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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.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The summer of 1997 had the potential to be one of the best of my life: no school, great weather, and a new best friend. He was four years older than I was which made him cool and (bonus!) he lived in the house directly behind mine. He was in middle school and played soccer, my favorite sport, so I looked up to him like an older brother. We met out in our adjoining backyards everyday that summer. We played on my swing set, juggled soccer balls and ate ice pops. My younger brother would usually hangout with us too. It was all a little tomboy could have dreamed of!

Near the end of the summer my dad bought a six-person tent that was on sale at a local camping store. Wouldn’t it be a great idea to try it out in our backyard that night? It was the second best thing to a tree house. We had so much fun sleeping and playing in the tent that my dad let us leave it out there. One day the two of us were playing air-guitar together in the tent when he asked me if I knew what sex was. I had heard of it, but lacking the details I said no, so he explained. He finished my education with a phrase I will never forget, “It’s good to do it at this age.” I knew, I knew he was lying... but I respected him, and worse, I trusted him completely. Nothing physical happened that day, but he slowly weaned me into believing that sex wasn’t a bad idea for an almost-third grader.

The next day he gave me the same speech about it being “good to get it over with” and “a good thing to try early.” In my heart of hearts, I knew he was wrong, but I was too young and vulnerable to stop him. He was determined. We ended up in the tent, the one my father had built for me just yards away from my house. First he put his hands down my pants and fondled me and then he made me do the same to him. I was scared not to. Things escalated rapidly: he was taking my pants of, then his, he was raping me and I didn’t even know it. Just the day before I hadn’t even know what sex was, let alone sexual abuse, let alone rape.

I felt sick. I cried. I didn’t tell my parents. I cried some more and entirely blamed myself. For weeks. For years. I didn’t think about it. If I saw him outside I locked myself in my room. I was very successful in completely repressing the memories until we learned about sexual assault in middle school. It was like a light bulb went off in my soul. I had been raped. It wasn’t my fault? It was all hard to believe, to deal with, especially since I had never told anyone the whole truth. I told a couple of my closest friends before high school started; it changed their opinions of me. I have had a few boyfriends since then, but I have never had the courage to tell them why I shy away from anything sexual. My conscious mind knows that I can overcome this incident, that I have, but I am still subconsciously troubled by the idea of trusting guys again.

These wounds will eventually heal, but there is no doubt that they have left a scar. I refuse to let people see me as a victim; I am a survivor, just like every other person who has kept on living their lives after being abused.
I wish I could say when it started or how it started, but I was too little. Was I seven? Eight? I've stopped trying to figure it out. Now, I just say I was a kid, a little girl. And my big brother would take that little kid me into quiet places where no one would find us. There, he made me touch his penis, put my mouth on it, lick it. Over the years it got worse. He'd pull my little girl panties down and have what I guess he'd call "sex" with me.

"Does that feel good?" he'd ask and make me promise to never tell.

But finally I tell my baby sister who tells my mom who confronts me and promises me that "it" will stop. She still has no idea what exactly happened. The years and years of "it." No, she has no idea what exactly she stopped when she made sure he never touched me again.

Over ten years later, after "it" ended, I still have no confidence. I guess it shows because one night when I first get to college a friend of mine kisses me and tells me I am "hot" to encourage me to be more secure. He puts a drug in one of the three beers that I drank that night, and before I know it I am unconscious on his futon. The party's over, and I am so limp and helpless. I wake up just enough to realize he's sliding in beside me, kissing on my unresponsive mouth. I was like a dead doll. He did everything he wanted. Dug his nails into my vagina till I cried out and bled, only I wouldn't know until the next day that I was bleeding. It takes eight months and finding out that he did the same thing to my best friend for me to even tell a soul what happened that night... I still see him around campus, and every time he gives me a hug. Every time I shrink from his dominating arms and the way he squeezes me close like I am his to do with as he wills. That is what it is like to feel helpless.

Now, I just want someone to look in my eyes and understand that behind my really happy face I am broken. I sometimes wish I didn't hide my sadness so well... that one glance by anyone would reveal the pain I carry like a burden every day. Why can't my English professor understand that I am upset when John Donne writes about "ravishment"? Can't my Women's Studies professor just let me not talk on the day we discuss sexual assault? Sounds so easy to just tell everyone what I deal with but really it feels shameful to admit it. It's horrible to act like it's all fine and pretend I'm always happy and organized when really inside I am a messy tangle of emotions and hurt.

I don't think that I will ever be able to look at a little girl without being so scared that she will also get hurt. I never want to bring a child into the world. Worse, I am fearful of intimacy and run away from love. I hope for healing but still cry every night.

Little by little, I am learning to forgive. In tiny pieces, I let go of resentment. Every day I pray for strength. I pray that I can find beauty and meaning in a life that seems destroyed.

These words I wrote and I believe:
...
baby girl’s rosy chubby face—
she twirls in red and white dress
and in instinct I glow
mother implored to snatch her up
(please never let her go)
attain appreciation for her daring
brought her here to find emptiness
abuse, torture, losing,
but in anguish we gain…
yes, beauty that wouldn’t exist without pain.
...