Welcome to the SpeakOut! Blog

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.

End the shame. Be empowered. Speak Out!

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We are holding our first fall Speak Out! in October 26th, 2017 from 7-9 pm in The Pit. For more information, check our Facebook page.

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.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

“Isn’t that the guy you blew?”
My friend’s casual comment hung in the air for a long moment. I didn’t know how to respond.
“Um… I wouldn’t exactly put it that way,” I said weakly.
We were sitting at a restaurant eating Sunday brunch together, and she was telling a story involving a mutual acquaintance.
“That’s not exactly how it happened,” I tried again hesitantly.

Why is it so hard to label something as assault?
For me it’s because I don’t want to consider myself a victim. Or even a survivor. Thinking about it makes me feel weak and ashamed. I’d honestly rather put it out of my memory, pretend it didn’t happen.

“The guy you blew.”
I mean, that’s true. His penis was in my mouth.
Does it matter that I was so drunk I barely remember it? Does it matter that he pushed my head there? Does it matter that I told him I didn’t want to, fruitlessly offered up excuses, tried pathetically to protest?
I had walked home with him. I had let him take off my bra. Are those steps promises for more?
He didn’t rape me, not in the traditional sense. I blew him.
So was it assault?
Does it matter? My friend at brunch didn’t care.
Funny how it feels like I don’t have the right to decide.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

I am a victim, I am a survivor, but most importantly that is not all that I am. I am also a student, a friend, a daughter, a girlfriend, an animal lover, a Christian, an amateur cook, a Netflix junkie, and an advocate for equal rights for all people.

I still jump when someone touches me, I still just generally hate being touched at all. I still can’t sleep through an entire night without medication or a nightmare. I never take my eyes off of a drink—even in casual situations. I still cry. I still have flashbacks daily. And I still can’t bring myself to tell those closest to me what happened to me.

The first time I was assaulted was in high school. I went to the police who asked questions like “what were you wearing,” “are you sure you said no,” “are you sure you didn’t imagine this,” “the court process is difficult, are you sure you want to go through with it?” 1. I was 14—why did it matter what I was wearing when a grown man who called himself family decided to touch me? 2. I was legally unable to consent, but, for the record, I did say no. A lot. 3. I am sure that I did not imagine it. I am sure that the memories are as real as the nightmares I still have to this day are. 4. Is a scared and traumatized 14 year old girl even able to adequately make the decision to or not to press charges?

He was found guilty, but he never saw the inside of a jail cell or did any type of community service.
The second time I was raped was in college. I was at a party and I was drugged. It wasn’t even until one of my friends posted a picture with a year later that I was able to put a name to the face. I spent months in my room crying after that. I couldn’t go to class. I couldn’t focus on anything. The night of being choked and hit and held down by a strange man just kept replaying in my head. Memories I had spent a year repressing all flooded back at once—all because he had a name.

At some point we, as an entire society, as people of all gender identities, must stand up and admit that gender based violence does exist and that gender inequality is prevalent. Yes, women can vote now, but they still cannot walk on the streets at night or leave their drink unattended. A serial killer and serial rapist, Ted Bundy, said that, to him, violence wasn’t about violence, it was about control. And that’s what is happening to someone when they are being assaulted—someone taking control.

We are asking why women stay rather than why their partners hit them. We are asking why someone was out alone rather than why did someone take advantage of that situation. We are asking why a woman chose to wear revealing clothing rather than why did someone force her to take that clothing off. What does it say about society when it is the victim’s morals that are questioned? Why is it when nobody is found guilty that society looks at the victim and says “well it must not have happened then?” If someone breaks into your home, and the perpetrator is never found, does that mean you staged the whole thing? Why does it matter if you previously consented to sex with that person or if you have a history of sleeping with people? What if that person that broke into your home said “well she/he let me into her home before and she/he has a history of hosting gatherings so I thought it was okay to enter without her/his permission?” We have to stop blaming the victims, starting holding the perpetrators accountable, and attack the problem at its root. We need to change the questions we are asking because we currently aren’t getting to get right answers, and we have to work together as a society to do so.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

“You can go back home if you want. But if you do, then I’ll tell my parents everything we’ve already done. I’ll tell them it was your idea.”
---
How an eleven year-old child ever learned to manipulate that well, I will never know. My parents always told me K* (the neighbors’ daughter) was “bossy,” and that I shouldn’t listen to her if she told me to do something I didn’t want to do. They gave their advice like it was easy to follow. But then again, they probably never imagined she could corner me as expertly as she did; that she could violate my body and make me feel like it was my fault. They probably thought she was, at worst, making me give her my ice cream money or something. 

