My own contribution to rape culture

“Short Skirts, Scrapes & Secretive Scars,” was my first post on this blog. I originally wrote it on LinkedIn, two years ago, after Brock Turner’s light slap on the hand for being convicted on three counts of felony sexual assault.

Now, two years later, how far have we come? As a society, we are shaming and blaming the victims of sexual assault.

I am sitting here fully aware of my own contribution to rape culture. When I was younger, I thought I’d asked for it by the clothes I wore, my outgoing, flirtatious personality, the fact that I was a dancer, etc. 

I undervalued myself. I under valued you, but didn’t even know I was doing it. I know it now and now is what matters.

Enough victim blaming and shaming. Enough. #MeToo

In the early 90’s, I was an overbooked public speaker, spokesperson, trainer, speech writer and producer for a slew of Fortune 500 companies. Looking back on that vibrant and successful career, I often shake my head that I didn’t have full appreciation for how much I got paid to see the most beautiful places in the world.

Instead, I felt sort of lost, feeling like I wasn’t doing anything that really mattered.

In those days, I wore a lot of skirts. Some of the skirts were short. Sometimes, the skirts were short and made of leather. Once, I worked for a well known Japanese firm, and was provided with a fire engine red bustier, a tiny lace skirt and 4″ stiletto heels. The 98 lb version of me felt pretty self-conscious wearing these items. The truth was, my 20 something svelteness and apprehensive willingness to wear these things was an unwritten and unspoken part of many of my jobs. If I was going to be hired, I had to look (and act) a certain way. My strong public speaking skills, smarts, wit and creativity would have never been heard had I not conformed to wearing short skirts and stilettos in front of enormous crowds of onlookers, judges and gawkers.

I was once in Miami for an annual sales meeting for an enormous corporation. On the last day of the meeting, I went to dinner with some colleagues and production staff to celebrate our collaborative success. It was a jovial and somewhat crazy evening. As I unwound with the rest of the crowd, I found myself pretty drunk. One of the production staff, a lighting designer and manager for the meeting, walked me back to my hotel room.

This lighting designer forced himself into my room and on me even though I repeatedly tried to fight him off. I pleaded with him to get off of me. I remember crying, praying and fighting. I remember the way he looked and smelled. When he was done, he got off of me as if he were getting off of a piece of refuse, and left my room. I was covered in his putrid sweat.

I know this is LinkedIn, and I’m pretty sure we don’t talk about sexual assault on this site, but now we do.

I saw him the following morning at the airport with the rest of my colleagues. I was sick. Most people probably thought it was due to my drunkenness the previous night. It wasn’t.

For many years, I didn’t think of that night as rape. I thought what happened in Miami was my fault. I was too bubbly, too outgoing, and wore too cute of an outfit. Plus, I drank too much, so I was 100% to blame.

For a few decades, I told no one. Not a single soul. I finally mentioned it to my Mom a few years ago, because it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, I’d been raped by that disgusting man.

When business shifted during the telecom boom, I felt lucky that my work became far more technical and serious. I could wear very tasteful suits and no longer be in danger of “asking for it.” I actually thought that.

What I didn’t realize until this week, when the Brock Turner story became THE story, is that there are likely many other individuals like me, who have simply been doing their jobs, just trying to do their best, and then, a rape happens and it changes the course of a life.

For me, I ended up very invested and dedicated to the nonprofit sect and to fundraising. Now, I’m starting to design and develop curricula, teach and train others in fundraising and marketing, volunteer management and public speaking.

I’m deeply inspired by the work I’m doing. It serves others and I think, makes a positive difference in this messy world.  I hope that me spilling the beans on LinkedIn about my secret, helps someone else feel safe to share a burden that’s become too heavy to keep to themselves.  I choose to believe that every experience we endure… every scrape that turns into a scar, even a secret scar clearly provides gifts that stay with us forever as our scars do.

Oh, and I don’t really wear skirts anymore, but after tonight, I’m reconsidering adding a skirt or two to my wardrobe.

 

Author: PKW

Writer, Speaker, Facilitator, Trainer, Fundraiser, Strategist, Listener, and Lover of Humans. My love for humans and relationship building are a part of every single thing I do, except for maybe using the bathroom.

6 thoughts on “My own contribution to rape culture”

  1. Pam, you are so brave to share this and to have endured it. I’m so very sorry this happened. Take care and stay strong. I hope for the next generation it will begin to be different. Changing a culture is often glacial but perhaps this time it will happen more quickly. Finally.

      1. Thank you so much for your kind words! I have 17 books finished but have never submitted them for publishing. I started a memoir several months ago, but it’s the toughest one to write!
        I so appreciate your writing too.

  2. Pam, you are braver than brave and stronger than strong. Please never blame yourself for the gross misdeeds of others – no person could deserve the treatment you endured. Thank you for turning such a horrendous experience into a positive lesson for us all. Thank you moreso for consistently being an example of the type of person (kind, caring, compassionate, introspective yet altruistic, gentle yet so very strong, could-be-grand yet chooses to be grateful, God-centered yet real-world-focused) we (as a collective community of peoples in one single race worldwide) could benefit from having more of. I am Blessed to count you among my friends.

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