Here I thought I had dealt with it – the trauma, the shame, the pain, the second-guessing – that comes as a result of being sexually assaulted. Believe me, it’s not an easy road. But, with work, support, friendship, love, and learning to give yourself some tender loving care, it can be done.
As many of you know, as a result of that assault, I found my voice and it allowed me to become an advocate for other women who have traveled that same journey. And, for that, I am grateful if something I do or say can help another woman wade through it all.
But the past week has brought up some real junk for me. Stuff that’s been jammed under a rock somewhere in some deep, dark space in my body. Painful and sickening and leaving me wondering why I stuffed it down there and shut the door.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) so I am very much tuned into activities and information being shared at this time. I’ve had a chance to have conversations with the Coordinator of the Sexual Assault Awareness Program at Dartmouth and the Training Coordinator for the WISE Program Center that provides services to victims/survivors of sexual and domestic violence in the Upper Valley area of Vermont and New Hampshire.
Last week, I gathered a group of women to go over to Dartmouth to see the screening of Kirby Dick’s newest film, The Hunting Ground, about sexual assault on college campuses. I knew it would be powerful since his earlier film, The Invisible War, about sexual assault in the military helped open so many eyes about this disgrace happening to women and men serving our country – and basically, not much being done about it.
The Hunting Ground, just like the first film, is a wakeup call for everyone. Every parent, every student, every faculty member, college administrator, athletic coordinator and coach, college security force and law enforcement should see this film and be part of a conversation and action on this topic to ensure that the status quo on handling assaults on college campuses changes very quickly. Ignore the problem and I only hope that the wrath of Title IX and the Justice Department comes crashing down and parents decide they don’t want to pay to send their child to a school where their safety is not a very high priority.
Added to the release of this film is the release of author Jon Krakauer’s newest book on April 23rd, Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town. Many of you are familiar with his previous books, among them being, Into Thin Air, Into the Wild and Three Cups of Deceit. I knew from reading those earlier books that his research and storytelling would be no holds barred. He’d tell it all.
Well, between this film and book, I felt a whole lot of painful junk just rise to the surface and it all had to do with acquaintance rape – being raped by someone you know, are friends with, or are connected with in some way. Not the stranger rape – the boogeyman jumping out of the bushes assault – that I have worked on healing all these years. Something totally different.
With stranger rape, the police believe you most of the time. With acquaintance rape, not so much. It turns into the classic he said/she said unless there are witnesses who happen to film it and post it on social media (think Steubenville, the recent Panama City spring break daytime beach assault) – and then, that’s not always a guarantee that any charges will be brought.
In fact, much of the time, the public can turn on the victim especially if the alleged rapists are big time athletes vying for a championship of some sort (think Steubenville, Florida State, Notre Dame, Clemson, and many, many, many more.) Or, if the charges are discredited and considered a false allegation, then what happens is that ALL allegations going forward are suspect.
Jon Krakauer shares this information at the beginning of Missoula:
“Rape is unique. No other violent crime is so fraught with controversy, so enmeshed in dispute and in the politics of gender and sexuality… And within the domain of rape, the most highly charged area of debate concerns the issue of false allegations. For centuries, it has been asserted and assumed that women ‘cry rape,’ that a large proportion of rape allegations are maliciously concocted for purposes of revenge or other motives.”
– David Lisak, Lori Gardinier, Sarah C. Nicksa and Ashley M. Cote – “False Allegations of Sexual Assault”, Violence Against Women, December 2010
Women reporting acquaintance rape get questioned about why they were there, how much they drank, why didn’t they just leave, why didn’t they fight back, and a myriad of other thoughtless questions. If they were not willing participants, if they said “no”, if they were passed out from whatever, if there was force involved… then, it was rape. If they were involved in some serious heavy making out and they got to a point where they said, “NO”, and their partner kept on going and forced sex… that is rape. It doesn’t matter if it’s a guy she picked up at bar, a husband, a study partner, or the All-Star quarterback.
And, I totally agree with Jessica Valenti in The Purity Myth:
“Now, should we treat women as independent agents, responsible for themselves? Of course. But being responsible has nothing to do with being raped. Women don’t get raped because they were drinking or took drugs. Women do not get raped because they weren’t careful enough. Women get raped because SOMEONE RAPED THEM.”
That’s it. Enough said. It reminded me of when I interviewed Neil Irvin, the Executive Director of the international organization, Men Can Stop Rape, and asked him how we can stop rape. His answer was to the point… “Men need to stop raping.” And, that goes for strangers, friends, husbands and acquaintances of all types. Just stop it.
So, in addition to the obvious, why did this alignment of film, book, newspaper articles and NPR interviews get me all worked up? Not because of the stranger rape I endured. It was because of the acquaintance rape I endured thirty-one years ago. Something that I’ve thought about certainly over the years and talked about with a few people. But something I more often than not, pushed way beneath the surface.
I had been dating a man who I worked with for a couple of years. Okay, he was my boss at a small investment firm. Don’t judge me – I was younger and more ignorant. As our relationship continued, I realized what a dog he was. A misogynistic, philandering bully with an ego the size of Texas and a very bad temper. Even though he never harmed me physically, I knew it was in my best interest to get out, so I did. I broke off the personal relationship with him.
