Deep breaths, that's all I can tell myself when a memory of my assaults comes flying through my mind. As I start to shake I can hear my thirteen year old self yelling at my friend as she molests me. I can remember how I couldn't move and how much I struggled to push her off of me. I remember when I was a young child how a relative of mine looked at me—how he still looks at me. I remember him rubbing my inner thigh as we drove down the road.
I am one of many people who was sexually assaulted as a young child, and I will not let my voice go silent. For years I contemplated whether or not my assaults even happened. Then one day it clicked and all the puzzle pieces fell together. That day I ran to my sister and told her. She believed every word that came out of my mouth. She held me as I cried, as I realized my worst nightmare came true. For a while she was the only person that knew, the only person that I could go to. When I told one of my closest friends, he freaked out in the middle of a coffee shop and I had to tell him to quiet down out of fear of what people may think. For a couple years after that and even up to today, very few people know my story.
After telling someone, they usually brush it off and act like it's no big deal. Either that, or they don't want to hear the sad realities behind sexual assault. That because of my assaults, trusting a man is ten times harder than it use to be. Or because of my assaults, I live in so much fear. I'm always looking over my shoulder, watching my back, making sure that it cannot happen again. People don't like to think about how much pain it causes, how much pain it has caused me.
Yet when I tell people that I wouldn't go back and make it so that it didn't happen to me, they're awestruck. I tell them that I would rather have it happen to someone like me, someone who is able to make it through the storm alive, than someone else who may not be able to get through the storm at all. That because of what happened to me, someone else doesn't have to go through it. I look at the scar on my soul caused by my assaults, and I see it as a symbol that I am a survivor—a warrior—and that I will not let my voice go silent. I want to not only help others like myself—people who have been ravaged by someone who didn't understand the word stop—but also those who turn a blind eye to this reality so that together we can bring an issue like this to the light, and to an end.
Overall, in that past years this one quote sums up what I've learned: I am not what has happened to me, I am what I chose to become.