Chriss: Hi, this is Chriss from the Atomic Library, standing in for Kate. In this episode, Kate had the opportunity to talk to the author Marissa F. Cohen. Marissa is an advocate and author for sexual assault and helping people who have been assaulted in the past to continue on and learn how to survivor their past assault. Now, when Kate reached out and asked for help with doing these intros, I immediately wanted to help out. But when I saw this exact subject listed on the sheet, I just knew that I had to do it. Being a survivor myself of both sexual assault and stalking, I knew that something about this was going to really reach me. And the fact that I was given the honor to not only be here to listen to Kate share her stories, but also to Marissa tell hers, I am forever grateful. Being a survivor of sexual assault, or sexual assaults, as many of us are, is very difficult. And that fact that I was able to listen to this episode and feel those emotions as a sisterhood of those of us who have survived, it was beautiful. And I’m highly honored. So, are you sure you wanna know?
Marissa: My name is Marissa F. Cohen. I am the best-selling author of two books. The Breaking Through the Silence series. The first one’s Breaking Through the Silence: the Journey to Surviving Sexual Assault, And the second one is Breaking Through the Silence: #MenToo. I also own two businesses. One is a non-profit for sexual assault and domestic violence survivors to help them break their silence. And to do that we create initiatives like I’m a statistic, and my right to say no. Which basically both aim to help people find relatability or empower them in their ability to say no. And knowing that that’s okay. And they’re not required to do anything they don’t want to do. I love I’m a statistic because it’s basically taking the premise of, you know, being a number has a very negative connotation, like I’m just a statistic. But if you think about it, being a part of a statistic is empowering. It’s so strong, because you know that you have millions upon millions of people in your corner who can relate to you, and understand what you’re going through. I also own another business where I create resources for the same population for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, to help them along their healing journey. So, we want to help them break their silence, because once you speak about it, that’s when you’re so empowered to continue and to start and continue your healing. And then we provide resources along the way for people to use, that’ll help them down their healing journey.
Kate: I mean, is that all? You sound very busy.
Marissa: Very busy. I took a nap today at like 30. And it was the first nap I’ve had in probably three years.
Kate: Nice, medicinal nap, then. So, a lot of times in mental health related fields, and advocacy related fields, so domestic violence, but also substance abuse and similar. The people who are sort of at the forefront of the field have survived their own experiences.
Marissa: That is very accurate. My entire first book, Breaking Through the Silence: the Journey to Surviving Sexual Assault is, is all about my story. But I actually have more than one story, unfortunately. My first real relationship when I was in college was very abusive. He was verbally, psychologically, sexually, and emotionally abusive. And so, a lot of my first came with that. And so, I didn’t truly grasp what I would say like a normal person perceived as love, you know, when somebody is first time having sex is consensual, you understand the value of sex. And you understand the value of your body. And you understand the meaning behind sex. For me, I felt very pressured to do it, and had zero control over the situation. And so, with that being said, it rewired my brain. I was already being abused for about three months. And it was a really quick process for me, but he took me from being, you know, strong in my own head and headstrong, and confident, to becoming this like shell of a human. And then he took that from me. He took that final piece of control from me. And so, my whole brain was rewired. I didn’t truly understand what society deems as love as being love in my head. I was, this was something I was supposed to do for him. Because he deserved that. Not because it was a reciprocal magical, consensual moment spent between two people that love each other. My version of love is him calling me stupid and worthless, whereas other people’s version of love was a genuine, respectful love. And so, after that, it was a very quick downward spiral. And about two months later, we broke up. Well, I broke up with him. And then we got back together. I’m not for another six months. And then a couple years later, I ended up in another abusive relationship where the guy was very stalker-ish. Not really a word. He stalked me.
Kate: It’s a 100% A word.
Marissa: He stopped me We dated for a little over a month, I would say like two days over a month. And it was because for four months before that, he was hounding me to go on a date with him. And I kept saying no. And finally, one of my friends, like just go on a date with him. He obviously really likes you like; you don’t know he might surprise you. And so I finally caved. A month later, I broke up with him. And he was laying on my bedroom floor, hysterical crying, throwing a tantrum. His feet on my bed, and refused to leave. So that was January 2013. He continued to stalk me for two and a half years after that, and by stalk, I mean, I would not wake up because I wasn’t sleeping. For three weeks after that, he would be in my bedroom window. at three in the morning, four in the morning. I’d turn around or open my eyes, you’d be standing in my bedroom window, my room is on the first floor, or his car would be out front, or his friends would corner me in the bar or be standing at every exit to a room I was in. Or be waiting outside my classroom, or I’d be getting threatening messages. Or I mean, you name it. It was the most horrendous college experience that I can imagine. And then even after I graduated, I was still getting messages from him trying to find out where I was.
Kate: I don’t like that.
Marissa: No, that wasn’t fun, was not my favorite.
Kate: And maybe we can talk we’ll come back; I think we’ll come back. Not sure I have an active restraining order against a stalker myself right now. So, I sympathize. Although mine was not romantic in nature. There still, there’s some fundamental gunk, at the at the heart there, that is just not great. But I wanted to — you talked about having more than one story. And I think people need to hear two things. This is how my brain works, okay, is that I tripped myself up because I had too many thoughts at the same time. Because also, you talked about being headstrong first and feeling like a strong woman feeling sort of secure in who you are. And all of that, those are some really important messages that are kind of coming together all at the same time, like, people like to make generalizations about domestic violence. Such as its a stronger partner dominating a weak person, which is bullshit. And like that, only certain, you know, what’s the word I’m looking for? Submissive, right types of people, those are the ones who become abused. But if you’re a strong, independent woman, and you’re not going to be the victim of domestic violence, and it’s like, actually not accurate.
Marissa: It could truly affect anyone. You’re 100% right.
Kate: And I mean, in some ways, when you have that sense of yourself as being a strong, independent, person, woman or not, you know, and you end up being the survivor or the victim, depending on your mindset, of domestic violence. It’s harder, like you fallen farther.
Marissa: and you have a bigger hill to climb to get back to where you feel you were. And I feel like people are less likely to help you, too. If you if you start off a strong, independent person, because they’re like, well, what’s wrong? Like, why? Why’d you let him or her — Why would you let that person hurt you so much? Why do you care what they say? Like I thought you were consonant? It has nothing to do with that. When you love a person, their word means more to you, than anyone else. So, my friends were telling me that what he was doing was wrong. And the things he was saying were wrong, and that I’m not worthless. That didn’t mean anything to me. Because the person that I love, and truly cared for and respected their word, was telling me that I was worthless, and that I was stupid, and that I was going to have to depend on him for the rest of my life. And that meant so much more to me than my best friend saying, “Stop, you’re hot, like, why are you even listening to him?”
Kate: Right? Well, I mean, first of all, sex complicates things. So there’s that. But also, people who are abusive are the best profilers on the planet. And so yeah, he’s able to scheme through and figure out not only who would make a better or worse target, for his behavior, but also, what about you? And he, you know, how does he chip away and it’s a sustained campaign. And on top of all of that, the human brain being what it is, I mean, the brain weasels attack our own selves, you know. And we, think so negatively of ourselves for the most part, and it’s so much easier to hold on to the negative than the positive.
