This post started as something else entirely but in light of the current epidemic of sexual assault accusations flooding your TVs and timelines, I thought I’d speak up. Last month a social media movement exploded encouraging any woman who had ever been sexually assaulted or harassed to share their story or simply tweet #metoo in attempts to bring awareness to the severity of the problem in our culture.
So here’s my #metoo….
The biggest secret I’ve ever kept was one I didn’t even know was a secret to begin with. When I was 14, I was raped. My friends and I had met these guys, or should I say men considering that every one of them were over 20. We thought it’d be fun to sneak out and meet up with them. Somehow hanging out at the end of my drive way in the middle of the night with a bunch of strangers seemed like a good idea. At first the thrill of our rebellion was exhilarating, but one guy in particular was extremely fond of me. I remember we were talking and he started kissing me. The golf ball that developed in my throat stopped me from properly articulating how uncomfortable I was. I’m not sure where my friends were at this point; but there I stood stiff as board, stomach on a roller coaster ride as I tried to figure out how to make this man stop kissing me. I remember pushing him away several times and finally he took the hint. Trying to escape, I made my way back over to the group of other guys standing around the car. I stood alone when another guy came to talk to me. I think he sensed my discomfort and in all my naïveté, I thought he was trying to put me at ease. Somewhere in the midst of the conversation, he shoved me against the trunk of the car, lifted me up and let his hands begin to roam my body. I didn’t scream. I didn’t hit him. I just whispered no. It wasn’t enough. Silent tears stung my cheeks as he had his way, the first guy watching and groping his self to my violation.
I never told anyone. I blamed myself. I didn’t fight him. I didn’t try hard enough to stop it. We had snuck out. We invited them. That means I wanted it right? It took me 7 years to come to the realization that I was assaulted. I finally understood that I was just a girl, and he was a man who took advantage of my vulnerability.
The sad truth is even though this was the most severe form of sexual violation I had experienced, it wasn’t the first. Just earlier that year I had found myself in another terrifying situation. My friend and I had went to stay the night with her boyfriend. Yes we were only 14 so you may have guessed, I had snuck out again. I was left alone with a man more than twice my age as he pressured me to drink and do drugs with him. I was quickly so intoxicated that I could barely speak. My friend came back just as this grown adult man began to fondle me. She saved me from what I am positive would have been him having sex with me. That realization sickened me more than I even have words to describe to you. But I never told a soul.
I later ended up in a relationship my first serious relationship. Our relationship was a complex web of unhealthy behaviors. I didn’t fully recognize the situation as sexually abusive at first. I loved him. But even now I’m not sure that we ever knew anything about each other outside of what buttons to push, what drugs we liked and how to please each other in the bedroom. Every single time I caught him cheating, lying or whatever behavior sent us into our infamous brawls, his way of apologizing was “making love to me”. Sure many would call it make up sex. I often did too. Where the line gets blurred is just as often as it was makeup sex it was a way for him to claim me. There were times when just his touch made my skin crawl; last thing I wanted to do was be intimate with this man. But most of the time giving into his desire was a lot easier than the physical abuse I received when I withheld, so I did what he wanted. Even if what he wanted was completely opposite of what I wanted. And more often than not, it was about pleasuring him and not me.
