GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Walking in to the Event Center, I was hit with a storm of noise and excitement. People were smiling, handing out gifts, playing card games and taking photos of themselves and one another. With all the noise, I immediately went to the back of the room and sat quietly as I tried to figure out what was going on. It was the 5th Annual Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program Girl's Night Out.
The beginning of the event was very social. Its purpose was to spread awareness about SAPR. There were booths that were set up in an aisle, so someone could walk up and down and get all the information they needed.
I heard a crackling pop come from the front speakers and turned to see Donna Casey, 17th Training Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, on a microphone gathering everyone’s attention and asking them to sit and that there would be pizza later. Then Chief Master Sgt. JoAnne S. Bass, 17th TRW Command Chief, spoke through the microphone, thanking both men and women for showing their support for the event.
Although there were games, and everyone was having fun and enjoying themselves, there was an undertone of seriousness contrasting the beginning of the event.
After a small intermission, the host came back on the microphone and asked that all males leave. They had sensitive topics to talk about. The host introduced a guest speaker named Shelly and the room went completely silent as the mood of the whole event grew apprehensive. Shelly began to talk about her life experiences involving an abusive husband and how being raped impacted her life.
After her speech, the floor opened up to any person who wanted to volunteer to share their stories. One story that struck me the most was a woman’s story about a man she met while in college. The room was dead quiet as she walked up to the lectern and prepared herself to talk. After a minute of silence, she talked about how nice the man was to her and how she trusted him. They developed a relationship and promised to save each other for marriage. She went on to say that even though she had trusted him and that they had a relationship, he raped her. She talked about how powerless he made her feel.
This story surprised me and changed how I thought about rape. I always thought it was strangers hiding in wait for someone to jump out at and attack. I never thought of the possibility that someone you might know and trust could do something so life-altering.
This entire experience not only changed my perspective about rape, but it also taught me that every person has their own struggles.