Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (or SAAM) and The Planned Parenthood Action Fund plans to raise awareness by supporting survivors and their stories.

It became my passion to speak out against sexual assault and the stigma that comes with it after one of my best friends was raped.

It’s still difficult for her to share her story (for both personal and legal reasons). I asked her if I could write it for her with enough detail and with some of my perspective, and she gave me her approval.

He was a close friend she went to school with and always kept in touch with. But she was never interested in him and she often expressed that to him.

They went out for drinks one night after not seeing him in a while. She invited me, but I couldn’t make it out, so she went by herself. She asked to see me a few days later while I was volunteering in a little film library we had at our university; it was basically a closet that had just enough space for the two of us.

She wasn’t acting strangely or any differently, so I was shocked when she told me her friend raped her that night after putting something in her drink. I honestly couldn’t fathom the idea because she spoke so highly of him all the time. I gave in to the rape culture thinking, “Was she flirting with him and not realizing it? I should’ve gone with her. I would’ve stayed sober enough to help her.”

It wasn’t until she said, “It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have gone alone.” that I started bawling. Her words made me so angry. Not at her. But at the thought that she felt like she had to apologize for being raped. That she had to be responsible for someone else choosing to take advantage of her when she never gave him consent. That his friend looked the other way and let it happen. That his girlfriend defended him and asked her to drop the charges because “he’s been having a hard time with this family.” That we had to feel like it was either one of our faults for not staying together like a herd of sheep defending ourselves against a pack of wolves.

I keep the memory of those feelings every day in my fight for women’s rights. My friend was brave enough to tell me her story; 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, often because the survivors are afraid of the stigma that comes with publicizing the crime. My friend still faces mental trauma and legal stress all because of that night five years ago.

This is not right. No victim should be shamed and forced to relive the crime and shamed again years after it happened just to put the criminal in jail.

Always ask for consent and spread awareness. Check out the National Sexual Violence Resource Center for more information on how you can help educate yourselves and others.

As sad as that experience was, my friend and I still love to talk about and explore sex with other partners. But we know it’s more fun when it’s respectful, safe and responsible.

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