Marissa: Oh, for sure. I totally agree with you.
Kate: So, all that’s there. That’s one level. And then another level is you talked about having, you know, the fact that you have more than one story. That’s also super common, because, you know, related to the fact that abusers and stalkers tend to be pretty good profilers, is that once you’ve been hurt, you are more vulnerable to getting hurt again.
Marissa: Right? Yeah, because they sent, they sensed that weakness in you. You know? It’s like wearing a target on your back when you’ve been abused and you, you haven’t rebuilt yourself back up yet you, you are like your prey. You know, they’re predators and they see you like, like an injured lamb. And they go after you and they cling to you because they know that you’re weak and vulnerable.
Kate: Can you remember what the sort of process was that broke you down in your first relationship?
Marissa: Oh, for sure. So, It was my first year of college, and I was a theatre major. And so, my boyfriend at the time was like a bio major, and he wanted to be a doctor. So, in my mind, he was so smart. You know, everything he said, was so educated. And we were on opposite sides of like, the political spectrum. And so, I would say things that I felt very strongly about and he would basically say, “No, that’s dumb. Like, that’s so stupid. Think about it from this perspective, think about it from my perspective.” And I was like, wow, you know, that’s really smart and insightful. I don’t know if I agree with it. But like, he’s, got a point. And so that started to have me doubt my opinions. And then it turned from your opinions to stupid to well, you’re stupid. How could you even think that? So then I was really down to myself, like, wow, I’m not a smart person. Like, it’s a good thing. I’m a theatre major, it’s a good thing. I want to be an actor, because I don’t ever have to use my brain. And I would just kind of, everything he said, I would follow up, beating myself down even further. And then that turned into psychological abuse, it became that I’m worthless. And, you know, like, because I’m a theatre major, I’ll never actually be able to fend for myself because it’s a stupid major. I made a dumb decision. And it’s going to be me against the world, or me and him against the world. And that became, I’m worthless, and that I was lucky to have him because nobody else would ever put up with me. Because I was stupid and I was wrong. And I had no future. And while I was in college, I was also bartending, that’s how I was paying for college. And that’s how I was surviving through college. It was my job. And he used to really rag on me for bartending and telling me that I was going to be a bartender my whole life, because all actors are just bartenders their whole lives unless they make it big. Stuff like that. So quick, fast forward. I own two businesses, and I’m a best-selling author and guess where he is right now.
Kate: I hope he’s, in jail.
Marissa: He’s bartending
Kate: But I’m sure he’s the best bartender ever.
Marissa: Oh, yeah, I’m sure of it. Actually, one of my best friends is a radio DJ. And he had to do an appearance at the bar that that guy works at. And he knows that’s where he works. And he’s like, Marissa, I really don’t want to do it. Because I’m going to say something really mean. I’m like, do it. Make fun of him for being a bartender. “Oh, you don’t have a real career? I thought you were going to be a doctor.”
Kate: I mean, I’m all for it. Like Dr. McGillicuddy’s right? That’s awful. And, I mean, one thing that that, I mean, as much as all of that sucks, and it does, you sound like it is pretty firmly in your past.
Marissa: So, I, don’t want to say that I’m grateful for what happened because I’m truly not grateful. But I think that had that not happened, I would not be the person I am today. And for that, I’m grateful. For the people that I’ve met along the journey to rebuild myself, I’m grateful. And for all the things that I’ve learned from these experiences, I’m grateful.
Kate: Like I totally get that. Like, I’ve had near death experiences and shit like that, where it’s like, well, you know, that sucked, like, objectively, clinically, that sucked. But I am stronger because of it. Or I’m different because of it. I’m me, because of it. And so, I don’t want to have to have gone through it. But since I did, here’s what I took out of it. That’s not the same as saying that’s cool. It’s great. It’s no problem.
Marissa: Right? I just want to make that clear that I’m not grateful that he was a piece of shit. I am very grateful for the journey I’ve had since then.
Kate: I think that’s an important distinction. I am on board. And how long was it in between that and then the other guy.
Marissa: Um, so my first my first relationship like the actual Sexual rape was January 15 2010. So, it’s almost been 10 years. And then the other guy was November 2012. There was like a two-year gap in between the two of them.
Kate: And do you think did you think of it as rape at the time?
Marissa: No, I had no idea it was rape. I thought that I it was my role as his girlfriend to have sex with him when he wanted. And I knew that it didn’t feel right. And I knew that, I had this big empty hole in my stomach, and I couldn’t figure out how to fill it up. Or why I felt that way. I just knew it didn’t feel right. But I didn’t know it was rape until months later, when I was talking to my best friend. And it just kind of like came out. You know, you know, the movie Mean Girls when she’s like, I didn’t mean to say it. It was like word vomit. That’s, that’s exactly what it was. I just like, lost my bearings for a minute had a full-on panic attack and told her everything. And that’s when she was like, Marissa, that’s rape. You know, that’s not okay that, that happened to you. And that he did that to you.
Kate: It’s, I mean, the whole concept of consent. It’s a funny isn’t the right word, even though that’s the word that comes to mind. But just how fast it became something in the general consciousness. Now, of course, not enough of the consciousness. But the idea of affirmative consent. The only yes means yes. And that No means no. And silence means no. And drunk means no.
Marissa: And asleep means no. And mentally, mentally ill or mentally disabled. I don’t know which one is PC, I apologize. But those are also you’re, at least in the state of New Jersey, if you are cognitively disabled in any way, you are not legally able to consent to sex.
Kate: Right. And that’s the same most cases like that statutory rape at the very least, depending on the state. But you know, children cannot consent. Yeah, if you are unconscious, if you are intoxicated, even if you said the word Yes. If you are intoxicated, it was rape.
Marissa: Absolutely. 100%. Yes.
Kate: So, what, which, which was the circumstance for you?
Marissa: So, the first, the first one was, I was fully aware of my surroundings, I was awake and it was just non consensual. I was we were laying in his bed, and all of a sudden, he flipped me on my back. And that was it. We were having sex. He was on top of me and my hands were above my head, and I couldn’t breathe or move or do anything. So that was the first one. The second guy, the stalker guy. He, I woke up to him having sex with me one night, and I didn’t know that was rape either for like, a couple of years. But I was dead asleep, woke up and he was inside me. And I was like, What? What are you doing? Like, get off me? And he goes, and I shit you not? “I’m almost done.” And I…
Kate: Right, that makes it totally okay.
Marissa: Right? Oh, okay. You know what continue by all means. I don’t need to be a part of this. Are you serious? And I didn’t realize until actually like, I would say, like five years ago, that, that was rape. And that was devastating. I was I felt more violated five years later than I did that day. Yeah.
