〈trigger warning: this post will have discussion about sexual assault〉
The news coming out over the past couple of days has been overwhelming. It’s been triggering, it’s been overwhelming. It’s made me hurt, it’s made me angry and it’s made me think about experiences I’ve had over the years.
It isn’t something I ever talk about publicly. It’s terrifying to think about putting this out into the world. It’s scary to open up like this. I’ve seen hundreds of women sharing their stories.
It’s my turn to speak up.
It’s my turn to share.
It’s my turn to share these stories, hoping they will reach someone to needs to hear the words:
It is not your fault.
You are not alone.
I’m a kid, sitting in my front yard almost daily. I have a circle of neighborhood friends with me. We are outside playing games, playing with Barbies, or just hanging out. It’s been this way for years – ever since my parents would let me play outside on my own, and even before then – when they’d sit on the porch or do yard work. It’s a routine, especially on the weekends.
I crave this time with my friends.
The neighbor next door is standing against his truck, beer in hand. He’s there every day I’m outside with my friends, the majority of us all girls my age. I’m constantly aware of this eyes on me – locked on me. I’m constantly aware that he’s watching me, beer in hand, shirt off most of the time.
Deep down inside of me, even at a young age, I know what he’s thinking of. I know what he wants.
In middle school, I was out running around with my friends when he called me over to talk to him.
He told me he had something he wanted to show me.
I felt that instinct, the dread, the fear rise up inside of me and I told him no. I told him no twice. He kept pushing the subject, his front door was wide open, his wife was gone to work. He was standing in the doorway basically begging and luring me to come inside.
In a moment of panic, I told him no again, that I could hear a family member calling for me and I ran. I ran as fast as I can, and as far as I could.
I didn’t tell my parents about it for years.
I was in middle school and decided to take the 10-15 minute walk to Taco Bell with one of my best friends. She had lived across the street from me for her entire life and both of our parents were divorced. She was struggling, but I was always there for her. She was staying over and my dad had left me some extra money, so we decided to walk and get ourselves something to eat and bring it home.
On our way home, a group of older high school boys decided to follow us. A couple of them wouldn’t stop talking to us, asking if we would come to their house to party. They’d ask us repeatedly. They likely ask questions I don’t even remember. They were desperate, and desperate for two young girls.
They were too close to us, pressuring us, trying to intimidate us. I gave minimal information, didn’t talk much and neither did my friend. We were together, and I knew and had learned that it was always better to be with someone than on your own.
One of the guys eventually told the others to shut the fuck up and leave us alone.
They still pushed and prodded, but after what seemed like hours – we were finally closer to home and managed to slip away.
We both knew what awaited us had we gone with them.
In high school, I repeatedly had a guy grope me after school.
He kissed me when I didn’t want it. He grabbed my breasts. He stuck his hands up my shirt.
He ran his hands down the outside of his pants, I knew what he wanted.
He was a large part of my friendship circle of that time – and after that, I felt alone.
Almost everyone saw it happen.
No one did anything.
No one said anything.
After that, no one in the circle would talk to me, much less look at me. They were mad I wouldn’t get this asshole get what he wanted. They didn’t have to say it. I knew it.
I came out my sophomore year of high school.
A few years later, a family member began to make advances on me.
I didn’t realize it at first – we were spending more time together, more errands, and I needed that. I needed that support from my family.
It got worse.
He started to make advances and one night, he closed the door to my bedroom and sat on my bed.
That same sickening feeling came back.
The next day, he hugged me in the kitchen and I stood still, tense and flat out freaked out. He told me that I didn’t know what I wanted, he told me that I didn’t know who I was. He told me that I should “experiment” before making up my mind.
He completely disregarded who I was, and not just as family.
He wanted me in ways that I never thought would happen. He wanted me in ways that were never ever okay. He wanted me in ways that still to this day make me feel like throwing up.
My entire life broke at that moment and I locked myself in my bedroom, frantically asking a friend to come get me as I packed up my essentials.
It’s been sever years since then… but it’s left its scars. It’s left me feeling dirty. It’s left me feeling unwanted. It’s left me feeling like it was my fault. It’s left me doubting myself when it happened. It’s left a level of terror inside of me and that won’t go away.
My entire life that I knew shattered that day.
It takes a lot to stand up and talk about these stories. It takes a lot of strength. It takes a lot of bravery. It means confronting memories so many of us have tried to block out for years. It takes confronting emotions and feelings that bring us right back to when it happened.
I will admit that I am honestly terrified about sharing this with the world. I don’t talk about it. It’s something I try to forget as often as I can even though it’s still there, in the back of my mind.
I also know that by sharing my story, I can help women. I can show them that they aren’t alone. I can show them that they are loved and cared about.
I can show them that there are thousands and thousands of women who stand with each of us, knowing the pain and the fear we’ve endured.
Most off all, I want you to know: it is not your fault.