Me too. Me too. Me too.
Two words I’ve seen echoed across social media today – like little hands, slowly but surely being raised in a crowd. It’s a gesture of solidarity, bravery, and vulnerability that makes me feel both empowered and empty. I’m not alone… but why is this particular trauma so widely shared? How is this acceptable or okay? What are our stories? How do we stop this?
I don’t have all of the answers, but I do have my little bit of truth – my own piece of this broken and f*cked up puzzle. And just like every ‘me too’ I’ve seen today, my story matters, and my voice should be heard.
So here it goes (tw: sexual and emotional abuse).
I was sixteen and stupid and I liked a boy with a silly name and crooked smile. I thought he was cute; he thought I was, too. We gave each other piggy-back rides and kissed in book stores. In my foggy teenage brain, we were in love.
And then it stopped. The compliments and pet names. The kisses on the cheek. The sweet, innocent aspects of our relationship slowly faded, and the pressure increased.
I’d never really kissed a boy before – apparently I was bad at it. I didn’t want someone grabbing my ass – apparently that was foolish. I didn’t want anyone reaching into my bra – apparently I was trying to stunt our relationship (oh, and my bra was too padded and my chest too small).
I didn’t want him slipping his hand down my pants, so he would just do it while I was sleeping.
“No” was nothing but a chance to berate me – sometimes alone, other times to friends. I was stubborn. Over-the-top. Asexual. Full of excuses. A tease. I clearly did not care about him as much as he cared about me (the words “I’d do anything to make you feel good, and you won’t do the same” still haunt me).
But I liked this boy. So damn much. I liked his tie-dye shirts, generic cologne, the late-night conversations we had about the future…
So I let my boundaries tumble down. Sure, sometimes I’d collapse and start hyperventilating on my bathroom floor, or sob uncontrollably for a few hours… but I let it all happen. Let him push my head down as far as he wanted to. At times, I even liked it (which led to a kind of guilt and shame I don’t think I can describe with words).
But here’s the thing: there is nothing to be ashamed of. This wasn’t my fault, it was never my fault. I wasn’t foolish, my bra wasn’t too padded, and my body is not only perfect as is, it’s also mine and only mine. I am not weak because I was sexually assaulted, nor am I sharing this to seem bold or strong…
I’m sharing it because I am one of approximately 683,000 women (in the US alone) who is sexually assaulted each year… and every one of us has a story. Some took place in Hollywood hotel rooms, others in corner offices, and others still in childhood homes. But as I’ve said, each story matters. And maybe – just maybe – the louder we shout, the more difficult it will become to silence us… to normalize and excuse “boys being boys”… to make us feel victimized and guilty and alone.
Because you’re not alone. I’m with you. Me too.
*Note: No woman owes anyone her story. Period. But I’ve found it helpful to put my own into words.