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When I was 16 I was sexually abused by the guy I was dating. He was also my best friend.

I didn't know at the time that I'd been assaulted, though. I felt guilty and dirty and unwanted. When we'd first started dating I was curious about trying new things, but the moment I felt uncomfortable, I asked him to stop and I told him no.

He didn't listen. 

I would watch his eyes as they'd light up, as he would look at me and tell me that it was okay. And he would keep touching me and I just sat there, feeling violated. 

For so many years I felt as though the abuse was my fault. That because I said yes to dating him, that meant in some way I'd said yes to the abuse. Because of my abuser's personality, I stuck around, even after the sexual abuse. I wanted to be his friend, because on a good day, I forgot all the bad things that had happened and how I felt worthless. He was my friend and I didn't want to lose that friendship. But that thinking came at a high price. When I'd broken up with him, it had come as a shock to his system, and for the next year and a half he tried over and over to get me to be his girlfriend again, but this time I said no and I fought harder than I ever had, even though I still felt so weak and helpless.

I wanted to walk away, but I didn't know how. I believed his threats, of what he would do to me, to himself if I walked away. So I stayed in an emotionally abusive relationship.

But again, I didn't understand it until I was older and I actually learned about abuse.

Now I understand that it wasn't my fault. That just because I said yes to dating him, didn't mean that I said yes to the abuse. That when I said no, that when I said stop, I meant that. And even though I'd given consent in the past, that didn't make it okay when he didn't listen once I changed my mind. Because you can do that, change your mind. You can fight. It's your body and you have the right to say what happens to it.

For nearly six years I've felt broken and that something was taken from me that I could never get back, that I was alone and afraid to come forward. But then, something clicked in my brain and I felt like it was time to share my story, so I wrote about it on my blog. And then a few weeks later my abuser reached out to me, after no contact for over a year. Telling me that I had the right to say what I wanted because I was free to do that, but basically, I shouldn't have written about those things because it would affect his life and it could even ruin his life. That he'd changed and that he wanted to talk to me because he didn't know that's how I felt 'it all went down.' 

I was stunned. That familiar guilt I'd felt when I was 16 began to creep back in. Maybe I should delete the post. Maybe I should talk to him and explain. I'd felt so empowered as I wrote my story. And now, I felt weak and helpless again. Just like I'd felt when we'd dated and the years that followed. He had taken the power again. He made me feel guilty for something he had done. I didn't talk to him, though. I didn't reply. I didn't respond and for the first time, I knew that I couldn't stay silent. That I'd put his feelings before my own for too long. I would keep talking about my abuse because it's something I deal with every single day. Every day I live with the consequences of what he did to me. Because of PTSD, I struggle to sleep during the night and by day I have anxiety. I didn't ask for this. I didn't ask for any of this. But this is my reality, and I realized one day that I didn't want him to take any more of my life. I didn't want him to have the power that he's had for so long. So now, I stand and fight. I will tell my story, and when you tell me yours, I will believe you.

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