When and How to Draw the Line

Usually, when the phrase “when it rains, it pours” is used, it’s talking about the excessive attention you, supposedly coincidentally, get when you enter a new relationship. However, I’ve recently found it applies to many other situations. Specifically, it can apply to the experience of sexual assault or harassment.

Maybe it’s because the first conscious experience of it causes those afflicted to be more nervous and attune to it going forward. Maybe it’s because it’s happening all at once. Maybe it’s because you want to protect yourself and are convinced that every interaction is threatening, out of survival. 

It could be one of these, all of these or none of these. In any combination, when an unwanted sexual advance happens, you can’t help but feel a sense of insecurity, anxiety, and fear everywhere. When it rains, it pours. 

In discussions with my friends, men and women, the men were genuinely surprised by the fact that all the women present in the conversation had an experience of a threatening or unwanted advance from someone else in their lifetime. Even more surprising to them, these experiences started at the ages of five and six. 

While these memories started disappointingly early, they continue throughout life. In college, a time of immense reflection and growth, they can happen with more impact, they can come back as repressed memories, they can seriously shape your view of the world during such a formative time. Young adulthood is defined by allowing yourself to explore how you want to exist in the world. But when something as invasive as sexual assault happens to you, how are you supposed to question how you want to feel secure within your existence AND how to feel secure walking down a sidewalk? How are you supposed to take one scarring experience (the rain) as well as everything scary you notice afterward (the pour), and move forward? 

My dad told me growing up to never make decisions out of fear. Fear, which is such a valid and frustrating feeling that inevitably follows these experiences, is also powerful. When questioning who you are and how to present yourself in a world that includes hurtful and bad-intentioned people, the validation of the feeling of fear is very important. However, never let that be the reason you keep yourself from taking a step towards how you want to exist as an adult. That’s when you draw the line. 

Drawing a line will be different for everybody. It may be to use what you’ve gone through as initiative to fight, it may be to wear something scary that you love, it may be to take a class, to report the experience, to talk about your experience with someone, to be vulnerable and exposed. Drawing that line is putting a stop to deciding, because of the fear that has sprouted from the pouring rain, that it’s better to avoid what you want. 

Feeling the fear and sadness and pain that follows any amount of an unwanted sexual interaction is necessary and genuine. Feeling your feelings is so painful but so empowering. But, what is so important to remember is that you are more than the darkness that your feelings incite. You deserve more and you are more. 

Drawing a line doesn’t have to be big. It can be but a line between you and an overwhelming feeling by getting out of bed. Or it can be by going for a run in a sports bra. Or by confronting a person that put you in those uncomfortable situations. Your line, your pace. You just need to know that you have the capability to make that separation.