For the times that they wouldn’t take no for an answer.

*TRIGGER WARNING*
This post is about sexual assault, as well as my personal experiences with it. If you have been assaulted, abused, or taken advantage of, please be aware of this before reading on. This will probably be even more difficult for you to read. I will also not be using their names, but I will use he, or anything similar to that.
This is a subject that I have wanted to write about for a very long time, but have lacked the courage to do so – until now. I tweet about it all the time, but have not written too much beyond that. As I’ve seen headline after headline of survivors not getting justice, I had to speak up on their behalf, as well as my own, beyond just tweeting about it. It will be blunt & honest, but that is how I am.
I have had the support of many other survivors, & for that I am endlessly grateful – words cannot express my gratitude for them & all that they do. I am writing this to prove to all survivors that you are never ever alone – you are loved & you are treasured. It is not your fault, it is not your fault, it is not your fault. You are incredible, & nothing can take that away from you.

For the past few months, I cannot get the feeling out of my head of waking up on the very early morning of January 21st. I had ended up in a bed that was not my own, in clothes that did not belong to me. I cannot fully explain how I got there, or how that happened, because I had drank a little too much that night – more than I had wanted to, & had originally planned.

Earlier in the evening, he had casually mentioned that people could stay the night, turning to me & suggesting that I stay in his bed with him. I declined – I said no – & that I had wanted to go home at the end of the night. That did not happen.

What I remember is feeling like I was going to pass out. People were talking, my head hurt, & I just needed to lay down.

I wish I could have said something – all I wanted was to say something, but the words would not come out. I wanted to say that I should crash on the couch before he took me stumbling to his room downstairs, but the words would not come out. I had changed clothes with him standing there, even though I did not want to, but the words would not come out. He covered me with his body, & all I remember was passing out.

The entire time, inside my head, there was pounding & screaming NO – PLEASE STOP. I don’t want to be here. But the words would not come out. I could not move, or do anything to help myself. I was left entirely speechless.

The fear waking up was something that I knew all too well, & something that I never wanted to experience ever again in my life. But there I was. What happened to me? was all that I could think. Honestly? I could not tell you what had happened to me – I did not have any idea what had happened to me. My body ached, & my heart stopped. The flood of absolute terror was unbearable, & the chills rushed quickly through my veins. I was wrapped entirely by his body, & all that I wanted to do was cry & run away. At that moment, I did not know where to go, but I knew that I had to leave. I slipped from his grip, which was incredibly difficult. Eventually I ran outside to my car, frantic & panicking. What happened to me? I drove home & I fell asleep shaking – crying.

The person that did that to me had been one of my closest friends for five years – five years. To this day, I still regret even going to his house, especially the fact that I had not seen the many red flags before that had happened. Because he would not take no for an answer at all, ever, from me.

This same man had consistently pushed my own personal boundaries in the past, but I have always been a person to give second & third & a hundred chances – maybe he just didn’t understand & I didn’t spell it out clearly enough, so I could try it again. And again & again. He claimed to be a feminist, & loved Jesus so much, & also stood up for social justice movements – blah blah blah. How I viewed him quickly changed a year ago, & drastically changed a few months ago.

He asked me out on a date right when I moved back home last July. Originally I had said maybe, but then I had changed my mind & said no – I really was not interested in him, & did not want to risk jeopardizing our friendship. He cornered me in his room when I went to his house a couple of months later, asking if I really did not want to date him at all. I had said no I do not – not ever, no. He had hung out with me & we talked, just as friends, which I had made very clear, & still he insisted on trying to hold my hand at the end of the evening. I said no, & asked him to stop. He had tried another time, at a party, to hold my hand & wrap his arms around my waist, to cuddle with me & rub on my shoulders. I had said no – I shrugged him off. Every time, I had told him to stop.

Yet with all of that, saying no was not enough. But since I believe the best in others, & we were such good friends, I didn’t think twice about going to one of his parties again or accidentally drinking just a little too much. I still wish that I would have. Maybe he would have understood that no truly did mean no, but he didn’t. When he texted me laughing about what had happened, I even tried justifying it all: He was drunk as well, maybe he just didn’t remember… NO.

I had said no, & that should have been enough. I could not speak for myself, & that should have been enough.

From then on, I could not help but think that I should have seen this coming – I should have known something like this would happen. But because he was my friend, I didn’t think that way.

A few years ago, another one of my closest guy friends had sexually assaulted me several times – while other people were there & asleep, it had happened. It was during one of my birthdays, of all things. That was how I found out that I have sleep paralysis, which is the temporary inability to move or speak while falling asleep, or when waking up. It all happened while I was conscious, but literally could not do anything about it – I was entirely out of control & powerless. That feeling of helplessness flooded through my veins, & all that I felt was fear. I could not say no, but I wanted & needed to. To this day, I cannot look back on that day without feeling sick to my stomach.

After that had happened to me, I brushed it off, because that was always what I did. We talked it out a couple of weeks later, & I told him I’d “get over it” & that all was forgiven. My natural reaction when I was abused, or when someone had done something wrong against me, was to pretend that it never happened & forget about it. Up until a few months ago, I had almost made myself forget that it had ever happened to me.

