Sexual Assault Awareness Month
Designated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), April brings an annual opportunity to focus awareness on sexual violence and its prevention. It is also an opportunity to highlight the efforts of individuals and agencies that provide rape crisis intervention and prevention services while offering support to sexual assault survivors, victims and their families. SAAM raises awareness of sexual violence and its prevention through special events while highlighting sexual violence as a major public health issue and reinforces the need for prevention efforts.
It is hard for me to imagine an existence in our current patriarchal society that is not framed around sexual assault. If the assaults (mostly inflicted on women) are not physical then they are mental, and almost always metaphorically in play. Not trying to diminish physical sexual assault by comparing it to metaphorical assault or implying it is the same or causing the same type of suffering, I’m simply saying that, a patriarchal system assaults females by default. One just needs to open his or her eyes.
I’m not sure what I can do to make people aware of sexual assault because I have a hard time believing that people are not aware of sexual assault, —too much willful ignorance going around I suppose. Nevertheless, to balance my fear of being too pedantic, mixed with the desire to avoid preaching, the only method I am comfortable with is telling stories, stories that I am familiar with. I know many, many sexual assault stories. I will try to write about a few before the month is out.
My sister was a very scrappy child. There was a story my mother often told when we were young, she would spank my sister and like a defiant mule my sister refused to betray her emotions. As if to say, my sister as a small child was born set on not giving anyone the satisfaction of suppressing her will, —a spanking or not. My mother complained about my sister’s stubbornness, but she also seemed to be proud of her for it. When my sister and I were in middle school, there was this very big boy name J.D. J.D. played football, maybe quarterback, one of those positions that make school boys heroes. When I say he was big, I mean big, probably four to six inches taller than the tallest child in school and certainly fifty to one hundred pounds more than everyone else. Our school was a large two-story rectangle with the cafeteria, gym, band hall, and a few other classes occupying out-buildings. A stairwell was on each of the four corners of the rectangle. Between classes, like wildfire the word would spread which path J.D. was storming, because if you were not a known J.D. worshipper then you may become J.D’s next victim. Most everyone adjusted his or her direction accordingly. It was very common to try and sneak by J.D. while he had someone else pinned against the wall. One day when I thought I was hearing the word about J.D.’s direction I learned instead that he was in the middle of a fight in the hallway down by the science classes, with my sister. The weekend before my sister had killed a chicken in order to get the perfect skeleton for a science project. J.D. thought it would be fun to knock it out of her hand. When the skeleton hit the floor, it shattered. They started fighting. Not once did she go into a defense pose, she fought him with everything in her being. He did beat her up, quite badly, and the fight only stopped when the principal finally made it to them. After that, and a suspension for him, maybe her too, I cannot remember, he never bothered her again.
At seventeen, my sister married and moved away but was still attending our high school. I was fifteen years old when the school office called me out of my last class. The secretary had a note and wanted me to give it to my mother. They could not reach her and they knew she would be there soon to pick me up. My sister was in DECA, one of those half-day junior/senior vocational programs in which the student only takes two or maybe three classes in the morning and leaves school early for work. She was at her apartment taking a shower getting ready for work when a man broke the patio glass door and entered. She thought she heard something so she got her husband’s gun from beside the bed. As she made her way downstairs, she saw the man coming toward her and started firing the gun. Regrettably, the safety mechanism was on and by the time she realised her mistake, he had physically forced the gun away. He beat her face and head with the gun then raped her. After he raped her, he kicked her in the back and stomach and gave her one final hit on the top of her head with the butt of the gun. He said something along the lines of “this is for pulling a gun on me cunt.” He left her for dead.
To this day, the aftermath has been horrendous for my sister and by extension her family, not that they say so though, because nothing is ever said. I do not think my mother ever blamed my sister or framed it in a blaming way, I can give her credit for that, but, she could have handled the immediate aftermath better than she did, but alas, that is why we need sexual assault awareness. My father is pardoned from the immediate aftermath critique only because he was overseas at the time. Not that I think he would have went against her husband however. My brother-in-law, my sister’s husband was working off-site so he could not be reached by his job. By the time he got home and learned what happened, it was very late. My brother-in-law argued with my mother at the hospital about how he should have been contacted first. My sister gave the police my mother’s information, she said later because she knew her husband could not be reached, but still he trifled over being the last to know. My mother dug in her heels because it was a victory that her daughter chose her mother over her husband, who she should have never married to begin with because it would never last anyway. This while my sister was in ICU. Little did anyone know that those petty trifles were a premonition for what was to come in the next thirty years.
Maybe counseling was offered. I don’t know. It was decided by her husband that the best answer would be to move away, away from the city and forget about the whole incident. Get away from the damn city. It was the city’s fault. Move on.
I was too young to see the change in my sister right away and by the time I did, she was well into her descent and did not know what I was talking about. She needed her husband and clung to him because if she would had listened to him like he told her to, then she would have known how to take the safety mechanism off the gun and she would not be hurting, although she was not hurting, because she was not, and he did not exactly say it that way anyway, so what are you talking about?
Her house became filthy. Her husband became more domineering and abusive. Psst. Never discuss the secret that no one can remember but can never forget. The collective effort by everyone including anyone who did not know they were participating was to bury, to suppress, to repress. A few years went by until his best decision produced a baby, because a baby would make everything better, not that there was anything wrong. Then another baby would make it even better, but really, there was nothing the matter.
She juggled her babies, rationalised her chores, ran the streets and kept innocent enough secrets from her husband, but she had no secrets from her husband, not that either were aware of. Then a boy was needed. Yes, a boy would do the trick. The first two babies were girls, so a boy, a boy would cure all the ills, but no cure was necessary, really, because who was ill? Did we say something was wrong?
The babies started growing up, often not sure why they felt angry and neglected but feeling angry and neglected. It was the neighbor’s fault, the teacher’s fault, the cousins think they are better, it is true they know this, because that is what mom and dad said. They loved their mommy and daddy and something did not seem right but they were told nothing was wrong so they moved on.
Now the children are having children and no one knows why one day when dad was at work, working hard as he has done for over thirty years, mom ran off with her adult half-nephew, but not before breaking into the houses of all their family members. They needed money you see, because they were going to catch a bus, to where has not been confirmed, but on that bus ride they would need rocks, because rocks made them feel alive. It must have been a Thursday because the police are always out on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When the officer inquired what had just transpired, she said nothing as she dropped the rocks to the gravel shoulder and grounded them with her shoes.
The public defender asked, “Are you sure you do not want to wait for your husband to get here? You are almost forty, you have no priors, I can probably get you bail, then probation if you wait for your husband, if you enter rehabilitation, if not, you are looking at a six month confinement.” “Just make the deal,” she said. “No need to wait for him. Just lock me up, I need a break, I need to get away, just lock me up.”
It is the chaos, the confusion, the filth, the clutter, and the entangling trifles that tell the story. However, what haunts and lingers over them remains to this day, because there is nothing that is haunting and lingering over them. If you mean that, no, it can’t be, because, that has been buried and forgotten.