K always knew the exact words that would keep me trapped in her bedroom with its pink walls and Britney Spears posters, a torturous cell of shame with a candy-sweet exterior. I can only guess that she modeled her threat on a similar one that someone else once delivered to her when she was my age, or younger even. Abuse is, after all, a pain that is transmitted like disease; you have to have gotten it in some way or another in order to give it. 

At the time, I was eight years old, standing barefoot on the plush carpet of K’s bedroom, staring blankly at her butterfly comforter on top of which the “dating game” almost always took place. She made me be “the boy” every time, which even then I found ironic, because the game hinged on revealing, using, and abusing the body parts that distinguished me as a girl child. I think, perhaps, the first time we “played the game,” I was excited, filled with a child’s curiosity; I had never been allowed to see another person’s body freed from clothing before and she told me she would show me how to kiss. I knew from enough movies and television that it was best to learn how to kiss as quickly as possible, so I figured it was a fair offer to take up, and I agreed. I saw it as a learning experience that would put me ahead. I never imagined that her kisses and her touch, the oppressive weight of which I endured for three years, would be the first and last ones that my body would feel for the next ten years. I never thought I would have to be asking myself, at the age of nineteen, whether or not it was her fault or mine that I consistently push away all the men who interest me, even the ones I want so much to touch, and kiss, and love. Am I afraid that some of the pain she gave to me will rub off on them? Or am I afraid that they might still smell the scent of her on me, like fruit body spray, sweat, and shame? 

I have done a decade of hard work to recover the few memories I have from those years, and I am sure there are still many locked away in the deep recesses of my mind. Yet, every time I bring a new one up and attempt to dust it off, I feel stronger and stronger for having survived and inspired to be an ally for other survivors. Because I have felt the pain of sexual trauma and emotional abuse on my own body, mind, and spirit, I know the importance of stopping their infectious spread by giving people an alternative model for processing their own trauma. Survivors need to know that asking others to help you hold your pain is not the same as passing it on to them. Speaking out, letting others know what happened to me has become the key to my own freedom that I was not able to access at the age of eight. I hope my abuser has found a better way to deal with her pain by now, wherever she may be. 

(*Name has been changed to protect the anonymity of my testimonial) 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I'm not entirely sure if this is considered sexual assault, but it still makes me feel gross.

Last year, I had alcohol/drug-related problem and would frequently black out after a night of substance abuse. But I was careful to make sure I didn't drink at parties or anywhere there were strangers. I figured it would be okay as long as I was in my room, not disturbing anyone or being disturbed by anyone. Some of my unc friends knew about my drug habits, including him.

I don't really remember the circumstances around how this happened. I barely even remember the event. I must have blacked out because I only remember flashes of it. I remember him putting his arm around me, and me pushing it away. I remember wanting to throw up at the look on his face. But when I woke up the next morning, he was gone. Everything seemed normal, so I figured it was a dream.

He texted me a few days later asking if we were okay. I had no idea what he was talking about. He described what had happened. We were both in my bed. He was feeling me up, and apparently I was doing the same to him. I didn't remember any of it.

He says it was consensual, and maybe it was. I'd been high around him before though, and I know the last time that happened, he was adamant that I "couldn't give consent." He said I didn't seem high or blacked out or off to him. Maybe I wasn't. Maybe I just forgot. I'm not sure.

But he also knows I'm gay. He knew about my drug habits. I thought he should have realized I would never have wanted that if I weren't incapacitated. I also feel like if I were incapacitated, it should have been fairly obvious.

