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 spring Speak Out! on April 16th, 2018 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.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

A year ago I sat in the pit while I heard my testimony read back to me. I remember tears streaming down my face, but feeling supported by all the souls that sat around me. Now I sit here and I write this brief post just to say it does get better. It doesn't get easier, it still hurts like hell every day, but you get stronger. I remember sitting there and hearing almost this same story, that a lot can change in a year and it gets better and blah blah blah. I remember wishing so desperately that it was true, but not thinking there was any way out of the darkness that surrounded me and yet here we are. I walked out of a bar midsentence the other night ago when a certain Robin Thicke song came on. The man I've been dating followed me out and wrapped his arms around me and didn't say a word. I didn't have to explain or justify, he just sat there and shared in my pain. A year ago I couldn't even think about touching another human being, that then turned into hypersexuality and sleeping with anyone I could get my hands on, and now we're here and I'm in love with a partner that I could have never seen coming. Life is weird and uncomfortable but I would't be where I am today if I hadn't taken those small steps forward because of Speak Out. I guess what I'm trying to say is confront that pain, however you need to do it. Confront the trauma and the pain and the disgust and all of the negative feelings that come along with being a survivor. It doesn't have to be in huge ways, it can be as simple as making yourself that meal or looking at yourself in the mirror. It's worth it. Taking two painful steps forward and about 15 steps back is worth it, just keep moving. Just keep holding on to that tiny little minuscule sliver of hope that it will get better and one day the dark won't seem as dark.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

I lost nearly a year and a half of my life to domestic violence. I can't talk too much about that time yet. I'm not ready, and I don't know that I ever will be. And that's really okay with me- forgetting is welcome. What I can talk about is my survival story. After the violence started, I tried to breakup with him about once a week but it just never seemed to be possible. There was sobbing and begging, insistences that "I'll do better" and "I'm trying my best." If I didn't respond to that manipulation, there was begging me to just have "one last dinner" or "one last movie" and by the end of that dinner or movie I was back with him. It may seem incomprehensible that this mess kept me so long, but I cannot describe how hard it is to leave someone you love, someone who is in genuine pain, someone who blames you for their pain and after that propaganda you believe it. 

After months of trying and failing to leave, and a particularly violent assault, and the realization that I no longer loved him, I broke up with him in the only safe way I could- via text message. And I was free. For a whole week, and the best week in my memory, I was free. Until he begged me to come over, telling me he was really worried about me and wanted to make sure I was doing okay. It was bullshit, and when I came over, he raped me. I didn't try to leave again. Instead, I convinced myself that there was nothing wrong and I was safe and this was only helped by his "honeymoon period"- being a sweet and doting partner so I wouldn't leave again. 

I didn't leave again for 7 months. And when I did, I left for good. That was three beautiful months ago and I haven't seen him in two and a half. The last time I saw him, to drop off his stuff, he raped me for the last time. That entire night seemed like a collage of painful scenes, the details and transitions I cannot remember- begging him to stop, passing out, coming conscious, stumbling out the front door with him yelling at me to come back, falling into my car and driving until I felt safe. I remember sitting on the side of the road, sick to my stomach on the side of MLK, and crawling into my bed. I was in pain, confused, but also knew that I was done. It was over. 

That part of my story is pain, suffering, and over. "Everything happens for a reason" is complete bullshit and I would love nothing more than to erase that part of my life. But feeling even slight happiness after a year and a half of immense suffering is the most cathartic, gleeful joy that I have ever felt. The closest way I can describe the last three months of my life is as I've been drowning as long as I can remember, and now I can put my head above water and breathe.
In May of my senior year of high school, I was sexually assaulted by someone who I had considered to be a friend. We were at a party; and I was intoxicated and passed out on a bed when he came into the room. I remember being so confused when he began to finger me and feel me up; I was still half asleep and so drunk that I couldn’t move. I kept whispering, “I’m sorry, I don’t want to, I’m sorry, I really can’t do this.” He didn’t stop. 

It took me a long time to come to terms with what had happened to me. It wasn’t until last winter that I was even able to call it sexual assault. Even now, it feels as though my story is somehow invalid, like I don’t have the right to tell it, because it could have been so much worse. I know abstractly that you can’t compare or quantify suffering, but somehow I still feel selfish for thinking my story is important enough to share.

