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I was young and naïve, a farm girl from a small rural high school, studying at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in the early 1980s. I was drunk. Attention from a cool, good-looking guy felt good. Did I want to go to an after-bar party?

Kristine Sandy

Kristine Sandy, Coon Valley

That scenario doesn’t always end badly, but often it does. And too many women live with the consequences. I agreed to go to a party with a guy I didn’t know. I was raped. And I understood society’s message that it was my fault. That’s my secret of more than 30 years.

Even today, many women absorb the message that it was our fault, and many women never say anything about it. We were (and remain) drunk, slutty whores. That was (and continues to be) the way we refer to women. We have no analogous terms for young men. In these alcohol-fueled rapes, victims feel shame and blame; as a result, perpetrators often get a pass.

You should know that I said “no” — again and again and again. I could not move — he was too heavy. He was on top of me and I could not get away. I see that room so often, even these decades later.

I see the ceiling light and the bare white walls. I don’t remember all the details. That happens when you are drunk. I remember saying “no” and “stop” and being more terrified than I have ever been. I don’t know how I got back to my house. I woke up hung over, bruised and ashamed. I could not tell anyone. It never occurred to me to go to the police. Would I have been brushed off as a drunk college girl crying rape?

I have followed the news of Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. I felt more sickened with each report, and especially sickened the day of her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

It felt as though I were answering those questions. No one who has not been raped can understand that feeling of helplessness and violation. Even the comments of well-meaning, supportive men feel like yet another assault.

Ford’s skeptics are asking why a woman would wait 30 years to come forward. I have heard this question from my students. It’s a conversation their parents are having. Here’s why women don’t say anything: We just want it to go away. Society told us it’s our fault; we feel dirty, ashamed; we worry about how our families will react. Watch Ford’s testimony and see her terror: She does not want to be there. Neither would I.

I can imagine that Ford waited because she did not want an attempted rape to define her life. She clearly did not want to relive this. I heard truth in her voice. Much of what she said was my story.

It was not until I heard her voice so many times that I finally acknowledged aloud that I was raped. Because of the shame I feel to this day, it has been difficult to place the blame where it belongs — on the young man who raped me.

Some may say I got what I deserved for my risky behavior. But the fact of the matter is that a man pinned me down and forced his penis inside me. I said “no” and I kept begging him to stop. He didn’t. He raped me.

Rape does not go away. Rarely has a day gone by without my thinking about it. I wonder whether I have done a good enough job of educating my own children and my students about the paramount importance of consent, about the trauma of sexual violence. I am supposed to be a role model, yet I worry that, in failing to share my experience, I have let these people down.

I have been “accused” in my workplace of being a feminist. I regret the word has become so politically loaded. In its broad sense, feminism is simply insisting that all people, regardless of gender, are afforded the same rights, opportunities and protections.

I proudly call myself a feminist. I have a husband of 28 years whom I love. I have two sons whom I love, young men we have raised to respect women. My three daughters are strong and thoughtful women. I have a father, brother and brothers-in-law whom I love and respect. Many male teachers and colleagues have helped me become the person I am today. I love these men.

But it is hard to tell this story as a feminist. I fear that my silence has been a lost opportunity to say no to a culture that to this day fails to take seriously enough the constant threat of sexual coercion and violence.

For those of you who doubt the impact of rape, I offer a benchmark: I am a two-time cancer survivor, but dealing with being raped has been more difficult than the frightening diagnoses and the brutal treatments required to fend off my Hodgkin’s lymphoma and breast cancer.

For those of you who feel alone and scared and sad, know that you are not alone. Look to the people you love to help you. You have survived. That means you are strong. And you have the ability and experience to help others.

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Kristine Sandy is an English teacher at La Crescent High School, where she coaches the forensics team, and advises the Women’s Studies Club and GSA. Her husband, Marc Wehrs, is the Tribune’s local news editor.

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(39) comments

johnnybragatti

Climate"shoax , luterfisk, think gang rape ain"t no big deal.
The need is to line them up on the river.
Both of "em., should not be aloud to breathe air.

