Why I’m Choosing to Share My Experience After All These Years. #MeToo
*Content Warning: sexual assault, rape*
I was in high school when it happened. And for years, I didn’t even realize what I had been through. It took until my first year of college, as the Me Too Movement was beginning to take off, for it to register that I had been raped, too.
Now, it may sound unbelievable, but I think most of my dissociation with the event came from the psychological need to repress any processing that would come along with trauma like that. At the time, I had “bigger” things on my plate, and I wasn’t putting myself or my mental health first like I should have. To add to this, the attacker was my own boyfriend.
So let me take us back to that day.
I was 17, and we had been dating for a few months when it happened. At that age, I was convinced that I was in love and that he, too, cared as much about me as I did about him. But he knew how I felt about having sex. I stood my ground at not wanting to lose my virginity until I was 18, something I thought would symbolize a sort of coming of age for me. And we were both very clear about that, or so I thought.
A few weeks before the event, there had been two distinct occasions of things “getting out of hand,” where he would nearly go past the line I had drawn for us without my consent. Both times, I had seen the look in his eyes, not one of love or affection, but a detached stare, almost as if he were acting on instinct. But as a young girl, in one of my first real relationships, I brushed it off and pretended like it hadn’t happened. I admit, I ignored what will probably be labelled as signs, in hindsight.
We were on a family vacation and had decided to stay up late one night to hang out and talk in our room. Everything began as usual, it didn’t seem premeditated or violent, but soon, he was taking things too far and even became aggressive. What started out as innocent kissing, led to something I was completely unprepared for. And I want to be clear on this part, because I feel like it is the first thing people will question in a story like mine, I did say no. Audibly, and multiple times.
I can vividly remember without a shadow of a doubt in my mind that I told him to stop, while he kept repeating, “it’s just a tease,” over and over again as he forced himself on me.
The instant he penetrated me, I pushed him off and cried until he snapped out of the state that seemed to overcome him. And he apologized for taking it too far. He tried to console me and convince me that he was sorry (for making me uncomfortable), but for me, it was too late. I had already made the association that I was no longer pure. I don’t think he ever realized just how shocking it was for me, as someone who had never been sexually active before, unlike himself. I didn’t get to choose, and given my beliefs regarding sexual acts and my spirituality at the time, I felt like I had already been tainted, ruined for any future encounters I had imagined for myself.
But to me, in that moment, I hadn’t thought of it as rape. I never thought of myself as a victim until I heard myself talk about what had happened to me. Rape was something cruel and inhuman. Something that could only be done by someone truly sick enough to mercilessly attack another person against their will. And I was convinced he loved me. You can’t be raped by someone who loves you, right?
And maybe he never did, but I know one thing for sure: what he did to me was not love.
But to this day, I find it hard to think of him as a malevolent or evil individual. I still struggle with the notion that maybe we were just kids and he didn’t know any better. But then again, he should have, just as everyone should. That of which I am positive.
Once I came to the conclusion that I had been assaulted, I found myself stuck between hating my abuser and still finding ways to defend him, in a sense. Though I owed him nothing, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat responsible, so I would seek ways to validate the entire ordeal. And these feelings were not easy to reason away. I would walk myself through the details of the event over and over, until every detail was crystal clear. Only then did I realize that not a single ounce of what had happened to me was my fault. Not even was I at fault because I chose to date someone who would do such a thing to me. And this point is true for anyone who has ever experienced sexual harassment, assault, abuse, or any form of intimate partner violence. It is never the victim’s fault, period. No matter what we do, what we wear, or where we wear it, there is absolutely no argument to legitimize sexual assault. And anyone who thinks otherwise should be questioned themselves.
I think it is so important to stress that sexual assault can happen to anyone at anytime, even when the abuser is your own partner, or someone you love and trust. In my experience, that fact has only made coping more difficult for me.
As we grew up over the years, both graduating from high school and moving to different cities for college, I tried to distance myself from any sign of my abuser. No contact after we broke up, no friendship on any social media, and most importantly, no mutual friends. For me, seeing him move on with his life, not even knowing what he had done to me, would have been too much. I can bet with 100% certainty that I have had his name and face occupy space in my mind many more times than mine have occupied his. At this point, he is someone I will never forget, but for all the wrong reasons. Instead of remembering my first time as something special with someone I loved, I will remember pain and discomfort. But most of all, distrust.
Today, I have reworked the way I view sexual experiences and have a better understanding of virginity as a social construct, just as many other things are. And this has only helped me to overcome the feeling of missing out on my first chance at something magical. I think many things about me would be different had I not been assaulted during such a sensitive period in my adolescence, but I try not to think about what would have been.
Looking back, I wish I had been more aware and knew what to do in my situation, especially to help myself after the fact, but I can’t say that I wish I had called out my abuser at the time. And I still don’t wish to make him publicly known. I don’t want to forever be tied to someone’s name who has delivered me such a profoundly negative experience. So I hope he doesn’t even read this post. And at this point, I definitely don’t want an apology. I don’t think it would matter to me or change anything about how I feel. I have moved on and will continue to do so. My only hope is that, in sharing my story, I will have somehow given someone else hope.
Before publishing this post, no one other than my mother and my current significant other knew the entire story. Most of my own friends do not even know about my experience. At first, I was hesitant and felt reluctance in writing this piece, fearful that people may think that it has been falsified or fabricated. But I believe in the power of speaking your truth, and times like these call for unity among survivors of sexual assault and allies more than ever. Together, we must believe them and advocate for change.
With this month being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I felt inclined to publicly share my unique, but unfortunately not uncommon, experience with sexual assault. I wanted people to know what it’s like to come to conclusions long after the event, and maybe even validate others’ feelings about sharing their own stories, no matter how long ago they took place. If you or someone you know may need assistance related to sexual assault, the National Hotline is available 24/7 for confidential calls at 1-800-656-4673 and online on their Live Chat page.
The above body of work is owned by Wallace Driggers and the author possesses the rights to revoke access or change the content of said work at any given time. For more information please contact the author at justwalli.com.
Picture from: Diamond Leadership