Testimonio: Surviving a sexual assault

By Anonymous/Por Anonimo

One in three women are raped or sexually assaulted in Utah. Although I’ve heard this statistic many times, I was lucky to be one of the women without that traumatic experience. I believed that if I were threatened with it happening to me, I would do everything in my power to prevent it—even die—than have someone take advantage of my body. I never imagined not being able to protect myself or prevent it.
As a petite Latina woman, I am very cautious of the dangerous world around me. I am alert when I had to travel on my own. I never go out partying, and when I do drink, it is with people I trust in the safety of my own home. I thought I would be safe living by these rules, but I was wrong.
After almost three years of dating and a year of apartment hunting, my boyfriend and I moved into our own an apartment of our own. To celebrate our independence and milestone in our relationship, we threw a small party. Since we are both underage, my boyfriend’s older uncle provided us with alcohol for the night. We played cards and had drinks at a small get together.
As the night progressed, the alcohol turned into a drinking contest, with my boyfriend’s uncle slowly egging us on to drink. I resolved to outdrink my boyfriend, so his uncle and I took shot after shot, until we drank almost two full bottles of liquor. The last thing I fully remember was taking a shot, then the next five minutes are like a broken movie reel of half blackness and blurry images: I threw up and passed out. I am locked in the bathroom with my boyfriend’s uncle who’s undressing me. I fall over in the shower. I feel him touching me. I feel dread when I realized I can’t stop what is happening to me. My brother bangs on the bathroom door, and then pulls me out of the shower, telling me that I was going to be okay and that he had done everything he could to protect me. Five minutes—that’s all it took for my boyfriend’s uncle to sexually assault me.
In those five minutes, my brother stepped out of our apartment to show his friend out. In those five minutes, my boyfriend ran to the other bathroom to vomit. In those five minutes, his uncle saw the perfect opportunity and took me, half passed out and stumbling, into the bathroom, locked the door, and sexually assaulted me. I thought I would be safe. My brother was there. My boyfriend was there. His uncle—whom I have known as long as I’ve been dating my boyfriend—was there. I always though I would be safe in the comfort of my own home.
Now, I am a statistic. I am the 1 in 3 women who are sexually assaulted. As a woman of color, this predicament is even worse. Women of color are raped at a much higher rate than white women and often face the blame for being raped. Historically, women of color have been highly sexualized. Women of color have been portrayed as sexually available and often are seen as bending to the sexual whims of white men. Unfortunately, this is tied to the long history of colonization. When white men would colonize a new area, mass rapes of the indigenous population of women would occur. The consequences of this history can still be felt today. Black women are portrayed as wild and animalistic; Asian women as submissive; and Latinas, as spicy, curvaceous, and sexy. These all contribute to the sexualization of women of color, and it also contributes to the rates of rape of women of color. Sadly, 19% of black women, 24% of mixed race women, and 34% of American Indian/Alaskan Native women will be raped in their lifetimes, compared with 18% of white women. The statistics for Asian American and Latina women are unclear, due to the shame and fear associated with rape/sexual assault. I know I did not want to report mine, and I almost didn’t.
We live in a pervasive rape culture. It affects every corner of a woman’s life, from how she dresses in the morning to how many sexual partners she could have in her lifetime. Women are constantly trying to protect themselves from something they cannot: a historical legacy that teaches men to feel entitled to a woman’s body. For women of color, it’s a history of white men raping women of color and degrading them into sexual objects.
As I reflected on why this happened to me, I questioned what was I wearing. I regretted getting drunk. I wondered if he exoticized me because I was woman of color. Then I got angry and upset. I shouldn’t have to think about these things.
He should have known that my body was mine and not his to take. He should have known that although I am a Latina, I was not sexually available to him. He should have known that even though I was drunk, I did not consent. He should’ve known that I was a human being, not a piece of meat. He should have left me alone.
I can’t remember everything that happened that night. It’s a blessing and a curse. I don’t know if he fully raped me. I might not ever know. My mind replays it like a damaged video tape, some images are clear, some black. However, I remember enough to scar me for the rest of my life. I’ll always remember the feeling of his unwanted naked body against mine. I’ll always remember the screams I wanted to let out, but couldn’t. I’ll always remember the helplessness I felt when I realized the door was locked and I couldn’t get out. I remember his face, him looking at me as a piece of meat, and it will haunt me forever.
My story is not unique. Between 65-85% of rapes that happen, the victims know the perpetrators, just as I knew mine. If we do not change the way women are seen, there will continue to be stories like mine. Until we teach our men that women’s bodies aren’t sexual objects for their taking, and that women of color are not exotic sexual creatures available for sex whenever men want, these statistics will remain the same, or get worse. This is imperative, and I cannot express the urgency in which it needs to be changed.
As for me, I am a survivor. With my family’s help, I reported this crime to the police. An investigation is under way, and I don’t know what the outcome will be. I can only pray that things will get better for me, and maybe one day, I will be able to walk down the street with confidence again. I have sought psychiatric help, and so far, I am okay. I was placed on an antidepressant, and it helps me through my panic attacks that I get when I have a flashback of what happened to me. For those of you who have gone through the same thing, know that it is not your fault. We live in a society that allows it to happen and blames the woman for something out of her control. You did nothing wrong. If you remained silent about it, I urge you to speak out. They took advantage of you, and they deserve to be punished for it. Seek out psychiatric or medical help. It will only benefit you, and maybe help you get through your rough days when the only thing you feel like doing is crying, like it did for me. We did nothing wrong, and we are not alone.