By Chris Heide
On Sunday, Alyssa Milano tweeted about sexual harassment and abuse, using the hashtag #MeToo, to encourage women to feel empowered to share their own experiences. Since then, the two-word protest campaign has gone viral, as countless women and men have come forward to share their own stories.
Telling anyone they shouldn't speak up about sexual harassment and abuse is just wrong. The #MeToo campaign is shedding light on the horrific abuses that women face everyday. I'm now seeing more and more people share their experiences as sexual harassment and abuse victims. Saying that anyone, man or woman, shouldn't speak up- that is not okay. That makes you part of the problem. No matter how the campaign started, no one should be silenced. Your truth is valid. To all the women in my life who are survivors of harassment and assault- I love you and support you. To to the men who have experienced sexual assault as well- I support you and understand you too.
The following is a collection of personal experiences with sexual harassment, abuse, assault and rape. While these stories are harrowing, there is hope. Perhaps, one day, behaviors can change and society will no longer tolerate such abject behavior and deplorable toxic masculinity.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t write about it happening to #metoo publicly, for all the world to see. But, unfortunately, I now find myself living in a country that elected a known pussy grabber to the highest office in the land, and it seems like a more pressing time than ever to expose the I nsidiousness of sexual violence, assault, and rape in our society. Our culture is saturated with it. So much so, that is almost seems normal. But it isn’t normal. The violence that has been perpetrated against me, and unfortunately, against nearly every single woman I know, is not “normal.” We, who have experienced these abuses, do not just brush them off and move on with our lives. We suffer the consequences; consequences ranging from intimacy issues to terrible physical and mental suffering.
My past is marred by many encounters with sexual assault and rape. The first time it happened, I was 14. I had never had sex before and I certainly didn’t want the first time to happen like that, but this was the night that I learned that it didn’t really matter what I wanted. To this day I don’t even know his real name – his friends called him Goose. We were making out, and then he began trying and have sex with me. I started out by saying, “no,” and ended up screaming “STOP,” over and over and over. I tried to push him off, but couldn’t. Then, once I realized that this was going to happen to me, I begged him to use a condom. I begged and begged and finally he said, “fine,” and reached down there for a second, before proceeding to force himself inside me. It hurt. I bled. He lied. He didn’t even use the condom. In the subsequent years, I kept this encounter to myself. I didn’t have sex again for quite a while, because I was traumatized. I felt dirty, ruined, disgusting and ashamed of myself. And it was this encounter that I believe led to the many, many more like it that succeeded it. I distinctly remember my 14-year- old self deciding that my body did not belong to me; that it was just a toy for the pleasure of others. Maybe, I’d think, if I just let them to do whatever they wanted to it, they wouldn’t hurt me. I stopped protecting myself, and I told myself I didn’t care
what they did to my body. “My” body came to be nothing more to me than a separate, disjointed entity to me.
It was not until my 20’s that I began to reconnect with that entity. Similarly, it was not until then that I enjoyed sex for the first time. Before that, I would just check-out during any sexual encounter I had – consensual or otherwise. It was involuntary, and it was how I protected myself.
My formative years taught me these lessons: There is no “saying no.” There is no amount of begging or pleading that is guaranteed to make them stop. There is only checking out and disowning your body – the only one you’ve got, or will ever have. What a tragedy that is. I want more for my daughter. I want her to learn different lessons than I did, and my sister did, and my aunt did, and almost all of my friends did. I want this shit to stop.
It took me years to understand that I had been assaulted. Due to being under the influence of drugs and alcohol, I was not able to give consent. I minimized the event and lacked the ability to process the trauma I had experienced. I know now that someone had taken advantage of me, while I was in a weakened state. Inside, I was screaming ‘NO”. As a result of this experience, my views of sex, my body and my ability to love myself were compromised. I felt dirty, shameful and to blame for the situation I had found myself in. Year later, I confronted the other party involved. They told me what happened was not assault and that I had enjoyed what happened. It was gross victim blaming and a twisted rationalization of what had occurred. Too many men and women have experienced sexual harassment, assault and rape. It needs to stop.
It took me years to unlearn that because I was drunk, because I had kissed them, because I didn't fight hard enough, because I didn't tell anyone, that I wasn't raped. The most painful part of being assaulted were the reactions and subsequently, my conception of myself and sex afterward.
The first person I told was a church leader and I asked her not to tell anyone. She didn't, but she never talked to me again. When I told my dad, he initially blamed me and then he became so obsessed with revenge. I needed to heal but we focused on my attacker instead of my health. At school, students didn't believe me and I was harassed and threatened for stating the sex wasn't consensual. The justice system failed me and even after requesting state provided counseling, no one followed up. My school didn't protect me and I continued being harassed until I left for another school district nearly an hour away. Parents, churches, schools and justice systems aren't prepared for sexual assault.
To my 15 year old self, I believe you. I want safe, consensual, enjoyable sex for you. Your body is yours only and what happened wasn't okay. Unfortunately this wasn't my last experience with sexual assault but I am fortunate to know the truth today: what happened mattered, I did my best, and I'm still whole.
