook at /elsaanderscook.