Via @aparnapkin on Twitter
Over the past few days, my social media timelines have been flooded with posts reading “Me Too”. So, what exactly are these posts talking about? These posts have been made by survivors of sexual assault, harassment and violence to prove that we are not alone in our experiences. I decided to anonymously interview college women to hear their stories and find out why the decided to post “Me Too” on their social media feeds. Here are their stories.
Give a description of your personal experience with sexual assault, harassment, violence, etc. How old were you when you experienced sexual assault, harassment or violence?
A: The first time was 15, after that is was pretty frequent while I was in a bad relationship. There’s a stigma that you can’t be assaulted if you’re dating the person.
B: I’ve been assaulted multiple times. The first time it happened I was 14 and I was supposed to be getting a ride to a school event. This person driving me purposefully got “lost” and proceeded to assault me. After that happened I got my first ever boyfriend and I told him what happened. He told me that if I’d done it before, I could do it again. He’d hit me if I didn’t comply. More instances have happened.
C: So during my freshman year of high school my parents were out of town and I was staying at a friends for the weekend. While at her house we decided it would be a good idea to throw a party & make it open invite. So obviously everyone got super drunk, including myself, and before the party had even ended I was upstairs in my room passed out because of how much I had been drinking. While I was upstairs a boy I didn’t know came up and forced me to give him oral until one of my guy friends came in and found us. So at the time I was 13, and yeah I obviously shouldn’t have been drinking or throwing a party but shit happens and kids do stupid things. The party ended up being busted at the end of the night and police came, and while they were there I told my mom and a deputy what had happened to me.
D: I have been a victim of it twice, the first of which being the worst. I was a freshman in highschool and I was dating an older guy. I was only 14/15 so i was not mentally or spiritually ready to have sex. I thought I could trust this guy, and so I confided in him things that I wouldn’t tell anyone else. When he brought up wanting to have sex, I said no and he was so persistent so I finally said yes. After that, he began to threaten me if I didn’t want to have sex with him. He would threaten to hurt me, or to tell my family/friends/social media the private things I confided in him. When I would try to leave him, or tell someone, he would threaten to kill himself, use religion (something very important to me) against me, threaten to hurt me, or leak pictures he took of me/secrets I told him. This went on for two years.
E: I was sixteen when I first got sexual attention that I didn’t want. At that point I had been cat called and boob-sketballed for years. However, this was when men decided they had a right to my body. I was at a party sitting on a couch, and a boy sat down next to me and just stuck his hand into my shirt and bra, as if that was a perfectly normal thing to do. After a couple shocked seconds, I stood up and walked away. Being grabbed without my permission became a theme in my life after that.
F: No one thinks they’re going to lose their virginity to a rapist. No one would ever wish that upon another person, but that’s exactly what happened to me. When I was 17 years old, I was raped in the back seat of a car by my manager at work. I had been leaving work with my manager who as 30 and my coworker who was about 20 at the time. We ran into two drunk girls, one of which I knew. They were trying to get to the next town over and I couldn’t drive them because I only had my junior license at the time and couldn’t drive other people and it was way past my curfew. However, my manager offered to drive them since he was driving my co-worker home too. However, sirens went off in my head in this moment. I mean I was not going to let two drunk girls get in the car with two older guys. So I offered to go so I would know that they would get home safely. After dropping off everyone else in the car, we drove back to the parking garage where my car was parked. He then took out his gun and told me to get in the back seat of the car. I never once in my life thought that this moment could happen to me…but it did. It was the worst 30 minutes of my life. My mother kept calling me because i was an hour late getting home from work. I was finally able to get him off of me and pick up the phone…my mom and I have a safe word that if I was ever in trouble I could use “peanut butter” in a sentence and she would know I needed help. However, I was in shock and didn’t have the ability the wrap my mind around what was happening. I don’t remember much of what happened after, I don’t remember driving home, I don’t remember my mother yelling at me when I came home.
How did you deal with it then and how do you deal with it now?
A: I’m still dealing with it, I go to therapy which has been actually really helpful. My friends are my greatest support system. I only this year acknowledged his behavior as assault. It was freeing to put a title on it instead of thinking it was my fault.
B: Then I just pretended it didn’t happen because I knew people wouldn’t believe me. Now, I speak out about it. I’m not afraid.