My attacker goes to school here. I see him all the time. Many of my friends from high school are still friendly with him, even though they know what he did to me. I have had friends question the validity of my sexual assault and the ways in which I’ve dealt with it; who have put my experience up as a topic for abstract intellectual discussion, who have told me to “look at it from a rational perspective.” The trauma of peoples’ responses to my sexual assault was, for me, worse than the trauma of the sexual assault itself.

I struggle to feel empowered in the wake of my sexual assault. A few weeks ago, I went to the Title 9 office to ask about my options. I was told that if I outed him on yikyak or posted flyers, I could go to honor court for harassment or slander. The woman I talked to said that she hoped I could get to the point where I could pass my attacker in the street and not feel anything. To me, this is not what justice or healing looks like. I don’t want to pass him in the street and feel nothing — I don’t want to pass him in the street at all. I wish that I trusted my school to make that happen for me. I wish I had faith that if I took him to trial, I would be believed and supported by my school. But I don’t. So while my attacker moves easily through the world, I hide my panic attacks during my French class because sometimes I run into him as I’m walking into the building, and I am terrified of telling new friends about what happened to me, because I don’t know if I can handle yet another person telling me that I am wrong in how I feel.

More than anything, I want my attacker—and my friends who questioned my story-- to have some idea of what it was like to be me while he was assaulting me, what it’s like to be me now. Of course, they will never understand unless someone does to them what my attacker did to me, and I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone. But I wonder: did he feel sexy and attractive when he assaulted me and I couldn’t move? Did he feel powerful when he said hi to me in the dining hall, and I was so scared that I couldn’t speak? Did my friends feel intelligent and sophisticated when they instructed me to look at my assault from an intellectual perspective? Did my ex-boyfriend think he was doing me a kindness when he told me that he wasn’t going to tell me what I should have done because I was doing what was best for myself, but he thought I should have reported it so that it didn’t happen to other women? As though that’s something that I haven’t struggled with or worried about every single day since it happened?

But I have also been lucky. My parents, and most of my friends today, have supported and believed me every step of the way. They have made me feel justified in my feelings and my experience. They have spent hours talking me through rough days. I have had more love and support than most survivors ever get. And I know that there are days where I will still feel like I can do nothing to change the reality of my situation, but this, right now, is a moment where I can empower myself--and hopefully other survivors--through speaking about something that, by its nature, was incredibly disempowering.

Monday, October 24, 2016

I went home this month, and I saw my abuser. I think it quite cruel he didn't recognize me because I still think about him every day; not only that, I wake up in cold sweats from nightmares where I relive his actions and scream in my sleep because I think he is there with me. I have to realize that he is far away, and I don't even think he knows where I go to college. But I can't even find the innocence in a hug or soft touch anymore because every interaction with him was never with good intention. He didn't recognize the person who he used so violently, rapaciously, and greedily. He used my body like it did not matter if there was any of me left after he was done. He didn't recognize the person who tried to love him through it. He didn't recognize the girl who bled for him. He didn't recognize the girl he would lock in his car, and not let her go until he was satisfied. He didn't recognize the girl he stalked after he left her. He didn't recognize the girl he saw more as a punching bag than as a partner. He didn't recognize me, even though every time I go home I spend my time in fear, hoping I do not see him.

Monday, October 10, 2016

I graduated this year, and so did the person who assaulted me. For weeks after, he was all over TVs in every single public space at Carolina, all over newspapers, granted scholarships, put in leadership organizations and joined by influential individuals across campus--including the Chancellor. Meanwhile, I was struggling to get out of bed and into class. I watched mindfulness videos over and over again as I couldn't sleep at night and I made sure someone walked with me everywhere I went because I couldn't stand to walk alone. I will always remember the hotel with disgust, his blank face, and how he kept on going even after I repeated no three times. And the hitting and the permanent burn scar I have from when her threw my own hair straightener at me. After the break up, I lost all the mutual friends, not him. I started wearing baggier and baggier clothing because I didn't want anyone to see the shape of my body. He immediately started dating someone new, in his sister sorority, and everyone loved the two of them together. They pretended I didn't exist. He still posts Twitter comments about rape culture and how it's wrong, passes judgment on others who carry out sexual assault, was even a part of the Men's Project. And Carolina applauded him every step of the way.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

I am scared.

I can feel my heartbeat every time I walk down the gloomy street back to my house at night. My hands get sweaty if I have to stand too close to anyone of the opposite sex on the bus. Sometimes, I am even anxious when someone walks up to me at a bar.

I wonder if there will be a time when dark remote streets do not urge my feet to run and my head to replay that evening on the streets of a foreign country.

