When I was in my early 20s, I fell asleep in a hotel room after a night of celebrating at my then-boyfriend’s annual medical school ball. I woke up about an hour later with a strange man straddling my hips, kissing and groping me. His belt was unbuckled; his pants were unzipped. Though I was not raped, the moment transformed me, kicking off years of PTSD-induced nightmares and fueling a general lack of trust towards men in particular, and humanity in general. When hotel security was phoned in response to my screams, the police were summoned; the first thing they asked was why it took me so long to call for help. When I decided to press charges, the district attorney warned me that the attacker’s lawyer would attempt to drag me through the mud. Indeed, I was peppered with questions and accusations, ranging from indictments over having danced with more than one man that night at the party to the suggestion that by not wearing underwear to bed, I had been “asking for it.”
The guy was a medical student. He had to write an apology to me and got off with drug and alcohol testing for a year; I spent the next half-decade in and out of therapists’ offices, chasing various cocktails of medications that might allow me to sleep without waking up terrified that I was being sexually assaulted, and feeling the perpetual imprint of his hands on my body, like the flash of a camera that won’t leave your eyes no matter how tightly you shut them.
I haven’t thought of that attack in years, but the UCSB shootings have brought it all back. It’s not just because I was in a sorority like some of the murderer’s intended victims. It’s because practically every one of my girlfriends has a story like mine; a story of some man assuming that he can touch, ogle, leer at or penetrate our body simply because he wants to, starting at an alarmingly young age. It’s because my husband and I will soon have two daughters and I don’t want to have to worry about them disappearing because they one day may opt to not kiss a certain boy. It’s because girls and women worldwide have to contend with the omnipresent threat of being kidnapped, assaulted, disfigured or murdered simply because they desire agency over their bodies, whether it’s a college student being date-raped, a trio of ladies being held against their will in some monster’s basement for a decade, women splashed with acid in Bangladesh, girls subjected to Female Genital Mutilation in Africa and the Middle East, child marriage, child (and adult) pornography and more. Enough already. Enough. #YesAllWomen