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Break the silence that surrounds sexual assault, sexual harassment, interpersonal violence, relationship abuse, stalking, hate crimes, and identity-based violence. Share your story here on our anonymous blog.

To speak about an experience with any form of interpersonal violence is difficult, but it is also empowering. Breaking the silence reduces shame and helps others to speak out about their own experiences.

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Because this blog features stories of interpersonal and sexual violence, we offer this *content warning* as a way of caution. We also ask that you do not reproduce any of the content below, as the authors of these personal stories are anonymous, and cannot give consent for their stories to appear anywhere other than this blog or at a Project Dinah-led SpeakOut event.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

It's Okay to Cry Too

During my senior year of high school I found myself in an emotionally abusive relationship. I was often the subject of insults and jokes for the sake of laughs from his friends. I was regularly told how my opinions and ideas were worthless. And, like any true abuser, I was called “gorgeous” and snuggled any time I got upset enough to threaten the relationship. I still hate being called gorgeous. Over the course of a year, I transformed from a confidant, energetic young woman to a weak, unhappy girl with zero self esteem.

Days after I worked up the courage to leave him, I woke up one morning with a hangover and a lot of confusion in a bed that wasn’t mine. Lying next to me was a male friend who knew my pain and state of mind and still seemed to think that doing whatever we did was a good idea. I don’t remember what happened, but was just incredibly relieved to realize that he didn’t have sex with me.

Now in college, I look back and tally up my encounters: an abusive relationship, a rather questionable “one night stand,” and countless instances of being touched inappropriately in bars on Franklin Street. And I consider myself lucky. When people ask me about my experiences with sexual assault, I think I’m lucky. Because all I can think of is how my best friend was raped two years ago. I’ve been by her side as best I could while she’s tried to deal with her trauma, and it’s been a difficult experience for everyone involved.

I want to change tracks and take a minute to speak for those of us who are the secondary survivors. Those of us who have helped our friend or partner or sister or whoever through these tough times, who have been the shoulder to cry on, who have been the proverbial rock. Those of us who have calmed irrational fears, talked into late hours of the night, or were just simply there when she needed us. We are strong and wonderful and appreciated beyond belief, but most us of already know that.

What you may not know, and what I want to tell you, is that it’s okay to think about yourself sometimes. It’s okay to be angry about how this has affected you. It’s okay to cry for yourself.

I hesitate even in writing this because I know my friend’s biggest worry is how her problems have affected her friends and family. And she’s right. We’re all affected. We’ve all been through tough times right alongside her. But I don’t blame her for my nightmares, or the paranoia that inevitably strikes me every night when the sun goes down. I don’t blame her for the bad days when I just can’t get it out of my head. I don’t blame her for the overwhelming anger I feel all the time.

I blame her rapists. Despite all the what-ifs and the if-onlys, they are the only ones responsible for their actions that night. They are the only ones responsible for affecting her life and thereafter my life so negatively.

I may not have been there that night, but he hurt me too. He traumatized me too. And now I’m healing too. I struggle with this daily, but I’m beginning to come to terms with my own pain and being able to deal with it out in the open. I’m beginning to realize that my pain is legitimate too, and it’s probably better for both of us if I cope with it out loud.

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