Kate: Well, yeah. I mean, it’s that realization, you know, because your kind of.. We blame ourselves for a lot in life in general in life. But survivors of sexual assault, blame ourselves for a lot of things. Kind of specifically because like, first of all, it’s the brain weasels. Like, they lie, but they scream at us. And that’s easier to believe than the positive. But also, there’s a degree of, if I can blame myself than I was not totally powerless. If I can find things that I did wrong, or if I can just not think of it as rape, it doesn’t even have to be self blame. It can just be as simple as thinking like that was bad sex, but it wasn’t rape.
Marissa: But you don’t even control of it, but you really weren’t.
Kate: At least enough in control of it that it doesn’t break you. And then when that Penny drops, and you realize, “oh shit.” Like thinking of yourself as having been raped. Like, that’s a heavy you know, I don’t think people talk about that enough. Honestly. You know that We talk a lot about, we talk we in the mental health field, but in society more and more, we talk about the experience of surviving sexual assault, mostly referring specifically to the moment thereof. You know, or the day or whatever the circumstances that led up to it as well as the act itself. But we don’t give enough credence to the grieving process that we go through, and the shock that we go through, when, it suddenly dawns on us like, I am, I was raped. That’s really hard to say, it’s really hard to think. And it’s really hard to sit with.
Marissa: That’s a really good point. Wow. And it’s so powerful. Because in one second, it can either take every ounce of power and control that you have in your body and take it away from you. Or it can arm you with, strength, like okay, but I can overcome this. And normally, it’s the first one like, once you kind of admit that it happened, You just relinquish all your power. Wow. That’s insane.
Kate: Yeah. I mean, yeah. And I think eventually, we you, ever a lot of people have heard about the stages of grief, right, the Elisabeth Kubler Ross came up with the five stages of grief: denial, bargaining, anger, depression, acceptance, right. Okay. Everybody thinks of that, in terms of grieving a lost loved one. And that’s not what it was originally written for. It was originally created for people who had received a terminal diagnosis. It’s a subtle difference, but I think an important one. Because it’s, it was created for people to process huge information about themselves. And now, it turns out that it applies pretty well, to those of us who have lost loved ones, too. But, you know, but that’s not where it started from. And I think it’s sometimes important to go back to the start, go back to the roots of the thing. And I don’t think in our society, we give enough credit, I guess, to the concept of grief. And to how many circumstances it applies to. And one of those being, whether it’s yourself, or a friend, or a doctor, or a cop, or whoever, to having somebody look at you and say, that was rape. And to you know, because most of us deny it, the first couple times, it goes through our ears, but eventually, that that hits, and there is a grieving process.
Marissa: You’re completely correct. And I’m thinking now, I’ve taken, God knows how many advocacy trainings. You know, I was on, like, a bunch of response teams. And I worked with RAINN, and I worked with other, you know, county wide organization. So, I’ve taken a ton of those advocacy, 40-hour classes. And in every single one across the board, they said you are never to tell a person that what they went through was rape, unless they use that word or that phrase, themselves first. And I just kind of lived by that because I didn’t want to offend anyone or put anyone in like a bad headspace if it’s not something they accepted. But that makes total sense, because there’s a whole other grieving process afterwards, that they have to go through that I am not trained to deal with.
Kate: Yeah, it’s got to be not necessarily when they’re ready. But when it soaks in, you hope that they have the supports around them. And usually, somebody is dealing with a rape crisis advocate, whatever phrase is used, clinician counsellor, you know, advocate, like there’s a lot of we don’t have sort of standardized industry terms for it. But that, in my experience, like I used to work at a back in the day like this is 20 years ago, so it was called Women’s Crisis Centre. Right, because at the time, I mean, this is New Hampshire. So that’s part of why too, but that at the time, men didn’t use the service. So, we were there was some of training was devoted to if a man calls, but it never had like I literally cannot remember ever taking a phone call from a male survivor of sexual assault, much less standing in the emergency room as their advocate during a rape exam. You know, only women used it. So, you know, whatever the terminology being what it is, they are called in, the moments of crisis, and immediacy. And so that’s what you need to address is those moments of crisis and immediacy. And the grieving process happens after and for the most part, people don’t have any aftercare.
Marissa: They just want to forget about it, and get over it and move on with their lives and Not realize that this is something that follows them until they handle it.
Kate: And family says that to just get over it, just move on.
Marissa: I hate that. I hate that so much. Okay, so my two books, the Breaking Through the Silence Series are both about survivors, and the aftermath. So, we talked a little bit about what happened to them, and then how they dealt with it. So, some people talk about going into sex work, or utilizing drugs and alcohol, and some people talk about never talking about it. But, across the board, I’ve had so many people say, Oh, well, my family said just get over it. Or I wouldn’t talk to somebody and they just told me to get over it. And even clinicians. I’ve been told by tons of people have just said, Oh, we’ll just like get over it. You’ll get over it, it’s fine. You’ll just get over it. You know, let it go. Once you let it go, you’ll get better. What? No, that’s not how that’s not how trauma works. And I I’m disappointed in family members, when they say stuff like that. Even in my not my immediate family, my immediate family is great, but like my extended family, something will happen. And they’ll turn to each other and say, why don’t you get over it? Even if it’s not about sexual assault or domestic violence. In general. Like that’s never seen you say to anyone just get over it? It’s not helpful
Kate: It’s not an enemy in what I would say. It’s a I want to be clear this tape in defense of the therapist, but a weak defense. That probably most therapists don’t say that phrase. But the reason it’s a weak defense is because that’s all I got. Because what matters is not what the therapist says. It’s what the person walks out having heard.
Marissa: Right. Perception is reality.
Kate: Especially that like, if you feel like your therapist in any way, communicated, impatience, or invalidation, or just general ass-hatter to get technical, you know, that’s what they did. You know, that the how you feel matters more than their intent. You know, and I talk to about how people will say, I didn’t mean it that way. I didn’t mean it that way. And that like I have a special aneurism devoted just to that; you know what I mean? Because I feel like. Look, in the criminal justice system. The first thing that happens is the guilt phase, right? Did it happen? Or did it not? What was the impact? And were the law, you know, that was the law broken. Yes, guilty or not guilty. And then intent only comes into play afterward in the sentencing phase. So, I wish that piece of the criminal justice system existed more in our daily lives where I could look at people and be like, I don’t give a shit what your intent was, that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I got hurt.
Marissa: Right. Perception is reality. So, it’s, whether or not you bluntly said to me, Get over it. Like you said before, if that’s the way I took it, them, that’s what’s important.
Kate: Just Yeah. And, and I would just say, you know, I didn’t do therapy very much, because I both preferred assessments, and I’m not very good at therapy. I’m not very patient. But I would be appalled. To learn that any of my clients ever walked out thinking that I had not validated their perception of their own fucking lives. Because I’m only seeing them an hour a week, right? Like, what do I know?
Marissa: Right. And to make somebody feel invalidated about something that’s so traumatic to them, is detrimental. First of all, they’re probably never going back to your practice. And second of all, they’re probably never going back to anyone’s practice. And now they’re going to sit with this, which is by their hands, you know, that I can’t blame somebody for somebody else’s inaction. You know, but at this point, now that person probably never going to seek out mental health again, because they felt so violated, right? They felt so violated by the first person.
