red_alert_bellTrigger Warning: Assualt, Sexual Assault, Rape

About 98% of the time, I’m able to speak. That’s close enough to 100% that I’ve felt a twinge of guilt before when I’ve described myself as semi-verbal. The only times I can’t speak are when my emotions are running really high. When those moments aren’t happening to you, it’s easy to forget that those are the moments you need your voice the most.

I had dated the guy just a handful of times. We had met for lunch a few times as well. He was always pushing at my boundaries, but never really enough for me to upset or call things off. At the end of the last date, we were standing on the street before my apartment complex door. I gave him a hug and meant to leave it at that. Before I turned away, he tried to kiss me. I turned my head away. He didn’t take the hint. He tried to force me to kiss him. We struggled. I got scared, and lost my voice and my words.

I wanted him to stop, but with no words I couldn’t tell him. I could only express my opinion by lashing out, all language forgotten. I was lucky. I either won the struggle, or he stopped. I’m not sure which. I’m very glad I was in a public place. After the struggle, it took a while for my words to come back properly. I still couldn’t speak out of the usual script. Instead of, “What the hell were you thinking?” I said, “See you” in a dejected way. In truth I had no intention of seeing him again, but that level of speech was beyond me until later. Later I did send him an email telling him not to contact me again. He’s honored that so far.

In this case, I think he just got carried away and that I wasn’t in danger. Still, it was a shock to realize just how vulnerable being semi-verbal makes me. I might not even be able to scream for help. How do you say “No” when you can’t say anything at all?

To make things worse, I’m sure that my disability would be used against me in court if I were ever raped and pressed charges. I recall an article that sadly I wasn’t able to dig up with Google. In it, a woman’s attacker was found innocent because the woman didn’t give the man sufficient indication that she wasn’t willing. The woman was mute and paralyzed from the neck down. Because she couldn’t say the words “No, stop” her rapist went free. I see the possibility of being in a similar situation, where what should be a simple conviction becomes a courtroom nightmare because I wasn’t able to say “No” while terrified.

From this experience, I learned to be more cautious. I learned how dangerous a moment of silence could become, and the world isn’t quite as comfortable as it once was.


  • Katherine says:

    I think it is terribly important for you, and for other people, to know that your silence under this form of attack is an extremely common reaction, widely documented, and well-understood by professionals, although, sadly, not as well in law enforcement circles.

    It’s good to be aware that clamming up is ‘normal’ when undergoing unwanted and resisted sexual advances of any degree, just so you don’t feel extra-vulnerable. You can do what other women or vulnerable men do: practice saying ‘No’ in various ways and phrases, out loud; I don’t know what physical capacities you have but a Jitsu course can be a real confidence builder as it is a defensive, not offensive, discipline, full of predictability and repetition.

    Rape and attempted rape are very contested subjects in law enforcement and justice circles. Don’t worry that your non-verbal aspects are unusual in this context. You are not alone.

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