Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault, Rape
I’ve been struggling with the idea of writing out my own story since this project was created. My story does not consist of any one specific event, but rather a seemingly endless series of things done to my body without my consent. I think about all the times I’ve been groped, the times I’ve passed out drunk and woken up with men kissing or touching me, and the time I was raped. I think about the time, as a young teenager, I was held down by a group of boys while they touched me, and someone I trusted looked on, not saying anything, awkwardly laughing as the fear of seeming uncool by calling out his friends trumped his care about me as a human being. I’ve struggled with the idea of talking about these events that have so greatly shaped who I’ve become, but have instead reverted to silence when it’s come to my experiences with sexual assault. I won’t get into any of these stories. I do not think that any are particularly unique. Some of them happened to me as a child, others as a teenager, others still occurred in my adult life. More significant to me has been the guilt I’ve felt. Not necessarily about the abuse itself, because it’s become more or less normal to me. Instead, I feel the most guilt over my role as an activist, as someone who speaks out against the injustices committed against others, while not demanding the same respect for myself. I’m not the kind of women who gets raped. I don’t think I am. Others don’t think I am. Men dare not touch me without my explicit consent. That’s what I told myself, what I still tell myself. What I allow and lead others to believe. I’m trying so desperately to sell myself a narrative of control over my life, over my ability to control the actions of men. I still believe that I can fit myself into a narrative where I cannot be a victim; if I believe I cannot be a victim, then I can put aside my own feelings of hurt. The struggle over my own feelings of hypocrisy has been the most difficult struggle for me. Don’t get me wrong. The physical things were bad. Overhearing my rapist bragging to my friend over the phone about how he’d finally convinced me to have sex with him was an especially hard hit, and took a piece of my soul. I try to convince myself that by devoting myself, my time, into making the lives of others better, I can survive in silence. Maybe I can. Maybe I won’t. Every time someone tells me how proud they are of the work I’m doing to ensure that marginalized voices are heard, my stomach sinks with guilt. Every time I read comments about the responsibility of women to report, I think of all of those who came before me and those who might come after, and wonder whether that might negate any other good work I might do. I am much better at caring for others, and much prefer to help others through their struggles than to talk about my own. I sometimes wonder about my own sustainability, but worry that if I slow down my demons might finally catch up to me.