This Pussy is Grabbing Back

Let’s Talk Assault

My best friend writes poetry. It’s so good, it should probably be pronounced “po-ay-tre'” to emphasize maximum fanciness.

Me? I haven’t written poetry since grade school. I’m going to try and get through this with maximum effervescence, but I make no promises.

My other friend Erin Brown posted today on Facebook (and I’m paraphrasing) “if you believe you don’t know a woman who has been sexually assaulted, you just aren’t a person who has been entrusted with that story.”

I’m surrounded by a bevy of strong women. My mother, my grandmothers, my friends – shit – that girl down the street who I kinda know but generally just wave to. But never once have I bridged the subject of sexual assault with any of them.

I’m going to break that today.

And I’m going to break it by doing what I do best – over sharing on the internet. I’ll tell you my story, and then ask you to share yours. In whatever way you’re most comfortable with.

I was 12 when I was sexually assaulted. Writing those words down just now has caused my eyes to well with tears. There is a lump building in my throat, my heart is racing and I’ve got a box of tissues standing ready on my desk.

I’m 29 now. Twenty-fucking-nine, and it still feels just as real as if it happened last week. I am still processing that trauma, 15 years later, and probably will be for quite some time. Trauma’s funny like that. Just when you think you’ve processed, healed and are ready to move on, BAM! Some talking orange potato running for public office brings it all right back.

I was a good kid. I was a REALLY good kid. I excelled in school, I had a great Beaver Cleaver family: we ate together at the table every night. My Mom was constantly shuttling us back and forth between piano lessons, swim practice, and after school activities. My brother and I were raised on the mantra “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” My Dad was home by 5:30 every night, and I can remember staring at the cuckoo clock in our TV room, waiting for that little bird to pop out and announce Dad would be returning home soon. I would read a book a night, with Animorphs being my favorite series, followed closely by Goosebumps.

But that doesn’t matter. Sexual assault can happen to anyone. Black, white, Hispanic, Asian. Men, women, boys, girls. Binary and non binary. The elderly and new borns. Straight A students and juvinile delinquents. I’m sharing the way my life was previous to my sexual assault so you can see drastically my life changed, all because of one afternoon in Wal Mart. As if we needed any more proof Wal Mart is the devil – amirite??

It was the summer between sixth and seventh grade. That magical space where you teeter back and forth between child and teenager – desperate to be taken as seriously by others as you do yourself. Teen magazines were my Bible. I’d pour over articles like “A Two Week Guide to Getting Ready for Your First Day of Junior High” and follow all of their steps in hopes I’d transform into Glamorous Teenager(tm) and blow all the other kids away with my sophistication and beauty.

We were at Wal Mart – as a family, gathering up school supplies for the upcoming school year. My brother and I were in the “action figure” aisle, checking out the latest and greatest in “boys” toys (it was the 90s – things were still VERY gendered.) I was distracted; talking with my brother, probably about Pokemon or the latest Game Boy color we were going to ask for as Christmas presents, when I felt a hand come up my backside. Time stood still. I remember being conscious of the pressure as the hand moved up, past the opening of my jean shorts. Past my underwear.

As the fingers tried to find their way to my most private areas, I finally unfroze. I turned my head back. I don’t know why, but I was expecting to see someone I knew standing back there.

But it wasn’t someone I knew.

It was a white guy wearing a red baseball cap, pushing a cart full of kids toys. He was probably in his mid 30’s and he had a smile on his face that I still see sometimes in my nightmares. Fifteen fucking years later, I can still see that smile. That smile of “I bet you liked that, huh?”

That smile of someone who knew they were getting away with something. The smile of someone who knew they would never be caught or face consequences.

I booked it. I took off running, desperate to find my parents. I found my Dad first. I was hysterical – crying so hard he couldn’t understand me.

“What happened, Em? What happened??”

I told him that a man I didn’t know came up behind me and grabbed me. He touched me where no one (save my parents when they changed my diaper as a baby) had ever before.

I remember my Dad grabbing my hand and whipping me through the store so fast, I couldn’t keep up. When we found the manager of Wal Mart, I heard my Dad yell at someone who wasn’t me or my brother for the first time.

I remember the manager shrugging his shoulders. Saying that the guy who did it had probably booked it out of the store already because “he knew he did something wrong”.

“Sorry – there’s nothing I can do.”

I remember walking through the parking lot, and climbing into the family van.

I remember the silent ride home.

I remember walking through the front door of our house.

I remember watching my family members go to separate rooms.

I remember being alone.

So I did what most kids do when they’re alone. I turned on the TV. On it some variety show put on by Martin Short. The very first scene I saw was our friend Martin being surrounded my glamorous Las Vegas show girls – dancing. The very type of women I was so desperate to become; glamorous, sure of themselves, covered in sparkly rhinestones. Old enough to be taken seriously and live their own lives. They did their song and dance, and ended in a formation with Martin in the middle – surrounded by the show girls – bent at the waist – their butts closest to him.

I remember being terrified for those show girls.

“Don’t do that! He’ll hurt you! You’re too close!”

I remember thinking “nothing is ever going to be the same again. I will never be the same again.”

____________________________________________

My whole family dynamic changed after my sexual assault. I still did well in school, but I no longer loved it. I would come up with elaborate lies to tell my parents. Saying I was going to study with friends, when really I was sneaking off to co-ed parties. I became depressed and then suicidal. I was physically violent with my parents. I remember pushing my Mom to the ground because I didn’t want to go to my job at Hy Vee, and she was making me. Once, I had to drink activated charcoal and spend the night in the hospital on suicide watch. Social services had to come and vet my parents to make sure I was in a safe environment. The same parents who diligently made sure I did my homework. The same parents who packed my lunch every morning, forever telling me “don’t come back flat,” as I would walk out the front door on my way to school. The same parents who made sure we were only exposed to a half hour of television every day.

We were living in a fucking nightmare.

Long story short – it all turned out fine. I am a healthy, thriving 29 year old woman. I’ve got a great husband, great friends. I now enjoy a beautiful and loving relationship with my parents, and have for quite some time.

But my assault FUCKED MY SHIT UP for a LOOOOOOOOONG while. I’m still unpacking exactly what happened and how deeply it has affected every move I made for the past fifteen years. How it continues to affect me as I move through this world.

I should also say – I don’t blame my parents for how they reacted. Their world went through an upheaval just as mine did. They did their best – they got me into therapy and loved me through the absolute worst moments of my life.

And I am forever grateful.

But if you’re moving through this world thinking you don’t know someone affected by sexual assault – you don’t get to say that anymore.

You know me. Now you know my story.

And if you don’t think the words “I’ll walk up behind ’em and grab ’em by the pussy” aren’t a huge deal, you’re sorely mistaken.

Hi, my name is Emily, and when I was 12, I was grabbed by my pussy, and it sent me and those I love the most into a tunnel so deep, at times I wasn’t sure if I’d make it out alive.

Fuck rape culture. Fuck that dude who took away a piece of me I lost for so long I didn’t think I’d ever get it back. And fuck Donald Drumpf.

This pussy is mad as hell and ain’t gonna take it NO MORE.

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