A former sports journalist for the first time publicly revealed she was raped during a work interview by a Major League Baseball player.
Kat O’Brien wrote in an essay published Sunday in The New York Times that she was attacked as she talked to the player in his hotel room some two decades ago when she was 22 years old, writing about sports for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
“I hope that by sharing my experiences, more women will feel comfortable speaking up when something is inappropriate,” O’Brien wrote. “I also hope more people working in these spaces will bring change, whether in big ways, as an executive empowered to hire more inclusively, or in small ways, speaking up when someone jokes that a woman slept her way to a job or a story.”
O’Brien said she decided to reveal her assault after New York Mets general manager Jared Porter was fired in January for sending sexually explicit texts and photos to a female reporter in 2016.
As she read accounts of other women’s experiences with sexual harassment, “the full force of my own assault hit me,” O’Brien wrote. “And with it came the relief that I actually hadn’t invited it, hadn’t done anything wrong at all, something I had never once considered.”
O’Brien said she didn’t name her attacker in her essay “because it would only open me up to the possibility of having dirt thrown on my reputation.”
The attack occurred during a 2002 interview when the player “moved suddenly to kiss me,” she wrote.
“I said, no, no, I don’t want that, but he pushed me over to the bed. I tried to shove him. I said no, stop, no, stop, over and over. He pushed further, getting on top of me, pulling off my skirt, and having sex with me against my will,” she continued.
O’Brien told no one. She felt that she had done something wrong, something to invite the attack, and was terrified that to report it would ruin her career.
“I blamed myself,” she recalled. “I must have been too nice, too trusting, too friendly and open. Even though I said no, it must have been a misunderstanding. I lived in fear the story would get out.”
The experience shattered her reality. “I didn’t date until more than four years later, I didn’t trust that intimacy. I kept people at a distance,” she said.
She also faced “smaller daily assaults” in her work, like being called “Legs” by a coach, and hearing players’ comments that she must be wearing a thong, or no underwear at all, and seeing players “feign sex acts” with the inflatable female doll in a sports manager’s office.
“A professional athlete raping a reporter isn’t a sports story,” O’Brien concluded. “It’s a story about power in our society, and how men wield it against women. One in five women is a victim of rape or attempted rape … How many of them don’t come forward?”
“I will no longer allow my life to be defined by a violent act committed by a man. Talking about it is traumatic, but not talking about it is as traumatic in a different way,” she added.
“So I leave you with my story, and the realization that my truth from all those years ago has not actually changed at all, but has finally found the sunlight.”
Check out O’Brien’s entire piece here.
Calling all HuffPost superfans!
Sign up for membership to become a founding member and help shape HuffPost’s next chapter