While it’s beyond heartbreaking to see how many women have shared a “Me too” along with stories of their sexual assaults on Facebook within the past few days, there’s also a sense of empowerment in talking about experiences that so many of us have kept secret for so long. We’re all beginning to realize that we are not alone in our traumas.
I’d like to believe the “Me too” movement is shedding some light on this huge issue to the population of males who may not have realized just how many women have been assaulted. Too many women have become numb to harassment. “It’s just a part of life,” I saw one comment say. “It shouldn’t be, but it is.” It’s easy for a woman to understand that every other woman she knows has been sexually harassed or assaulted at some point in her life, but the amount of men I’ve seen shocked by these posts just proves that the scope of the issue needs to be brought to light.
I’ve always hesitated in sharing stories of my own sexual assaults because I know other women have had it so much worse. I’ve never felt like a victim, and I’ve never wanted pity. But that’s not the point. The point is that all of our experiences are valid, and they are ours. We shouldn’t be ashamed to talk about them, no matter how “unimportant” we may think they are in comparison to others.
I shared my experiences for the first time a few nights ago because I felt empowered by all the other women I saw unafraid to share their “Me too” stories.
I was probably about 7 years old when my cousin first stuck his hand down my pants. We were watching a movie while all the adults were in another room, or maybe sleeping. I remember him asking if it “felt good” and telling me I should touch his too. I told him to stop. I had no idea what was happening, but I knew I didn’t like it. I’m not sure how long stuff of this nature went on, but it was definitely a while because I remember my parents sitting me down one night to tell me not to kiss him. I was annoyed, but again, I don’t think I knew what was going on. I don’t think they ever really did either.
Then in college I went to a party with a guy I’d sort of grown up with but hadn’t kept in contact with at all. This was our second time ever really hanging out. I was dating a guy long distance, and he had a long distance girlfriend too. We got way too drunk. I puked, almost fell down a hill, and needed to be dragged away from the party while screaming profanities at everyone. I definitely blacked out a few times throughout the night.
I remember walking back to the house I was crashing at with a huge group of guys, and he would stop me while the group walked ahead so he could reach his hand down my pants and kiss me. I was too drunk to do anything about it. Then I remember sharing an air mattress with him and he’s doing the same thing again. The only idea my drunk brain could muster to get him to stop was repeating over and over, “You love your girlfriend, don’t you? Don’t you want to marry her?” He responded with, “But you’re so hot. I want you. Doesn’t it feel good?”
He apologized the next day, but I told him I’d never trust him again, so that was the end of that.
I’ve been a little more ashamed to share a story that happened about a year ago, because I feel like I was toeing the line of “asking for it.” I used a guy I had just met for alcohol and backstage passes to a show, and after the bar later that night, I got in his Uber back to his place against my better judgment. I was drunk, I wanted him to pay for my Uber home, and he swore he wouldn’t try anything. I should have seen it coming that that was a lie, but luckily I was able to sober up enough to get myself out of there before it became worse than yet another unwanted hand down my pants.
But does that mean I was “asking for it?” That’s a big fear survivors often face when discussing their experiences. The questions of: Was it really assault if I was at his house? And I was knowingly using him earlier in the night? Will anyone blame me for that?
Or worse, does that discount the credibility of my earlier assaults?
No. If consent is not given, it’s not given, and that should be the end of it.
I’m weirdly at peace with all that’s been done to me. I consider myself lucky that these assaults went no further than they did. And I know I’m lucky to have walked away from them with the only scar being the fact that I get jumpy when a guy touches me and I’m not expecting it.
Isn’t that part of the problem, though? Diminishing our own experiences because sexual assault is such a normal occurrence in today’s society? I shouldn’t be okay with all that’s been done to me. I shouldn’t even shrug off the catcalls, let alone hands where they don’t belong. What kind of world do we live in where women everywhere choose to be silent just because others have had it worse? None of it should be happening.
But the truth is that some women really do have it worse. A lot of these women posting “Me too”—and some choosing to post nothing at all—have not been as lucky as I consider myself. And many still aren’t ready to share their stories. That’s their right to decide, but we shouldn’t forget they exist too. These traumas are extremely personal, and no survivor owes you an explanation for anything. We all cope differently.
However, this movement has finally given me the courage to share my own experiences, and the outpouring of love I was met with was unbelievable. Friends and strangers alike reached out to thank me for sharing my story, and some shared their stories with me as well. And for that, I’m thankful for the “Me too” movement for sparking discussion. Let’s kill the stigma associated with talking about sexual assault, so one day soon we can kill sexual assault itself.
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