April 19, 2018

Webster students reflect on experiences involving #MeToo social media trend

Student referenced as Kat asked to be referred to by her first name only for personal safety reasons.

Webster student Kat got high in the backseat of a car in a Macy’s parking lot. There, she was sexually assaulted by her best friend’s ‘partner in crime.’ She was wearing Lululemon sweatpants.

He offered Kat a joint and she wanted to impress him, so she took it. He then started to force things onto her and he forced her to reciprocate. At first, Kat did not know how to address the incident. This was one incident of many.

“It became such a part of my identity that I didn’t question what my [sexual] preferences might be,” Kat said.

When she was 17, she identified as asexual for six months. Now, a senior in college, she has found herself in her sexuality.

“I didn’t realize a lot of things about myself when these traumas occurred because they took over my life,” Kat said. “I did trauma therapy and physical therapy for my pelvic floor. I woke up covered in blood after the first assault. It wasn’t until I had space to heal that I was able to uncover things about my sexuality and gender, that I am queer and genderqueer, and that I’m a recovering addict.”

On Oct. 15, she posted #MeToo on her Facebook feed. #MeToo is a campaign sweeping social media that is designed to allow survivors of sexual assault and harassment to stand in solidarity with others who have experienced the same thing. Many sexual assault survivors have used the hashtag as a platform to tell their story. Kat was one of them.

“Seeing #MeToo around my feed was triggering, but also unifying,” Kat said.  “I felt camaraderie with such an overwhelming number of people on my feed that may share parts of my story that I felt very alone with for years. While I’ve made a lot of progress, it’s easy to forget I’m not alone with it nor the center of my traumatic universe, and that I share this universe with others and share pain.”

RAINN, the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network says an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds.

#MeToo was started on Facebook on Oct. 15. By 11:30 a.m. the next day, over 8.7 million people were posting about it, according to Facebook statistics.

Patti Hayes is a Webster student who also posted #MeToo on Facebook. She said she posted it because a woman sexually harassed her at her previous job. Hayes believed the social media campaign helped her view her experience in a different way.

“I’ve had this affecting me for about two and a half years,” Hayes said. “I know many people have experiences with sexual assault and harassment, but it did kind of help me with viewing my experience because by putting sexual harassment and assault together in the campaign or hashtag it made me feel a little less like my experience was insignificant. ”

Seven out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim, according to RAINN. Robert Richardson, a senior at Webster, is a part of this statistic.

Richardson shared his story for the first time ever this summer, during RA training. One activity required trainees to create mind maps highlighting incidents from their lives that had led them to where they are now. Richardson decided to start his mind map with his molestation.

The following exercise required students to stand in front of everyone, hold a rope and start with an ‘I am’ statement. Robert walked up there slow, took a deep breath and said, “I and my sisters have either been molested or raped.”

He was four or five years old when an older kid living three doors down from him molested him. When he told his story, he said he cried more than he ever had in his life.

“I had to accept that whole time period of my life because if I didn’t, I just wouldn’t have been able to move forward.” Richardson said. “When you’re like me and come from a highly religious family, the understandable case is when a man exercises his heterosexual masculinity and his male privilege overall over a woman. It’s another case when you have a male exercise that over a younger male. It’s a more jaded situation in which we can’t comprehend..”

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 27.8 percent of men were age 10 or younger when they were first raped or victimized. Richardson also posted #MeToo on social media.

“After this happened, my life did not stop, my life did not become shut down,” Richardson said. “Although it’s very very difficult, there is life afterwards. It played a part into the making of who I am, it played a part in the fabric of my character and personality but ultimately it did not change the definition of who I am. I was a little surprised for the fact of it’s 2017 and there’s that amount of people that have come to a level of strength that they’re able to say it’s happened to them too. I was initially surprised, and then it was a sense of comfort.”

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  • Dan Abshear

    Hello Hayley,
    It’s been so long since I’ve heard your voice, or read your words to me in letters you wrote me some time ago. This gives me unbelievable sadness, because I love you deeply.
    When you were born: Wow. Mom went through a very long labor with you. But the minute you were born, you appeared to be very awake.
    When I looked in your eyes then, I saw myself.
    Mom was exhausted after delivering you, so I spent the next few weeks taking care of you and mom in a number of different ways.
    Once home I’d go out on the back deck of our house in Ashland with you, and I’d feed you some formula as I’d talk to you, telling you in a few ways how much I loved you.
    When you were near the age of 3, that is when we bought our beautiful house in Wentzville, MO. Then I was able to get you everything you wanted and needed. You and mom both. So that is what I did, because of my deep love for both of you.
    When you were a young child, I’d take you swimming at the YMCA a few nights a week. You were very happy playing in the water. You then were a very happy and joyful child. To me you were the perfect child.
    Later, I’d take you to Donut Time every morning before school. There we’d have a donut as we would talk and I would listen to your unique thoughts. After that, we would go outside and watch a train go by, which we both enjoyed. Again you were very interesting, and to me you were the perfect child.
    Also, every Sunday, I’d take you to the flea market near where we lived. I started buying you bells at that flea market. At one time, you had hundreds of bells. You loved the walk with me at that flea market. And I enjoyed every minute I spent with you.
    Also, I’d bring you lunch at your school quite often. We would talk as we ate together then. Then I’d let you know I’d see you soon after our lunch together.
    And, I’d take you bicycling quite often, usually on weekends. We would bicycle with some of my friends, and just really enjoyed the day together. We both would enjoy these beautiful days together, on the Katy trail.
    Now, it seems like you do not remember these great times you spent with me. And I wish you could somehow remember these times with me. Because if you did, this would be a great start for us to start speaking to each other again.
    I can’t fully describe this, but I really need to hear from you somehow. You know how to email me. You can contact me on facebook. But please, I’m begging you. Somehow please try and contact me so we can talk. We need to talk about a few different things, to ease the trauma you and I have both experienced. You and I have both been through hell. And it is my belief you and I can heal each other, if we just speak to each other in some way.
    Thank you if you are reading this. And you are in my thoughts constantly. Remember I continue to deeply love and miss you, and I have for almost 9 years now. Please contact me and we will speak then.