sexual assault survivor stories

Fumble Recovery: Sensitive Subject

Fumbling for Words

“’Fumble Recovery’” is a column designed to celebrate life’s highs (and lows) during football season and the time in-between. Come for the honest opinion pieces and stay for the beer pairings. If you’re fumbling through life, this is the column for you.”

For weeks, I had tossed around what to write about for my first column for In-Between Media. I collected stories of community members who do volunteer work. I even thought about doing a basic introduction of the column and what is to come in future installments. Then, unexpectedly, some major NFL news broke surrounding a very sensitive subject, and I became the story. 

Throughout my life, I’ve certainly recovered from many “fumbles.” I’m going to share one of those moments with you here. I want to provide a preface that this story focuses on a sensitive subject. There is some violence of a sexual nature. While I won’t get into many graphic or specific details, if the topic for this article is triggering to you, you might just want to check back in for my second column instead.


When the news about Deshaun Watson hit last week, I don’t think I was prepared for how it would affect me. While very little information was released throughout the investigation, one thing was clear there was a pattern. While we may never know the details, it’s not common for someone to have numerous different massage therapists, let alone dozens and dozens of massage therapists.

In the little bits of information that came out, the stories of these women had a common thread beyond their occupation as massage therapists. They also reported inappropriate behavior of various kinds, from unwanted touching to forced oral sex. 

The case finally had some movement and went before a Grand Jury this past week. From what I’ve learned from lawyer friends and several case experts on Twitter, a Grand Jury indicts more often than not (apparently in the high 90 percent). However, cases involving sexual misconduct are hard to prove. Add a celebrity to the mix, and securing a conviction becomes even more difficult.

In Watson’s case, the Grand Jury did not indict. The New York Times reported that, during the trial, only one woman was called in to testify in front of the Grand Jury. Sadly, none of the accusers will get their day in criminal court because the Grand Jury did not indict.

It takes a lot for a woman who has been sexually assaulted to come forward. In fact, it’s thought that most sexual assaults ultimately go unreported. Why? Because of instances like this.

These women came forward, shared their stories, hired a lawyer, withstood the court of public opinion and more, only to hear that their stories aren’t credible or strong enough to produce criminal charges. To put it bluntly, women who have been sexually assaulted are afraid that if they report what happened to them, they won’t be believed.

I am one of those women. 

A Promising Beginning

It was 2013. I was actively dating using several dating apps. Using dating apps seemed like a perfectly safe way to meet someone. At that point, I had spent nearly a decade online building an amazing community of friends both near and afar. This was no different to me. I never imagined I would meet someone who wanted to hurt me.

Everyone was just looking to find someone to connect and build a relationship with, right? I wasn’t so naive that I didn’t know there were people out there looking for a booty call. But this wasn’t that. 

I met a guy that I thought I really connected with. He invited me to go to a concert with him. I agreed, and we met up at a bar beforehand to have a beer. It was a good time. We got through the awkward small talk and were on to bigger topics. The conversation came easily. We rode together to the concert in his car.

Once inside, I bought the first round of beers. We had lawn seats, so I waded through the crowd and found him sitting. We enjoyed the beers and the music. Everything was going well. He got up to get us another round. This would have been my third beer in almost as many hours. I can and have drunk far more heavily than that without any issue. 

A Tragic Turn of Events

After this second round of beers at the concert, I began to feel sick and sleepy. I felt out of control of my own body. I remember stumbling across the lawn to the bathroom, where I tried to throw up. I worried about what my date might be thinking. Was I a bad date? Was I drunk? If I throw up, won’t I smell like puke? He’s going to think I’m the worst date ever. All of these thoughts were running through my head. 

I made it back to our seats and remember falling asleep on the grass. I guess he was able to wake me and carry me to the car. That part isn’t clear. I remember feeling sick in the car, and he pulled over for me to throw up. I thought he was taking me home. I was wrong. We pulled up to a building, and I threw up again in the bushes out front. That’s the last thing I remember from that night. 

The next morning, I woke up in a strange room, in a strange bed. I was naked and alone. It didn’t take a detective to know what had happened to me while I was passed out. I felt sick to my stomach, but then I suddenly felt a huge sense of relief. I was still alive. This story could have had a very different ending.

My phone, keys and wallet were on the nightstand with a note on where to find my car, in case I had forgotten. I didn’t even know where I was, so I had to open up a maps app to see. I was 45 minutes from home on the far west side of town. But I was alive, so I gathered my things and called an Uber. 

During that ride, I decided that there was no way I could report what had happened to me. They would never believe me. I was on a date, willingly. I had been drinking. Although I hadn’t drank a ton, I suspected that would probably come into play. I was embarrassed that I would have to explain that I had been on a date with a complete stranger that I met on a dating app. They would probably say it was my fault from there, right?

What I should have been thinking about was the fact that they could do a drug test at the hospital and see if I had been drugged. They could perform an exam and use a rape kit. I would have the evidence I needed to go to the police and report this crime, despite not remembering what happened. But I didn’t. Fear took over and I just decided to move on. 

Changing the Narrative

So now what?

I had never shared this story before I tweeted a thread last week after the Watson verdict with the basic details of what happened to me that night. As I’ve mentioned, it’s just a sensitive subject. The purpose of that tweet thread and this column are to bring attention to the fact that this happens to more women (and men) than you know. There are likely people in your immediate circle who are survivors of a sexual assault and they’ve never told another soul about it. They were ashamed, embarrassed and scared they wouldn’t be believed. 

It’s long past the time to change this. We need to get better at believing women. This doesn’t mean that the accused shouldn’t get a fair shake; they’re still innocent until proven guilty, but the story of the accuser needs to be taken as true and worthy of investigation rather than dismissed by default. We need to stop victim-blaming and shaming. What a woman wears, drinks, smokes or where she goes does not equal consent. The only thing that equals consent is a verbal “yes.” 

Taking Back Power & Finding Freedom

Only a handful of people victim-blamed me on Twitter when I shared my story. I was fearful that there would be far more, but the power of the positive community I had built came shining through. They understood that the fact that I had used a dating app to meet a stranger at a bar and had some drinks with them did not give them permission to drug, kidnap and sexually assault me. I did not put myself in that situation. I am not a victim. I am a survivor. 

I’m not writing all of this to say that Watson is guilty. I’m writing this and sharing my story because we should be paying attention to patterns like his and paying attention to the women around us. Men who assault women establish a pattern. They know where to find their victims and how to manipulate them, whether through an imbalance of power, the use of drugs or even brute force. What they have in common is the fear and shame that they hold over their victims. They feel bold enough to continue this pattern until one (or multiple women) are brave enough to speak out. 

I have recovered from this “fumble.” I’ve grown stronger and wiser. This experience, while the most awful of my life, has allowed me to help others. By sharing my story, I’m taking back my power. I had taken back my power long ago, but this was the last bit of fear I had left. And now… I’m free. 

If you or someone you know was sexually assaulted and needs someone to talk to, my Direct Messages (DMs) are open. You are not alone. And if you are someone who had no idea that this kind of thing was so prevalent, you can start to be an ally. Believe women. Stop lewd discussions among the boys. Intervene if you see something that doesn’t look quite right when you’re out at the bar.

Thank you for reading. I doubt my next piece will be this heavy, but I had to write this. xo, @KellyInPhoenix