Sexual Assault, Suicide
I had to convince myself three times to write this; I almost wrote this last night but the words found themselves stuck on the edge of my fingertips. It happened while I was about to go to sleep last night that my finger scrolled through America Ferrera’s post on Instagram. The moment I finished reading her post I made the decision to share my story.
I was 9 years old the first time a grown man made inappropriate sexual advances towards me. He was a family friend and I was a child who believed the death threats he repeatedly whispered in my ear. I was 10, I was 11, I was 12, I was 13; it often felt like my situation was a reality that I would be unable to escape. I was 15 when one of my uncles made inappropriate sexual advances towards me. I was 16 when a different uncle snuck into my bed in the middle of the night. I was 17 when my entire being believed that the constant sexual assault was my fault. I was 19 when I was raped by a boyfriend but convinced myself that my “NO” wasn’t forceful enough; maybe I did act like I wanted it.
I lived with the shame and the guilt intended for these men through all of my teenage years. Up until now, only a few knew of what happened with every one of these men. For the most part, I have kept their secrets, I have smiled when I run into them. I agree with others when they say a kind word about them and I choke on the disgust in my throat. I have lived with the helplessness and with the moments where I find it hard to breathe all by myself. I have dismissed the nightmares, I have made excuses to avoid the uncles at family functions, I have refused to acknowledge (even to my therapist) my suicide attempts and they have continued to live their lives with smiles plastered on their faces.
I am fully aware of how uncomfortable the discussion of child molestation is, but I have lived in the uncomfortable for most of my life and it feels necessary to share my story. I have written about sexual assault previously but never in regards to what happened when I was a child. That is a secret I thought I’d take to my grave, every time I’ve tried to say it out loud the words take hold of my throat and suddenly it feels impossible to speak. So here I am, with a stomach full of power and a strength that often falters but I refuse to let it go; I was molested as a child and I have blamed myself for that more times than I can count. I have existed with secrets that weren’t meant to be kept and I have made excuses for men who were three (four) times my age.
I have reread America’s post 14 times since I started writing this post and every time I gather a little more strength. The thing is, maybe I struggled to write this post because part of me is angry. I’m angry that I can’t think back on my childhood without immediately seeing his face (their faces). I’m angry that I still remember every single second of every one of those assaults. I’m angry that I’ve scrubbed my body until I broke skin and I somehow still didn’t feel clean enough. I’m angry that I have to dig into the most broken parts of myself in order for the world to believe women about predation and trauma. I’m angry that we live in a world where the “dirty uncle” is a constant joke told at family functions. I’m angry that myself and most girls I know, were brought up to believe that protecting ourselves from sexual predators was up to only us.
So here I am exposing all of my trauma in hopes that you read this and DO BETTER. Teach your children (especially the boys) to do better. It’s taken a lot of therapy and self-reflection to be able to live with what was my childhood and teenage years. It’s taken a lot of bad days to get to where I am today; I refuse to allow these men to continue to take my power. Sure, sometimes it gets hard to breathe and even when I think I’ve moved on, one thing can set me back ten steps but scrolling through Twitter and seeing all the women (and men) sharing their #metoo stories gives me twenty steps worth of strength.
Speaking up and sharing our stories is necessary but I also realize that not all of us are able to and that’s okay. It’s taken a body full of anxiety and a lot of tears to get this post out but this, just like therapy, is what I find essential for survival. So here I am, standing in all of my truth, in hopes that my story helps you deal with yours.