I have debated writing this and posting it. The whole hashtag movement in general I have a love hate relationship with. People see it, participate in it and think they have actually done something worthwhile towards a problem. On the other hand, conversations happen and those conversations can bring about change.
I was on Facebook when I first started to see this emerge. I posted “me too” as well, but before I did, I made sure to block everyone on my friends list who was related to me, either by blood or marriage. You see, none of them know except my husband.
I was 14 and in the eighth grade when it happened. I never called it a sexual assault until about fifteen years ago when I was talking with a therapist and she called it what it was. Even writing this now, there is so much emotion and anxiety but I have been obsessing about getting this off my chest since this movement came about.
I am not going to get in the actual physical details of what happened. What I will explain is the scar that has been left. How to this day, even with some help, I still blame myself. How there is effects on my relationship with my husband and how it causes me great anxiety in raising my own daughter and being a part of my nieces lives.
This person not only sexually assaulted me. About six or eight months prior, he physically assaulted me as well. He was about 17 at the time and recently moved into the neighborhood. My friends and I were hanging out before I needed to go babysit. We were being our normal, obnoxious, loud selves sitting in my driveway. My friends had left and my parents were gone. I was sitting in my living room, playing the piano, waiting for my ride when the doorbell rang. This guy was at the bottom of my steps. I walked out onto the top step. He was yelling at me, about why I was yelling at him and his mom. I tried to explain we weren’t when he came up the steps and punched me in the face.
I told the woman who picked up to babysit what happened. She asked if I told my parents. I said no and explained they were not home. She took me to her house, got me some ice and asked if I was still okay to babysit. I said yes. She suggested I keep trying to call my parents to tell them what happened. I never did. I just had a fat lip and felt I could hide it.
School started and one of my classmates who lived in the area was hanging with this guy. I never really fit in with the kids in my private school. I had my good friends but I was very different from 98% of them. I didn’t like the same music, I didn’t dress the same way and this was something I embraced but struggled with. All around me everyone was dating everyone else but no one had an interest in me. This led to me having really poor self-esteem. I was already the “fat” one in the class. I had such a distorted view of how I looked which is why I tended to drift away from the mainstream everyone else was attached too. I was already identified as different so I might as well build on it right?
In the spring, that classmate that was friends with the guy down the block from me had told me he said I was cute. I gave him permission to give him my phone number. Now take a minute to think about that. A guy who physically assaulted me, show interest and I was willing to still give him my number. This is how low my self-esteem was. This is one of the things I struggle with. So keep this in your mind as you read further.
This guy called me a few times on the phone and he made very sexually explicit comments that I was too young and too naive to take seriously. One day, before a basketball game, I went over to his house. I spent about 45 minutes there and what happened left me confused. I said no. I said I wasn’t sure about this. I said I really didn’t want to do it but it still happened. Things didn’t sit right but I didn’t really understand what happened. I was still a virgin but my innocence was taken away from me. I felt dirty but I also thought maybe what happened was what all the kids I saw my age with their boyfriends were doing. I didn’t say anything to anyone and just tried to push it to the back of my mind, hoping I would forget about it. But here I am, 25 years later, still thinking about it and still sick to my stomach.
The first time I ever told someone was when I was about one year into a relationship with my now husband when we were about twenty years old. I still didn’t call it sexual assault. You see, I blame myself. Notice I do not say that in the past tense. This is what I struggle with. There were all the signs that this person was dangerous but I still put myself in that position. I struggled so much with my self-image that I thought this person was all I would get. I wanted to fit in and be like all the other girls I saw in my school, holding hands with boys and stealing kisses that I walked into this with eye wide shut.
Now I get it. Therapists have told me in the past that it wasn’t my fault and that I was taken advantage of. I get that; I really do. What physically happened to my body was not my fault but I did allow my self-worth to be defined by what was happening around me. I felt less because I didn’t have what other girls my age had. I never fit in with them and I acted like it was in big deal but deep down, there were parts that I DID want to fit in with. I thought I was stronger than to let these things influence me and in the end, I wasn’t. No amount of therapy will help me get over this. The few people who I have told do not see it this way and I realize that no one really sees it that way but this is how I see it.
After that incident I spiraled pretty far. Where I was confident enough to speak up and question things, I grew quiet. Where I was happy, I became depressed. Where I was hopeful, I became cynical. I turned to food, tobacco and pot. I was no longer recognizable to myself that I tried twice to take my life.
At the end of the day that guy stole so much more from me than my innocence. He stole whatever confidence and strength I had. He stole the faith and love I had for myself. He stole my ability to ever really connect emotionally and physically with my partner in life. I am lucky because my husband understands and still loves me for who I am. It has been a slow process, but with his help, I am slowly finding my way back.
There are four young females in my life that I care deeply for; my three nieces aged 18, 15, and 9 and my own daughter aged 8. As more and more women come out with their stories of sexual harassment and assault and violence the more I get scared for these important, young females in my life. It is as if no place is safe. I feel emotional unequipped to instill in them, the tools they need to not have what happen to me, happen to them. I am angered that I even HAVE to think of ways to try and communicate with them how to keep them safe and how to keep their head held high to speak up against behaviors and comments that perpetrate rape culture. I struggle with feeling like a hypocrite at times too, because I feel as if I talk a big talk, but when it came down to it, I could not hold strong myself. I also struggle with not wanting to mentor and parent from a place of fear just because of what happened to me. All I know is I never want them to have to say #MeToo, but the reality is if things do not change soon, more than likely they will and this shatters my heart.
My hope in writing this and sharing this is that I will somehow be able to free myself from the guilt I have placed on myself. I pray that by speaking my truth, I will gain my power back. I want to move forward, and I pray that this will give me the ability to rebuild my confidence in so I can be a better mother and aunt to those four amazing young ladies in my life. For too long, what happened to me has infiltrated my thoughts and robbed me of my happiness and left me depressed. Hopefully #MeToo can turn things back around to the goodness and joy that is still found in this world.