The morning after it happened I was still confused. At the time I felt lucky that an upperclassman was even paying attention to a clumsy, nerdy freshman. He was older, popular and ivy league bound. That’s not the type of boy they teach you to worry about, to defend yourself from.
I trusted him, and he sexually assaulted me.
I attempted to make sense of it all yet couldn’t. I tried to tell my best friends and none of them believed me – he was on a pedestal in my small town. Fast forward a few weeks and into the rabbit hole that is depression; I lost my will to live. I took a handful of pills one day after school and was disappointed when I woke up. “Wow, I can’t even do suicide right” I thought.
The diagnosis came shortly after: Clinical Depression. As if the “clinical” part makes it go down any smoother. I spent years blaming myself for what happened that night… What if I hadn’t snuck out and gone to the party? Could it have been that my outfit was too revealing in my attempt to look older and sexy? Why didn’t I say no while he was insisting I keep drinking the concoction in that red cup? It was my fault I wasn’t strong and sober enough to push him off of me.
I’m not sure if I fully healed until college. Being in a sorority you end up in many circles. Those sister circles are filled with countless tears as sisters share the darkest parts of themselves, the ones we tend to hide from the world. We do this in an effort to understand and grow with each other as women, ultimately strengthening the bonds of friendship. It was there that I realized my story was not an isolated incident. There were more of us that had experienced sexual assault in some degree, than those of us who had not.
I was not alone anymore.
I was surrounded.
We were raised in a culture that taught us to defend ourselves from rape – to be mistrusting and on guard at all times. But, as a society we have consistently failed in holding rapists accountable and teaching people to not rape in the first place. It’s not just women either, men can be raped too.
It is women like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and my own little sister (her bravery gave me the courage to write my own truth, 13 years later) who give resilience to those who have been silenced in the past. They give us those 5 seconds of courage – just enough to come forward. It isn’t easy. It takes time. And more often than not you’re met with ignorance and persecution while attempting to prevent your attacker from taking another victim. That’s the irony in coming forward, it is the victim that ends up getting hurt again reliving the trauma and dealing with the fall out. The #MeToo movement has lost its sense of urgency but it has not lost its sense of importance.
I’m not angry anymore. I’m not blaming myself anymore.
I’m fired up.
And I hope you are, too.