Sound Off: Abuse, is no trifling matter

By Margie Porter

In recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Citizens Against Domestic and Sexual Abuse (CADA) is focusing on a community-wide campaign to call upon Island County residents to help make our community safer.

This invitation includes everyone and is a call to all communities to embrace the challenge and assist us in the battle to end sexual violence. For more information on sexual assault, client services or ways you can help, call 678-3030.

Rather than provide data or statistics, I would like to ask you to read the powerful story written by a survivor. Then, think of a way you can make a difference, whether through education, time or money. Thank you.

Dear Fellow Citizens,

Before the incident, I was a good student. I made straight A’s throughout high school and worked hard in my college classes. I wore perfect clothes (my skirts falling no more than an inch above my knees) and maintained perfect manners. Confidence was a quality I wore like a knight’s plate of armor, hard won from the many battles I endured growing up the stereotypical nerd with glasses and braces. During my youth, I often confronted friends on the dangers of being out alone or dating the bad boy. These were the scenarios my parents warned me to avoid. Instead, they encouraged me to date a gentleman, someone clean cut, scholarly, spiritual, well-mannered, with a good family. At 16, I discovered these qualities in a young man I had known since I was four, and when our relationship amicably ended after three years, I was determined to locate another gentlemanly figure that could quickly fill the shoes of my childhood sweetheart.

That figure would present itself as a blond-haired, blue-eyed individual with a pleasant smile and a lopsided grin. A man who came to our first date clad in a camel hair coat, light blue shirt, gray slacks, and carrying a dozen roses; a man who I had initially met through an honor society convention over a discussion regarding a Christian youth retreat we had both attended; a man who treated women as if they belonged on a pedestal, opening doors, paying for meals and uttering “yes ma’ams” to his female elders in a sweet Southern drawl that would melt the heart of any overprotective parent. My own parents were extremely impressed with this new young man I was dating. He was exactly the type of guy they had envisioned for their daughter.

In light of his prior gentlemanly behavior and proper upbringing, I decided one night to invite this man to my college dorm room. At the time, it seemed a perfectly safe idea. Here was this guy I’d known for quite some time, whom my parents trusted and adored, and whom I trusted as well. What I would come to remember most about that night would not be the pleasantries of some romantic movie. Instead, I remember his face; eyes hard and cold, his expression so twisted in anger at my rejections that I found myself gazing into the face of a complete stranger.

“Where did I go wrong?”

For years after the night of Nov. 14, 1997, that question dominated my thoughts and I would barricade myself within my apartment after a long day at work; doors bolted, shades drawn so tightly that not even small slivers of light could peek through. My small, familiar residence served to shelter me from unknown horrors I knew awaited me beyond the outside door. It was a place I could remove the multitude of masks I hid behind in the presence of others. But even within the quiet confinement of my apartment, worry and self-doubt would stealthily work their way through the chinks in my mental stability. It was in these moments that I would reflect upon things I could have changed or done differently that night of the invite, the trust and the desire for emotional intimacy. My mind would often swirl with thoughts of sadness, shame and guilt. Confidence, trust, power and strength were qualities stolen from me the night of Nov. 14. I have since decided to take them back.

Some of life’s worst horrors come in beautifully wrapped packages. Please understand, however, there is no perfect rape, perfect perpetrator or perfect victim. Sexual assault may happen to anyone, by anyone, at any time. I am writing this letter to you now, my friends, neighbors, colleagues, fellow citizens and community leaders, to ask not for your sympathy, but the willingness, power and determination to learn from my experience and educate others. Sexual assault is the most rapidly growing violent crime in America today, a statistic that is nurtured by ignorance and indifference. If you ever are confronted with rape, whether in your own personal life, a friend’s life, or even in a courtroom, please remember my story. Your actions can help break the silence in our community.

It’s taken me almost eight years to develop the courage to say, “I didn’t go wrong, he did.” Please share with me now in delivering this message to others.

Margie Porter is executive director of Citizens Against Domestic and Sexual Assault.

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