It happened two years ago. I was walking down a dark, deserted road, taking a shortcut to a bus I needed to catch. Behind me, I could hear steps. Coming closer. A voice: “Sorry, sorry, madam, sorry.” Then, a face, getting closer to mine. His hand trying to catch me. His body pressed against mine, I tried to keep walking. Finally, the feeling of his hand between my legs – a violent, fast, determined grasp. I do not recall if I made the decision to scream, but I hear my own voice. A motorbike is coming closer. I feel how he is detaching himself from me. And then – I don’t feel anything anymore. I run. I scream. Tears are running down my face. I run and I can’t stop, until the motor bike driver stops to talk to me. He tells me to go to the police, but I do not hear him. He offers me a cigarette. I don’t smoke, usually. He waits for the bus with me. We smoke. I do not remember how I get home.
You might say that this was a while ago, that this occurred in a big city and that worse things could have happened. But this is not what I am talking about.

In our society, we tend to wait for the extremes. You were sexually assaulted? Well, you weren’t raped. You suffer from anxiety? Well, at least you are not depressed. Although these differentiations might have some truth to them, it is the comparison itself that is wrong. Mental health is not about the objective severity of the experience and its relative standing compared to others, but about the subjective, personal and extremely individual harm and suffering.

It took me two weeks to press charges against the stranger who assaulted me. I could hardly remember his face, let alone any details. When the police finally found someone capable of interrogating me in English, one of the first questions I was asked concerned the time that had passed since the incident: “Why did you not come earlier?” The answer to this question can be summed up simply –I didn’t have the strength.

I remember the days afterwards all as if they were yesterday. I remember rubbing his dirt off my body, even the parts he hadn’t touched, trying so hard I hurt myself. The twitching of my entire organism every time a man stood next to me on the bus. The feeling of disgust at myself and sexuality in general. His visits in my dreams. How my flatmates held both of my hands when we went out a couple of days later.
I started talking, and I realized I was not alone. It didn’t help fill the hole inside me, but it helped me feel powerful again. Active.

Things need to change.
The predominant perception of sexual assault as something the victim can be blamed for must be addressed. “You shouldn’t have walked alone in a dark street.” “You shouldn’t have worn that skirt.” “You asked for it.” This victim blaming is deeply insulting, biased and unbearable. It distorts the vast number of crimes happening every day, scaring women for life. It ignores the real perpetrators, and how we need to raise awareness in our society – for sexual assault, rather than “adequate” dresses.

We who experience sexual assault need to speak up, even though it’s hard. Everything we do not talk about slowly becomes a part of us. We shouldn’t give those who assaulted us the power to dominate our well-being. We can’t reverse what has happened to us, but we can reduce the pain felt by other victims.

Let’s work on this together. Please keep your eyes open. Keep on talking. And never, ever blame yourself.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

I submit one of these every semester and every semester I find that I can't bring myself to feel fully one with myself and with what happened to me. 
But this time, it isn't about what happened to me in my past, it is what happened to me LAST WEEKEND. The fucking weekend before Easter. 

My brother and I were out to dinner and we were having a good time. I bought his dinner...I even paid for his fiance's, too. But we went to his friend's house and he started drinking. Sure, I had a drink. Why not? 

Later that night my brother and his fiance and I went home and he started asking me to hit him. When I wouldn't he slammed me into the couch, burying my face into the couch. Then he made me stand up just so he could take my head and slam it into the hardwood floor. I laid there crying until he pulled a gun on me. I was motionless. I thought my life was over. But now that I look back, I realize that that wasn't what scared me. What scared me was the thought that he would do to me what my father did to me so many years ago. I was afraid I would have to learn to say the "r-word" again. I was in fear that I would have to go through what I went through when I was a little girl and when I was in high school. 

I don't know how to say this, but sexual assault, RAPE, has not ended. The fear, among all things, is still present among us. It still eats us, the survivors, NOT VICTIMS, alive. It curses us and makes us feel stamped. We are branded by the people that did this to us. But like all brands, they can be covered and healed. The scars will never leave but only become a mere memory of the pain we SURVIVED. 

