#MeToo & #WhyIDidntReport

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Sometimes things don't hit you until you can process them fully.
Sometimes we are so used to forcing things inside, deep inside to that place of denial and shame and self-blame, that we don't even think about them in a way that isn't distorted by society's dialogue of victim blaming.
Sometimes you go out to dinner and someone makes a joke about the #MeToo movement to your face and you wince a bit but brush it off and don't realize how much it really bothered you until you're telling your boyfriend about it on the drive home and break down crying.
Sometimes you cry all the way home and all of your past pain pours out of you and you have to go hug your mom.
Sometimes you call your best friend on the way to go hug your mom, and you share with her exactly what you just shared with your boyfriend and are about to share with your mom, and she shares with you too, and you open old wounds together, and it hurts, but it also heals.
Sometimes you need one final push to talk about things.
Because in a world where "I believe you," is a radical and life changing statement, we need each other's stories.
This is for all of you who have this same story, because it is so tragically not unique. For all of you who spoke your truth and felt the intense vulnerability, and possible backlash, that came with sharing. For all of you who can't share, or don't want to share, but know the pain all too well. For anyone who has ever felt scared of a man. For anyone who has felt shame about something that wasn't your fault. For those who have lost their voice, and for those who have found them. This is for all of you. For all of us who need this healing-pain.
Here is my story.



When I was 14 he was 18.
No one questioned this, why would we in a society that completely normalizes older men grooming younger girls? I was probably just really mature for my age, or some other bullshit excuse invented to make me feel good about what was clearly not ok. Poor boy, he was lonely, which was another justification put towards the situation.
We were dating. We were "in love."
At this point in my life I was religious and convinced I was saving myself for that special whoever I would marry. He knew this. He didn't care. If we were in love, what did it matter?
The first time things started progressing past kissing, I told him I didn't want it. I told him I was scared and didn't feel ok. He convinced me otherwise. He felt me up under my bra and I cried. I cried because it felt wrong and not ok and because I didn't want to disappoint Jesus. I make jokes about that part now, because we exist in a society where we turn pain into jokes and it's supposed to help but what it really does is just normalize things and make them hallow and brush past or leave out the parts we really need to be paying attention to. 
"Oh haha the first time I got felt-up I cried because I didn't want Jesus to be mad."
But also because I told him no. But also because he talked me into something I didn't want. But also because the person who was supposed to love me, to respect me, to keep me safe, to care the most, well, he cared the least.
This was only the beginning.
I think we all know he wasn't going to stop at a coerced boob grab.
A little while later the same thing happened, but with sex.
I said no. I said no more than once, but he kept talking and eventually I gave in. I gave in because he wouldn't listen to me saying no. I gave in because he said he loved me. I gave in because I was younger. I gave in because I was underneath him on the couch, and when you say "no" multiple times to a larger man who is still on top of you, it becomes very hard to not say "yes" eventually.
We had sex. It didn't feel good. I tried to think about other things. Once he was done I went to take a shower. I sat down, I let the hot water wash over me and I started to cry. I sat in that shower crying hysterically for over an hour. I never wanted to leave that shower because it felt safe. Soon his yelling broke into my safe space that he was going to cut and stab himself with some scissors if I didn't get out. He pounded on the walls. He cried. He made many threats. I got out of the shower. He asked how I was and got offended when I said, "emotionally numb." He drove me to my mom's work so I could talk to her about it. I acted tougher than I was, which I didn't need to. I gave her a very condensed, cleansed version of what happened. I went home with him.
We dated for two years.
It remains the most fucked up relationship of my entire life, and it set the stage for the rest to come.
Once, I told him I didn't want to have sex anymore until we could work on our problems and stop fighting. He told me that we'd just fight more if we didn't have sex because he'd be pent up and that would make him meaner. 
I never once counted what happened to me as rape.
It didn't feel violent enough. It wasn't a stranger in an alley. It was my boyfriend who I thought I loved, who I thought loved me.
I eventually said yes.
I didn't report because I was young. I didn't report because I was afraid of judgement, because I was ashamed of myself for giving in.
I didn't report because, and this is the worst part, I thought this was normal.
Turns out an 18 year old boy should never be having sex with a 14 year old girl, "consensual" or otherwise. Turns out that alone counts as statutory rape.
I spent years of my life telling myself I didn't count.
That didn't count.
I survived nothing, because it really wasn't anything.
This was just my virginity story.
I want to stress this to everyone with a similar story: This counts.
I stress this because even as I type this I am diminishing it to myself. I stress this because people will brush it aside. It isn't normal. You count. I count. This counts.

