speaking your truth + sexual assault story

In a car, on my walk home from school and in front of our friends. The first time I didn’t know any better, the second my best friend didn’t believe me and no one failed to remind me that it happened weeks ago! If I had to narrow it down to the most vivid moments that I have been either sexually or verbally assaulted, it would have to be those three moments. All were people that I knew (or at least thought I knew) and all in places I had been in a million times before. In the middle of the day, in plain sight, with a 0.00% blood alcohol level (if it really matters). Every time I told someone; every time no one did anything. Looking back, I don’t think I knew what to do so I would tell anyone else in the hopes that they would know what to do. If they did nothing, I just dropped it. I dropped it like he merely lost his footing, tripped and bumped into me. Like he accidentally nudged my shoulder in a crowded hallway. I dropped it like it was a first strike in a series of never ending strikes. I dropped it like I had no other option but to drop it, like everyone was waiting on me to get over it already. So I obliged, in an effort to keep our friend group together; I smiled, ate lunch across him and shared my homework. Back then I felt nothing. Not angry, not sad, not distracted, not anxious, not fearful. I was actually fine. In other words I didn’t know any better, hence, any other way to feel but perfectly “fine”. Looking back I’m disgusted and angry. Not mad that it happened, but angry that I let it slide. Angry that we all just acted (and I allowed everyone to act) like it didn’t happen, because it did! Angry because my sisters (and my little brothers) know better but I didn’t do better for myself. Point is, I will always regret not doing anything. Despite the stigma, despite people thinking I was being extra for not wanting to be in the same room as him, despite making other people uncomfortable with my truth, despite it being compared to worse case scenarios, I would take that any day then to look back after all these years and know that I am the one who let me down. I’m the one who didn’t speak her truth.

Enough of that, it’s not like we can go in the past and knee anyone in the balls so we put it in the past and move on. We forgive ourselves and move on. And I mean move on gracefully. Not by making excuses for him/her or naming all the things you did wrong, but by moving on because you need it. This blog post (that’s taking a little to long to start) is about speaking your truth. 1 in 3 women are sexually assaulted and sadly it’s almost like a sick unwritten rite of passage into womanhood. It’s something you know is going to happen sooner or later and all we have are pepper-spray bottles on our keychains, last summer’s Krav Maga lessons, each other and our voices.

How to find peace after trauma:

1. Knowing your truth

My little brothers, who are now 9 and 12, had the talk about “good touch” and “bad touch” a couple years back. We gave them made-up scenarios and asked them if this sort of action or speech was appropriate coming from their babysitters, teachers, coaches, relatives etc. They are well aware of what is appropriate and what isn’t. They are aware of what to do when someone makes them uncomfortable or unsafe vis-versa. They understand that they deserve to be stood up for. They obviously have a better understanding then I did at 14, 15 and 17 tbh. Know that it happened, know that it was wrong and don’t make up excuses for their actions. The “at least he didn’t rape you” or “at least you’re still alive” or “at least it was only once” doesn’t trump the trauma. If someone makes continuously uncomfortable, know that you deserve better and don’t sweep it under the rug or you’ll have dust bunnies because you can’t seem to listen to yourself and draw the line. Sexual Assualt is any unwanted touching, kissing, advancements etc. It's anything that makes you uncomfortable and unsteady in your environment as well as in your own body.

2. Speaking your truth

This part takes some serious backbone. After realizing that “hey, that was wrong”, you're in the place of what do I do, where do I go, who do I tell? Not everyone knows what to do, not everyone cares and not everyone believes you. Not everyone can stomach the fact that someone they know would do that. Not everyone will join you in being a buzzkill aka telling the truth. So this is why YOU alone have to know your truth and hold on to it. YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE YOU. You have to know that even after telling your mom, bestfriend, boyfriend, friend, stranger at the bus stop, councillor, roommate that you have to be your biggest advocate.

3. Acting on your truth

You decide what happens after this. Do you confront them? Do you avoid them? Do you report it? Do you hang out with less guys/people? Do you see start seeing a counselor? Do you take a break? Only you know what works for your life. I wish I could tell everyone to confront their aggressor or report it, but not everyone has the luxury of doing so, even if they wanted to. Do what works for you, do what feels safe for you. If you decide to be vocal about it come to that conclusion on your own for your own benefit.

To know better is to do better. To know what consent looks like is to respect one’s autonomy. To assume, to coerce, to force, to ignore boundaries, to have alternative motives and just make light of a serious situation just makes you a crappy human being. Why? BECAUSE I DIDN’T SIGN UP FOR THIS. But what I did sign up for was a first date or first base or a study date, a walk/drive home anything but being felt up. Anything but what I agreed to, anything then what I said. Again to know better is to do better. Know what your boundaries and vocalize them. Know when they’ve been crossed purposefully or accidentally and vocalize that too. Stand up for yourself despite how it makes the aggressor and those around you feel. Your safety is more important than his/her feelings. Your safety is more important than your relationship. Your safety is more important. This isn’t a one woman job or a woman’s job, to extract sexual harassement from our schools, streets and workplaces. 1 in 3 women are affected by sexual violence and 87% of them know their aggressor so don’t be surprised when someone you know shares their story with you. Don’t be surprised if you’re well acquainted with the aggressor, don’t be surprised if it happened right under your nose, on your watch, on your campus, in your church, in the parking lot or even in your highschool... so fully confident and prepared to express your truth (if that is how you want to handle it) and be someone someone can feel comfortable expressing their truth with. Healing from trauma starts when you accept it, when you vocalize it (whatever that looks like for you) and forgive yourself because it was not your fault.

love you guys,