GrandpaS

How about if we pass an amendment to the Constitution changing ".....all men are created equal...." to "all citizens are created equal?"

oldhomey

How about something a little more inclusive than just citizens, Grandpa? "People" might work. "Human beings" is correct but a little awkward in wording. "Humanity"? There probably is a good word to cover it, but it is not popping into my head. But saying all "citizens" are created equal would invite some mindless, conscienceless politicians to be abusive to non-citizens, like taking away their children and locking them up as ransom. I know, I know. I exagerrate with an example that is over the top. It could NEVER happen in this country.

GrandpaS

Yeah, you must be thinking of China or someplace. We wish. I like "All God's Children," but that's mixing church and state, I suppose. "All members of civilization are created equal?" It's a little long, I suppose. Ooooh.... I got it: ".....all men are created equal except Trump and his super wealthy peers, who are far superior to everybody else?"

oldhomey

You may have solved the problem, Grandpa, but somehow it lacks poetry.

johnnybragatti

Spot on, 10/4 and outta the park. at the very least.!!!

GrandpaS

I cannot say enough good things about this article. It took guts, compassion, education and desire to help for her to write it. This point alone is huge: "Because of the shame I feel to this day, it has been difficult to place the blame where it belongs — on the young man who raped me." That's EXACTLY where the blame belongs. If a woman is robbed or beaten, God forbid, is that her fault? No. It's the robber's or assaillent's fault. If you were assaulted sexually or physically, the guy who did that is the bad guy, not you. I am very pleased that the #MeToo movement is gaining visibility and support. Crystal clear articles like this one will do nothing but contribute to the difference that needs to be made in how we perceive who was at fault in a sexual assault - and who wasn't. We cannot dismiss rape as just something that red-blooded American boys do sometimes. It is a major crime and we need to treat it as such. I know it's easy for me to say cuz I'm a guy, but blow the whistle, ladies, if that becomes necessary. YOU are innocent. The guy is not. Period. Like Ms. Sandy, don't lose sight of that. Excellent, excellent article, and vitally important as well.

Cassandra2

The sexists and misogynists are out in full force, proving once again what horrible humans they are.

capedcrusader

Yep.

lutefisk

Gonna need my lawyer to draw up a pre b.j release for the ladies to sign.
I'm insensitive

GrandpaS

No, actually anybody who can make a horrible joke like that isn't sensitive. You're totally ignorant, insensitive and non-comprehending of what women have gone through. The joke was pretty bad, lutefisk.

lutefisk

Sorry you were raped. Sincerely. However.. .dr .ford... was not.

Tim Russell

She never said she was.

Climatehoax

This rape account was published because of the false allegations against Kavanaugh, so the insinuation is the circumstances are the same, they aren’t. By the way men, if you’ve ever been in a crowd of people and brushed against a woman’s breast with your shoulder, she could accuse you of sexual assault, yes, it’s that easy to ruin a man’s life.

oldhomey

No, Climate, it was written by a woman who was angered by misogynists such yourself and that stinker lutefisk who could not believe Dr. Ford would have kept such an attack secret for 35 years. Ms. Sandy very clearly laid out how and why women would keep their silence. It is a way of abused women finally rising up and saying they will not allow their lives to be ruined by abusive men. More power to them. Right? Your hypothetical is so laughable that it is pathetic.

capedcrusader

Baloney.

GrandpaS

Give me a break, hoax. Man........

Cassandra2

Wow, Hoaxer, you really show off your scumbag colors sometimes. I have sympathy for any woman, from your mother to your wife to your daughter, who has ever had any interaction with you.

