Rachel wasn’t interested in boys anyways; she preferred books, especially the classics such as Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, Moby Dick by Melville, and Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, or her favorite, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. She never really cared about the male gaze; she was caught up in her world.
However, around the age of 13, she noticed that the other girls were trying to get men's attention by putting on makeup and laughing at all their jokes, even if they weren't funny. Rachel never understood why, but she still acted like them to fit in. But when she realized it wasn't working, that she still felt like an outsider and that the boys didn't like her, she decided to focus solely on academic validation. That was who she was: a smart girl, not a pretty girl.
So when, a few months ago, Maverick, one of her new colleagues, took an interest in her, she didn't know how to react. He clearly flirted with her, and even though he wasn’t really her type, she was flattered because at the age of 22, Rachel had never had a boyfriend. They went on a few dates, they hit it off, they had fun. He was super nice and gentle with her, which heightened the surprise and petrifaction when he forced himself on her.
They were having a great time in her apartment until he started touching her, clearly showing his intent. They already kissed but never went further. Nonetheless, that night, he wanted more: his hands became more demanding, touching her everywhere. She didn't want to have sex with him, but it didn't seem to matter to him.
That night she was hit and abused by a man she hoped to love one day. Since that day, Rachel has avoided any physical contact with anyone, she is distant with others, she stopped wearing dresses and wears only large clothes that hide all her feminine curves. She has never told anyone; she has never confronted Maverick. All she wants is to forget what happened; but it's hard when it keeps you awake at night or when every time you look at him you want to throw up.
The young woman lost her spark. She feels guilty because, after all, it's her fault, isn't it? She shouldn't have invited him in and given him hope. She provoked him with her outfits and her smiles.
But we know that that isn’t true. She should have the right to flirt with whoever she wants, to refuse or accept as she pleases, to seduce or not, and to simply feel good about her femininity, her sexuality, and the image she projects, but he destroyed it all. He destroyed everything that was beautiful about her. Dealing with the psychological damage he inflicted is a million times harder than putting a band-aid on a cut or waiting for a bruise to heal or fracture to mend.
On average 250,000 rapes are reported each year. But many more unreported rapes occur. We all have the right to freely control our bodies and to be treated with respect and dignity. To say "no" and be heard instead of being lectured by those who think that men know our desires and rights better than we do.
Often, those who have the most to complain about don't even raise their voices. That is why we need to raise people’s awareness about sexual assault. It is important to make men and women understand that they deserve to be heard.