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In a lot of ways, I'm lucky. I'm lucky that my assault was relatively minor. I'm lucky that he was never able to corner me again. I'm lucky that I met my husband at 17, and he shows me the respect and love that we all deserve.

As a freshman in high school, I was thirteen—a year younger than my classmates. I watched a friend of mine gradually descend into an unhealthy relationship with a boy that I had grown up with (a neighbor and a member of my church congregation). The next year, I drove to our early morning church class every day with him and two older, popular, and handsome football players, who were also in my congregation. I sat in the back of the car with this boy on the long drive to seminary. It came on quickly...I was a tall, awkward sophomore and I think I liked the attention, secretly. He would slide his hand between my legs and cup my breasts, whispering in my ear, "Does that feel good?" He would pretend to fall asleep with his head in my chest and his hand between my legs. I was frozen. This happened day after day after day. I couldn't say anything, thinking that the older guys would side with him if they knew. This continued my entire sophomore year, accompanied by unwelcome sexual texting and pictures. It wasn't until I left for college that the inappropriate advances abated even a little. 

It's only been recently that I've been able to confront the bitterness and anger that I feel...I thought I lost a lot of my innocence that year. Until I met my sweet husband, I hated the perspective of sexuality that boy gave me. I didn't want to believe that attraction means sexual threats and propositions; touching and rubbing in the back of a car, petrified that someone would notice.

My marriage has shown me that sexuality is about connection and expression of love. I know now that I will always be innocent—it was never my fault that I didn't know how to escape that situation. It's only been recently that I have shared what happened with my turned my stomach inside out that he had been writing "sweet, kind" letters to her and my younger sister from his church mission abroad.

I don't blame him, and I don't blame myself. I do, however, blame the situation I grew up in that made me afraid that I would be punished for what happened to me. Keep your children close and don't sacrifice their trust for control and surveillance of their lives. My parents read all of the texts on my phone, even to my friends that were girls, every night until I left for college, and usually criticized me daily about the way I talked to them. I lived in fear of my parents, and I was forced to hide the sexts and inappropriate pictures that were slowly grinding down my spirit because I knew I would be punished instead of listened to. To those who have experienced assault, in any manner, shape, or form—I love you and I believe you. You deserved better.

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