Three Times Assaulted, And Still I Rise

| by Teal Cracraft |

Since the Trump tape came out on Friday, I’ve been thinking of all the times in my life that I’ve been the victim of unwanted advances from men. And, as I write this, I hate using the word victim because it brings to mind something negative, weak and powerless. Everything I’ve fought not to be as a woman. But, here’s the thing, there is no other way to describe it except victimization. One person wielding their strength, physical power and aggression over another smaller person in order to make them experience fear. Fear for their personal safety, fear for their emotional well-being and, in far too many cases, fear for their life. This is not and has never been acceptable behavior. And, we’re kidding ourselves if we excuse rampant misogyny and predatory comments as “locker room talk.” It’s not. It’s dehumanizing, it’s degrading and it’s flat out terrifying.

I was 14 years old the first time I was assaulted. It happened on the bus ride to a new school where I would be entering a class of nine hundred students after growing up in a small town where I’d gone to school with the same hundred students since kindergarten. I remember taking my seat and experiencing a general sense of anxiety and dread about the prospect of entering this unfamiliar setting filled with strangers and not a single person to call my friend. With these legitimate worries on my mind, I hardly noticed the group of 4 boys that seated themselves all around me. Two in front and two behind. I have no idea what they said to me because I was too busy worrying about why they were in my personal space. Their vibe was not friendly and all I wanted was for the bus ride to end so that I could get away from them. The next thing I knew, one of the boys leaned over the seat and KISSED my FACE. It was terrifying. I felt helpless and afraid because my power had been taken from me in an instant. Kissing a woman on the face without her consent isn’t flirting, it isn’t cute and it isn’t excusable. It’s ASSAULT. I walked home from school that day and told my mom that I would never ride that bus again. What infuriates me to this day is that I STOPPED RIDING THE BUS because I was assaulted. As far I know, there were no repercussions for that boy, no recriminations for his behavior, no one telling him that what he did was wrong. I would have done anything to avoid encountering him again and so I stayed silent.

I was twenty years old the second time I was assaulted. My best friend and I were adventuring through Spain; having the kind of fun that only 20 year old women, with no responsibilities and absolute conviction that the world is theirs for the taking, can have. After enjoying a wine filled dinner, we set off into the city of Malaga with our arms intertwined, our steps a little wobbly, and our voices belting out the words of our favorite songs. As we walked, we heard catcalls and men shouting at us from the busy street. We laughed and actually talked about the fact that it was lucky we were on a sidewalk going in the opposite direction of traffic. We stopped laughing when a moped carrying three men swerved out of traffic and jumped onto the sidewalk behind us. Having arrived on one moped, they obviously weren’t big men, but there were three of them and it was immediately scary. They surrounded us and started yelling in Spanish, grabbing our chests and reaching for our purses. The only details I remember of our flight were shouting “NO” wrenching our purses away and running faster than I have in my entire life. When we got back to the hotel room, my friend had a black eye and we were both shaking with relief and shock. Grabbing a woman’s body without her permission is unacceptable. It is assault, it is illegal and it is absolutely inexcusable.

I was twenty-six years old the last time I was physically threatened by a man. I was in a casual, rebound relationship that was going nowhere fast. One night after watching a movie at his house, I went home, took a shower and walked into my kitchen for a drink of water. On my way to the refrigerator, I realized that HE was in my LIVING ROOM. I had not invited him over, had not invited him in, yet there he was on my couch with my phone in his hand. He immediately started asking me about my private text messages, getting more agitated with each of my responses. I kept asking him to leave and he kept refusing. Eventually, he, 6″2′ and weighing close to 200 pounds, stood up, ripped his shirt off his body and grabbed a golf club that was propped against my wall. At this point, I was screaming at him to leave and still he refused. Fueled by adrenaline and self-preservation, I darted past him, out the door, and down the street where I could safely dial 911. I was lucky, so very fortunate, that my story ended with the police coming to my home and escorting him away in hand cuffs. But, the shame and embarrassment I carried for allowing myself to be in that situation completely silenced me until now.

Women should not be ashamed for being bullied and physically intimated, men should not use their size and physical strength to scare women, WE should all be OUTRAGED by any man that advocates using physical intimidation and violence against women. Women, and men that truly respect women, have been fighting against this behavior for decades. We no longer live in a world where it is acceptable to use physical dominance to gain control.

Since the Trump tape surfaced, I’ve been forced to revisit each of these horrible memories and the feelings of fear and intimidation I buried with them. Since the Trump tape surfaced, I have fantasized about the conversation I would have with Donald, after I punched him in the throat. I am not a woman prone to violence and I would never tell my three year old that it’s okay to hit anyone, ever. But, this is the kind of rage I feel right now. No, Donald Trump, we do not accept your vile brand of predatory misogyny as “locker room talk.” We do not accept your disgusting pride and reprehensible sense of entitlement in touching women in the most inappropriate, demeaning and disgusting ways without their consent. We do not accept that you are even remotely fit to occupy the position of President of the United States; the most prestigious, visible and inclusive representation of our country. We do not accept your brand of politics and we will not stop raising our voices against the divisive, hateful, unsubstantiated claims and flat out lies that your fear mongering campaign has fed to our country for far too long.

Before I was 30 years old, I had been assaulted three times by 5 different men. Today I tell my stories for the first time because I refuse to stay silent in a world where men believe that women are theirs for the taking, objectifying, abusing and discarding. SpeakYourStory exists for all women, everywhere, to share their stories and stand together, HANDS held and VOICES loud against the bullshit narrative that we are less than, that we deserve less than, that we can be treated as less than. We will provide as much space as required on this site for women to share their stories of assault. We will drown these demeaning, disgusting voices with our choruses of survival and strength. TOGETHER, WE RISE!

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