I turned 25 in January of this year. That’s a turning point in your life.

I turned 25 in January of this year. That’s a turning point in your life. A birthday to reflect on your past, lessons learned and future hopes of the person you want to become. While spending some time reflecting on my life, one lesson, one story stuck out; and given that it is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I have decided to share that story. 

2017 was a tough year for the world, for women and for me. Although I am extremely grateful, inspired and empowered by the amount of FIERCE power women have shown this year, personally, it was sometimes overwhelming, having been a survivor of multiple sexual assaults. It was overwhelming to see the amount of #metoo’s on facebook. It was overwhelming to see how many men I had looked up to as creative stars, use their power and fame to prey upon women. 

Let me begin by saying, I love men. I have a wonderful father, an incredibly strong brother and an abundance of men that I know are supportive of the women in their life and in general. However, as I look back on the 25 years of my life, I have encountered far too many men who were not.

I was 17 when I was raped. I hate the word rape. I hate it because it sounds as disgusting as the act itself. Rape feels grimey and dirty to say, it slips out of your mouth like a slug. It feels shocking and shameful, exactly the feelings a survivor feels right after it happens to them. 

I was visiting my brother at college. I was just into the beginning of my senior year of high school and a group of us decided to all go together. Saturday night, we started drinking. I was with my best friend, my brother, his roommates and a bunch of people I knew from high school. I remember before we left for the party, I kept debating if I should wear a black sweater or an oversized sweater and leggings. Unaware that that decision could be used against me in a court proceeding. I arrived at the party, took a shot of shitty vodka and stood beside the beer pong table with my friend.

Fast forward the evening, I was dancing with a guy. I kissed that guy. I then said, “I need to take a break from the dance floor. I’m going to go use the bathroom”. He took my arm and said “I live next door, you won’t have to wait for it”. I followed him and went upstairs, used the bathroom. When I opened the door, he had blocked off the doorway. He pulled me into a bedroom and we made out on the bed. It wasn’t until he started to pull my underwear down that I felt unsafe. I remember the cute polka dotted silk underwear with fringe on the top and I remember the sound of the seams ripping. Then, the paralysis flooded my brain. Frozen on the bed with a man I did not want to be alone with. I couldn’t tell you how much time had passed, only that when I heard my brothers voice did I decide to move. My brother has always had a temper, and with the window slightly cracked in the bedroom I heard, “I CAN’T FIND HER WHERE IS SHE”. I sprang up. Put on my jeans. Went for the door. He closed it, grabbed my arms, shoved me to my knees and shoved my head down to him. A man opened the bedroom door, a man I probably owe a lot of thanks to, and I sprinted down the stairs. The crowd of my friends, including my brother, were gathered outside the house. My brother saw me crying, and lost it. He went in the house, yelled, punched their window with his bare hand, breaking his pinky. His friends walked me home. 
The next few days, the next few weeks, were a blur. My brother, the morning after, insisted on going to the police, despite the fact I had already sat in the shower for the better part of 3 hours. He called my dad to tell him. My best friend stayed with me, skipping school for two days. I went to the hospital and got poked in prodded. It’s an ironic experience to be violated at midnight and then the next day, less than 12 hours later, having a nurse ask “is this alright?”, while she swipes your insides with a Q-tip.

It’s been eight years since that night in October. 

But it’s taken me almost that long to confidently believe that clothes do not mean consent. To believe I have more worth than just my body. To believe that my body is still a powerful thing. To believe that you have the right to flirt and then walk away. To believe that you do not owe anyone anything because they bought you something or gave you attention. To believe you shouldn’t feel shame because this happened. 

My hopes in sharing my story is to remind everyone that this is story not uncommon, and to join the millions of incredible women who have shared their #MeToo story throughout this year. We need to keep the discussion moving forward, we need to teach our sons, brothers, cousins, and friends that women do not owe them anything for buying them a beer, we need to reach women (and men and trans and non-binary people) who have had an unfortunate sadness of an encounter like this, and let them know that they are supported, they heard and they will not be shamed. We don’t need the “I’m so sorry this happened to you”, we need action. We need to speak out and speak up if we see something. We need everyone to know that Time’s Up for this type of behavior and culture to continue.