I once worked at a high end salon and spa in Mystic, Connecticut. I was the receptionist/ assistant to the owner. On my first day of work he was asking me inappropriate questions like 'are you on PREP?' I quickly chalked it up to the fact that I was new and he was just trying to make conversation. As time went on, things got worse. He found me on a dating profile site and would send me inappropriate messages. So obviously, when I was at work, it was awkward, I couldn't look at this man the same way. Then it slowly grew to him touching me (rubbing my lower back when my shirt wasn't long enough, pulling the strap to my tank top). The worst was when he would look at me the way I look at tacos. It was disgusting. I eventually complained to his management team, which ultimately got me fired due to 'conflict of personalities'. There was no conflict, the man I worked for was a pig. To make matters worse, he was in a relationship. So I went public and blasted him all over Facebook because I refused to be a victim. It's been years and people still see me in public and tell me that they no longer go to his salon and spa due to my story.
I have experienced sexual harassment, rape and sexual and physical abuse.
So much trauma and fear set in when I got pregnant with my daughter. I thought I was too broken because of what happened to me to even have a daughter.
Today I do not look in the past in fear, because I know I am strong. I show my daughter what strength and loving yourself as a woman is. I stand up to my fear today. I believe in love and I also believe in the past does not define me. I am not a victim today.
To all you beautiful women out there you are love and courageous and strong. Follow your dreams! You are never alone!
My Mom, my Aunt and my Grandmother were molested as children by very close family members. They educated me about the danger of abuse. They instilled in me that if I were ever to be abused that I could always come to them without fear.
I was 13 and I was a virgin. My parent's were gone and my girlfriend and I thought it would be fun to get into the liquor cabinet. We grabbed Everclear and drank it until the burn numbed our throats; we finished half the bottle. My girlfriend called her boyfriend and asked him and a friend to come over and join us. They came and my girlfriend went into a bedroom to fool around with her boyfriend. I was left alone with his friend, a stranger to me. He pushed me into my bedroom and pinned me down on my bed. As I was saying no and hitting him, he proceeded to pull my pants down and rape me. It was violent, scary and painful in every way. I told noone. I was ashamed, I believed it was my fault because I was so drunk. I felt like a slut.
That was my first time being assaulted but not my last. There were several incidents of varying degrees of abuse in between but the last time was only 4 years ago. I've worked very hard on my internal healing process and I know that may never be fully healed. However, I am proud of my resilience, strength and my ability to still love and trust. I know now that it was never my fault. I hope to be a support to as many other abuse survivors as possible.
Who am I? I am someone who has experienced sexual assault, harassment and rape. It all happens so fast. The moments go from intimate and romantic, to agony and pain, traumatic and horrifying. Each experience arouses fear in me any time I am in an intimate relationship with a man. The boys that violated me are people that I knew. One of these people, I had known for about a year or so. We had been talking and planning on getting together. The night that I went to his house, we decided to be intimate. We both knew it was going to happen. What happened next, I didn’t expect. He started biting me, my
chest, my neck; it felt okay at first, then it started to hurt. I told him, “That hurts, don’t bite so hard”. He agreed, we continued being intimate. He started biting again, harder this time. “That hurts, stop,” I pleaded. I didn’t see the bruises until the next day. There were six bruises all over my chest and neck. I wanted to disappear. I wanted to be invisible. I would lie in bed, sobbing out loud, “I just want to die”.
I’m so grateful and blessed that I have an amazing group of women and men, who love me, support me and walked with me through these experiences. I have been taught how to forgive these boys, which I have. I don’t forgive their actions. They have left their mark on my body, my mind and my soul. However, their marks, gave me courage, strength and hope. I learned a lot from these experiences: I don’t have to be my experiences; I don’t have to let my past define my future. I am a survivor.
I was debating on whether or not I should post anything today. But after seeing all my brothers and sisters posts I have drawn up the strength to tell my story.
I was sexually assaulted, repeatedly and regularly, between the ages of 9 and 11. It happened in the woods by my house in Texas. It happened when I would walk home from school because my parents couldn't get me due to them both working. I was threatened if I said anything to anyone. My family was threatened if I said anything. So I endured.
I became depressed and developed anorexia. I shut myself away from everyone. I hated everyone. How could they not see what was happening to me? I hated my parents, blamed it on them for not picking me up from work.
I finally decided to end it all. End the Hell I found myself in. I got the gun from my father's secret closet. I went to school. I started walking home, and like clockwork there he was by the woods. It was going to happen again. Except I was ready. When it came to the deed I had my gun out and was frozen. The monster rushed me and in my panic to move backwards I tripped and the gun went off. Luckily it was a gut shot wound and the beast passed shortly after, but not before crawling closer to my panicked self and then collapsing on my legs.
I don't know how long it was before I was found by the police. Once they arrived and an officer held me and confirmed my safety did the tears I held back rush forward like a dam had been broken.
I had fully intended to use the gun on myself before anyone found me but I was in too much shock. I'm glad I didn't do it though. I'm glad that my other suicide attempts were unsuccessful too. I'm glad I am still here.
I have been forever changed since that horrendous experience. I have PTSD because of it that I still deal with to this day.
Sexual assault and the consequences of it come in a myriad of variations, and one isn't more or less valid than the other. It doesn't matter what your gender or sexual orientation is. To everyone who has gone through this I want you to know you are important, seen, heard, validated, loved, and supported.
To be continued...