Kate: It’s awful. It is so hard. This is part like, it’s part of why I don’t do therapy is because you have to have a patience to do therapy, well. You have because that, you know, the basic sort of process for success as a therapist is that you spend a couple of sessions crawling inside the other person’s head, getting to know how do you think? How do you feel? How do you function in the world? And then a lot of people feel like now that I get you, I’m going to tell you what you’re doing wrong. And on you go. That’s not therapy, that’s just being a dick. Like, don’t do that. You know, that the idea then is that you get to know the person so that then you can get a sense of where the problem bits are in the world. And then you want to get out of their head and say, Okay, here’s the things that you can do.
Marissa: Right, giving them legitimate, tangible, coping, that they can go home and do themselves to that they’re not a forever patient. That’s the whole point.
Kate: Because they’re, going to remain in their own head anyway. So, telling them what you would do. That’s no good.
Marissa: Right? That’s the same reason I’m not there. I don’t have the patience for that.
Kate: I mean, in knowing that about yourself, I think is super important. Like I just, would have it. So, I worked. I did forensic work for a while. And then I switched over to doing crisis, like clinician work, like in the emergency room. Whenever someone show up as suicidal, homicidal, psychotic break. That kind of a thing, they would go through their medical clearance first, and then I would talk to them to figure out, okay, what’s going on, and what happens next. And in that time, like, it’s a time crunch. I have two hours with you. Maybe two hours with you. And that’s all told, that’s two hours, between talking to you, and figuring out what happens next, and consulting with the doctor and then starting the process of finding a bed. If that’s what I have to do. Like, it’s not eight weeks, you know? And I would have people sometimes, like I would have to shut people down and be like, Look, that’s bullshit. I don’t have time for this. Don’t lie to me. Don’t bullshit me. Don’t, whatever, you know, whatever it is that you’re doing, knock it off. And that I would have people say, like, nobody’s ever talked to me like that before. I’d be like, yeah, that’s because I just kind of sound like an asshole. But they would be like, could you be my therapist, because I really like it. Like, I really like the absence of bullshit. And I’m like, you know what, you would never come back. You would hate it as a therapist, because the therapist needs to be gentler, and calmer, and give it time so that you, you reach your realizations on your own. Because it’s no good if I’m telling you what to do all the time. Because I don’t want you to be exactly what you’re saying, I don’t want you to be a forever patient, like, I want you to figure out what it is you came into therapy to figure out and then go off and do your thing. And if I’m the one telling you what to do, you’re going to stay too long.
Marissa: And then at that point, you’re not getting any better.
Kate: Right? You’re just acting as my proxy. Yeah, it’s a lie. It’s tough. And I mean, like I said, I’ve been a rape crisis clinician. And so, I remember the training, I remember how, yeah, there’s, there’s no, there’s no talk about how do you handle the mental awareness that dawns on this person. At some point, sometimes it’s before they call you. And sometimes it’s after, when they go, Oh, shit, I was raped.
Marissa: my right mind was six months, and then five years, I don’t expect anyone to, you know, I’m sure people do I know people do. But for me, I mean, I could never expect anyone to get it right away. And I’m not going to be the person to tell them that either. Because you could be putting them in an unsafe place. And now they have all of these emotions, and nowhere to put them. And like no know-how to handle them. And I certainly only know from my experience, what worked for me, and I don’t think that it’s fair or safe to expect somebody to, just blindly listen to me after having realized that.
Kate: I mean, there are people who that is the right job for somebody else. But I think that, you know, the rape crisis clinician is dealing with crisis is dealing with right now. What are the laws? What are your rights, what actions should and should not be taken Immediately? And the rest has to wait like there’s only so much one person can do at a time.
Marissa: Right? let them handle what they’re handling right here right now. That’s a good right. Yeah. Well, thank you for doing that amazing work. That’s amazing and awesome that, you do that for people.
Kate: Okay, I don’t any more unfortunately, I just sort of not the direction My life is gone. And I think about starting up again at times, but I’m on disability. I can’t reliably work. And that’s sad to me, because I feel like I have these skills that I cannot use. But it’s enough, I feel like to be able to talk to people that are like yourself, like, still, on the front lines still doing the work. It’s a start. Like, it has to be enough because it’s all I can do.
Marissa: Well, I appreciate you speaking to me about it.
Kate: So, talk to me, then about like, so round two, like what happened? Cuz often we know when the first one, after the first one happens, in many ways, we’re on the defensive, or people are aware of what’s going on or that you know what I mean, there’s sort of watching and waiting, and that’s not going to ever happen to me again. And you know, I’m going to protect myself more next time, blah, blah. What was the process like for you to have it happen again?
Marissa: I mean, you’re totally right, you get out of that. And you’re like, Oh, I know better now what to look for. But the truth is, until you really do some self work, you are not prepared to handle it again, and most likely will experience it again. I would say a vast majority of people who experience abuse have multiple experiences. Very few people have one or like one and done type people. So, for me, I did feel very empowered. So, there’s like a middle story between these two stories. I was on and off with the first guy for a year. And when we were finally off forever. I moved to Israel, I like jumped on a plane one day, I got accepted into a school and just moved across the world. And I ended up reconnecting with an old friend who I had a crush on when I was like 15. And he ended up being my first real love, you know, he was a person that rewired my brain back to what would be closer to normal. You know, he retaught me everything that I should expect in a partner. And he treated me with respect and rewired my brain and made me see what love truly is and should be. After a year I moved back home. And then the year after that is when I had the second experience. And so, I felt more equipped to see abuse and to be able to recognize those things and handle them better. I was definitely more headstrong again. I was more confident again. I knew what to look for. When it came to that exact specific persona of the first guy. I’m going to call him Bill just to keep us less confusing. So, Bill, the first abuser, I could have pinpointed him in a crowd him and everyone like him with the same personality. And I knew exactly to stay away from that. What I didn’t know, was the second guy. We’ll call him Jeff. I didn’t know Jeff’s MO. And I didn’t know what to look for that kind of abuser, because not every abuse situation is the same. In fact, none of them are. So, when I was dealing with Jeff, and I wasn’t realizing that what he was doing was abusive, because he was needy and clingy and always making me feel guilty for not wanting to spend time with him. And he’d sit on my floor and cry every time I didn’t want him to sleep over. And then after I broke up with him, you know, my roommates and I would we had a whiteboard in my room of a count of how many days would go by without getting a text from Jeff. And I think the highest we ever got to was four. And then on that fourth day, I would be text bombed all day. Of all these, I hate you. You’re such a bitch. You’re a whore I you know, I hope you die all this stuff. And then like within seconds would be like, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean any of that. You’re beautiful, and I miss you and all this stuff. And then it would turn into you know, why are you answering me I hope you die like you and your future kids are going to be cursed forever. And, you know, I hope you get pregnant with like the ugliest guy. Like just the most ridiculous stuff. Because I wasn’t answering now, I never experienced that with the first guy. With Bill that never happened. He was abusive and manipulative, but not like that. That was different and then dealing with being stalked. Didn’t have that before. So, I felt more prepared, but I wasn’t really because I didn’t do any self-care. I still fell into the same trap of a person who was abusive and manipulative because I still although my confidence was built, my self-worth was still low. And I didn’t see the difference. And there’s a huge difference between self worth and confidence. Like self esteem and self worth are very different. I could feel good about myself and still I feel like I’m not worthy of specific respect, if that makes sense. So that’s why I think people are abused more than once. Because once you leave something like that, first of all, if you’re not, taught or rewired to what is actually appropriate, healthy love, then what you look for is mirroring what you already know. And you just hope for different results. You know, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. Right, it’s the same thing with an abusive relationship. That’s what you learned is okay. And that’s what you learned to expect. And when you don’t have that, it feels wrong. There’s a great story in my first book: Breaking Through the Silence: the Journey to Surviving Sexual Assault of a girl who came from an abusive household. Her mother was extremely abusive, and violent, and manipulative and psychologically abusive. And so, she dated guys that were just like that, because that’s what she grew up feeling like love was. So, when she finally was dating a guy who was actually a good person, and in a healthy, not toxic relationship. She kept pushing him away. Because she didn’t feel like he really loved her. Because it’s not the kind of love that she was used to.