Climatehoax

I’m not denying she was raped morons, I’m denying being raped is much worse than a guy trying to unbotton a woman’s shirt. Like being shot with a B.B. gun vs a 30.06. No comparison. Stop with the knee jerk reactions, loons.

oldhomey

Oh? How many buttons did you manage to get undone before she slapped you and walked away laughing at your pathetic presumption, Climate?

capedcrusader

Well "Climatehoax", stop calling people names and maybe they will stop with the knee jerk reactions.

johnnybragatti

Thank you for a story , your memory can"t be rid of and we can"t stop thinking about.
Thanks to the Trib for publishing an account, previously banned in America.
Kavanaugh. who DID lie, yet gets confirmed anyway, may, in the end, have a reverse effect, on the rape rhetoric,
the Women in this country have long endured.

mamasboy

Sorry Johnny, there wasn't one person that corroborated her story. How would you like to be dragged through the mud and have your reputation destroyed on the word of ONE person? How the heck do you know that he" DID lie"

GrandpaS

How do we know that he didn't?

Mo' Money Scott Walker

Ridiculous.

You are innocent until proven guilty.

I may not be in favor of another Trump court appointee, but that's no reason to strip him of his right to due process.

oldhomey

I didn't see any due process of any sort in the Kavanaugh hearings, Mo. Dr. Ford courageously stepped forward and stated what happened to her at the hands of Kavanaugh when they were teenagers. She was honest about not remembering all the details, but was sure of the most essential ones. She passed a lie detector test corroborating the honesty of what she did remember. She came to the committee and asked for a thorough investigation by FBI investigators to establish the facts of her story. Kavanaugh blanched at the idea of an FBI investigation. The GOP committee members tried to avoid an FBI investigation until our courageous, forthright president stepped forward and connived with the GOP senators to strictly oversee a severely limited, laughably structured investigation that hogtied FBI investigators to questioning just nine people, all of them apparently pre-selected by the White House and the GOP senators, ignoring Dr. Ford, Kavanaugh, two other women making charges against Kavanaugh, and all the people that Dr. Ford and the other women named as potential witnesses. So Dr. Ford and the other two women find themselves in the position women since time immemorial have found themselves when they complain of being abused sexually -- ignored and turned away by the men in power. Meanwhile, Kavanaugh, who cried and carried on that he was victimized by these women, the Democrats and the Clintons, is awarded a bag of ashes, too. If he had nothing to hide, a more vigorous FBI investigation would have exonerated him, but he is now doomed to serve in a position in which he is a marked man, never to be trusted in his honor and truthfulness for the remainder of his days. How is that for due process? Had it been used, we would not be left with this steaming heap of garbage that we will have to live with for decades.

Comment deleted.
oldhomey

I don't know, Snow, can the FBI arrest a sitting Supreme Court Justice so soon after he was sworn in? I don't think that would make 2018 glorious at all, but none of your predictions ever come true, anyway.

capedcrusader

I can hardly wait for ALL these arrests he keeps claiming are coming. I can't wait. In the meantime he'll just keep impersonating another person and using their image I imagine.

Comment deleted.
capedcrusader

And you ought to be arrested for impersonating someone and using their image. And shame on the Lacrosse Tribune for allowing it.

Mo' Money Scott Walker

Agree 100% - shame on the Tribune for allowing such mockery!

yeah ok, i'm guilty too...

capedcrusader

Well at least you admit you're guilty.

Climatehoax

Prove she was raped, were you present? You should have testified

Cassandra2

Prove that she wasn't. Were you present? Why is it that creepy old trolls like the Hoaxer always give credence to the patriarchy and the rapists, abusers and misogynists?

Comment deleted.
Cassandra2

Keep it Klassy, Cougar-bot.

Comment deleted.
GrandpaS

What do you think you'll be arrested for?

Nikki

Thank you, Mrs. Sandy, for sharing your story. It will help many others!

Sue Greening

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

oldhomey

What a remarkably courageous and profoundly important thing you have done, Ms. Sandy. You have instantly become one of the most important leaders and role models in the community. We all owe a debt of gratitude to you.

GrandpaS

Amen. I'm going to cut this article out and give copies of it to my daughters and granddaughters and anybody else I can think of. You don't have to put up with this s^#t, ladies. This is a problem that needs to be fixed. Let's get at it.

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