To all my fellow survivors, and to anyone who might ever read this: I hope you will always know that I think of you often. I live for you and I get through my depression because of you. If for any moment you feel like you don't matter or you feel like you don't belong in this world of hate, you do. Because I need you. And I need you now more than ever. Because if you can't get through this and show the world you are meant for more in this life, then no one will be able to. 
It was a couple of days after my birthday and halfway through the first week of classes. How would you feel if one of your “so-called” best friends brought up the worst thing that ever happened to you, blamed you for it and pretended like it was the hot gossip of the week? That was me, except it wasn’t some childish gossip…it was one of the two singly most traumatic experiences that has ever happened to me. I was sexually assaulted in my ninth grade year of high school. Did I know that? No, but I felt uncomfortable. I thought I was helping one of the closest friends I made at school with a crisis. I thought he was going to get abused by his uncle if I didn’t help him. It was just his way of deceiving me. My “friend” had also done this to other guys at our high school…and he even got a restraining order placed on him. Where was I when all of this happening? Hiding. I was trying to dissociate myself from my assault. I was afraid of being blamed, feeling stupid, judged and knowing that I shouldn’t have let that happen to me. I didn’t know that was me. “How did you not know?” Said my “so-called friend” that goes here. All of us were in the same friend group. My perpetrator confided in you. He told you everything that he did…and you took his side. AND you blamed me!!! I have struggled with having two of my closest, best, whatever friends stab me in the back (over and over again with two machetes)…and just wanting everything to go back to normal. I have been depressed. Experienced suicidal ideation…like every other day on a weekly basis. My grades and academic ability have suffered. I have felt worthless, ashamed, stupid and victimized. Thanks my “so-called” friend for being the only other person to know and hurting me just the same. However, I am not going to let either of you curtail my road to success anymore! I thank God, because I wouldn’t have made it without Him and the angels he’s placed in my life. Yeah, this year has royally sucked. Yeah, I have felt like giving up. And yes, I have felt l was trapped and alone. But I am not alone. I am a survivor. I’m making it. I am thankful for growing this year…and being able to reach out now. If there’s one thing I can be grateful for…is that my pain doesn’t have to destroy me. I can help other people understand that if I made it…so can you. 
I don't know if I've experienced sexual violence, and I haven't known for about five years. 
I was thirteen years old going into high school, soon to turn fourteen, and eager to make friends. I laughed at everyone's jokes even if they weren't funny, and I tried my best to get along with everybody... even the obnoxious 16-year-old sophomore boys in my "Fundamentals of Technology" class, which was really just wood-shop. Maybe I was an easy mark to them, these three sophomore boys in my class. I don't remember the names of the other two, but one I clearly remember... blonde hair, blue eyes, pale skinned and short. 
I don't remember much, so I can't tell you much. I know that for the first few weeks they gave me attention, talked to me, and joined my group projects. I know I wanted to be "the cool kid", I wanted to be likable. I know it gradually got worse and worse. He would come up behind me when I wasn't expecting it and touch me, even while I was having conversations with other people. Every touch happened so quickly, so that one moment he was there and when I turned around he wasn't. I remember one time when he held me down and touched me while his friends took pictures. I'm sure I could've escaped his hold, if only I had put up a bit of a fight, but I didn't. I hadn't yet been taught how to say no, firmly, audibly. 
I remember coming into class early one day to finish some homework and leaning over the sharp edge of the wood-shop table, writing answers. I heard him come in with his friends, and I felt him as he pinned me against the table, my legs pressing into the sharp edges. "This is how you rape someone", he said, and he laughed, and they laughed... and I think I laughed. I laughed and laughed. He fumbled with the back of my shorts. I laughed. I laughed and I struggled, and I kicked the table so hard with my thigh that I thought I'd bleed. And I laughed. 
Maybe if I laughed, then it was a joke. 
It didn't feel like a joke. 
The teacher came in and he ran away, back to his own table to laugh with his friends. Within thirty minutes I could barely stand on my right leg, a baseball-sized bruise swelling on my thigh made it difficult to walk. My mother picked me up from the bus stop. When she asked about it, I told her I had just tripped and fallen, oh so clumsy. Over the next few days it became more difficult to ignore, and she stopped buying my clumsy story. In embarrassed thirteen-year-old words, I told her some of what had happened. She demanded I go talk to a counselor, seek punishment and justice for what had happened, and so I did. The counselor asked me where he had touched me, and I looked down as I gestured meekly with my hands. The next day, I was called into the Vice Principal's office to discuss the situation. 
He told me, "We want everyone at this school to feel safe... so I need you to not talk about this with anyone else". After I left he called in the Sophomore Boy, and threatened him with detention. He was told exactly who had complained about him. Me. And when he came into class later that day, he laughed.
He laughed.
It's been five years. I am not laughing anymore.