As you can imagine, the working relationship was a little strained, but over time we seemed to get it figured out and things seemed pretty normal. When I started dating someone else, I didn’t rub his nose it, but I could tell it bothered him. Why didn’t I just leave? I have no fricking idea.
Well, everything changed one Sunday afternoon. He was a big cook from an Italian family who prided himself on his spaghetti sauce. He called me up and invited me over for a big plate of pasta and a glass of wine. My initial reaction was to say “No”, but being the people pleaser that I was and thinking that the past was behind us, I thought, “Why not?”
Things went well – good conversation, good wine and good pasta… until I got ready to leave. At that point, he pinned me against the wall and started roughly kissing me. When I pushed him away, he hit me and started dragging me down the hall to his bedroom. I was fighting and I was screaming and he hit me again. And then, he raped me. When he was finished, he rolled off of me and got up, put his clothes on and went in the kitchen.
I got dressed and walked past him and out the door. The next day, I saw him at work and he acted like nothing had happened. I was a basket case and told one of the women I worked with. She was furious and marched into his office and confronted him. Of course he denied it and said that she should tell me to go ahead and report it – who would believe it? He didn’t force me to come over for dinner and we had dated for years. Good luck with that charge.
And, that’s exactly what I thought, too. Who would believe me? After all, in addition to being there willingly and having a relationship with him, I worked for him and he was a respected member of the business community.
I left the firm shortly after that and I buried that incident deep down inside. When the stranger assault happened a few years later, that took precedent. That was REAL.
The other was real, too. And, the conversation that is taking place about acquaintance rape is good. It’s eye opening for many and it’s a conversation that will need to keep happening until our culture changes. We have a lot of work to do.
But, for now, I’m hunkering down to do some loving up on myself. Feeling whatever I need to feel and practicing some radical self-care. And, to keep on encouraging other women who have traveled this road to do the same – to reach out for help if you need it. You are worth it.
Five provocative questions answered by an inspiring and fabulous woman – a woman with something to say.
Meet Nukhet Hendricks
Nukhet Hendricks, a proud female leader with a master’s degree in public and human service administration, is a coach, truth seeker, spiritual rebel, intuitive, land-locked ocean lover and beach-bum wannabe. She is also the Executive Director of the Homeward Animal Shelter located in Fargo, North Dakota. When she is not busy creating safe and sacred space for her emerging leader staff to do their best work to save the lost and abandoned animals, she is being a bridge to the divine for her clients who are seeking to hear the guidance from the divine and to connect to their inner knowing. Nukhet is in the process of developing a program for women executives who are looking to develop a heart-based leadership.
Nukhet, originally made in Turkey, has been calling the USA home since 1987 as a naturalized citizen. She is one of the co-authors of the books Tender Voices – True Stories by Women on a Journey of Love and Feminine Voices and True Stories by Women Transforming Leadership published by Heal My Voice.
People would be surprised to know that: My fierce need to be free and independent; my unquenchable gypsy soul always lusting for new frontiers will surprise a lot of people I know. Only a few people who are really close to me know that side of me.
The WTL 5:
What’s the conversation that changed your life?
It was about 30 years ago. I was a high school junior and was nominated by my English teacher for a high school student exchange program, but it required me to take an extensive written and oral test. If I won, I was going to win a scholarship to spend ten months in the USA as a high school senior.
Upon finding this out, a very close girlfriend of mine went to great lengths to tell me how impossible it was for me to pass this test and win the scholarship. She further informed me that many before me had gone on to try and fail miserably. At that moment I made a promise to myself that the scholarship was mine. At the end, not only did I win the scholarship but I ended up eventually moving to the USA in 1987. My life has never been the same since that conversation.
What are you most conscious of today?
I am very conscious of my leadership. I came to realize that my leadership is not about me. It is all about the emerging leaders I oversee. It is about creating a safe and nurturing space for them, providing them the opportunity to use their gifts until they are empty, empowering them to do their best work and share their brilliance.
Furthermore, I am deeply conscious of developing my leadership and influence in ways which fills my heart with self-respect. I am vested in exploring the path of personal power which arises from the heart of divine love and inspires me to express a heart-based leadership.
What part of you have you yet to give voice to?
I haven’t given a voice to the spiritual rebel woman in me. I have very highly developed intuition and connection to the divine. More often than not, I keep them to myself unless a friend or a client is asking to hear it or I tamed it bit. I haven’t shouted what I know to be true to me from the roof tops yet! There is an unwritten book in me waiting to be birthed.
What’s the conversation women need to be having collectively?
Whether we admit to it or not, we are either leading our own lives or being led by others around us. It is time that we women start having the conversation around how we can be the leading ladies in all areas of our own lives. We need to encourage each other to embrace our inner power so that we can live boldly, courageously, out loud and in color – a life that sustains and fulfills us.
What needs to be said bigger, louder, stronger?
Traditional leadership is losing its luster. Leadership without love and compassion is no longer working. It is becoming clear that leadership is a matter of the heart! It is a matter of leading with love and compassion, connected to our hearts, to our inner knowing, inner wisdom and intuition. It is time for us women leaders to redefine and reframe leadership to transform and create lasting change. This truth has to be said bigger, louder and bolder.
Thank you, Nukhet, for sharing your powerful voice
with WomanTalk Live