Trigger warning: discussion of sexual assault, rape, victim-blaming.
The summer after I graduated from high school, I was raped. I decided not to tell many people because I didn't want someone else's actions interfering with my life. In a few weeks, I’d be going off to college and I just wanted to escape and move on.
About 15 years later, I wrote about the experience right here on xoJane. I decided to post it anonymously because I wanted the catharsis of writing it down without the judgement of publicly doing so.
I was also so conditioned to men sexually assaulting me that, at the time, I thought being raped wasn't a big deal. The first guy to shove his unwanted hands inside of me happened on the school bus on the way to junior high when I was 11 years old. The first time a crotch was shoved in my face was on the playground at my elementary school. There were multiple witnesses to both of these events. Nobody seemed to care about what was happening to me, so why should I care either? Caring about it made me feel uncool and weak.
Uncool or not, I’m usually pretty open about my life. I don't typically shy away from sharing very personal things. So why was this so different? Why was the rape story the only piece of writing I'd ever had published anonymously?
After reading the Stanford rape victim’s letter I realized it was because of fear — fear of all the things she detailed in the letter she read in the courtroom. It was also fear of all the judgement that doesn't happen in the courtroom.
Do you know how many disgusting and unfair things people have written about the Stanford rape victim so far? They're not very hard to find if you look. Things like "She was drunk, so she deserved it,” and “Welp, that's what happens when you drink too much,” and my personal favorite, "She didn't even go to that school.” That is an actual quote a friend told me she overheard from a group of young women who were discussing the Stanford ruling this weekend. They invalidated an entire rape conviction by paraphrasing a line from Mean Girls.
Like Brock Turner, my rapist was a blue-eyed, blonde-haired, affluent, college-educated white male. He came from a good family. He was a "nice boy." I was an underage drunk girl. I knew I didn't stand a chance when it came to public opinion.
One of the reasons I now want to be open about my story is because I think a lot of women experience a similar cycle of being attacked then being blamed and shamed for their attack by their attacker. The only way to change a standard is to speak up against it and rally other people together to demand change.
When I saw the judge’s ruling in the Stanford rape case, it triggered me. But it didn't trigger fear. It triggered fiercely protective feelings toward women and the fury of a fearless beast.
Want to talk about rape? Sure. Let's do it. The more I learn about the disrespect and aggression other women face from men on a daily basis, the more I'm all about disturbing the peace. Now I don't give a fuck about causing drama. I’m not going to be shy about that topic anymore.
And I'm not going to just sit back and watch Judge Aaron Persky continue to be an unfit judge.
On Wednesday, June 15, thousands of women in cities all around the country are starting a letter-writing campaign to unseat Judge Persky, the judge in the Stanford rape case, who is up for reelection in November. We believe Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Persky was on the wrong side of history when he gave Brock Turner, a convicted rapist, a light sentence because "a prison sentence would have a severe impact on him." That statement is short-sighted, insulting, and does not take into account the severe impact Brock's actions had on the woman he raped behind a dumpster while she lay unconscious.
I found out about this event through a feminist internet group I’m part of; it exists to be a safe space for women to discuss things without judgment and help each other. I joined the Los Angeles chapter of the group several years ago while living in California. At the time, the group was mainly a way to network and connect with other women living in the area. Eventually the group started evolving, and now it's more like a cross between an online support system and a girl gang with sex-positive and body-positive messaging.
We soon decided to take our alliance beyond the internet, so we formed GRL CLVT, a feminist action group.
When I moved to Brooklyn, I immediately became part of the New York version of the group, which has grown almost 900% since I joined in 2014. Ten years ago, if you told me I'd be part of a large, supportive group of women who don't shame each other for any reason, I would've told you that something like that just doesn't exist. Now not only does it exist, but supporting my local GRL CVLT is a big part of my life.
Because of my own personal experience with assault and GRL CVLT's unwavering support, I became part of the initiative to unseat Judge Persky.
We are throwing a kick-off party and live letter-writing event at Holyrad Studio in Brooklyn on June 15 from 7-10pm. I'm on the event committee.
GRL CVLT co-leader and event organizer Remy Holwick sprung into action to coordinate the letter-writing party.
"My generation of women were lucky enough to be adolescents in an era when feminism was the kind of deliciously dirty word that we couldn't wait to spit out every chance we got, and it's exciting to be an adult, have a voice, and able to spread feminism — to connect and coordinate to help bring all women to the front, where the men have been all along," Remy told me. "It's time to move beyond the patriarchy. We are acting right now on the simple truth that it's unethical for any individual in our society to perpetuate the notion that white, educated males should have the privilege of living above the law, and we are showing that we won't stand for it.”
I'm hoping xoJane readers will join us by writing their own letters to the Santa Clara Superior Court asking for the removal of Judge Pesky. If you can't join us in Brooklyn, you can check the hashtag #GRLCVLT and #ByePersky the night of the event on June 15 to watch us in action.