I was raped at 15.

And the details don’t matter.

Every year on March 15, I wake up with a nagging sense that it’s an important day. After a few minutes of mentally sifting through a list of friends’ and family birthdays, business meetings, and upcoming doctor appointments, it dawns on me. March 15 is the day I was raped. It was 1992 and I was an introverted 15-year-old high school student…but…wait.

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you’ll read my story and without any firsthand knowledge of the incident, you’ll decide whether or not I was actually raped, whether or not I did something to provoke it (or at the very least, whether or not I could/should have taken precautions to prevent it), even whether or not I handled it appropriately afterward.

You see, you won’t be judging the current me, you’ll be judging the 15-year old me. And while I’m fairly resilient, she’s not. How could she be? Her pre-frontal cortex is still developing. She didn’t have the mental resources to effectively navigate her sexuality, let alone endure the cruel subjectivity of an adult assessment. If you judge her and her story, you’ll be perpetuating a stigmatizing and victim-shaming dialogue about youth and rape that has been going on for far too long. The circumstances under which this incident went down didn’t matter in 1992 and they don’t matter today. The verity of rape is not dependent upon the clothes worn, the alcohol drunk, or the relationship of the individuals involved. And if we still don’t understand that, it’s time to learn.

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