“Me, too” — to me.
The first time it happened, I was 8 years old. The first time I realized that I had been molested several times throughout my childhood, I was 12. The first time I told someone about it, I was 18 and in college.
Growing up, I watched sexual assault and domestic violence from all angles of my crib. It was a part of the nightly routine in my household. Watch dad come home drunk. Watch dad try and break down every door in the house when mom has locked them for safety. Watch dad break doors and furniture. Watch dad throw and drag mom across the wooden floor. Watch dad punch mom in the face. Watch dad grab mom by the hair and throw her on the bed. Watch dad as he’s forcing himself on mom as she cries. Watch dad eventually tire. Watch mom cry more. Watch mom leave the room once dad is asleep. Fall asleep myself. Wake up to mom looking a little beat up but never so wounded that it felt apart from the norm. Gab obnoxiously to mom in the car on the way to school about how much better my English is than everyone else’s. She never really talked back on those rides.
As a child, I always knew it was wrong to hit another human being and make them cry, but never the feeling of being violently robbed of your humanness by someone who’s face is so familiar that it takes only a split second to imagine. Maybe that’s the reason it took so long for me to realize I had been sexually assaulted. He was never violent like my dad. It was discrete and never left behind bruises. It didn’t happen regularly. I thought it was normal. I didn’t know that I was being poked and prodded like something without life, sense or soul. Isn’t that pathetic? I thought it was normal.
I’m 24 now. I’ve been in one longterm and loving relationship with a man and have several other notches on my bedpost. I went to Cal and graduated with the most self-righteous but brilliant liberal assholes. I use empathy on a daily basis to design digital experiences for the strangest and most delightful group of people to cater to in the world. I don’t think I’m any more broken than anyone else? I’m exactly where I want to be in life. I’m happy, almost.
Last night, countless “Me, too”-s flooded my Facebook newsfeed. Was it surprising? No. Did each status post feel like a sharp and saddening reminder of how cruel the world can be? Yes. Did I cry? No shit. Did I down the extra beers I meant to save for the coming week? Absolutely. Did I feel any less lonely? Oddly no. For the first time in my life, I feel a genuine need to write, to process my sexual assault. I need to understand why I still feel so damn alone in spite of the fact that there are layers of overlapping details in our stories and realities as survivors of this most emotionally-wrecking and taking form of robbery.
There are so many different ways you can hurt a person. We do this on a regular basis. We’re human, and while most of us mean well, we do truly terrible things to ourselves and one another. In my experience, time has healed most things. It has cured heartbreak, hangovers, manic spouts of depression, and the list miraculously goes on. There are people who once meant the entire world to me that never even cross my mind these days. Yet here I am — still praying for the day that a mere inkling of the thought of what happened so many years ago stops feeling like a dirty, shameful and rotting body bag that I keep in the back of my closet. That’s the thing about rape and sexual assault. While I wouldn’t say that I’m a victim or that any of this has defined the trajectory of my life, I know it will be my utmost lasting memory. Perhaps not always this sharp pain, but a pain rather dull that occasionally peaks but never forgets to greet me hello, even on the best of days. What happened didn’t break me, but it also didn’t make me stronger. I am not wiser because of sexual assault. This was not a learning experience.
Beyond the fact that this needs to stop being the norm, sexual assault needs to be a foreign nightmare so inhumane and out of this world that it stops crossing the minds of perfectly senseful people. I empathize with any being that’s had to experience this in any way, shape or form. I am so sorry that this horrible thing happened to you. I am so fucking sorry.
I’ll never know whether writing this was courageous or selfish. I’m still processing. I will be for a while. That’s the thing about sexual assault.