This year, he lives down the hall from me. Some of my friends think I'm overreacting, and maybe I am. But I can't help but feel betrayed. He was a friend I trusted, and now I get panic attacks whenever I pass by him or see him. And he's probably going to be a doctor one day because he's smart enough to get into a good med school. And it makes me sick knowing the type of power he could have over an unknowing/unwilling patient.
I was a junior in high school when it happened. I still don't know if I could call it "violence", because that has a certain connotation. But it was certainly a violation. I was volunteering with Habitat for Humanity- we used to do an event called ShackAThon, where you built a little hut out of cardboard and decorated it and slept in it in a parking lot for a night to raise awareness for the homeless (and money through sponsorships).

He was a really popular kid in school, and he's never really talked to me. That night, he came to hang out in my little box house, and I thought it was weird, but also awesome. I thought he sort of hated me, so feeling like I might actually be "cool" was amazing for my awkward self.

I don't remember how we fell asleep. It must've happened while we were talking late into the night. When I woke up though, he was holding me, and I guessed I was okay with that. Maybe he was interesting me, and who doesn't love cuddling? But then I noticed he wasn't asleep, and his fingers were creeping into my waistband. I wiggled and sort of snorted to make it seem like I was slowly waking up. He moved away. But after I'd lain still for a while and I guess he thought I was asleep again, it continued. I didn't know what to do.

I just stayed awake all night, wiggling as necessary to try to escape, sweating and wondering what I would do if he ignored my "waking" motions. I never said anything though, because I thought that's "just what boys did". What could I expect, anyway? I was sleeping in a tent with him, of course he was going to touch me. (I wish I could go back and tell my 15 year old self that that's now how any of this actually works...)

In a nightclub in Mexico 4 years later...THAT was far more violent. Dancing with a seemingly-kind stranger suddenly turned into him violently shoving his hand up my skirt and into my body, all the while I screamed at him to stop and hit him. He held on to me so tightly that I couldn't get away, and no one could hear my protests over the music. He kept whispering in my ear that I should go back to his place with him. I won't ever be able to thank my best friend enough for finding me in that club and noticing that something was very wrong.

It's weird that I still consider myself lucky. Like I have no reason to complain or to use my experiences as examples of sexism and sexual wrongdoing, because it could have been so much worse. And I don't know how to be there for those who have experienced levels of hell far deeper than those I breached. I feel lost and I feel sorry.

Monday, September 22, 2014

my testimonial is that i have never been a victim of any kind of sexual abuse that i considered serious enough to even remember. is there a place for this in this project? because i think there should be. 
This blog is a space for any and all experiences with sexual and interpersonal violence, as long as the story comes from your own personal experience. We welcome you to share your story or comments as long as they are respectful toward survivors. We believe that each person's experience with sexual and/or interpersonal violence is worthy of being shared.

- An Administrator
Having attended Speak Out for several years, I have come to recognize an interesting paradox surrounding the issue of sexual violence. Sexual assault feels so personal to survivors--it represents an invasion of one's most personal space and the stripping of one's own bodily autonomy. However, after having heard stories of friends and loved ones, I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing "personal" about them. As friends, parents, administrators, and those outside of the event, it is often easier to personalize these events, to say, "What were YOU doing? What were YOU wearing? What did YOU tell him/her." We want to understand these events as a response to one's personal choices, rather than as something that can happen to anyone, regardless of appearance or behavior. We don't want to accept that these events are not, in some way, spurred by those affected, because this would confirm that we are all at risk of being subject to this violence ourselves. I have not been a victim of sexual violence, but I don't think it is the consequence of some "correct" behavioral choices I have made or the protective measures I have took. It can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime. We need to "de-personalize" these stories by making them, not about the survivors, but the perpetrators of these crimes. We should not force survivors to carry these events with them as "personal baggage," but should take them on as collective cultural baggage. By validating survivors' experiences and recognizing the political significance of these events, we can work toward ending rape culture and sexual violence. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

It started when I was six years old. He was an extended family member at around 11-12 years old the first time. He told me he wanted to play "Titanic," a game where he would "save me" by pushing me down and laying on top of me. Even then, I knew something was off. For the next six years, whenever I would see him, my stomach would lurch because I knew he would do his best to get me alone. He usually did.