Kate: It’s hard to trust it. It’s hard to understand it. You know, and I think what exactly it feels unfamiliar. And I think that part of love is, is an understanding and a trust that, you know. So it’s, I mean, change is hard to change is scary. You know, it just is difficult stuff, every time. In its ways, even when it’s positive.
Marissa: Yeah, I mean, that makes total sense. And so, when you are, when you’re heading into unfamiliar territory, it makes you uneasy and uncomfortable. And so real healthy love is really hard for people who have been in abusive relationships, or grew up in an abusive household. It’s hard for them to accept, because they don’t recognize that as love, they don’t understand that it’s love.
Kate: It’s just this weird, like, what are you doing? What do you like, you spend your time waiting for a trap. And it’s almost more comfortable when the trap springs because then you’re like, Okay, well, at least this is, we know what this is.
Marissa: I know how to handle this. And I’m doing an article with a friend or a podcast with a friend about domestic violence around the holidays, and about how the holidays are really especially hard for domestic violence victims for a lot of reasons. But one being, if you leave, first of all, the holiday season is more stressful for everyone, because of money because of, you know, weather, because of family because of, you know, things you need to do and so. So that brings domestic violence, it heightens domestic violence, and it heightens, like actual explosions that happen. But all of the hotlines, they’re called decrease around the holiday season. And although no one’s really put a definite, like a defining reason for it. I personally think it’s because the devil, you know, is better than the devil you don’t know. Right? I think that’s the wrong terminology.
Kate: But yeah, no, I follow it well, in that, and you, you’re not alone during the holiday. And so, it’s harder to make those calls. And we fall into patterns and family create, you know, our family of origin, that to lays the groundwork for what you expect, and accept.
Marissa: That’s true. And think about it. The way I think about it is, you know, you can handle when you’re used to these explosions. I mean, you’re never used to the explosions. But when you are more prepared on how to handle these explosions, it’s easier to do that, then run away. Because then you don’t know what to expect. And that fear of the unknown and not knowing exactly what’s going to happen to you, is terrifying. You know?
Kate: I mean, I know I can survive the bad stuff. I’ve survived it before I’ll survive again. Like that’s, that’s what our brains tell us.
Marissa: Right. Exactly. And so, people stay around the holidays for that reason. I mean, they stay for a billion reasons, but I think the holidays have less calls to shelters and hotlines because of that. They don’t want to disrupt the holiday season. It’s already stressful enough.
Kate: It’s funny, because, you know, I worked working as a crisis clinician, that’s suicide, not rape. Right. And so, a lot of my experience with the with the rape crisis, especially because I was in a college town at the time, was the most common time you know, the busiest times of year for us, or at the start of the fall semester and the end of the spring semester. Right, as people are hooking up or meeting with people that they don’t know, and boundaries get crossed, and there’s a little bit more in the way of partying because, you know, you don’t have assignments due and that kind of thing yet. So that’s degree. And then at the end of the fall semester is why it’s holidays. And so, people tend to sort of, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that they behave, but kind of. You know, kind of. They tend to turn it down a notch anyway. And you know, and everybody’s going home for the holidays, right? But then, the end of the spring semester, there’s not really an event. It’s just the semesters ending, and the weather’s nice. So, everybody’s out moving around more. And people are stressed because it’s finals. And so those were the two times that, that we got the most calls. And those were the times that I most frequently would end up standing in the ER next to somebody having a rape kit collected. People have a, when it comes to suicide, people have a concept of most people commit suicide during the holidays. And I don’t know where that comes from. Because it’s not true. It’s like patently not true.
Marissa: I think it’s logical, but it doesn’t, it’s not actually accurate.
Kate: Because I mean, you’re around people, you’re around family. You don’t want to ruin holidays for people for the rest of their lives. Like there’s a lot of factors that it… Plus, you know, ever Yeah, people feel miserable in the winter. But there’s kind of a feeling that everybody does. You know, like, yeah, I feel crappy. I feel dark. I hate the weather. I’m miserable. But everybody else has to I’m not alone in this. I’ll feel better in the spring.
Kate: And so, in the spring is when the calls to the crisis line were highest. And that’s when the most completed suicides are.
Marissa: I think, so I worked on a military hotline. And I worked for the military doing, like, not crisis work, but one-on-one very quick counseling and like resources for military. And for us, it was Spring. Spring was the time where we had the most suicide calls, right around Memorial Day. But yeah, it wasn’t the holidays for us, either and so I feel like people think that because it would be logical, like, Oh, well, suddenly. So, they want to like that’s not, that’s not the myth.
Kate: Even then, even then, even people who are alone during the holidays, there’s this sense of, like an invisible camaraderie. You know what I mean? Like, yeah, I’m alone during the holidays. And that sucks. So that’s why I’m sad.
Kate: So, it, you know, it is what it is, like, I remember very clearly, the first year that I worked on the Rape Crisis Line in the rape crisis center in New Hampshire. I was finishing my first year in my doctoral program. And so, I was busy. Like, I had a lot going on. And I had signed up for the same shifts that I had been signed up for all year. Like, I didn’t change anything, because it was like, it’s been manageable. Yeah, I have a little work to do. You know, it’ll be whatever. You know, I have assignments to do, it’ll be okay. And then the phones blew up. Like, it was just crazy. I remember talking to people, they’re like, Is this normal? You know, like, what happened? And they’re like, Yeah, no, this happens every spring. And it was true. Like, I was there for four years. And every year in the spring in, you know, may mostly May, was like the busiest month there. And I never did any, like statistical analysis for other places or whatever. But I wouldn’t be surprised at all. If that was a bigger trend.
Marissa: Yeah, I’m sure it has. I mean, I feel like it would be universal for the reasons that you said before. People are out and about the weather’s nicer. People are like, you know, getting out of being stir-crazy indoors and then act on impulse, I guess, or are more likely to, you know, be in a situation that not safe because they were just so cooped up or something.
