I had a terrible dream. Nobody believed my story. In my dream, I cried into the palm of my hands because one by one, people rejected my truth. I woke up and all of the covers were off of my bed, I had fought long through the night and my body could feel the depletion, the exhaustion, and the magnitude of defeat.
I am the 1 in 3. I am the 1 in 3 in over 3 different experiences. I defy statistics. My friends defy statistics.
I may not ever find peace in this valley, and I am okay with that. I won’t find it anywhere else. But I am claiming myself. And I am okay with that. I don’t think the peace ever existed in this valley. We tend to hit our valley seasons with the assumption that we need to find a certain peace—but I didn’t necessarily enter this valley to find that. I am in it. It is terrifying, challenging, and feels a little broken. I feel a little broken.
This is my story. This is a story of what not finding peace looks like. It is acknowledging that I am not a forever broken soul. I can listen to my mind and my body and I can heal. Even without peace.
The past several weeks have been interestingly painful, slow, and worrisome. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be able to stand atop my suffering and look back down in recollection that I will indeed prevail–even if I never find peace in my valleys.
The weeks have been full of memories swarming, anger resurfacing, anxiety pulling at my edges, and encounters with strangers that throw me into a swirling mental cluster of ‘why am I still suffocating from all of this?’
The weeks have been full of confiding in friendships that uphold me into something better and beyond myself. But friendships that at the same time share similar stories of defeat, pain, and the psychological trauma of surviving and thriving beyond sexual assault.
I am more than my assaults–I do not need “I’m sorry” and “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Women should not have to expect and endure the level of sexual exploitation and assault that we more often than not go through. That we navigate through. That we have come to accept as a part of our experiences in the world. How crushing of a reality.
How do you even write a story about your experiences with sexual assault and harassment—because they are never-ending. I haven’t been able to allow myself to formulate my thoughts because this story is only evolving. Evolving with more traumatic encounters. Evolving with more dear friends saying “me too.” However, I am reaching beyond my fear of sharing my story because I know a part of that is a symptom in our culture that routinely blames and shames women. I am not my assaults and none of them were my fault. My experiences matter.
Upon one of my first encounters with a boy thinking he had authority over my body. I received a gift on Christmas when I was 11. It was Beyonce’s first album. This was an album that became something magical that I needed in order to get through my first encounter with being assaulted. The way Beyonce’s music helped empower me at 11 and still to this day, deserves a letter of its own. If she never reads it, so be it. I just want to say thank you to her.
I received her most recent album for Christmas once it dropped. 11 years later at 22. I was brought to tears because it was honestly, one of the most deliberately timed things in my entire life. That’s the only way I can explain it. It was during a time that felt crushing with pain and anxiety from the continual resurfacing of trauma. Her music has paved a way for me to continue onward through my experiences. She has become a symbol of defiance, courage, and persistence for me.
It makes me angry to think of my encounters. It makes me angry knowing that those boys do not go through life constantly replaying, constantly battling, constantly carrying around the trauma. I feel robbed, I feel exhausted, I feel sad. I feel grief. I don’t have the free pass that they do. Rather, I hear my body thrown against a wall. I hear myself screaming for help. I see myself punching and yelling at my “friend”. I hear another “friend” behind him laughing. LAUGHING. I can feel my heart pounding. I can see my darting eyes and my thoughts of “am I going to be in trouble if someone sees this?” Why was that even my thought? Why wasn’t my thought HE is going to get in trouble?
But, the unfortunate truth is that we don’t teach girls that. We teach girls to be responsible for boys’ actions. We craft culture so that girls have to adapt to a man’s world. How crushing of a burden that is so faulty and not sustaining and damaging.
Stop telling us you’re a feminist guy because you think sexual assault is so terrible. Perhaps you do think that. But don’t turn around and deconstruct how a woman shares her experience with trauma, don’t use nouns and adjectives directed at women that are anything other than her name. Don’t get angry when women tell you no. Don’t think you deserve a response from us. Don’t think you deserve our attention. Don’t go through life thinking sex is something you are entitled to. Don’t think sex is your right. Sex is a privilege to be shared with someone you want to share it with. Your sexual encounters are a privilege. So deconstruct and throw out the right you think you have over my body. How dare you. How dare you be a hypocrite. How dare you use words to sound like you’re on my side and turn your back to our cries, our burdens, our stories and launch yourself into the cycle of entitlement that is ill-constructed and heteropatriarchal. Your complaints are not welcomed here. This is not your platform. You need to take a seat and listen. And only listen. If you want to be an ally, ask us how. But do not tell me what is misguided feminism when you do not share our skin. You can begin by acknowledging that even though you proclaim to be against sexual assault, you are a part of a culture and a privilege that perpetuates sexism and rape culture. A culture that continually marginalizes the realities of women. Deconstruct that on an individual level before you declare that you are somehow above and beyond the facets of our society that repeatedly shove women into a corner of silence.
Do not doubt our stories. Do not question our narrative. Do not objectify our harassment. Do not objectify our experiences. We are fighting against a culture that immediately asks “what was she wearing. what was she doing?” This is a grave error and the most offensive dismissive tendency we have when dealing with assault. We treat it as inevitable, and that is the biggest problem. We, as a society, deem boys as sexually aggressive and women as sexually submissive. We teach abstinence when we should be teaching consent and what sexual assault is. I, for one (along with too many of my friends), am a victim of a very sad system that does not treat these assaults seriously. That does not ask the hard questions of where they are stemming from. That does not deconstruct a culture that places responsibility on women and reconstruct curving men’s actions. I am exhausted and I am disgusted of our society continually failing girls and boys. I do not want to fail them anymore.
I am the 1 in 3. I am the 1 in 3 in over 3 different experiences.
This is what not finding peace looks like. These encounters do not own me. At times they crush me, but it is my choice to propel myself onward, and own all the parts of me. Whether they are troublesome or not.
&, I am okay with that. & I am claiming myself.