It Happens


You don’t think it will happen to your best friend. You don’t think it will happen to your younger sibling. You don’t think it will happen to you.

You see the stories in magazines, the Hollywood directors whose names are revealed and their films boycotted, but the scandal is forgotten about less than a month later. You see the college boy who shoves two fingers inside of an unconscious girl, whose punishment is then decided by his academic standing and his impressive achievements in sports. You see the statistics – “the one in five girls” – and you neglect to look around at your group of friends because you know that the figure is double that, and you don’t want to face reality. It won’t happen to you, right? It doesn’t happen here.

But then you begin to listen a little more closely to the details in the stories people are telling you. You realize that perhaps it isn’t always this great affair, because sexual assault has a way of diminishing people into specks of dust who feel as if they are constantly screaming, but are only capable of letting out whimpers.

To my friend, who was called sexy by a man holding a pocket knife. To my sister, where a man at a party told her boyfriend, directly in front of her face, “I’m going to fuck your girlfriend”. To my guy friend, who woke up next to a naked girl and was chastised for having been scared about it.

To myself, the person who was surrounded by all of these stories and figured that that had to be it; that had to be all. But then I was in gym class attempting to use some machine that I didn’t understand, laughing with one of my friends over how clumsy I was. A boy approached me and said that he would help. Grateful, I stepped to the side, motioning for him to show me. He told me to start using it again, I thought nothing of it. But when he pressed himself against my behind and placed two firm hands on my hips and began running them up and down my body, pushing against my arms and shoulders, his fingers grazing against my breasts until they were entirely over them, I knew that this was no instruction that he was giving me. I figured that, having heard all of these stories, I would know how to turn around and look him in the eye, urge him to stop, command his respect. But instead, all I knew was how to stand perfectly still and listen to my heartbeat accelerate in my chest. I felt my throat close and my eyes glaze over, and although it may have only lasted fifteen seconds, I felt like I stood there forever, just taking it. When he said he was done, having never actually shown me how to use the machine, I muttered “Thank you” underneath my breath as my eyes welled with tears.

To all of us, I am sorry. We didn’t deserve this, and I don’t know how I could change it, but I would. I would do it in a heartbeat.

It isn’t always a giant production to everyone, but it can be earth-shattering when it happens to you. The overwhelming feeling of being so entirely numb in a moment overcomes a person, leaving one to wonder if the statistics really are true? Even when I have had it happen to me and to so many others, I cannot face the truth without feeling pitiful.