I want to start off by saying that this is not going to be one of my normal posts this is going to be one of the most difficult pieces I’ve ever written. This post is going to be talking about the sexual harassment and assault I’ve experienced in my lifetime that I feel healed enough to talk about. If you are sensitive to this type of content, please feel free to click away I would not want my experience to do someone more harm than good. Although this topic is immensely challenging, I felt the need to use my platform to speak on my experience so another woman would not feel as alone. I want to use my voice for all the women who have been silenced and are not able to use theirs. I also want to preface this by acknowledging that men have absolutely gone through horrific accounts of sexual violence, and that is a conversation we also need to talk much more about in our society. However, for the sake of this piece it is written by a woman to other women. Thank you for giving me the space to share my story.
The first time I became aware of shame about my body due to a man was the first time I felt like I lost agency over my body. I was being tickled by an older man who was a family friend. I had been over at his home and we had been joking around and it came to a point where tickling started to be involved. He had hold of me and would not stop tickling me all over my body. It was way beyond the point of fun for me and I started to panic and become upset, but he would not stop despite me audibly telling him enough. I was finally able to break away and ran away to the bathroom crying hysterically. His wife came to check on me and scolded me for joking around with him in the first place. It broke my heart because she was a very influential woman in my life and I felt like the entire situation was my fault and an immense amount of shame overwhelmed me. I went home right afterwards and did not tell anyone. I was 9.
High school was one of the most challenging times of my life, due to many factors I did not feel worthy and had almost no self esteem as a teenager. I was the only plus size girl in my high school and felt like nothing if men didn’t like me. I did not love my body and sought validation from any outside source. I started to talk to boys online and one night a boy who was 19 came over. We were hanging out on my trampoline and started kissing, eventually we snuck into my room to continue hanging out. At the time I was also speaking to a boy my age who I felt a very strong connection to, but he lived in another city. We talked everyday on the phone and both of us said we had feelings for each other. I talked to that other boy for several years, we’re still Facebook friends to this day. I’m not sure if he ever had those feelings really for me, but at the time I felt like I loved him. He was the only thing I kept referencing as the boy who was in my bedroom did not listen as I said over and over that I did not want to lose my virginity and that I wanted to wait for someone else. He kept pushing and went ahead anyway. When that happened it felt like I detached from my body and I stopped resisting. I remember after he left I just sat in my room unable to process what happened. The amount of shame and self hatred helped me to minimize the gravity of his actions and his assault because I took all the blame on myself. I was 15.
My first long term (1 year) relationship was with a boy who was three years older than me. It was toxic at best and abusive at worst. He would constantly rate me against other women, brutally criticize my body, and would drink and spew abusive words my way. I finally ended the relationship, and he proceeded to harass me by making fake Facebook profiles, emailing me, calling my house under the guise of different voices since I changed my phone number, and would threaten to show up at my house. He wanted me to not be able to get away from him and do better for myself. This continued until I was a senior in college, and it started when I was 16.
It was one of the most exciting times of my life, I went to France for my study abroad during my junior year of college. I lived in big cities, but this was really the first time where I was immersed in a different culture. Although I spoke French, I come off as American. I’m loud and bubbly by nature. I had a man grab me by my jacket on the street where I had to physically push him away, had a teenage guy spit at me in the subway for not talking to him, and was followed back to my host family’s home while being harassed the entire way. It became too much for me to emotionally process and I started to develop panic attacks because I did not feel safe. The director of my program took me to the doctor. When I explained the situation the doctor gave me a prescription for Xanax, and he recommended that I should not look so inviting towards people and they would leave me alone. I was 20.
I am now 27 and this is just a handful of the experiences I’ve gone through as a woman. There have also been countless instances of micro aggressions like cat calls, trying to get my attention as I drive to work, waiting for me by my car to come out of the grocery store, and countless inappropriate pictures.
I’ve gone to therapy and learned ways to heal from these situations. I still have really hard days, but despite it all I persevered. I know some women do not have that privilege and it breaks my heart into a million pieces. For all the other “Me, too’s” out there I want you to know that you are a survivor, a resilient, and a powerful woman. There will be no more sweeping this underneath the rug, and taking on shame that was never ours to begin with. I see you and I am in admiration of you putting one foot in front of the other everyday. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share some of my story. I stand with you in love and solidarity.