The hashtag #MeToo has been trending for the last couple days. “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Please copy/paste if you are one”. I ignored it at first. I’m really public about being raped, and it’s hard sometimes. This has been one of those weeks. I made incredible progress with something I’ve been working on, but it didn’t quite balance out everything else that I was feeling. Ever since the details about Harvey Weinstein had hit the news, I couldn’t shake the memory of the 7th grade science teacher who had sexually harassed me and other girls in my grade. It’s also October, which reminds me every year of the mental countdown to the day I was raped. Even just the fall weather reminds my body and brings my mind back to 2014. It’s brought back a lot of emotions about what happened.
It’s also brought back my guilt about feeling like I’m being dishonest. I feel like I owe my full story to everyone. I still won’t be sharing it. But I want to acknowledge today how difficult it is to carry around a lifetime of sexual violence. It wasn’t just one time for me. It was just one time that I felt like I could share what happened, because I genuinely knew that I hadn’t done anything to deserve it. And you know what? The judgment I initially received for that was still absolutely out of control. I regretted reporting almost immediately, even though it was by far the worst thing that had ever happened to me. I knew it was a crime, and yet I felt like I was the kind of girl who deserved to be the victim of that crime. I was told by my rapist, his lawyer, and his friends that I was the kind of girl who deserved to be a victim of rape. My forensic nurse told me that when I was sitting in the emergency room bed having my rape kit done, I said “this is going to fuck my life up, and it’s not going to do anything at all to him”. I’m glad I was only right about half of that; I’m one of the lucky few who has seen an attacker go to prison. But I’m not glad that I already knew exactly what I had ahead of me as a victim.
Life got worse before it got better. I drank heavily, used drugs just to cope and be able to feel like I could stomach my way through the night, and was extremely suicidal. While thinking back on the past 22 years of life this week, I reconnected with a girl I spoke to for only the second time in February of 2015. I had tweeted something; I don’t remember what, but I remember that it reeked of desperation. I was absolutely planning on ending my life, and I couldn’t see a way out. I couldn’t see how life could get any better. The older I got, the worse life became. This girl who I barely knew reached out to me and talked to me. She listened to me and let me word-vomit all of my depression and anxiety, and it convinced me to get help. I’m absolutely sure that I am alive today because of that girl.
I’m also sure that I’m alive today because of another girl, and that girl is me. I reached out, got the help I needed, and I started to pick up some skills. Maybe they were skills that other people already had, but I was learning so much for the first time. I started reading about healthy relationships, validation, and PTSD. I fully opened up to a therapist for the first time ever, and really started to work through all of my crap. I learned about boundaries, and the fact that it’s okay to have them (even encouraged!). I started learning that some people were not true friends, and that it wasn’t my job to change them. I also made a conscious decision that I was going to change something. I didn’t know what, but I knew that it was what I wanted to do. I realized that I could do something, and I could be something.
I still have moments where I doubt myself. Sometimes I have entire days where I doubt myself. Those memories still live in my mind and body, and there are a lot of different things that can trigger them into resurfacing. But I feel an obligation to show someone, anyone out there tonight that you don’t deserve any of this. You deserve a life that feels worth living. You deserve a partner that doesn’t treat you like a possession. You deserve people around you who love you and want to help you. Most importantly, whether it happened one time or many times, you did nothing to ask for it.
Hopefully, all the survivors reading this know how much I love and support you, and all that you’ve come from. I hope you all know that I want to validate how important it is to forgive yourself throughout your healing process, and that it’s okay to not be okay. Hopefully everyone else reading this is learning from #MeToo that they live in a world full of people who have been hurt very badly, and that it’s important for them to use some of their energy to try to make this world a better place for us. It’s a few days of seeing Facebook statuses for you, and it’s a lifetime of recovery for us. We need you. You can start by listening to and believing us, you can move up to helping to support pro-survivor legislation and advocacy groups, and maybe someday you can actually start to call out the abusers in your own circle. Help me be an optimist. Help us all have some faith that our world can change.
If you need crisis help, please remember the numbers below:
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
- National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1−800−799−7233