I see the hashtag trending on Twitter and Facebook. I am not shocked at seeing what I already know. That there are hundreds and hundreds of women just like me, many of them of whom I know that have been victims of sexual abuse. There are those, like me, that type those words into the status bar.. “Me too” and immediately delete it.
My sexual abuse trauma has not been an easy feat because for a long time, I had completely blocked it off in my mind. When I was about 4–5 years old, I was abused by a relative. At the time, I was living in El Salvador. I vaguely remember it. I just remember the physical pain I felt as I attempted to focus on the television screen playing Dragonball-Z. A few ears later, when I had a better understanding of what had happened I confessed what had happened to my mom. But she didn’t believe me. She said I must’ve imagined it. I never spoke about it to her again.
I spent years in silence. When my step-brother groped me in my sleep, he was simply told not to and whatever aftermath of feelings I felt were quickly dismissed. When a good friend of mine tried to do the same, I was afraid to speak up. I woke up the next day and pretended nothing had happened. A few weeks later, after I mustered up the courage to confess what happened to my brother, he was livid. He confronted the guy, but he denied it. He told him I couldn’t possibly be telling the truth, especially if it took me so long to speak up. He said I had acted exactly the same, who would had something like that happened? My brother began to question me. And I once again, never mentioned it again, because no one believed me. Everyone found a way to resonate with the abuser instead of me.
My dad was in and out of the picture, and my mom had raised me with another man my entire life. I trusted him blindly despite our rocky relationship. When I was 18, my mother asked him to give me a massage because I had pain in my back. He slipped his hands up my back and tried to grope my breasts as I laid on my belly. I quickly got up, told him I felt better and locked myself in my room. I didn’t tell my mom. She didn’t believe me the first time, somehow this seemed even more unbelievable. That night, I layed in the arms of my boyfriend and cried myself to sleep. I was afraid to sleep alone. Shortly after, my mom left him. But I never told her what happened.
That same boyfriend who held me while I cried myself to sleep, had to do the same a few years later. This time because of his father. We were a tumultuous pair, constantly falling apart and falling back together. One night, after a party in his house, we had sex in his brothers room and fell asleep. It was early morning when I heard a camera click as someone tried to peel me away from the blanket that covered me. I was terrified, not knowing what to do. I was afraid to open my eyes. I was afraid to scream in fear of what it could do for my boyfriends family. The camera kept clicking. I frantically pretended I was tossing and turning in my sleep. The pulls at the sheet kept coming. I curled up next to my boyfriend, desperately hoping he would wake up. He didn’t. When I finally mustered up enough courage to open my eyes, he was gone. It wasn’t until dinner that I heard the very same camera clicks coming from his dad’s camera.
I didn’t bring it up. I got drunk one night and ended up confessing what had happened to my boyfriend. He asked me why I didn’t open my eyes. He said he couldn’t ask his dad because he wasn’t sure it was him. His dad didn’t hide it. He tried to lift my skirt at a party and everyone dismissed it because he was drunk. He spent an hour pining me with questions about my sexuality once, and as much as I kept texting my boyfriend to come downstairs and get me out of the conversation, he didn’t. I didn’t realize then how dismissive he was of my pain in fear of his own.
It’s been a few years now. I tell myself that if anything like this were to happen again, I will fight. I will fight and I will scream, but still, when a man that’s been harassing me for over a year follows me off the train, my heart drops to my stomach and I shake as I pull out my camera to let him know I see him too.
It’s difficult for me to have sex. Oftentimes, I feel objectified, even when I know that’s not the case. I hardly trust men. I feel uncomfortable on the train, on the street, sometimes even in my own home. Men stare at me on the train, and sometimes, I stare back. I look at them like “I see you. This is uncomfortable, and you know it is, so why are you doing it?” Sometimes I feel so angry at how normal this is. I feel so angry at how many people feel what I feel. I feel so angry at the fact that people are shocked by this.
I too am surviving. I too am overcoming this trauma. I too live with this every day. Me too. But does it matter? Does it really change anything? Will any of this make me feel safe? It won’t. It doesn’t.