Trigger warning: sexual assault/abuse content
Take a moment right now to imagine a community you belong to. Any or all of them. Your church community, your school community, your family, social groups, sports, theater, co-workers, any group you belong to. Imagine those people who surround you. Some on a daily basis, some here and there, strangers you may encounter every day. Imagine them.
Every 98 seconds someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted.
If you are not one of them, you more than likely know someone who has been. And suddenly, the thing that “doesn’t” affect those it has not happened to, affects everyone. This is a problem for all of us. Not just the ones who have, unfortunately, endured it. Imagine your community again. Imagine your family, your friends, your classmates, your teammates, your co-workers, the people you pass by during the day.
Imagine if it were you.
I was not alone during my assault, but I was after. I was 16. I blacked out. The first time I woke up, he was kissing my neck. I blacked out. The second time, I woke up his hand was in my pants. I blacked out. The third, fourth, and fifth times I woke up, he was sodomizing me. I remember telling him stop. I’d look in the front seat and see my friend and the driver, and I thought “can’t they hear me saying no? Don’t they see him?” They were oblivious, two feet away, while my life was being changed forever.
When I was 6, I was sexually assaulted and raped by a family member for a year. My parents did everything they could when they found out… went to therapy, moved, pressed charges against him. Was sexually assaulted by other men close to me when I was growing up, including a cousin when I was 13. Raped and sexually assaulted by my ex-boyfriend in 2016. I’m 24 now. I dedicated my life to be a social worker and advocate. I continue to seek therapy and heal.
Before my brother and I were old enough to take care of ourselves, my mom would let her aunt take care of us while she went to work. Time at her aunt’s was usually fun, as I played with her knickknacks and snuck upstairs into her teenage sons’ rooms to admire their cool stuff all the time. One of those days, the youngest of her sons let me play in his room and I was so excited to finally be included as one of the guys. I still remember admiring the space glow stickers on his ceiling, his play station, the games, and his posters on the walls. We were alone that day, and while I was preoccupied with these things, he remained a quiet bystander most of the time. Unfortunately things did not stay that innocent, and I was raped shortly after that. I remember being confused, sick to my stomach, and I left his room as soon as I could and he didn’t hold me back. I was so young I truly did not know what was happening to me. My mind really couldn’t handle such a traumatic event like this and to protect myself, I managed to shut the memory away somewhere, never mentioning it to anyone and went on with my life like nothing was wrong.
For the longest time, this trauma felt expected. As if, because I was born with a vagina, that I deserved this. It wasn’t until I began to reject my objectification and hatred that I realized this wasn’t normal. It made me question my existence as a trans man, and what that meant for my masculinity. Unfortunately, I found people I could share my experience with. I say unfortunately because it’s deeply troubling that it is such a common occurrence that is relatable to so many people, especially women. Yet, sharing and speaking above abusers and their supporters has helped me, and I can feel the change coming.
I used to count off the girls in my class. I remember reading somewhere that before the age of 18, 1 in every 4 girls would be sexually abused. 1, 2, 3, 4… which one was just like me? Which one had it already happened to? Which one would be next? Who would make it to 18 without it ever happening to them? I wished we all would’ve made it. I wished it never happened to any of us. I wish I would’ve told someone the first time it happened. I wish I didn’t blame myself.
I was about 6, he was maybe 14… I didn’t know what was going on. All I knew was that it hurt and I cried a lot, but he wouldn’t let me make any noise. No one knew for the first 12 years and I still get nightmares and panic attacks from it.
I went to a party to have a good time with friends and I started hitting it off with a guy. I was dancing with him, when another guy came up who was over a foot taller than me. At first it was friendly dancing, just having fun, until he looked me deep in the eyes and I knew there was literally nothing I could do to get away from him. He ended up touching me and pinning me up against someone and covering me with his entire body. I tried yelling for my friend’s name, but she was too far away because I got split from my group. I literally felt no escape until one of my friends had walked by and dragged me away from him. This is not the first instance with him either. He has yelled at me at crowded parties for accidentally touching him because I was “giving him mixed signals” when I had repeatedly told him to get off of me and that I didn’t want to dance with him. I had to tell him I was dating one of my girl friends for him to stop touching me, but he quickly stopped believing me. This has happened to so many other girls. Complaints have been filed, but he has never had any punishments because he technically hasn’t done anything. He has followed girls home and people will leave because they feel uncomfortable. He’s always wasted, but that’s no excuse.
Around the ages of 11 to 13, I found myself in another situation where a male family member harassed and sexually assaulted me on multiple occasions, and this time I kept quiet so I did not disturb our family structure and bring shame to my family while destroying my reputation. As a Middle Eastern, Muslim female, I was culturally conditioned to stay away from boys, and that it was my responsibility to protect my virginity and remain chaste otherwise I’d be forever tarnished and ostracized for having a bad reputation.
I vaguely remember how it began, but I clearly remember when it ended. First, it was making me look, then making me touch, then he began to touch me. Eventually, he forced himself on me. It happened for years. The last time was its worst. I cried in the bathroom wishing I didn’t let it happen. I took long showers hoping it would wash away. My sister was best friends with him. I fought and resented her, never telling her what happened. I stayed awake most nights trying to make sense of what happened. Trying to figure out why it happened. Wondering if something would happen to me. If my body would change in any way because of what he did to me. I’m afraid to let anyone touch me.
I was walking down the street to go to the train stop when a man rode passed me on his bike and groped me from behind. Frazzled and frustrated, I called the cops and waited for them to arrive. After filing a police report, the officer began to explain precautions women should take when walking alone. Things like not to wear headphones and be more aware of my surroundings. He then said I should also watch what I wear, that my outfit was ‘a little skimpy.’ I’d say that experience made me feel objectified and more uncomfortable being around the police.
He would ask if I really loved him and my answer was always yes, I love you. Then he would ask, then why don’t you let me go further? As we sat in an empty parking lot all I could think of was that I didn’t want to so I didn’t have to. That was the best answer I could tell him. I thought he got that and I thought that he understood. He didn’t let me leave. He grabbed me. He pulled my dress up. He was so strong. I couldn’t leave. I couldn’t go anywhere, I was stuck there. I couldn’t do anything. He held me down. He was just too strong. I tried to escape his grip but I couldn’t. I was trapped and I was hurting. He made sure that I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t move and I couldn’t get out. All I saw was black, all I remember is black. I remember being in pain and hating myself for letting this happen. He finally unlocked the car and I got out. I ran into my house and went straight into the shower and cried. I cried so much. I felt disgusting. I washed and scrubbed every inch. Every place that he touched I washed and scrubbed so hard. My skin was red from scrubbing so hard. But no matter how hard I scrubbed, I still felt him there.