Kate: Okay, so there’s another topic tangent whenever for me, is weird. Where do you stand on the concept of there are people in the world, quite a lot of them and many of them are true crime podcasters. So, there are people that I know personally who shy away very intensely from ever acknowledging, from feeling like trying to figure out how to word it. This concept of victim blaming and I do agree strongly and, you know, a lot of bad words that no one deserves sexual assault. No one asks for it. I don’t care how short her skirt was, I don’t care how much she had to drink. I don’t care what word she used. I don’t care how red her lipstick was. She didn’t ask for it. Nobody asks for it. So, like, that’s really important to me. And I acknowledge that and it’s true. And I still leave the blame firmly upon the perpetrator. But that being said, there’s a train of thought that basically if I ever say like, Hey, you know, for instance, sex work is an inherently dangerous business. And people who engage in sex work often end up sexually assaulted. I’ve been told that I am therefore victim blaming. You know, or acknowledging that like walking down a dark alley is a vulnerable place to be.
Marissa: Right. So, my take on it, I would, I’m thinking is very simple. Being situationally aware, is very important. So, no, nobody ever asked for it. I don’t care what the situation was. The perpetrator is the one that has the control and made the decision to offend. That’s it. Points blank. I don’t care what anyone else says. However, if you go to a party, and you get blasted, and you’re there with people that you don’t really trust that much, but like, you know, you’re friendly with them. And you said to stay by your side, and they, you know, there has to be a little bit of responsibility and accountability for being in that situation. You know, like, you knew you didn’t trust these people. But you went anyways. You chose to drink to excess until you couldn’t control yourself. Now, I’m not saying that person had the right to do what they did. I’m not condoning their actions. I think what they did is despicable. And I think that they should be put in jail for it. But at what point? Is it no longer like it? Isn’t that not that person’s responsibility to take care of themselves, too? Look out for themselves and their safe? You know, I think that there has to be that element of self accountability. And being situationally aware, I am a five-three little girl, you know, who, upon looking at me, you could not tell that I know Krav Maga and I could probably, you know, throw a 200-pound man over my shoulder. I’m not going to walk down the dark alley alone, knowing full well I’m capable of handling myself, because I’m situationally aware enough to know that should I get attacked by to 200-pound men, I’m screwed. So, I actively avoid situations that I know could potentially put me in an unsafe situation. And I’m not saying don’t go out and drink. I’m not saying don’t go to parties and enjoy yourself. I’m not saying anything like that. I’m just saying be a little situationally aware, and know your surroundings. And if you’re in a place where you don’t necessarily trust the people around you. Maybe that you know, third shot of fireball isn’t worth it. You know. Is it worth it in exchange for this horrendous traumatizing experience that could possibly happen to you?
Kate: Well, I think there’s that for one is a, you know, an accountability. But also, there’s when you try and paint all victims is completely blameless, 100%. And completely, you know, place 100% of all blame all the time on perpetrators, that is disempowering to the victim. You know, we need that we need to be able to tell ourselves, here’s what I can do different next time, right? So, it’s not just onlookers judging me for what I did wrong. And it’s not even me judging myself. I’m totally going to and have. But it’s not about me judging myself for what I did wrong. It’s about knowing that okay, I feel a little bit safer at night, a little bit stronger in my day-to-day life, if there’s something I can tangibly do differently next time. And taking that away from the victim saying like, Look, she was just a random victim of circumstance wrong place wrong time. To me that’s incredibly invalidating and disempowering.
Marissa: I agree with that. I didn’t even think of it that way either. But yeah, you are, you’re completely taking the power away from that person to make a change for next time. You’re right.
Kate: I mean, and like, there are there are situations where like, Look, you’re asleep in your bed and your house was locked up. Somebody broke in, like, okay, there’s really not anything different you could do. And that falls under the random bad shit happens to good people sometimes. Like, it’s so there are circumstances where… I’m so okay. I was raped when I was 12 and I was at a summer camp, and I was asleep in my cabin. And this person came in and sort of was tiptoed over and whispered to me like that there was a phone call that I had to take. Somebody at home was sick, and I had to go take the phone call. And I was 12. And I didn’t even question I just kind of went. And I took from that a cynicism and a tendency to question like, every damn thing to a fault. Like I acknowledge this about myself. But realistically, that’s just a case of me trying to fumble around and mine this situation until I find something that I can take away from. But the reality is, I was blameless. Like I did, I there was nothing I could have done differently that night, to have changed the outcome. You know, within the within the reality of what my possibilities were like, I was just bad. And that’s tremendously scarier, you know, to feel like, I got nothing here. Like I there you know, I in trust me, I have spent many, many, many nights many hours rethinking what could I have done. Should I have shouted should I have screamed, should I have refused to go. Shoot, whatever. Like all of those that like No, those all could probably have had a bad outcome in their own way. And I don’t know that they would have worked. And it wouldn’t have like at 12 You know, if you’re still such a young child, that of course, you just sort of automatically going to respond to perceived authority, things like that, like so. That lack of power was one of the hardest things for me to cope with. And took a very, very long time for me to absorb and come to terms with. Then I was assaulted again, when I was 19 by drinking too much. I very likely did actually say the word Yes. But I was blitzed. Like I had a 32-ounce mug travel mug that they gave out to all new incoming freshmen. And most of that was full of rum.
Marissa: Oh my god.
Kate: And so, I have zero memory of the whole night. It wasn’t until later that things piece together in terms of their witnesses. Auditory witnesses. And physical proof symptoms. And then later he admitted it pretty freely, pretty offhandedly. He told me I should be grateful, because it obviously hurt. And so, I should be grateful that I was so drunk at the time. You know, and that time, I blamed myself very heavily very intensely for… I’m sorry, it wasn’t 19 I was 17. Now that I think a lot of it because it was my college freshman year. And that I blamed myself very heavily for I shouldn’t have gotten so drunk like that was on me. And that was probably not and so now 42-year-old Kate looks at it like fuck no, no, I couldn’t consent. It doesn’t matter if I could have like, written him a letter and begged and I still could not have consented. So no, I am not at fault. But chastising myself and castigating myself for having had so much to drink. Let me feel like okay, here’s the thing I can do differently. I can not drink that much again, if I’m going to be… I mean, really anywhere. But especially if I’m going to be around people I don’t know. And so, I walked away from that with a sense of not power or wouldn’t go that far, but at least not the complete powerlessness that I had after the first time.
Marissa: Thank you for sharing that with me. I appreciate your honesty and your trust.
Kate: I don’t have any boundaries. So, there’s that but…
Marissa: I also don’t I mean, that all it all makes perfect sense. To be honest, you know, it’s, it’s almost more reassuring knowing that there are changes I can make to take myself out of danger. But I look at people who, you know, who goes through something similar to what you went through when you were 12. Who go through child abuse from a family member, where there’s literally no way that that person can be blamed. And a lot of those people are the people that turn to drugs. Or turn to alcohol abuse or eating disorders, or, you know, very physically self mutilation and suicidal ideations. And those the people that I really, like, I don’t know what to say,
Kate: They’re controlling what they can control.
