A more condensed version of this story originally appeared as a Facebook post on Brandilyn Lyon’s personal wall. Brandilyn is a write-in democratic candidate for the 65th legislative district of Pennsylvania, whose primaries are on May 15th. She works as an Early Learning Teacher at her local YMCA with concentrations on gym class, band, and selling the children on the existence of a 7.5 ft tall green T. Rex named Tina. Her favorite color is green, favorite Ninja Turtle is Raphael, and her favorite center is magnetics.
There is a well known secret I carry with me every day. It has affected every moment of nearly 3 years of my life and shapes all of the answers to questions people ask me. And I can’t talk about it. I mean, I really shouldn’t; boundaries and all.
And in the vein of speaking my truth and not to be stated in vain, a story of a time my boundaries were not respected and the thereafter.
#triggerwarnings for descriptions of violent sexual assault and the 3 years of life that followed
On February 26, 2015, I signed the deed to my first home. I had a healthy amount of support and resistance to the endeavor and at the end of the day I felt good about being a single, female homeowner.
In May of 2015, barely 2 months after signing the deed to my new home, I was violently sexually assaulted on the back porch. In the light of the moon and garage motion lights as an added safety feature, a man rejected my goodnight and request to never see him again by pushing my fence in on me, pinning me against my porch, ignoring my cries of, “NO! I said no!” kicks, struggles, and Jack crying for his mom from inside the house, less than 2ft away.
I don’t know what happened next; dissociating is the act of saving yourself from the events of the moment so you can spend the rest of your life agonizing over what could have happened. That’s not from the DSM and it’s accurate.
I would seek almost immediate support at a Safe Place. I was in regular counseling and it became a well tracked area of my life. I tried to move on with my new home. I’d just invested most of my money and all of my hopes and dreams in to a physical root system to help me feel safe and stable.
It seemed like a good idea at the time, for many reasons, not the least of which was I’d just made a 30 year commitment. You don’t sell out so soon just because a little bit of violent, sexual assault! You suck it up and paint, god dammit! You decorate the trauma house!
When I informed my psychiatrist, a local and oft seen doctor, about the assault he said, “What do you expect? Drinking lowers your inhibitions. You were drinking. This wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t been drinking.” and shamed me for not reporting it, because, “He could be out there doing that to someone else and it’s going to happen because you didn’t report it!” Later, I would share this experience with his nurse, who would tell me, “That doesn’t sound like my-doctor-I-work-for — you must have misunderstood,” and encouraged me to speak to him and find out what he really meant by saying those terrible things.
By Spring, 2016 I was turning in “quality work” that was “near flawless” at my job and had received other full bodied compliments on my 2015 performance review. I resigned from that job because I absolutely could not deal my role in customer service and life at the same time. I chose life. I used my newly repadded savings to write my own paycheck for as long as I could whilst working a job that didn’t eat my personal soul for 2nd breakfast.
I spent the summer of 2016 slinging BBQ and cutting back on drinking. Everyone has that moment when they really realize it’s a problem. If you’re like me, you have 18-47 of them. Every time I tried to change some behavior positively and maybe also made another worse. Bad choices.
The election hit me pretty heavily. Donald Trump is, as every woman in #Murica understands, the ultimate domestic violence PTSD trigger. It wasn’t even that Hilary Clinton lost. I could live with that. I absolutely could not live with Donald Trump being President. It’s like finding out the guy who sexually assaulted you was moonlighting as a bouncer at a local bar — you know it’s not okay and you don’t know how to move on with the rest of your life. You make some more bad choices.
When prime prime meat season was over I was introduced to a bright and lively FB job ad for a local preschool! Toddlers are an excellent break from adults. When playing hard and working hard are the same thing? You feel like you deserve to nap hard with the rest of them.
I liked to joke, it’s been said you learn everything you need to know in kindergarten. If I am gonna start over I might as well learn everything I need to know in preschool, the new kindergarten!
On a bright and sunny Tuesday late in the summer of 2017, I missed the bus to the field trip. The Friday before I had seen my attacker at a local softball game and was moving at a different speed than I’d hoped to. I drove myself late and incited nature. One of my favorite buddies grabbed my hand and said, “Miss Brandilyn! Come do something fun!” and took off running down a pretty solid incline. I nearly rolled along with him, quick stepping to a stop at the bottom, and said, “Where are we going, buddy?!” “Right here,” he exclaims. “Wasn’t that fun?!” and I realize that running down the hill was THE fun thing we had to do. When was the last time you ran to no where for fun?
It was on that day in August, after over two years of life spiraling in every which direction, incredible amounts of alcohol, saying “yes” early to avoid finding out what would happen if I said no, finding myself in psychiatric inpatient care 2 times, being triggered by seeing my attacker, and inspired to keep going by the children I work with, I reported the assault to the local authorities.
Doing their jobs the best way they know how, I was interrogated for hours by several different men about my own sexual assault. I originally asked for a woman and not only wasn’t there one to send, I was advised “women officers aren’t always better.”
If there’s ever a question you’ve heard gets asked, I got asked it. If you ever wonder what it’s like living life preparing for your next interrogation by looking at every situation like you’re going to have to explain the choice you made and exactly why, then explain why you didn’t make the other choice…where did that even start? Keeping up with analyzing the minutia of everything you say and do to prepare for being asked in extreme detail about it later is enough to make me run on a sentence.
It was shortly after Christmas, 2017, I decided to run for State Representative. A few friends who have known me for an average 2 decades gave the idea their endorsement after a college friend from WV talked me in to it. I asked about the potential for being engaged in a sexual assault case and running for office at the same time. We agreed; is there really a good time to do any of those things? I would later say, “Ask Joe Biden how he feels about beau’ing out of the 2016 presidential election.” While a choice any person can respect, knowing the man the way I believe I do in my heart, he would encourage me toward any action I felt capable of.
In January of 2018 I would be informed, given the current investigation status of my case, there wasn’t a chance in hell of receiving justice in a court of law. I had been drinking, after all. And I did agree to let him walk me to an after party alone; that happened. And, you’re right…I’m not a victim of a violent crime until 12 people I’ve never met and haven’t had to watch me devolve over the past 3 years say I am. I did wait over 2 years to report, and there are plenty of people who don’t remember what I do exactly the way I say it happened or they weren’t there for it so they cannot possibly answer to those kinds of questions but! We’re going to need complete consensus on this one.
A week before I announced my intentions to run to the Warren County Democrats, who were seeking a candidate for the race. They weren’t expecting me on their doorstep and it’s who they got. I wasn’t expecting to be there even 6 months earlier, and it’s where I was.
I gave them a pitch which included my participation in a sexual assault case and my acknowledgement of the difficulties it could bring to a campaign. Also that I was done living my life in shame or inaction for any reason, not the least of which were things that happened to me.
I reject the idea that I “can’t” talk about what happened because of what it is. Or that I “should” dance around the most integral part of an answer to a question when the experience empowered me to where I am and almost brought me to where I wasn’t. And has helped give me strength to move forward confidently; confident in myself and what I’m capable of. And of how these experiences, terrible and trying, make me uniquely qualified for taking on anything I choose.
I’ve taken literal and figurative pay raises and pay cuts before in attempts to help other people be more empowered, successful, and fulfilled learning from what I’ve experienced and know. I’ve endured literal and figurative beat downs and I’ve decided to stand up and say, “This is how I’ve learned.” I’ve worked harder for less. I’ve ruined relationships and ushered in unwelcome world views. I’ve renewed relationships and seen rejuvenated world views. I’ve been falling down drunk and I’ve been sober since June, 2017.
Do you believe you can change the world? #metoo