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  • Writer's pictureLeah Lair Conner

Raging Courage

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I've written a little bit about this on my personal page, but before the month is over, I wanted to also be sure to address it here, and maybe go a little further into my own personal experience with sexual assault trauma. Sadly, I've had more than one experience with with sexual abuse and countless situations of harassment and/or disrespect, as have far too many of my sisters and brothers on this earth, and most of those have just been swept under the rug - usually out of shame, guilt, fear of retaliation, etc. It is ridiculous the power that a person who uses sex has over his/her truly is. And that IS what it is about - power. It is about that person - the aggressor, the predator - overpowering his/her target, or prey. It comes down to the need for control, and just like schoolyard bullying, it stems from a weak, cowardly person's need to make someone else feel less than, feel dirty, feel shame. Usually, tragically, it works. In a former life, before marriage and kiddos, I worked in the corporate world in software marketing. My job included quite a bit of travel (I loved it!), and since I was in my twenties and it was well before 9/11, I felt pretty invincible in this world. The product I promoted had me attending a lot of trade shows, usually with one or two of the company's salespeople, and one such show was what was supposed to be just a day trip to a suburb of Chicago. My boss's son and I were the only ones assigned this gig - it was a small little show - just a quick, easy run to show off our product and drum up some business. BUT, a snowstorm blowing in had other ideas, and we ended up having to hunker down in the show's host hotel, along with just about everyone else in attendance at the event. As often happens at these trade shows, whether snowed in or not, everyone ended up in the bar swapping road stories and having a good time. I remember a tray of tequila shots being involved. I don't remember anything else, at all, until sometime the next morning when Sean (the boss's son) and I were standing in line waiting to board our plane at the airport. I sat down on my bag, disoriented, and Sean asked me if I was okay. I clearly wasn't, but I couldn't really place why. He wasn't okay, either, but he was doing a little bit better than me. I really just don't have memories for much of anything. I know that we each somehow got on the plane and to our respective homes. I know that I was sore in places that I shouldn't be sore. I pieced it together from the soreness and from marks and other telltale signs from my body that someone had had sex with me the night before. It took some uncomfortable conversations, some help from hotel cameras, and piecing together fuzzy snippets of memories from both Sean and me to put together enough of the night to figure out the jist of what happened. That tray of tequila shots? The guy handing them out had reserved two especially for Sean and me - they were drugged - and they were handed to us from his hands, not from the tray. He'd had his eye on me the whole night, but Sean (ALWAYS a great guy, and always looking out for me, especially if it was just the two of us - his dad was my favorite boss ever) was in the way. Sean got me to my room and got himself to his room. He also called his wife and fell asleep mid-conversation. He DID remember waking up with the phone off the hook (yes, this was back in the days of regular phones), in the bed with him, still clothed, thinking he must have had more to drink than he realized, but not until his wife reminded him that he'd fallen asleep talking to her. Roofies do that...they wipe your memories away, but leave little fuzzy snapshots, sometimes. Hotel cameras showed that someone entered and exited my room after Sean walked me there and then got settled in his. No face visible, of course, and it was only for about 30 minutes. Lucky for me, I literally remember nothing of those minutes...not even fuzzy snapshots. I only have my imagination and at the time, bruises, abrasions, and soreness to fill in the gaps. Days had already passed by the time Sean and I got to this point of putting pieces together. He, too, was traumatized. He had not been assaulted, but he was violated, nonetheless, and he felt horrible for what had happened to me. It was too late for me to get any evidence collected, and frankly, I was too scared. Neither of us knew who the guy was...and neither of us felt we could identify him. He was just a sales guy, one of many faces and flirts we'd seen that night and a million other times at a million other shows. I did go to my gynecologist for a thorough checkover, testing, and antibiotics. I will never forget how gentle and kind Dr. B was to me, and how he literally teared up telling the front office there would be no charge for me that day. About six months later, at another trade show, I saw a face across the room, and I knew it was him. I broke into a cold sweat, and I swear I almost lost control of my bladder and bowels. I've never felt anything wash over me quite like that feeling, in that moment, in such a visceral way. I somehow got myself together, left the show right then, and went home. I called my boss to tell him what had happened, and then I called a friend whom I trusted, who was also at the show, to tell him what had happened and where the guy was. I don't know what he did or said, but I know that it's a small world, that one I worked in, and I think that monster's life might have gotten a bit disrupted. And I found out his name. That may not seem like much, but it felt like power to me. It still does. #lovealwayswins Like Comment Share

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