When I woke up today I saw a Facebook post from my sister in law (she has been away for a couple of weeks and I didn't realize she was now back at home and online again), I posted a short comment to welcome her home without understanding what the "Me Too" that she had posted actually meant.
As I scrolled through my Facebook I saw more and more women who I know and love had posted the same thing. One had posted an explanation of what the "Me Too" along with her statement and suddenly a realization hit me.
I have been part of the problem.
I was sexually assaulted (raped) when I was a teenager by a guy I had been dating and I haven't spoken out about it. A few of my closest friends and a couple of family members are aware that it happened but I've never talked openly about it with anyone. I've never stood up when I heard a story of a fellow survivor of sexual assault to say "I get how you feel; I've been there". I don't tell guys I date that it happened (I told one guy years ago, just after it happened, our relationship didn't last long). I don't talk about how that traumatic experience helped shape who I am today or how it still affects me in relationships now. I've never told doctors that it happened, even after having to have a number of surgeries that involve that part of my body. I don't explain to people that I can't stand the scent of pine because it reminds me of him and that I'm instantly overwhelmed with a need to vomit every time I smell it.
Until today I've kept this thing that happened to me a secret. It was my dirty little cross to bear. My little skeleton in the closet that no one should ever know about. After all, who on earth is going to love the girl who got RAPED? Who would want to be a girl who has that kind of baggage?
We live in a society now where sex is openly talked about on TV and (in some cases) at dinner tables. We have best selling novels that are about BDSM and Sex Clubs. We swipe left because we aren't instantly sexually attracted to a picture on the screen of our smartphones, but we still are afraid to stand up and say "THIS HAPPENED TO ME" and "IT'S NOT OKAY". We are afraid to own that these things happen to us because we fear the reaction of the people around us.
I was this person.
I was afraid.
I was the girl who felt bad when I heard about all the women coming forward in the sexual harassment lawsuit of a radio personality. However, I didn't stand up then and say, ME TOO. I didn't claim this thing that had happened to me with the fire and rage that I have now to say "Enough is enough". I didn't want anyone to know my dirty little secret. I didn't want the world to judge me or pity me for going through this thing that, at the time, I had no power to stop from happening. I didn't want the first thing people thought of me to be "poor thing" or worse for people to not believe me (which did happen when I wanted to press charges against my rapist).
So I stood by and did nothing. I created a little island for myself (as a friend called it a couple nights ago) and made sure no one else would ever want to venture over and see what the island had to offer. I became part of the problem.
I've spent the last few years trying to become a better version of myself. Trying to work through the issues I have and let go of past traumas that still play a role in my life. I'm trying to move forward but how can I do that if I'm not willing to accept and acknowledge different aspects of who I am.
I am a rape survivor.
This isn't all that I am. It doesn't define who I am or who I will be in the future. My story doesn't begin and end here. This is just a piece of the puzzle that makes up who I am in this world. This is just one of the things that have happened in my life that helped shape who I am in this moment. So it's time for me to move forward. It's time to stand up, acknowledge and own my story.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
Let's stop being afraid of people believing us and start speaking up even if they don't. Let's stop putting the blame on "clothing that she wore" or "how she acted". Let's start understanding that this is a HUGE problem in our world and that we all have a role to play in fixing this. Let's stand up together and support women who have the courage to say 'this is part of my story too'.
I don't care anymore if people reading this want to judge me or if you don't believe me. This is part of my story and its time I started to own it! I won't be defined by anymore. I won't sit in silence anymore. I'm no longer going to push this into the shame closet and hope no one ever knows.
We have a huge problem in this world with sexual assault and it needs to change. We need to stop saying it's about the sex because it's not. We need to stop pointing fingers and start looking at how we handle this when it happens around us. We need to step up, all of us because we can't change this alone.