Rachel Drane
Sep 27, 2018 · 5 min read

This morning, much like much of the country, my mind was on Dr. Blasey Ford’s looming testimony regarding her sexual assault at the hands of Brett Kavanaugh. I wavered on whether or not to continue watching, but as soon as I saw her face, I was compelled.

She looked scared. Scarred. If she could stand up, speak out, and face scrutiny at this level, I could manage to watch her testimony. To bear witness for her.

Dr. Ford confirmed my assumption, stating she was “terrified.” She has been receiving death threats, been belittled, and has been regularly relocating her family to multiple safe homes.

Ford continued to confirm that this has been the worst week in her life, with exception to the one in question. She has had to relive this trauma, over and over and over, now having it picked apart by senators and the public.

She went on to detail her assault.

Like all of the stories I’ve heard from people of all genders, it was hard to digest. My chest tightened. My eyes watered. With every catch of her voice, Dr. Ford showed how sexual assault can have rippling effects throughout your life. For years, if not decades.

She mentioned how old she was when the assault occurred: 15.

While this should strike anyone like a ton of bricks, it made me connect with Dr. Ford even more deeply. Because my first assault was also at the age of 15. And I, too, never reported it.

My body still physically twitches if touched in that exact spot.

In 2004, I was performing in Europe with a local college orchestra. I bonded with the older musicians and fell into the role of the naïve, spunky li’l high schooler. I grew especially close with a 30-year-old band teacher.

One night a small group was in his shared room playing cards. These hotel rooms were smaller than my freshman dorm room, with not much in ways of seating options. So on his bed I sat. If you know me, you won’t be shocked that I was unable to stay up past 11pm, falling asleep curled up at the bottom of the bed.

When I woke, it was dark. Quiet. I was now fully laid out on the bed, face 3–4 inches from the wall. My full bladder was urging me to take action, but I was unable to move. I was frozen.

I was frozen because I was not alone on that twin-sized bed. There was someone lying behind me, spooning me. I can remember that we were lying on our right side, so that means it was his left leg that was wrapped around mine. His left hand up my shirt, on my ribs.

My body still physically twitches if touched in that exact spot.

I thought “There must be some kind of confusion here. Maybe he fell asleep, and he thinks I’m his wife.” But then, every so often, he would remove his left hand and stroke the left side of my head. And then the hand would reposition itself a couple inches below my breast.

I was frozen because I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t full understand what was happening. I was frozen because I thought he was going to hurt me. If he figured out I was awake, he could kill me.

Even at 15, I understood the danger of men.

I froze until my bladder could literally take it no longer. I went from lying down on my side to standing up on the twin bed, whisper-declaring that I had to pee. (An act that the man joked about with our group of friends the next morning.)

I spent several minutes in the bathroom not knowing what to do. I didn’t feel like I could leave and return to my hotel room because I didn’t have the key — my roommate asleep on the other bed did. So when I returned to the room, I curled up on the floor, intent of spending the rest of the night there.

The man, the adult man, insisted I have the bed. So I guess I’m lucky he didn’t pursue anything further.

Even at 15, I understood the danger of men.

That being said, I have no idea what happened before I woke up. I have no idea what his intentions were. I have no idea why he thought it was okay to treat me that way.

But he did. A person who, at the time, was practically how old I am now thought it was okay to be that physically intimate with an unconscious 15-year-old girl.

#WhyDidntIReportIt ?

I have only recently been able to fully accept this as an assault. As wrong. As something that should both anger and sadden me. Even though I experienced PTSD-like symptoms throughout the following year, I still thought it was no big deal.

Because women and girls are taught to discount their experiences.

I felt like it wasn’t that bad. He didn’t actually grope my breasts. He didn’t try to kiss me or take any clothes off.

Because women and girls are taught that they are objects for men.

I felt embarrassed. That I had somehow invited this. That I had somehow put myself into this position. That I was at fault, in some way, shape, or form.

Because women and girls are taught that men and boys are less able to control their urges.

I did tell one adult, actually, soon after it happened. He was a former teacher, with whom I was still close. I can’t remember him reacting much. Mainly he just told me that I should let the director of the orchestra know, so that it doesn’t happen again. That I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I did nothing and it happened to someone else.

Because we put the onus for change on the victims.

#IBelieveWomen because, the vast majority of the time, they have so much more to lose than to gain by coming forward. But they do so anyway.

#IBelieveWomen because I don’t think there’s going to be a backlash of false reports happening. Statistically — it’s been shown to be improbable.

#IBelieveWomen because it’s time for men to realize that more and more people actually do and will.

Athena Talks

A hub of conversation to help young women mature, budding professionals become leaders and leaders become advocates for equality.

Rachel Drane

Written by

Host of Putting Out With Rachel podcast. Depression/Eating Disorder/Abuse Survivor. Goober. Myers-Briggs is PBNJ. She/Her 🤓

Athena Talks

A hub of conversation to help young women mature, budding professionals become leaders and leaders become advocates for equality.

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