I am an open book. I like to talk about myself and I’ll tell you just about anything. There’s only one story I hesitate to share, and it is the story that most needs to be shared: The story of my sexual assault.
As a child, I watched year after year as people received a certain honor, a honor very valued in a community of which I am a part. I dreamed of one day receiving this honor myself. When the day came when I did earn this honor, I stood surrounded on every side by a crowded pack of about 30 individuals who had received the honor before me, as they welcomed me into their ranks. It was a moment of true joy. It seemed nothing could dampen my spirits, not even three unwanted touches from an unknown hand.
In the party following this ceremony, I casually mentioned to two people, one man and one woman, both around my age and both holders of the same honor I had just received, that in the midst of the celebration someone had grabbed my butt. Both seem surprised and confused but neither asked any further questions.
That night I did not realize I’d been violated. I knew something unpleasant had happened. I knew someone had touched me in a private part in a way that made me feel very uncomfortable, but I kind of just assumed it was wrong of me to feel uncomfortable. Like many women, I too had internalized the lie that to be a woman is to accept and overlook unwanted attacks on your body, to ignore your own discomfort so as not to disrupt or upset the status quo. I went on having a wonderful night of celebration.
In the fall of 2017 came the rise of the Me Too movement. Taylor Swift won a symbolic $1 in a civil case against a DJ who had grabbed her butt in order to prove that people have a legal right to not be touched without consent. I slowly began to realize that I had indeed experienced sexual assault, whether or not I decided to let it bother me.
Because, to be honest, I wasn’t all that bothered at first. In the moment, I was confused. After, I was mystified. I did not think about it much, but I did not forget the incident either. My sexual assault did not cause me pain until the day I chose to report it. I chose to report because as I realized it was sexual assault, I realized it was wrong. Unwanted touching should not happen to anyone. I also realized if I did not speak up it could happen again in this same scenario. I did want any person convicted — I do not know or want to know who my assaulter is — or any organization punished, but I did feel a strong need to demand change. I wanted to ensure protection for other men and women in my place.
It was several months after the realization of my victimization before I reported the assault to my supervisor. I soon discovered that to report sexual assault is to relive sexual assault. Except, the second time around, I see my sexual assault in full clarity. That night replayed in the light of truth, there was no denying reality. I was sexually assaulted on one of the happiest nights of my life. I was robbed of my autonomy and my legal right to not be touched without consent.
I wrestled with an internal struggle that almost led me to believe it would be easier to let this go. I’ve had to convince myself of the truth. I struggled to say “Me Too,” but now I say “Me Too” and I realize the truth. That I wasn’t overreacting, I was not wrong to feel uncomfortable and I am not being dramatic. I am entitled to feel outrage, but I am also allowed to find healing.