It was during one of the most frightening moments of my life that I began to realize that our relationship was sexually manipulative. We were “broken up”. Using the guise of love to perpetuate the persuasive power he had over me, I ended up alone with him at his cousin’s apartment. Just the sight of him sent a wave of emotions pulsing through my veins. I loved him, but I hated him. He was broken and I wanted to fix him but he had destroyed me in the process. So there I was torn between the voice inside of me screaming for freedom and the voice that told me he is the only one who will ever want me. The latter was the voice that lead me there; the former was the one that made me want to leave. But what started as a desperate plea for forgiveness and reconciliation quickly turned into the most controlled form of rage I have ever witnessed. He sat in a chair in front of the door rubbing his palms together. I begged him to let me go. He told me over and over again “not until you fuck me”. I tried to push past him and he would shove me away. He never raised his voice, rather he smiled a crooked grin. Every so often he would even let a slight chuckle escape at my failed attempts to make it through the door. I still remember his eyes gleaming with a hint of victory. I remember him telling me “if we just have sex, you will remember that you love me, you will want to be with me.” I was so desperate to escape that I even attempted to climb over the balcony even though we were two stories high. He grabbed me and held me there dangling. I was certain that I would never take another breath. I was certain I would die at the hands of the man I loved. He told me I could come in the bedroom with him and he would let me walk out of the door unharmed or he would throw me over, the choice was mine. So I agreed. He lowered me to my feet and gently grabbed my shaking hand. He lead me to the bedroom and I followed, sobbing silently. I laid there. I did not move. I did not speak. I did not fight. I did not participate. I just cried. When he was finished he got dressed, kissed me on my forehead, told me he loved me and asked me to call him so he knew I made it home safely, then got angry at the fact I did not seem happy. And every dream I had about being in control of my own life, my own body was completely shattered.
These things will be a part of me forever. I was young. They shaped how I viewed myself, how I viewed sex. They shook me to my very core and altered the course of my life in a way I never could have imagined. But I have learned to cope. I have learned to move forward. I have found peace.
But what still saddens me is the fact we live in a culture where I was too afraid to speak up. I know now that the 2 adult men would have been prosecuted no matter my role in the situation. Yet justice wasn’t what I thought I’d get. I thought I’d get called a slut. I thought people would say it was my fault because in both circumstances I had snuck out. In both circumstances I had put myself with these predators voluntarily. Why were those the scenarios society had embedded in my brain? Why had I been conditioned to believe I wouldn’t have been heard or taken seriously? And I just knew there wasn’t a soul in this world who would understand that my boyfriend had raped me. He was my BOYFRIEND. We had a consensual sexual relationship. And now he “raped” me just because we wee fighting? No one would see it that way. Did I see it that way? I did. But because at the time I couldn’t speak up, all of these men still walk around with their freedom. And I wish I would have had the bravery back then that I do now.
So when the #metoo movement started, I courageously posted and tweeted my hashtag. I’ve never hidden that sexual abuse was a part of my story, I’ve just never detailed it. My news feeds were filled with women who had experienced some form of sexual misconduct and I was in awe of the bravery. Then I saw it. One of my closest friends had posted a #metoo. This girl was a rock to me. For years we had shared every detail about our lives with each other. We had cried together, laughed together, went through breakups and make ups and even had a few questionable (and maybe not entirely legal) adventures together. But, I. had. No. idea. Of every secret she ever told me, this one may have been the biggest. And she had held it in. I never asked her because if she wanted to tell me she would have. But knowing that sometimes even the people we are closest to will carry their secret around for the rest of their life just confirmed how embedded sexual abuse is in our culture. And so I decided to share my story, like actually share it.
So to every single lady suffering, hurting, healing in silence, we are here for you. You do not have to sit and wonder what you did wrong because you did nothing. You do not have to question your worth because you are valuable beyond measure. You might not believe it, but you are loved. You beautiful, are the daughter of a KING. You do not have to wonder if this was the universe’s twisted form of karma getting back at you because nothing, and I mean NOTHING, you’ve ever done would cause you to deserve it. It was not and will never be your fault.
And to those who have found some source of strength and bravery to give voice to their story, thank you. Thank you for your outstanding display of courage. My prayer is your voices, OUR VOICES, will be what society needs to acknowledge the problem. That your stories will force men, legislation, other woman, our culture and the world to see our value and understand the damage that such abuse causes. They will see it was not our fault and they will fight with us, fight for us.
And to every single woman who has ever experienced any form of sexual abuse, harassment, assault or misconduct. Do not let it define you. DO not let it stop you. You are never alone. Well, because #metoo