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I was groomed for rape for a long time before it actually happened.

Walking alone, in cities that weren’t my own, whistles from men in cars, men across the street, objectifying phrases and comments galore. Telling those closest to me how uncomfortable these made me was useless, their response was always sarcastic and similar to, “I know, it’s so hard to be beautiful.” Shopping with my mom and walking past a group of males, my mom would say, “I love walking right behind you because I can see all of the guys check you out. You are so pretty. I am so proud to be your mom.”

My boyfriend at age 14 would listen when I told him not to touch me, but the next time we kissed, he would try again. When I gave in, his friends told me it wasn’t fair that I wouldn’t “pay him back” for what he did to me; making it sound like he was giving me something grand instead of taking away something precious. Three years later, after finding out he cheated, his answer to “Why?” was, “You know why…because you wouldn’t sleep with me.” I still stayed. After being told he would do it again, I was afraid to lose him, so I gave him what he had been asking for all those years. He cheated countless times after.

I could go on and on with examples.

My second semester of college, I tagged along with some friends to one of their boyfriend’s house. When they followed boys into their bedrooms, I sat alone in the living room. One of their roommates joined me; a football player, whose massive build resembled The Rock's. He took me to his room and we talked for a long time before he kissed me; he made me feel special. As the kissing went on, he tried to unbutton my shorts. When I pushed his hand away, he whispered, “Come on, I know you want to.” No matter how many times I said no, his hands always came back; strong, forceful hands, always moving my clothes a little bit further off my body. I was terrified, but I told myself that this was my fault, I got myself into this mess and the only way out was to let him inside me. After he was finished, I sat at the edge of the bed and cried. I could see the panic in his eyes, “Does she realize what I just did? Does she not think this was her idea?” He held me and told me everything was okay and that what we did was okay. I left immediately after getting dressed. When my friends asked what we did, I smiled and told them we hooked up.

I told myself this story for the next two years. Every time I thought of him, I felt sick. I blamed myself for being so stupid for sleeping with someone so repulsive. Even after he would find me on campus and persuade me to leave with him, even after he would take videos and pictures of me and threaten to post them if I didn’t give him what he wanted, I told myself it was a stupid mistake. I always told myself it wasn't rape because he hadn't held me down while I kicked and screamed; my experience wasn't "bad" enough.

Then I came across something on Twitter, I don’t remember what it was, but it changed my life. It unlocked a little box I had stored away in the back of my brain for nearly two years. The box that held my trauma, the box that my mind worked years to bury. I remembered what he did to me, I remembered that it was actually not my idea, that I did not consent. It was his idea that he forced upon me, it was my consent that he stole right out of my mouth.

Nearly five years later, I am still in intense therapy. I attend the college where the most traumatic events of my life happened. Some days, it’s all I can do to attend class. I hate my school’s football team, though he is long gone and lives out of state. I drive past that house when I can’t find a parking spot anywhere else and my body nearly goes numb. His nickname was the title of one of my favorite movies that I haven’t watched since. I watched this story tear down and break the hearts of those I love. I am ashamed and still hide my truth from my parents and the majority of my family. I wrestle with feelings of anger; anger that he is walking free, living his life, and I am here trying to put back all of the pieces of me that he stole, all of the pieces that he broke.

I never thought in a million years this could happen to me. Even after it did, I didn’t think it happened to me. So many men in my life had groomed me for years, always making it seem like it was my idea or my fault because they thought I was pretty; master manipulators.

I have learned two things since my trauma box was unlocked: a million no’s and one yes is not a yes and if it is not a full-hearted, excited, un-persuaded yes, it is not a yes.

I was groomed for rape for a long time before it actually happened.

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