Initially, it was just laying on top of me, even when I begged him to stop. As I reached 9 years old, his hand began to slide down my shirt and wiggle around. I was confused and scared. I remember looking in the mirror as I was getting ready for dinner parties with my extended family and messing up my hair, so I wouldn't look attractive. I thought maybe if I looked ugly he would stay away. In fact, I used to beg my mom to let me wear casual clothes to events like that. That wouldn't stop it either. Later, I would realize that it didn't matter what I looked like, he would have probably done the same thing.

The last time was when I was 12. His family had just bought a new house and was having a housewarming party. My mother made me wear a really nice outfit. Looking in the mirror before we left, I wanted to puke. My breasts had gotten bigger and so had my hips. I wanted so badly to be invisible. Before we left the party that night, I went upstairs to look for my brother. I didn't find him, but my attacker found me. He said he wanted to play a game and pushed me over. He tried to tried to reach into my top. I wasn't having it this time.

I crawled out from under him and turned around. I told him I knew what he was doing and that he better stop. He played stupid and pretended like he was just having fun. I ran away that day, and never looked back. That night, I cried myself to sleep, as I finally realized what had been happening to me all those years. That kid took advantage of another kid, a much younger one. He will never know the depth of the anxiety he has caused me, and how delayed I became when it came to boys and growing up. To this day, I still have a hard time making physical contact with people. I still am not comfortable being too close to guys. I was violated, I was taken advantage of, and I was manipulated. It becomes hard to trust people, and harder to trust yourself.

My attacker attended UNC and is now in medical school. He's going to have a great life and bright future. I hope that whatever he was going through was a curious phase, but if I find out he ever did/does it to anyone else, you better believe I'll send his ass to jail. I feel guilty for not reporting him, but it would honestly tear my family apart. I also know there's no evidence, no nothing. But, I'll have my eyes wide open. He better keep his hands to himself.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

If you knew me, you would know that I am a women’s studies major, an artist, and even a poet. You might consider me bubbly, insightful and hopefully hardworking.
But if you really knew me, you would know my story. You would know why education is my number one priority and you would know why I am who I am. If you really knew me, you would know that I am a survivor.
Five years old: He lays me down, hold my wrists and gives me the worst pain I’ve ever felt.
Five and a half: The same thing, except my teddy bear was watching.
Six years old: Another time, but after his drunk friends had left the house.
Seven years old: Left me in a closet for two days straight after telling him it hurt.
Eight years old: I cried in the bathtub telling my mother I didn’t want to go to Daddy’s house anymore.
There was other abuse like leaving me in closets with the doors locked for days at a time, or shoving me into my bedroom after hitting me with his fraternity paddle. Not to mention the many times that he would start to cook for me, drunk, and leave it on the stove to burn, leaving me hungry until breakfast the next morning where he would fight through his hangover and attempt to feed me cereal. I was screaming and crying in the bathtub one night before my scheduled time to see him and at that moment, my mother knew something wasn't right.
She didn't know that he beat me, raped me, starved me, and even tried to abuse a friend of mine. She didn't understand what I had gone through; she didn't know all of the details then, just like most people don't now.
I couldn't handle the thought of keeping it a secret and trying not to cry when people use the "r-word" as a derogatory term. I tried to hold it all inside for so long and couldn't handle the pain that I was feeling. People didn't realize that although I was happy on the outside, I was screaming on the inside. It was a hole of darkness that I walked around for years, and fell in at night in my dreams.
This whole concept of “rape” didn’t hit me until I got older- and it made me sick. I developed bulimia in middle school because I thought that by throwing up I could get out all of the toxins that he put in my body- that maybe I would become pure again.
My junior year of high school I finally said something, and decided to press charges. What was worse was that the district attorney said there wasn’t enough evidence and that was the end of it. I could never find justice.
My senior year of high school, he chased me down the hallway of my school after telling the front office that he was my father and he was looking for me. Of course they let him in. But because they didn’t have the documents saying he couldn’t see me from when my mother took me away from him, he was let go and all I could do was get a restraining order.
If you really knew me you would know that I have survived a lot. I have had to survive the adjustment of moving away to a residential high school alone, with the fear that my father would follow me- and did follow me. I have had to survive the words that he said when he would leave me nasty messages on my voice mail and even survive the news that after finally pressing charges, there was nothing that could have been done for lack of evidence.
What he did matters because it has shaped me into the person that I am, but the past is the past, and there is nothing I can do to change it. I had to move forward, and I am.
.
When people ask me how I go through my day without crying or getting upset, I say that it is because no matter what, I am a survivor, not a victim.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Every time I confide in someone that I've been sexually assaulted, I feel a twinge of guilt. Guilt because I fear I don't "deserve" to identify as a sexual assault survivor, that my assault wasn't traumatizing enough. Then anger at the fact said guilt exists in the first place, a byproduct of the entire social construct that inhibits the understanding of consent and permits rape culture to persist. 

