I didn’t even realize the power I had given to your legacy until yesterday, when I read the letter of Brock Turner’s victim... Image: Joe Gardner/Unsplash.
This is not about alcohol, about drinking, about women’s tolerance. This is about boys, about sex, about what is right and wrong.
Content notice: slut-shaming, description of sexual assault.
Today is the day I realized that I have been raped. I am a rape victim.
For more than 20 years, I believed I was a slut. A shameful, vile, one-time slut, but a slut all the same.
It was you, Mr White Canterbury Shorts, that led me to believe this. But, since reading the letter from Brock Turner’s victim, I realized, what you did, Mr White Canterbury shorts, was in fact rape.
We met in February/ March of 1996. I was 14 years old.
Ironically, you were celebrating your team’s win at the GPS swimming competition. A competition of private school boys in small, tight, swimming costumes against other boys in small, tight, swimming costumes. Your manhood on display and your manhood on the line.
You, it seems, were a champion. A medal winner with numerous accolades under your belt. A hero. A boy of worship. A private school god, whose ego reached new heights that fateful night.
I was there by coincidence. Invited by a friend of a friend, finally making my way into the popular party, up on the hill, amongst the rich kids.
It was my first high school party. I still remember that Saturday morning, spending my entire week’s salary from my casual job at Coles, shopping for my navy Esprit top and Country Road caramel suede skirt. I wanted to look the part and feel part of the popular party.
My friends met at my house and with a bottle of Bundy Rum purchased by someone’s older brother we caught a taxi, up the hill to the suburbs where the other half lived. The party was big, maybe 100 or more kids sprawled out across the tennis court, beside the pool and on the front lawn. My friends and I danced, drank rum and danced some more. Soon the alcohol kicked in and the dance moves became more loose and free. We laughed, we flirted and we were having fun.
That’s when you came over, with your friends. You were all dressed in white Canterbury shorts, I think. I have few memories from this point on, because I was drunk. My friends were drunk, too. We all can’t remember the details but, as we later found out, you all could. Like an old fashioned dance, we all eventually paired up into couples and you and I, white Canterbury shorts boy, started to kiss. Your physique was muscular and your height alluring. You had won your races and you were high on your success. You were pumped up by your popularity and I was in awe of it.
By this time the party was getting crowded so we decided to cross the street to the school across the road to kiss some more. Our friends came with us and we were all close by to each other, not far from the party or the road. This decision is one that I still find hard to think about or write down. Was this the point you decided that I was in for anything? That I was yours for the taking? That you could dominate me, like you did your swim race?
Crossing the road to the park is my last memory of that night. I still don’t remember what happened between us. I know I had only kissed one boy before you and I was pretty naive and conservative about the world of sex and alcohol.
What I do now know is that I was found passed out on the grass by my friend with blood running down my legs. My bra and shirt in a disheveled mess. My suede skirt was stained with dirt, grass and blood and my arms and chest sore with bruises. I was quickly taken away in a taxi and whilst I was barely comprehensible or conscious my friend navigated our way into my house and cleaned me up. I was sore, I was sorry and I was full of shame. For what, I wasn’t sure, but I know I didn’t ask for it, didn’t want it and didn’t remember it.
That is until Monday came around, when all the rumors and stories from the weekend would circulate around the private schools about what had taken place on the weekend. Who kissed who, who was going out with who and who broke up with who. That is when I heard what you did to me. In detail. Minute detail. Details that you had planned intricately and delivered with prowess.
Pity about those white Canterbury shorts. That is what was the clincher for you, wasn’t it?! Pity those white Canterbury shorts got blood all over them. But luckily for you, you remembered everything and could quickly turn the story. The story of those blood soaked white shorts wasn't your shame to bear. That was mine. That was for me, the slut who begged to be fisted and fucked in the park, in the dirt, with a stranger whilst she was unconscious on Bundy rum. That was my dry cleaning bill and everyone needed to know about it.
What’s worse is the feeling I have lived with for 20 years. That it was my fault because I said yes to the party, I said yes to the Bundy rum, I said yes to going to the park. Until I read Brock Turners victim's letter I hadn’t realized that your blood-soaked shorts weren’t my fault. They were yours. You were the only one conscious, making decisions, saying yes in that park. I was not.
You made me feel like I was the one responsible and you made me re-live that reality again and again. Before that Monday, I never knew your name, And you didn’t know mine. You just knew the girl in the blue Esprit shirt and caramel suede skirt bled all over you from my school and was an absolute slut. Soon, pieces of the puzzle were put together and a deliciously deceitful story was born, After that, every time we crossed paths I got to learn even more intricate details of that night. It was even better when you found a girlfriend and then she and her merry band of female friends joined in the party and also slut shamed me for my own rape. Every. single. time. You were the hero. I was the slut. You were the victim. I was the stainer.
Finally, we finished high school and I fled the country, to foreign places where people don’t know me and I was not the girl who bled all over your white Canterbury shorts.
I can’t believe I have spent 20 years believing that I was at fault. I can’t believe how pervasive the feeling of shame is and how much your legacy runs through my everyday life. What is worse, is that I am not the only one. More than a handful of my friends experienced boys like you at parties just like the GPS swimming party of 1996. You took advantage, you raped us, but we were shamed.
I want you to know, that 20 years on, your legacy lives on in me, on me, within me. Under layers of self loathing, self doubt and years of personal shame and embarrassment, it has sat, festering. Beneath the surface of every experience I have had, your legacy has been there, shaping the way I felt about myself, my relationships, my worthiness. I didn’t even realize the power I had given to your legacy until yesterday, when I read the letter of Brock Turner’s victim and suddenly I was again reliving the aftermath of that night in 1996.
This is not about alcohol, about drinking, about women’s tolerance. This is about boys, about sex, about what is right and wrong. You were wrong, Mr White Canterbury Shorts, and forever wrong you will be.
Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence National Help Line 1800 Respect — 1800 737 732.
[Those in the US can call the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE.]