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I was 10 when I met the person who would teach me that coercion was part of a healthy relationship. Mentally fragile, physically mature for my age, and a boy much older than me would teach me three things over the next four years: I owed sex to men who were turned on by me, my opinions on what should or should not happen didn't matter, and men would force you to do things because they loved you. 

Thankfully, he never had a chance to force himself on me until I was much older, but this would be after I gave myself to a man with tears streaming down my face and the words of protest becoming more feeble with every second that passed. That relationship ended a few months later.

A few years pass, and my original abuser rolled back in to my life. This was at a time where religion was becoming a major theme in my life. He had promised to go back to church with me and to get help for his problems. We made a pact to not be physically intimate, and he said he would not pressure me. Two weeks later, he got me so drunk with drinks that I was unfamiliar with that I could not even walk straight. I was 18. He dragged me to his bed.

I don't remember much other than flashes. I begged him to stop. I whimpered defeatedly about how he had made me a promise and was breaking it. After it was over, I passed out and woke up an hour later. I left his house and drove two hours back to my parent's house in a very dangerous attempt to get away, despite still being heavily intoxicated, and slept the entire next day. I never told my family what had happened. I was ashamed. It wasn't until almost a year later that I really grasped the gravity of what had happened, or recognized the strength I had in cutting all ties after that night.

Today, I am happily married and have a healthy relationship with my husband, but I still struggle to make the mental connection of intimacy to the act of sex. I want to speak up because rape and sexual coercion can creep up on you in unexpected ways.

Now I realize that this experience is more than just me hiding in the corner, trying to forget. I have two younger sisters who are becoming teenagers. This is about teaching young girls [and boys], like my two younger sisters, what consent means and how easy it is to be manipulated into feeling like you are choosing something that you're not. I speak out for the little girls like I was who think they are falling in love, when in reality they are being manipulated and harmed.

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