I was assaulted by my first boyfriend. I fell asleep while we were watching a movie on my bed. He woke me up by unzipping my jeans and pulling them off. I barely had time to say "what?" before he inserted himself in me. It was over within minutes. I didn't say a word the entire time. I couldn't. I barely comprehended what was happening.

Afterwords, in shock, I told him I didn't want him to wake me up by having sex with me again, how I hadn't wanted that. I remember how upset he was, how he accused me, "and you just LET me?" and before I knew it, I was the one comforting him, telling him "No, it's fine. I just didn't have the time to decide whether or not I wanted it, but that's okay. Just for next time, now you know." 

I remember taking myself to the shower and mentally forcing myself to squash all unease — It was okay. He didn't mean to make me feel uncomfortable. He loved me. We talked about it now. It was okay.

I stayed in that relationship another six months without thinking about the incident. After all, it was okay. We talked about it. It wouldn't happen again.

I broke up with him for other reasons later on. It wasn't until after the break-up, after I distanced myself from the unhealthy emotional dependence, that I could recognize what happened to me was assault. My consent had been violated. The worst part? I couldn't even see it at the time. 

I lost all faith in myself, in my own judgment. There were many months I walked around feeling a wounded animal, doubting my ability to ever trust myself again.

But here's the thing. I didn't let him do anything. It wasn't my job to say "stop." It was his job to ask what I wanted.

When I realized that, I began to heal. I began opening up to those around me. I learned to trust myself, take pride in myself, again. Where I once thought I couldn't ever open myself up to another relationship, I look forward to sharing my life with someone in a healthy, meaningful manner.

To my fellow survivors and anyone else reading my story, I leave you with this:

Sexual violence comes in all forms. No one experience is "worse" than another. There is no guilt in being a survivor. There is pain, pain that shouldn't ever exist in this world... but more importantly, there is strength. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

I grew up religiously watching Court T.V. I knew what rape was. I knew it happened through physical coercion. I knew it happened at the hands of some stranger at a party or a deserted parking deck. And, of course, I knew it only happened to women.
I had just turned 18. He was a year younger. We got out of school early for snow, and I drove him back to his house while his parents were still at work. We had been dating for four months, and we had been having sex for about three weeks. Neither of us was experienced.
He had chosen to be the receiving partner when we became sexually active, but he told me daily—sometimes multiple times a day—that he wanted to reverse roles. Eventually, I agreed. We went through all the preparations; he even lit candles. But when it came to the last moment, I panicked—I wasn’t ready. He told me I was overreacting and that it wasn’t that bad. I apologized to him, pleading for him not to be upset—and then: “you can’t just change your mind.”
He forced himself into me. After an initial shock, I shoved him away. It was all over in less than a minute.
He apologized, saying he didn’t mean for it to hurt. He then prompted me to apologize for being unfair.
I did.
His parents came home an hour later. We ate dinner and watched a movie with them, and I pretended nothing was wrong. I bled from the tearing for three days, and I pretended nothing was wrong. Over the following six months, I stifled panic attacks during anal sex, and I pretended nothing was wrong.
It took a nasty breakup and a heart-to-heart with a friend my freshman year to accept everything about it was wrong.
Because of that afternoon, I have married sexuality with anxiety. Even when my next boyfriend tried to do everything right, I spent our intimate moments trying not to cry and counting the minutes in my head until it was over.
Society tells you it wasn’t assault because you were in a relationship. Society tells you it wasn’t assault because he was younger than you and because you’re a man. Society tells you it wasn’t assault because he lit candles. 
Society doesn’t tell you that you have to avoid Bath and Bodyworks now because the smell of their candles makes you vomit.