This post contains a description of sexual assault. Please read with caution and protect your mental health.
When I first got to college, there was this guy that approached me the first time I went to a bar. He was cute and seemed nice enough. We exchanged numbers and he would hit me up randomly but it was nothing serious. One night we got on the topic of age and when he realized I was still 17 he still stopped talking to me. Whatever. I thought nothing of it.
About a year later he came back around and we started talking again. We would hang out at his house and it was nice because I lived in a dorm and I hated it. One night I decided to stay over because it was late. As soon as we decided to go to sleep he started kissing and touching all over me. When he did this in the past I made up a reason to leave or deflected but this time I felt stuck. He kept trying to convince me and my response was “Do I have to?”
He took this as a yes and began to take off my clothes. I don’t remember anything else about the encounter except feeling trapped and in pain. The next day I left as soon as I woke up.
It took talking to a friend for me to admit to myself that this wasn't okay. When I look back all I did was criticize my actions.
I didn’t say no.
I went over there again.
I still responded to all of his texts.
I know that some of you may read this and say “that wasn't sexual assault, you should have spoken up!” and that's okay. But the pressure I felt at that moment made me feel like my body wasn't mine and that wasn't my choice to make. By definition, what happened to me is called Sexual Coercion. According to womenshealth.gov, Sexual coercion is a form of sexual assault and is defined as unwanted sexual activity that happens when you are pressured, tricked, threatened, or forced in a nonphysical way. Research has shown that women who have experienced this can suffer from PTSD, depression, and anxiety at rates that are similar to people who have experienced sexual violence. It’s been difficult to process because while I was not subject to physical violence, I still felt threatened.
I don't believe he set out to assault me. In the time since then, I’ve learned that some men think that coercion is part of sex, and hearing stories like mine is usually the first time they're confronted with the truth that it's NOT. In the end, I blocked him with no explanation and he was actually hurt by that. He reached out to me from another number and asked: "Why would you let me do that to you?" I’m not sure what made him realize that incident was why I ghosted but I wasn’t in the space to have a conversation like that so I hung up. A friend asked me if I thought to talk to him about it then, or even now would have changed anything, and to be honest, I can't say for sure.
I thought that this was an experience that I had moved on from but lately it haunts me. I see patterns in my life that show I never really processed it. After that happened, whenever I had sex, I was under the influence way more than I was sober. Sometimes I dissociate while being intimate and that can cause me to freeze up like I did that night. To be honest I don’t even remember many of the sexual experiences I’ve had.
I think that this has been so hard for me because I don’t believe I’m allowed to describe myself as a sexual assault survivor. I don’t deserve to mourn the piece of me that was taken because there are so many women out there that have had it worse. But that stops today. I’m letting go of things that don’t serve me and the shame behind this is #1 on the list.
I feel like when I write blog posts I usually have all this research to reference and strategies to try but honestly, I have nothing but my faith that I’m going to be okay. I’m going to allow myself to feel however I’m feeling at that moment and be honest with my partner about the headspace that I’m in. It’s a difficult situation but I’m blessed to have an amazing circle that is helping me work through my issues. I’m in therapy, I’ve started meditating and I write whenever I feel like things are too heavy.
To my sisters who are struggling with processing trauma. I see you, I hear you, and I’m sorry that happened to you. Your feelings are valid and you deserve to live a life where you aren’t defined by your trauma.