The overwhelming sentiment regarding Nelly’s accuser has been that “she should have known what would happen when she got on the tour bus.” And while I’m not surprised that this is the pervasive sentiment, I do want to offer some perspective, as I was once a 21 year old girl, who would have also gotten on that tour bus.
And here’s how I know:
When I was in college, a widely popular rapper performed at my campus. After the concert, my friends and I spotted the rapper and his entourage boarding their tour bus. My friends and I were all, “OMG, let’s follow it!” So we did. We ran red lights, pulled up along side the bus, followed the bus down dark and windy roads of northern Connecticut, all while laughing and joking about what might happen if we were to get on the bus. I recall we even joked about at least one of us having to “take one for the team.” “Oh yeah, for sure!” we all agreed, laughing, our eyes wide with the promise of actually getting on the bus. What fun we’d have and the stories we’d tell!
Bear in mind, none of us were all that “free” sexually. And I know for a fact, that I had no intention of actually “putting out.” In my mind, we’d get on the bus, and the rapper or rappers would think at least one of us was cute, and we’d be able to rub elbows with celebs. We might have a drink or two, and someone might “hook up” with someone, but it would all be above board and both parties would be willing. As a smart, 21-year-old college student, the idea that one of us could have or would have been asked to do something against our will never occurred to me. I wasn’t naive enough to believe that it would all be PG, I knew that wouldn’t happen, but I believed all activity would be consensual. When you’re young and star struck, you even believe in the possibility that this celebrity might like you so much that he could sweep you off your feet. Anything was possible, as far as I was concerned. And I wasn’t alone. I was with 3 or 4 other girls, and we were all smart, outgoing, caring, “good girls,”who would have willfully and foolishly gotten on that bus. And if you too were a sheltered girl from the suburbs, attending college away from home, can you say you wouldn’t have gotten on that bus? That you would have declined an opportunity to hang with one of your favorite celebs?
By the grace of God we didn’t catch that bus. But if we had, it’s likely I’d be telling a story much like Nelly’s accuser. Many women are commenting on this scenario saying things like, “she’s in if for money or she should have known…” But if we all pause and place ourselves back at 21 years old, sheltered, off at college, inexperienced with the men of the world and how they operate, the story doesn’t seem so far-fetched. While we are taught to “cover up,” especially around men and boys, and to “not sit on Uncle So and Sos lap,” we aren’t taught to have that same degree of caution around the people we see on TV. And men and boys, as we know, aren’t taught to control themselves.
If I had gotten on that bus, I can tell you with absolute certainty that I would have taken the assault. I would have survived my time on that bus as best I could, gotten off the bus as soon as I could, and if intercourse had taken place, I would have gotten the morning after pill. The next day I would have scheduled appointments for STD testing. I would have cried to my friends and close family. I might have even gone to therapy, but I would not have called the police. I would have been so ashamed of myself for having gotten on that bus in the first place that I wouldn’t have reported it to anyone. I would have believed, on some level, that by simply getting on that bus, that I would have deserved whatever happened to me. Even rape. This, friends, is rape culture. This is why the girl has withdrawn her claims (read her letter HERE). Because we live in a society that places the onus on the victim to keep herself safe from men who cannot control themselves.
I don’t know what happened. And, sure, she could be lying, but I doubt it. I wasn’t there, but I know my life as a woman in the world, and I know rape culture. Far too well.
This is the only #meetoo story I’ll be sharing. I won’t be sharing any of my others, but you should feel free to use the comment section to share your story.