Marissa: Right? You know, and control their body and of their life.
Kate: Exactly. And so, it becomes a case of like, Look, I acknowledge that you have found a way, this is a coping mechanism, it is allowing you to help with your life, there are better ways. There are healthier ways than this. And let’s try and find those. But good for you for figuring out a way to cope with these emotions and not die.
Marissa: Yeah, that’s true I think men have that problem.
Kate: I was going to say, you that we you said, you talked about a second aspect of your book was about men, too.
Marissa: The second book is called Breaking Through the Silence: #MenToo. It features 27 male survivors of sexual assault. And one of the common themes. I mean, most of the men that I know that were abused were childhood victims, and it was most of the time from a family member or close family friend, And men have significantly less support societally and resource wise than women. Especially right now, after the me-too movement. That’s why I chose the title #MenToo, because I thought it was really important to speak about how the #MeToo movement missed men. You know, men are victims to men are not always the perpetrator. A bunch of the men in my book, there was a female perpetrator, whether it be a mother or a sister, or just a female in general. And they don’t really have any resources. So, their go-to is usually something like eating disorders or something very physical, that can numb them. Drugs, alcohol, self mutilation.
Kate: Yeah, it’s again, it’s control. It is. And to me, that’s sort of proof of the strength of psyche. You know, if somebody bad-assery, to be able to find some way of finding some control in their lives,
Marissa: A really unique way to look at it. I like that.
Kate: I mean, it’s all like one of the things you just said a second ago, it’s like, thank you for sharing. And I feel like, first of all, I don’t cope with thank you and compliments well. Just the brain measles, and me being me. But also, I feel like learning to talk about what I survived, I don’t call myself a rape victim. I prefer to think of myself as a survivor. That I was a victim for a very long time. And you know, that to me, victimhood is sort of the equivalent of the grief. The active grief when it is still present in your life. And that you’ve survived it when you’ve been when you’re able to lay that down and walk away from it. And that to me, choosing just talk about it. I’m not giving anybody a gift, or I’m not being brave with this. It’s just another story from me. It just, it helped form who I am, but it also just, it’s just something that I lived through. And I refuse passionately and aggressively refuse to feel shame for someone else’s behavior. Like, there shouldn’t be, shouldn’t and I don’t use that word should very often because there’s value laden to it that I don’t like. But there shouldn’t be any difference between me describing a sexual assault versus me describing someone mugging me, right. That they’re both illegal actions on someone else’s part. Right. And, and so they did the wrong thing. They acted badly. Maybe something about me signaled easy target. Maybe I should have whatever. Right? Like there are there are always a second guesses in the should in the whatever. Maybe there are ways that I could have made myself a less attractive target. A less simple, easy target to them. Okay, fine. But at the end of the day, there shouldn’t be any more shame at being sexually targeted over any other form of targeting. Do you know what I mean? Like, I like if he had punched me in the face instead, that wouldn’t be shameful. And nobody would be like, Oh, you know you’re so brave for telling your story. They would go straight to the Wow, what a dick. Right? But because it’s sexual, and because there’s a penis involved, suddenly, it becomes this act of courage to tell my story. And so as long as it’s perceived that way, I’m going to keep telling it, because I need other people to know It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s not okay, that it happened. But it’s okay, that happened to you. It doesn’t reflect badly on you and it can get better.
Marissa: I love that. I think that the reason people, because of the shame is the reason that people are always like, Wow, you’re so brave, because so many people refuse to talk about it, or won’t talk about it, or still ashamed to talk about it. Because of that societal stigma of, you know, you should be ashamed. How could you let that happen to yourself? You know, that is hopefully now starting to go away. But still a fight?
Kate: Or just get over it? Right? Or Yeah, or it’s just sex. And then there is something different about rape, as opposed to be getting punched in the face like there is. But I think at least part of it, is that there, it’s both that it is a more invasive, personal, private, solitary, I guess experience. Because everybody’s fundamental survivor story is unique. But then also, societally, other people are so uncomfortable with it, that you end up feeling even more alone. And I feel like, Look, no, no, that’s your problem. This listener. Like, I’ll let you know, here’s the thing that is often evocative for people. And if it makes you uncomfortable, don’t listen. Like I’m totally on board with that. But your discomfort does not mean I should feel shamed, or that I should gloss over it.
Marissa: I think for so long. That was the problem. Was that it was something that was so not okay to talk about, especially if it was a family member that did it, that its kind of ingrained in people now to, you know, not really know how to listen to it or take it when they hear it. Or not feel comfortable talking about it, especially if it was a family member, because you don’t want to be the person that disrupts the family. There’s just so much. It’s so ingrained in our society to be so weird about sex. Sex and rape. But the FBI classifies sexual assault and rape as the most violent crime. And yet, we are way more willing to talk about like, Homicide and breaking and entering and how the victims of those crimes are, “Oh my god victims, we should feel bad for them.” Versus rape victims. The first thing we do is say, Oh, well, are we sure that really happened? You know, maybe, is she just or he just trying to get attention? You know, is that person what’s their motive? Why did they say that?
Kate: Like, what is she wearing? Right? What was she wearing? How much did she drink? All of that? Right?
Marissa: How Why are we so quick to doubt survivors of sexual assault, and yet so willing to back people that are the victims of breaking and entering? Are you kidding? One, one is a violation of your body, like, you live in that body. You can’t change bodies, you can change houses, if somebody breaks into your house. You can’t change bodies.
Kate: True and I think why to I struggle with like around the… sorry to cut you off, by the way, I just do. I get excited. But you know, the whole like #MeToo movement and Kavanugh, specifically, which I mean, fuck Kavanugh. Let’s just get that out there. But that, that, I believe Christine Blasie Ford. I am also able to live in a world in which Kavanugh is not criminally prosecuted for the rape because I can believe the victim and still support the alleged perpetrators right to due process. And something about the case may not rise to the level of being found guilty in the court. And so, a woman for instance, just to go along gender lines, the woman can feel violated the man cannot be criminally guilty. And I can live with both of those. And I don’t understand why that’s so radical but it is.
Marissa: That’s an interesting point. See, I, I tend to feel like if we’re going to, if we’re going to prosecute a human being for assault battery or for breaking and entering or for any other criminal act, why is it so different to prosecute a person of rape or sexual violence? Like, why is that a different standard? You know.