When it was brought up again because of what happened to me with my other friend, the memories flooded back & I could not handle any of it. The wave of guilt, shame, & trauma that it had caused me flooded all of my senses. The memories hit me like a ton of bricks, because I had repressed them for so long. I had told only two people, but kept entirely silent – I hid it. I blamed myself, just as I had in the past with the abuse that was once heaped onto me. But I was so wrong! Honestly, what could I have done to stop the actions taken against me? Absolutely nothing.

The actions of others are not in my control, & someone else’s wrongdoings are their responsibility, not mineUnderstanding this took me my entire life, resulting in a lot of self destruction & self deprecation, all of which I now understand & have moved away from. I get that I should not treat myself that way, nor allow myself to be treated in that way.

One thing that I have clung to in all that has happened is this: I am not to blame, & it is not my fault. I do not deserve what happened to me, & there is nothing that I could have done to prevent it. I have come to realize within the past few years that I am worth so much more – that I have infinite value, & that I am loved beyond my own understanding. My word is enough, my actions & feelings are valid, & I myself am valid. The anxiety that I have is valid, & will always be valid.

The fact that it was two men, who are held in high esteem by many of my friends, does not invalidate what happened to me. They were the people who did something against me, not the other way around.

“The real healing was achieved when I started to sincerely believe I’m not responsible for what happened to me.”

Keith Smith

What makes my heart ache is the fact that, even still, it’s difficult for me to talk about & be open about having been assaulted & taken advantage of in the past. am the one that has felt shame for what happened to me, questioning my own validity. My past explains exactly why I had reacted/felt that way, as well as how my automatic reaction was to keep it quiet & not tell anyone. I found that there were more consequences for me than them, & that is wrong. It was never my fault, & it never will be.

(If you want to know more about my story, click here to read it. That post was written seemingly ages ago, but it still stands.)

Other people’s actions are not my responsibility. What happened to me was not okay, nor will it ever be – there is no justifying any of it. All that I have said is the truth, & nobody can take that away from me. Whatever happens now is in my own hands, & I get to choose if these people are to be in my life or not – it is all on my terms, nobody else’s. My body is my own, & belongs solely to me. I have been through far too much to let other’s actions dictate or manipulate my life.

I am loved.

I am strong.

I am enough.

I am a survivor.

These wounds will not last forever.

One thing that I hope to do is seek more guidance & help moving forward. Thankfully I have an incredible support system in my family & friends. My faith in God is what has kept me afloat; His love & grace for me know no bounds – they are without comprehension. There is healing yet to be discovered for me, & my heart is being mended day by day. The lyrics to It’s Quiet Uptown from Hamilton come to my mind: “There are moments that the words don’t reach – there is suffering too terrible to name.” I know that it has nothing to do with abuse, but it has everything to do with trauma.

Naturally, it has also been incredibly difficult for me to trust the men that I am close to, after all that has happened with those that were like brothers to me. (The #NotAllMen choir can kindly take a seat.) What I will need the most is time & understanding, for them to listen & not undermine my experiences.

I tell my story because, far too often, especially women (& especially trans women of color within the United States), are violated, raped, murdered, & there is no justice to be found for them. They are told to hide, by their perpetrator or someone else, & left without support. They are told that what happened to them is not enough for a conviction, or that this could never have happened to them – they are basically told “I do not believe you.” They are told that there are now laws in place saying that “no doesn’t really mean no,” even if they change their minds. That consent is not necessary, & means nothing.

The countless stories that I have read… I can barely even read through some of them, because my heart shatters every time that I see the words “no conviction” or “acquittal” – every single time that I see the face of these perpetrators, I feel absolutely sick. We live in a society that consistently perpetuates rape culture, making light of these crimes (because that is what they are), & who blames victims even within the court system. (Just read this letter that the victim at Stanford wrote, & see examples of everyday examples of rape culture.)

Please note that what I have mentioned is just within the United States. All across the world, more specifically women are victims of violence. Young girls are being taken & forced into marriages or sexual slavery. Women – girls are being brutally raped & killed because they are dating “the wrong type of person,” or simply because they are muslim. And this is just sexual violence, never mind the physical & emotional, mental & psychological, verbal & spiritual violence that occurs.

This is wrong – it is not okay.

Justice must be served for these victims.

This must end.

I will always speak out on behalf of these sisters & brothers – I will make sure that they are given a voice to their experiences, & that they are heard.

If you or anyone that you know is a victim of sexual violence, please click here for help & support, if you need it. Also follow The Buddy Project + Surviving & Thriving, as well as women like Abby Honold on Twitter. Just remember that you are never alone. I believe you. I am here for you, & I hope & pray that justice is found for you. This world needs you – please do not disappear. You are seen, & you do not have to hide. This shame is not your own, it is the shame of the person that did this to you & the shame that society must bear.

There is still so much left to say… But just know that, above all: You are loved, you are loved, you are loved.

If you are reading this & not a victim of this type of violence, please be gentle with & listen to those that are. It takes a lot of courage to speak on those experiences. Let them know that they are heard. Please read all of the articles that I have linked here, & learn from them. Educating yourself is the most important step to not only understanding those that have been through this type of trauma, but beginning to end the cycle of violence, as well as victim blaming, & no longer perpetuating rape culture.

“Trauma. Fear. Shame. I’m coming for you. No more hiding. No more defeating voices. Power & courage are what illuminate the darkness.”

Surviving & Thriving

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