Owning Your Truth, Even The Hard Parts

When I was younger, my father told me time and time again that the internet would change the world. That the things people tried to hide could no longer be hidden and that the ignorance that comes with people being separated from one another would vanish. Communication among people would continue to increase and spread, and the world would no longer be able to turn a blind eye to the many atrocities that exist today.

And he was right.

One topic getting a lot of attention right now is sexual assault. Between pop singer Kesha’s very public lawsuit against producer Dr.Luke and Lady Gaga’s recent performance at the Oscars (where she brought 50 sexual assault survivors on stage with her) people are opening up, and sharing their experiences.

Unfortunately, there’s a shame that comes with abuse, in any form, that makes it so victims internalize their experiences and they stay silent. We feel as though we contributed to our abuse in some way, that it has branded us unworthy of love and respect, in addition to not wanting to burden those who love us with the knowledge that we’ve been hurt.

I say we at this point, because I’m also a sexual assault survivor. It’s not something I’ve shared publicly before this article, but I’ve vowed in the year 2016 to own my truth, to share more of myself publicly, and to truly work on healing. I’ve found in the small moments that I’ve been honest about certain parts of my life in a public forum, the more I’ve connected to the world around me. And that’s what I want as I move further in my life: to connect.

My story is one that you’ve likely read before. I was a college freshman just starting out the next phase of my life independently from my childhood home. I was so excited to be on my own, no rules, living freely to do as I pleased. I met a guy the first day I moved into my apartment, and being a young woman who fell in love quite easily, I was excited to latch on to his flirtatious advances. We dated for awhile (maybe a month, but at that time, that was a long term relationship) before it happened.

I remember the day very clearly, and my palms are sweating as I write this because it’s still very difficult to think about all these years later (13 to be exact). We were in my room, and I offered him some weed. I smoked a lot back then, so it was really nothing to me. He said weed made him feel weird, but smoked it anyway. He started to make advances towards me, and I let him know that I wasn’t interested at the moment. Weed has never really made me aroused. In fact, the last thing I ever really want to do when stoned is have sex. I don’t know what it is, but I’m just not into it.

He kept pushing and I’m sure I was giggling my way through it at this point because that’s what I do when I’m nervous. But when he started to take my clothes off I made it clear, again, that I wasn’t interested. The advances didn’t stop, and eventually I just gave up. I tried a few times to physically remove him from my body, but he continued, holding my wrists down so I couldn’t control the situation any more. I tried bending this thumb back to get him off of me, but it didn’t work. I remember putting my head to the side, closing my eyes and taking myself somewhere else until it was over. I wondered how someone could even stay aroused when their partner wasn’t moving or reciprocating, but it was clear that none of that mattered.

When it was over, I put my clothes back on and he turned to me and said: “Oh man. I’m so stoned. Did we just have sex? We just had sex, right? I can’t even remember, I’m so stoned.” It was at this point that I knew he realized what he’d done. He wanted validation that what happened was good, but I didn’t give him that.

He left and I immediately called my close friend to tell her what happened. I drove to her house and we sat there until I decided that I did in fact need to call the police. They arrived shortly after and I was terrified. I remember thinking they would arrest me if they knew I was stoned (it was Florida in 2002, not something you want to admit to the cops). Thankfully, my friend was able to disclose that information to them, and they reassured me I would not get in trouble if I was honest about that part of the story in the report.

I had the choice to press charges, and I didn’t. I was too afraid of the money it would cost, of trying to convince a jury that what had happened to me was even rape at all, and the emotional toll it would take on myself and my family to go through that. I hoped that by filing a report, if someone else ever came for him, it would be there. I’m not even sure that’s how it works, but that was my reasoning at the time.

The weeks following the experience were extremely difficult. My abuser was in my class, and I had to face him a few times a week. I was lucky that the same friend who spoke to the cops for me, also was my little body guard on campus. When he tried to talk to me, she told him to fuck off, and she made sure I felt safe when we had to be in the same room. If I remember correctly, he eventually dropped the class, and I didn’t see him much after that.

The years following this were spent drinking heavily, making bad decisions, dating the wrong men and unfortunately suffering more abuse at the hands of people I trusted. My self worth was at an all time low, and my behavior reflected that.

It took a long time for me to find my way back, but I eventually did. I went to therapy, stopped drinking heavily, and took care of myself. I found a partner who respected me, respected my body, and was understanding of what I had gone through and how it would effect our relationship. He’s now my husband, and the story has a very happy ending.

It’s a frightening thing to put this all on “paper” and share it with the world, but I know it’s an important thing to do. Some may feel I am oversharing, but this is part of my journey to own my truth. To be proud of every part of who I am, to learn and let go.

I hope that by telling my story, somebody feels understood. That somebody knows they are not alone. That it has happened to so many people, and we are in this together.

Your story does not define you, and every chapter is just another chance for a happy ending.

With the most sincere love, thanks for reading.