Kate: You know, it’s harder to prove. It’s harder to get adequate testimony out of the victim. It’s, it’s societally not accepted right now. And so, like full honesty, full disclosure, you know, I have two daughters and two sons. And if any of them came to me, and said, I was raped, I’m not sure that I would tell them to go to the police. I am sure that I would tell them to go to the hospital, and to get a rape kit collected. Because that the window for collecting that evidence is so very small. And that it’s okay, this is a terrible analogy. And I hear myself about to say it, and I apologize to the entire universe right now. But I’m going to say it anyway, because I’m terrible. It’s comparable to me, too, when people are applying for a job. And sometimes they’ll get bogged down at the reading the job posting, you know, online or whatever, saying, you know, describing it and deciding like, is this the right job for me? And my answer is always, it doesn’t matter right now, apply for everything. You know, likewise, with kids applying for college. Like just apply, apply for everything, and wait until you see who accepts you. And that’s when you decide comparably. And that this is what I’m saying. It’s terrible. I’m okay. It comparably, that when it comes to a sexual assault. The time to decide whether you’re going to prosecute is not the night of the rape. You’re, incredibly fucked up on so many different levels at that moment, in some way or other. Either you’ve been, there’s been violence involved. There’s been substances involved. There’s self doubt, there’s just a lot like I there’s a lot of reasons why that’s not the time to make this decision. But go and get the rape kit collected anyway, go through the exam. It sucks. The rape exam in the emergency room is horrific, it’s invasive, it’s clinical, it’s distancing, it’s miserable. Ask both for a sexual assault nurse examiner, a SANE nurse, and also ask for a rape crisis clinician or general crisis clinician. Because that way you have a nurse who knows what the fuck they’re doing when it comes to collecting the evidence in the correct way. And you have somebody whose job it is to speak up for you. So that when you’re feeling overwhelmed, and you don’t know how to say, hang on, I need a second, they can watch you and recognize, Hang on, this person needs a second. So, I would absolutely and have told friends of my children, go get a rape kit done right now. That doesn’t mean I think they necessarily should press charges. And I don’t know that I would tell my children to press charges. Because the judicial system is so invasive, and so awful about it. And this is a sensitive crime. And it is socially questionable and icky. And so, you have to sit with a lot and process a lot. And at the end of the day, if the evidence isn’t really strong enough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, like how much worse is it to press charges and ultimately have somebody found not guilty? Like that’s pretty heavy. So, I don’t know that I would tell everybody to press charges. And that’s what like I can, there are friends of mine that I know of personally, who have been accused of sexually assaulting someone, and I can remain friends with them. I don’t trust them in the same way necessarily. But I can remain friends with them because of a presumption of innocence, as well as a concept of, “Look, your actions led to someone else feeling this way. Whether or not you legally did the actual thing that they are saying, you left someone feeling this way. That’s not cool. That’s not great.” You know what I mean? But I can be friends with the person that their alleged victim I guess, at the same time.
Marissa: Okay. I mean, I hate the way the legal system works against survivors. I do. I think it truly I think it pushes survivors to say that what they like had they made an initial report, I think it pushes them to either back off or stop their, you know, their prosecution. Like stopped the process, or even admit that it wasn’t real, even if it was. Like, have you ever seen the show? Unbelievable,
Kate: No, I don’t watch TV
Marissa: Okay, so it’s a there’s a Netflix series that was just put out a couple months ago called Unbelievable, and it’s about this. It’s about how the legal system handles and mishandled sexual assault case. And you’re right, I truly don’t encourage very many people to go to the police for that exact reason. It’s mishandled. The trials go on for four years. And so, these people who are just trying to move on with their lives and get over it, end up getting caught, being re-victimized over and over and over again for four years and questioned to death and investigated, and every piece of their life, every person they’ve had sex with, everything is just out in the open. And it’s just it’s a lot because we don’t investigate the perpetrator. We investigate the victim. That’s more what I was talking about. Why is it that we investigate the victim and not the perpetrator? Whereas with like a homicide case, or that’s not a good example, with like a breaking and entering case, right? So, if somebody calls the police and says someone, you know, broke into my house and stole this from me. They go right to the perpetrator, if they go right to the person who broke in, and they question them. And they leave the victim alone. So, when it comes to a sexual assault case, the first thing we do is doubt the victim or say, Well, why did this happen? You know, why? Why did you do this, as opposed to going to the perpetrator and saying, why did you do that? You know, what happened, that made you think that this was okay to do. That’s what I meant. I mean, I don’t like the way they do it. So, I don’t, I generally don’t tell people to go to the police unless they had a witness or a strong enough case, or they did get a rape kit. Because if you don’t have a rape kit, you don’t have anything. And even if you have rape kit, you still don’t really have anything, because you still have to prove that it was non-consensual. Even with the pictures and the SANE exam, I used to be an advocate as well. So, I’d go to the hospital with people and sit through the exams with them, and talk about the rights they have in the options they had. And through all of that, still don’t really have enough to show that, what happened was not consensual.
Kate: It’s a fucking disaster, like all of it, at the end of the day is a disaster and at least one thing that I would love to see changed. Like we can’t fix a lot, and it’s really slow to fix the legal system. So, I’m not suggesting at all that we stopped trying, but it’s a long, slow process. What I would love very much is if we started instead of like right now in media, when we talk about somebody being a rapist, they’re often portrayed is like this big hulking monster. I would love for us to start portraying rapists in media more accurately. As an insecure, pathetic, but just someone who doesn’t know how to use their words or their actions to get what they want in a consensual way. So, they just take it by force. Like, That’s pathetic and sad. That’s not big, hulking, manly testosterone. It should be shameful to be seen as a rapist. It should be appalling.
Marissa: I agree and that the media and you know, they’re not doing a good job of that. Usually, it’s somebody that’s huge and intimidating, like they’d have The Rock play, you know, someone who would be a rapist because he’s huge and intimidating. But both the guy that attacked me, Bill was 5’6, and like a little pudgy, and he was very handsome, but he, you know, wasn’t big and strong. And I forgot the second name Jeff. Jeff, was 5’6, scrawny as hell. Like I could have broken him in half. And they both were just like, you’ve had very pathetic individual to, you know, Bill felt very entitled, and was also insecure because you lived in his father’s shadow. And Jeff, like, just in general had no personality, no goals, no nothing. He was insecure person that always felt like he needed to prove himself and never did and never could. Yeah, that’s what we try. You’re totally right. I would love to see because that’s way more accurate.
Kate: I mean, make it shameful and appalling to be accused. Make it so the last thing you want is for anybody to even think that about you. Make it so that the #MeToo movement is not about, well, women can say anything, and they can accuse anybody and they have all this power over these poor little men. To instead about, okay, it’s a wake-up call, it’s time to change our idea of what masculine is, and what powerful is.
Marissa: Yeah, I’m working on a podcast for that right now. Like how the word sensitive towards men and the word sensitive towards women are two totally different definitions of the exact same word. Being a sensitive man doesn’t make you weak. It makes you approachable. It makes you in touch. You know, and it’s so unfortunate, but that’s the kind of thing being sensitive. Simple. But being sensitive makes you like, in society’s eyes less of a man, that’s terrible.
Chriss: Statistically speaking in the United States, men are a lot less likely to report when they have been sexually abused in any way. As Marissa and Kate talked about in this episode, it just doesn’t happen. I find it personally inspiring that Marissa has been also fighting to advocate for men who have been abused or assaulted in any way since there aren’t as men that are willing to come forward. I found this conversation to be incredibly insightful, not only because as a survivor myself, it felt almost cathartic to hear somebody else tell me almost exactly my own story back to me. But also, it felt like a consensual hug. Thank you so much Marissa for coming onto the show today. And Kate, thank you so much for not only giving me this opportunity, but also sharing your own stories. Didn’t you feel better before you knew that?
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