In the United States it’s estimated by the CDC that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men will experience some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. According to Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, 60% of sexual assaults go unreported. -PolitiFact
When I was 15 years old I was sexually assaulted. I was on a double-date with a friend. She and her boyfriend went into another room and left me and a boy I barely knew in the dark together watching a movie. I thought he was cute. He seemed disinterested. Curled up on an over-sized chair, I tried to watch the movie but was distracted. He sat quietly on the floor in front of the chair. Then suddenly he crawled up next to me. We began kissing. I remember being excited that he was interested in me. I wasn’t experienced at kissing yet, but as his tongue thrust into my mouth I began feeling nervous. Then he was unbuttoning my jeans. My body went rigid. He was putting his hands down my pants. He was pushing his fingers inside me. I had never been touched that way by another person. I tried to pull away from him. I couldn’t. I gripped his wrist and pushed. It didn’t move. He kept going. I was suddenly afraid. I thought he wouldn’t stop. I wasn’t enjoying it. I pushed again, harder this time, on his arm. And then he did. He stopped. Pulled his hand away and turned his head back toward the TV. We lay awkwardly while the movie flashed on the screen. I got up and went to the bathroom. I told my friend I wanted to leave and we left shortly after.
I did not tell my parents.
I did not tell my friends.
I did not tell anyone.
I don’t remember the boy.
I don’t remember his name.
I don’t remember his face.
I don’t remember how long it went on.
I don’t remember the specific date that it happened.
I do remember his fingers inside me.
I do remember his tongue in my mouth.
I do remember pushing on his arm.
I do remember being helplessly unable to make him stop.
I do remember the fear.
And I know that it was the first time anyone, other than a doctor, had put their fingers inside me.
I don’t have any evidence that this happened to me. I only have my memories. They are probably flawed. They are definitely foggy. But “indelible in the hippocampus” is the fear. The helpless fear, however momentary.
In writing this, I am stirred by the amount of anxiety I feel. Not about the memory itself but about sharing it. My worries range from how this will affect my family if/when they read it to whether it even matters.
Whether. It. Even. Matters.
What’s really the point of sharing? Don’t all women have stories like this? What makes mine important? Should I even call it sexual assault?
This experience did not traumatize me, but I have never forgotten it. I do not think about it daily. It did not affect subsequent relationships. The damage done to my psyche was minimal if there was any at all. Sadly, the reason that I wasn’t more affected by it was probably because I just assumed it was normal. Normal for every girl to experience their ‘first times’ that way–in a cloud of fear and helplessness. Normal for every first time to be somewhat non-consensual. Normal to just–let it happen. So I did. I let it happen. And I was one of the lucky ones.
I don’t share this story with you because I want sympathy. I don’t share it with you because I am a victim. I share it with you because there are still people who believe that this is a thing that only happens to “certain women” or only happens in “certain situations.” It happens all the time. It happens in a myriad of situations to every type of person. There is a great reckoning that must happen in our culture. That will happen. That hopefully is happening. A reckoning of gender norms, sex education and the systematic silencing of sexual abuse survivors. There is no type of person that is safe from sexual violence. And it should not be NORMAL to be afraid.
Privilege does not make women immune to sexual assault. Poverty does not negate it. Sobriety does not make women immune to sexual assault. Partying does not excuse it.
Religion does not make women immune to sexual assault. Atheism does not absolve it.
My story is my own. It is indelible. So many women have their own indelible stories. The majority of women you meet have a story. For such an ugly thing to become so normal…That is why I share my story. Because I am a normal girl. I had a normal upbringing. And yet…
1 in 3 of the women you meet today have experienced sexual assault. Count them. 1 – 2 – 3
If you would like to see an incredible piece on Consent and Restorative Justice watch this.