When I was fourteen years old, I experienced my first case of sexual assault. Although I can’t recall which instance occurred first, I can remember the confusion and slight fear that I felt in those moments. I was confused because I did not understand what was going on. As a fourteen-year-old, I didn’t quite understand all of the implications of sex, nor did I fully understand what it was. At the time, I had been dating one of my closest friends, someone who I trusted and had known for years. When the events unfolded, I didn’t quite understand what had happened to me. Throughout the years, I have vaguely heard of the term “sexual assault” let alone given an explanation or description of the full extent of what it meant. It was simple: no one talked about it, therefore, it did not truly exist.
Years after the events unfolded, I never thought about that moment again, but I have found myself becoming involved in terrible encounters with guys that would make me feel even more confused about what a healthy relationship should be like. You see, it’s one thing to realize and acknowledge that you have been sexually assaulted, but it is one thing to not even understand or realize that YOU have been a victim of sexual assault. I spent years not fully understanding the extent of what had happened to me, but I could tell that something was definitely “wrong” about me. Although I pined over relationships and lived through romantic comedy movies, I found myself fearful of being involved in any relationship, for my past encounters have forced me to shut myself out from any factors that may present any future heartbreak or a threat to my self-identity. It wasn’t until the Harvey Weinstein case and the #MeToo campaign that I had finally realized what was wrong: I had been sexually assaulted.
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#MeToo: How the Harvey Weinstein Case Forced Me to Acknowledge My Sexual Assault Story
In light of the Harvey Weinstein case, in which American film producer was accused of sexual assault and sexual harassment by multiple actresses in the film industry, the #metoo campaign was started by American actress Alyssa Milano to bring light the issue of sexual assault. In today’s society where victim blaming and rape culture is prevalent and often shut down, this campaign has shed light on the importance of speaking out and letting society knows that sexual assault is more common than one might think. The response of this campaign has spread throughout multiple social media platforms, flooding people’s feeds with support and personal anecdotes of sexual assault and sexual harassment stories from friends and family.
While people may think that sexual assault is something that is physically visible and can be proven (such as rape), sexual assault is more than just that. Although physical forms of sexual assault are the most visible form, sexual assault, just like sexual harassment, can occur through mental or verbal forms. In fact, the anti-sexual violence organization Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) defines sexual assault as follows:
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It’s depressing to think that I had blamed myself for everything that had gone wrong in my encounters. For years I had felt that something was wrong with ME and that I was incapable of being loved. As a person who is afraid to speak for herself, I was always afraid of speaking against things that I didn’t understand or disapproved of. In the end, my lack of understanding on the concept of consent and fear of fighting for myself led to a downward spiral of unhealthy views of relationships, love, and mental health.
As a victim of sexual assault, I was fearful of contributing to the #MeToo campaign, and it is understandable and perfectly fine for me to not want to share my story. However, I want to be able to speak out to those who, like me, may not have been aware of their sexual assault story. As the campaign brings more attention to sexual assault, I hope that sexual assault victims and survivors can unite to spread the word on this important issue.
If you or someone you know may have been affected by sexual assault, you can contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.