We live in an age where rape culture has become “normal,” and victims are accused of being at fault for whatever happened to them.
In the words of Dan Turner, father of Stanford rapist Brock Turner, the victim of his sexual animosity was merely “20 minutes of action.”
In an article titled “I Didn’t Tell,” public figure Kristina Kuzmic opens up about a time when a man she’d trusted forced himself onto her.
As she explains it, the decision to be open about the subject came around the time a handful of victims accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault. As Kristina remembers it, “the most common question early on wasn’t: ‘How could he do something so horrible?’ Instead, the question people seemed to be asking was: ‘Why should we believe these women when they didn’t bother speaking up right away?’”
Kristina says she believed them.
That’s because, unfortunately, she’s been in their shoes.
About 10 years prior to her writing about her experience, Kristina was enduring one of the toughest times of her life. A mom to two young children — both under the age of three — Kristina had just decided to leave her marriage.
“I hadn’t even moved out yet. I didn’t know where to go or how I’d pay for it.”
It was during this season of “starting over,” that a friend suggested she take an acting class.
“Your college degree is in theater,” she recalls her friend saying. “You never know what types of connections you might build through this class. I know you’re going through a lot right now, but I think it’d be good for you.”
Eventually, she took her advice, and the acting class wound up being an excellent “escape” from the day-to-day stress of stay-at-home, separated-mom life.
By the end of the semester, Kristina had been contacted by one of the talent managers who’d seen her final presentation.
“Wow, a talent manager believed I could get television and film work. I was flattered and hopeful that maybe if I actually booked some work, it would make my post-divorce life a bit easier, at least financially.”
After signing a “lengthy contract,” Kristina and her new talent manager had a few regular meetings to map out the trajectory of her career. Their interactions were purely professional, and Kristina felt comfortable trusting him with career decisions.
Or so she thought.
One night after having a meeting with her manager at “one of those fancy, high-rise buildings in Los Angeles,” he asked Kristina if she could give him a ride to a dinner meeting he’d scheduled right after.
“He had taken a taxi to our meeting and his next destination was on my way home, so it didn’t seem like a big deal to just drop him off. We got in my car and continued our business-related conversation.”
But then things changed.
“Once we got into the typical, annoying Los Angeles traffic, completely out of the blue, he placed his hand on my inner thigh and then grabbed my crotch. I screamed, ‘What are you doing? No!’”
While still controlling the vehicle, Kristina tried to pull his hand off of her, but she couldn’t.
“He was stronger and bigger and free, while I was still trying to control a car, unable to pull over due to all the other cars surrounding me.”
In no time, both of his hands were rubbing up on her — groping and massaging her body like he had the right to.
“His seat belt was off and he was leaning in close to me. I pushed and yelled, ‘We’re going to get into a car accident! Get off of me now!’”
Kristina says nothing she did phased him.
“He acted like he owned me. Like I was just a body with no voice, no say, no feelings.” She continues, “He had no fear as he arrogantly and very calmly said, ‘You’re enjoying it. You know you are.’”
Frantically searching for a way to pull over and stop everything from escalating further than it already had, Kristina was able to bring the car to a halt on the side of the road. She demanded he get out, and thankfully he did so.
“As I drove off, my entire body was shaking. I was in shock. What had just happened? And why in the world did he think this was okay? And could I have done more to stop him immediately? And thank goodness he wasn’t the one driving the car. He could have taken me somewhere and raped me. Did I say or do something in the previous few weeks to make him think I wanted this? What. Just. Happened?
I felt like garbage. I felt empty. Numb.”
When she drove back to the apartment she still shared with her soon-to-be ex-husband at the time, Kristina stayed silent. She said nothing to him about what that man had just done to her in her own vehicle.
“The next morning, I sat down and drafted a letter to my manager stating that I was breaking our business contract due to his sexual assault of me. I wanted those words ‘sexual assault’ in writing. I wanted him to know that I wasn’t oblivious to what had just happened and how serious it was. I wanted him to know that, no, I wasn’t enjoying it. I didn’t want it!”
After mailing the letter the following day, Kristina had every intention of reporting the assault at the police station. But when she arrived, she froze in her car.
“It’s going to be my word against his. I can’t prove it. And I’m about to leave my husband. Could this affect my divorce proceedings? What if he accuses me of having an affair with him? And now that I know how arrogant and brash he is, what else is he capable of? What might he do to retaliate? He has money. He has power. I have nothing. Nothing except for my word. Is my word enough?”
For over an hour, she sat outside of the police station, contemplating her next move. Until finally, she drove away.
She didn’t tell a soul.
“I didn’t tell my friends or family. I didn’t tell anyone. I was embarrassed that I had even put myself in a situation where I was alone in a car with a man I barely knew. I was embarrassed that I didn’t punch him, or somehow have the strength to push him off of me. And after some time, I was embarrassed that I hadn’t reported it.”
The normally “strong” and “outspoken” woman that she is, Kristina felt like she’d done something wrong. The victim of sexual assault, now feeling as though she was at fault for what had happened to her.
“Looking back, I wish I had immediately told a friend. I wish I had asked that friend to take me to the police station, and make me get out of the car, and hold my hand, and remind me as many times as necessary that my word is enough. That my body and my dignity and the truth are worth more than his money and his power and anyone’s doubts.”
If you or someone you know is suffering in silence as the victim of sexual assault or abuse, please TELL someone.
Visit avoicefortheinnocent.com, or contact your local police department for more information.
No woman should ever feel powerless over her own body. I’m thankful for women like Kristina, who are brave enough to share their stories in hopes of helping someone else.