I remember not being able to feel my heartbeat when it was over. "I'm a man now," he said.
I was raped a few weeks before my senior year of high school began. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon, midday. It did not happen at 3 a.m. in a stranger's basement. I was not chased or kidnapped. There were no ropes or Duct Tape rolls involved, although the movies we watch make these things seem like qualifications. I, like many survivors, was assaulted by someone I knew–a friend–whom I had trusted for some time prior to Saturday. But because I was never educated on sexual violence, I swallowed the experience as a bitter cup of sin and blamed myself.
Saturday night, I didn't sleep. I lied awake feeling so suffocated by the guilt, I sent a text message to a church leader of mine that read: "I've done something bad."
I had never been taught about rape. I had never known that friends could also be perpetrators. I had never thought that it could happen to me. And for months after my assault, I had believed that it didn't.
By the time school started, Saturday afternoon was nothing but blackness to me. The images and sounds had faded almost entirely, due to a mind that was conditioned to repress shameful experiences, one of the biggest being premarital sex. I chalked up all of my ill feelings toward the experience up to that.
It was about halfway through the school year that I began experiencing flashes of recollection while falling asleep. The images would play on the insides of my eyelids like a movie I had not purchased tickets for . . . like a movie I, not so ironically, was forced to watch. With every flash came more realization: I was a victim of rape and, even worse, of theft. Trust, clarity, innocence, all taken from me that day. I no longer felt safe inside of my own body.
The psychological suffering continued in silence. I promised myself that I would never live life in victimhood and in my naive mind, that meant being silent, which I have done for the last 4 years.
After a very transformative conversation with my dear husband just recently, I realized how much of my own silence about my assault endangers others–especially younger, uneducated minds. The conversation also led me to a place that has freed me from the responsibility, shame and secrecy I had previously tied so tightly to my assault.
While this has everything to do with me, this is not about me. This is about teaching people about sexual consent and how it is an absolutely necessary step to be taken.
This is about teaching individuals to have respect for not only their own body, but equally for others as well. This is about putting an end to victim-blaming, so that victims feel confident and supported in reporting assault. This is about providing safety, love, and encouragement for survivors that we love and for survivors we do not know. This is about reducing the risk, so my nieces never need to feel the desolation that I felt when I heard those final words: "I'm a man now." This is about redefining masculinity and diminishing rape culture. This is about stopping the silence surrounding a colossal problem happening around the globe and possibly in your own home. This is about everyone.
"To end sexual assault, we all need to be part of the solution. Educating yourself and others, helping a friend who is being abused, speaking up about abuse, and acting as an engaged bystander are all examples of things we can do to help."