C: So at the time I dealt with it by going to the police (with the encouragement of my mom, who is also a sexual assault survivor) but if I hadn’t have talked to my mom I wouldn’t have gone to the police. Then up until I was a senior I never talked about it and cried often and hated myself for a bunch of different reasons and I always sort of thought it was my fault, then I ended up having a really long talk with my mom and we both worked some things out about our assaults and I learned after that it wasn’t my fault
D: I didn’t know how to deal with it then, I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone and to be honest I still have a really hard time talking about it (only reason i agreed to this was because it’s anonymous).
E: It’s hard to understand why people do this, so it’s definitely hard to cope with. It’s hard for me to find comfort in the idea that it won’t happen again because I know it will. And I know that most of the time these actions will go unacknowledged and unpunished.
F: So I did not deal with it for 8 months. I was reading a short story in English class during my senior year of high school and it completely triggered me into a panic attack during the middle of class. I then found the courage to finally speak up for myself and tell my English teacher whom I trusted. This was the first step in the right direction in opening up about what happened to me. I then started going to crisis counseling. I am still paying the price every day, but I am always finding new ways to cope with the everyday price of what happened to me. The only thing that keeps me going is the fact that I protected those two girls from something even worse than what happened to me happening to them.
What do you think we can do to help lower rates of sexual assault and violence?
A: I think the best thing we can do is quit downplaying boys behavior from such a young age. “He’s just a boy” is no longer a good excuse.
B: Teach all genders about consent. Don’t teach preventative action, teach people to ask for consent!
C: I think if people who commit sexual assault were actually prosecuted sexual assault rates would lower, but that won’t happen until society stops victim blaming and trying to pull the “he made a mistake don’t let it ruin his life” bullshit. Also my abuser was never convicted and the case was dropped because police thought I was trying to get out of trouble for throwing the party.
D: I think the best way to lower rates of sexual assault and violence is to actually believe when women come forward, that just doesn’t happen enough. When this was going on, I confided in two people, my best friend at the time and a teacher. My friend couldn’t do anything and the teacher told me that I was making it up, and that rape in relationships isn’t real. If women are shut down when they confide in someone, odds are they won’t speak up about it.
E: The most important thing to do is educate the public and seek help if you’re a sexual assault survivor.
F: I think by talking about it always helps, but it isn’t more as affective as people think. The best way is to teach people how to get out of situations like that and be able to stand up for themselves even in tough situations like these. But we also need to teach people respect and to not take advantage of people.
Why did you choose (or not choose) to share the “Me Too” status on social media?
A: I chose to post because I am finally in a good place mental health wise to acknowledge what I went through and offer my support to others. This is the first year I’m truly happy with myself and everyone deserves to feel that again
B: I chose to share because I’m not afraid anymore. People need to know that there are others who’ve gone through the same things. You aren’t alone.
C: I decided to post me too to twitter because I didn’t talk about my assault for the longest time with anyone but thought now would be the best time to be open about it, especially after the repeal of title ix, so that other people who’ve gone through the same thing know they’re not alone and that what happened to them isn’t their fault. Sexual assault is way more common than it should be and I think the me too posts shed light on that.
D: I couldn’t participate in the “me too” thing on social media because I was scared I would get the same reaction I got from my teacher, that they wouldn’t believe me.
E: I participated in me too to make sure sexual assault survivors know they’re not alone and that we’re all in solidarity
F: I chose to share my story because the effects of PTSD have become a part of me, but it has also made me a stronger person. I have to push myself to do things that were once easy for me to do on an everyday basis and I want people to be aware that it can literally happen to anyone. People see how I am on the outside and the way I let people see me…like the happy, bubbly, fun girl. But secretly at night, I have horrible night terrors. I am extremely hypertensive and it’s extremely hard for me to trust people, but I am working on that every day of my life now. It’s hard, but I get stronger every day that I wake up and get out of bed.
Thank you to all of the brave women who were willing to share their stories with me. I know it is not easy to share these traumatic experiences with someone, nor is it easy to read them, but sexual violence and harassment are problems that need to be spoken out about. Whether or not you chose to share your story or make a “Me Too” post, remember that you are not alone in your experiences.