Sexual abuse victims: trigger alert.
Recently the news was ablaze of the travesty of justice for the Stanford swimmer (Brock Turner) who received a 6-month sentence for a brutal rape of an unconscious girl. She eloquently (and painfully) shared her story in a victim statement. Brock’s father lamented that his life was forever altered because of “20 minutes of action.”
I thought about his words for a long time. And I ached because of them. 20 minutes can alter a life forever. It takes even less time to choke a person to death, which, of course would completely change the victim’s life, since death would end it. To reduce a rape of an unconscious girl to the ticks of a clock mortified me. So since his blatant disregard for humanity was only 20 minutes long, does that excuse what he did?
All I can say is that the first 20 minutes of action perpetrated against me forever changed the course of my life.
Two teenage boys knocked on the babysitter’s door. Asked her if five-year-old me could come out and play. (In retrospect, I wonder if Eva the chainsmoking babysitter was part of a rudimentary sex-trafficking ring. And why did those boys already know my name when I had no idea who they were?)
Eva said yes and pushed me out the door.
In the woods, in a ravine below a walking path, these brothers stripped off my pants then quickly violated me. Must’ve taken less than 20 minutes the more I think about it.
Every day, they came.
Every day, Eva said yes.
Every day, I died inside. In that way, rape felt like murder, and I became terrified. Broken. Hurting. Bruised. Stolen from.
As I mentioned in this post, after I read the victim letter, I went on yet another Google journey, trying to find those boys. (If you’d like to read the letter I wrote them, click here). I came up empty again. While I know the Statute of Limitations in my home state have long run out, I still worry that those boys became men who preyed, and I feel awful that somehow I couldn’t stop what they did to me, and then to others. I pray they didn’t. I pray I’m the only one. But if statistics play out, they most likely continued to offend.
Then when I read the callous words of the father of the rapist, I did some calculations.
Since I didn’t keep a diary at five years old, I am relying on my memory for this. They raped me nearly every day after school. They told me they’d kill my parents if I told, so I kept quiet. But when others started joining in, something in me shifted, and I decided to tell Eva. She told me that she told my mom, but never did. So when the boys returned, and Eva let me go, I knew this sad truth:
No one in the world would ever protect me.
I had to protect myself.
Those first 20 minutes turned into hundreds of minutes, thousands of minutes. And the only way little me could stop it wasn’t by telling (that didn’t work), but by taking things into my own hands and sleeping minutes upon minutes.
Sometime toward the end of the year, my sleeping saved me from the two predators (and their friends who eventually joined them in the “action.”
So I’m guessing they probably violated me at least 100 days. Times that by 20 minutes of action, and you have 2000 minutes of action. That’s 33.33 hours of sexual abuse, give or take. Truth be told, it most likely was another 2000 minutes more.
To say I’ve struggled in the aftermath of such sexual violence is an understatement. But I suffer afresh when insensitive people excuse predators with ridiculous words like “20 minutes of action.”
Maybe we should just replace that with “20 minutes of murder” because rape feels like murder. Murder of trust. Murder of dreams. Murder of peace of mind. Murder of fearlessness.
I’m grateful for healing. I’m thankful I’ve had the chance to write about that journey. But even though I’ve experienced profound healing, I still trigger. I still get fiery angry. These days it comes from people’s ignorance about rape, its effects, and how much victim blaming is perpetrated. (By the way, since I was five years old when it happened, I did no coercion. I didn’t drink. My corduroy dress was not revealing in any way. The teen boys raped me because they were rapists.)
We need to come to a place as a society that stands up for those who were violated. Who listen to stories and believe them. Who prosecute rapists and give them the penalties due their crimes against our humanity. Who dignify victims and give them a safe place. Who provide healing institutions and communities.
The time of blaming the victim should be over. The time of excusing the poor rapists–because they were drunk (and so were their victims) so it’s just a drinking problem not a crime–should cease. The time of empathy for predators and scrutiny of victims should reverse. We desperately need a re-story here.
Why? Because 2000 minutes of action (and 20 minutes of action) is inexcusable. Rape is a heinous crime. And it should be viewed and prosecuted as such.
(I don’t think I’ll ever know what happened to those brothers. Part of me still wants to know.)