Sound Familiar // Kaitlyn Marie Bonzo

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            You may have had a similar experience. You make plans to meet up with your best friend. You go to the largest party street in the city. You enjoy your night out. You have a couple drinks, but your best friend has more and now she can’t walk. You hold her up as you walk to the car. As the night comes to an end, you are relieved that there have not been any unfortunate incidents. Things change; however, and as you are walking three guys ask if you need help. You say, “No. We are fine.” And you continue on to your car. Sound familiar?
Little do you know; they decide to follow you. One of them grabs your butt. You turn around to hit and kick him.  You do anything to get them away from you as you walk faster, but they surround you and your friend, who still can’t walk. You hit harder, call him names, and all he does is laugh in your face. Sound familiar?
To this day, I can’t forget this experience. I’m not sure, nor is my friend, if they touched her. I like to believe that I have a flaming level of self-respect, which may be the reason why I reacted the way that I did. I made a big enough scene that a police officer tackled one of the three guys to the ground and handcuffed him behind his back. Unfortunately, it was not the same guy who grabbed me.
I had, and still have so many questions about that man and why he did what he did. Was I wearing something too revealing? Not really, jeans and a blouse. Did he think it would make me want to spend time with him? Did he think he could take advantage of me? If the police had not been around, how far would that group of men followed us? If we had been with another man, would they have even approached us in the first place? Who taught him that it was okay to touch another person in that way? What were his friends like? Were they the same or different? If they were different, why did they not call him out on his behavior?  Sound familiar?
When I shared my experience with others, I got a mix of reactions ranging from, “good job”, to “what were you thinking?” Sometimes the reactions that people give us when we share our experiences are more harmful than helpful.  Sound familiar?
I want to be careful here not to indicate that men are the problem because that is not the case. I have spoken to men who have had experiences similar to mine, with women being the ones who have violated them. Although I’d like to think that I could handle the same situation again and have the outcome be one that satisfies me, I can’t honestly say that I could handle the same situation again. I believe that other violating experiences that I have had, along with this one, have not made me stronger, but more insecure and more infuriated by the way that humans treat other humans. Sound familiar?
My experiences have ignited in me a passion to become an advocate for change in the area of sexual assault. I don’t believe that incidents such as this get easier to handle; however, I have learned that my experiences are not isolated, and that sexual assault and violations are societal, rather than individual issues. I’m wondering how many of you who are reading this were given pepper spray, took a self-defense class, or hold other forms of protection. What would society look like if instead of teaching girls that we need to protect and defend ourselves, that we provide them with the knowledge that no matter how much they protect themselves, it is not their job to ensure that they are not attacked?   
In fact, it is the job of the violator to ensure that they do not attack in the first place. I take the opportunity to share this experience because sexual assault is common. I never thought it would happen to me, but then again, who does? As I continue to learn more about sexual assault, I have a growing desire to empower women to understand that sexual assault is not their fault, and that women have a huge part to play in helping to transform our society into one that highly respects women, rather than degrades them. Ironically, the situation that I continue to label as familiar, is one that I would like to change into one that is unusual. My goal is to continue to advocate for men and women who experience sexual assault so that it is no longer a norm in our society, but is seen as unacceptable.

Written by Kaitlyn Marie Bonzo, B.A.

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