When things eventually ended with him, they did not go away.
I spent years afraid to go into the city he lived in.
I had a panic attack when my mom wanted to stop at a store on the fringes of the (large) city he lived in, and had to stay in the car with my friend because I felt like I couldn't breathe and was sobbing hysterically.
I hid from grocery store isles if I smelled someone wearing his cologne.
And make no mistake that they still haven't gone away.
He used to guide me around forcefully by the back of my neck, or use my wrists as a means of controlling me (my next boyfriend did this same thing), and even now years and years later, my boyfriend accidentally brushing his hands over the back of my neck, or touching my wrist while trying to hold my hand will shoot me back to those moments.
I shut down. I close out. I feel every wall I built brick by brick when I was 14 and 15 and 16 and 17 and 18 (and on) shoot right back up. I feel my body go instantly rigid. I draw away. I protect myself from the one person who truly would never hurt me because I couldn't protect myself all those years ago.
And you know what is beautiful? He gets it. He doesn't ask questions. He doesn't get offended. He apologizes and gives me space. This shouldn't be unique or special, but it is, and the first time I experienced it I was in disbelief. I exist in a mindset that literally cannot grasp when he doesn't get mad. When we don't fight. When he doesn't play the victim. I posture for fights that never happen because I am so conditioned to expect the worst. Turns out love isn't actually like that.

My story does not end here, but this is where it started...at least romantically anyways, never mind my father telling my to undress in front of him a year or two earlier, but those stories aren't for right now.
He did so much more, but I could fill pages and I don't want to, nor do I want to unload all of it because I know it's hard to read, and we probably know it all already. We've lived it.
I have a lifetime of these stories featuring different men with the same attitudes.
My next boyfriend would go on to say things like, "Well you let him do this to you, so why can't I?"
I dated him for three years.
Years after we broke up I made a post about the tattoo on my spine, the one you see in these photos, and why it spoke to me after years of guilt and abuse. He contacted me, feigned some small talk, and then said that his mother was upset about my post because it may lead people to believe he wasn't a good guy. I mentioned no names. The phrase was, "after a string of mentally and physically abusive boyfriends."
And they ask us why we don't speak up.

I wanted to share this post with these photos specifically because I feel like they mirror the vulnerability I wish to express. The same vulnerability I shared when I first posted tattoo photos that was celebrated, but also attacked.
I have always taken pride in being soft. 
I have always taken pride in being an emotional being.
Underneath whatever face I put on in public, around aggressive men, around entitled men, around thoughtless men, underneath I am still soft. I am still vulnerable. 
I am my past.
I am my trauma.
I am every time he touched my body and I thought about my homework and my chores until he was done.
I am every tear I shed.
I am every threat to kill himself so I wouldn't leave.
I am every screaming match.
I am every too long hot shower.
I am every hope for a different relationship this time and every crushed dream when they were the same. 
But I am also more.
I am also who I am now because of all of this.
I am also soft.
I am also smart.
I am also a person who recklessly defends her friends.
I am also a mother.
I am also funny, and bouncy.
I am also happy most days.

And most importantly, I believe you.

1 comment:

  1. I believe you.
    And didn't know it was possible to love you more. But I do.

    ReplyDelete