me too.

It’s funny how much impact these two words, consisting of only five letters, can have on the person that says them. Over the past 24 hours, thousands of women have come forward about times they have been harassed or assaulted by men, in an effort to increase awareness and visibility of victims of unsolicited sexual advances. My facebook feed has been filled with one “me too” after the other.

As someone that has also found myself in the “me too” category, the response was overwhelming. In a sort of “fucked up” way, I found it comforting, there are other women who have been through something similar. I have allies and confidants I did not know before.But more than anything, It was painful to read each one.

The group of assault and harassment survivors is the group no one wants to be a part of. No one joined this group willingly, no one consented to it. And up until the “me toos”, this group was largely silent.

Think of all the women you know that have come forward in the last 24 hours and admitted to being harassed or touched without their consent. Now consider the women whose jobs would be at stake if they posted, the women who are sexually assaulted in their homes every night, the women who cannot access a computer that would also reply, “me too.” I still think about the victims of Trump’s sexual assaults and how their “me toos” fell on thousands disbelieving ears.  The magnitude of the “me toos” is astonishing. As a victim of sexual assault, I am overwhelmed by those who have come forward.

TRIGGER WARNING 

This article or section, or pages it links to, contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to survivors

My story is one that I only began to tell about a year ago, after 5 years of silence. The election stirred something up in me, something painful that I had avoided, fought, silenced, buried, ran away from, and cried countless nights over. It started where many assaults (unfortunately) start, in a frat house. I point this out because according to the Guardian, fraternal brothers are 300% more likely to rape and women in sororities are 74% more likely to experience rape than other college women (Source).

One cold night in March, I went to a frat I frequented many times before. On this particular night, I was drunk beyond coherence. Unfortunately, after having my heart broken the previous fall, that was my state more often than not during those days. I could not tell you who I was with or how I got into the room where my assault would occur, or even how I got home that night. I couldn’t stand up, I couldn’t protect myself. I had entered a room with only one other person in it, when I tried to leave, I was met with a demand. I couldn’t leave, not without “paying to get out.”

Without going into detail, I will tell you that the payment was not a cash transaction. I screamed for help but the house music was too loud. It was too late before someone heard me.

It was too late for me.

To this day, I could not tell you what the face of my attacker looked like, I was too drunk to remember. Does that cheapen my experience? Does that make me a liar? Absolutely not. But these are the exact same excuses hurled at women, like me, that have been assaulted. I wrestled with what happened to me for years trying to figure out if I could have done anything different to stop that experience from happening.

The sad answer is, I couldn’t have. Because even if I had been sober at that party, someone else would have ended up in that room in my place and I would not have heard someone crying for help over the loud music. If not me, then someone else. That is the sad truth about sexual assault.

The hardest part about my assault was the anonymity of my attacker. I did not know if I was interacting with him because I did not remember their face. I stopped going to that frat because I was fearful of whom I was talking to, I developed anxiety and depression, I gained weight, I couldn’t leave my bed, I would spend so many afternoons crying because I felt so helpless. I felt all alone in this world and with this pain. To this day I am afraid to be alone with adult men, to be alone in my home, or to be alone in an unfamiliar environment. I am battling this attack every day and have battled it since it first happened 5 years ago. I wanted to die. I felt worthless. I felt alone.

As the anniversary of me coming to terms with my assault fast approaches, I felt the need to tell my story. When I share that awful experience, I feel catharsis. The hold of my attacker over me fades, even if it is ever so slightly. My therapist refers to this as “taking my power back.”

So to all my fellow “me toos” out there, thank you for sharing, thank you for making yourself vulnerable so others can feel they are not alone. Thank you for taking your power back.

If you’re sitting here wondering why we still need to do these things to get Congress and men and anyone we can find to listen to us. To get the legislation to work for victims, to test the backlog of rape kits, to allow women access to the morning after pill when they have been assaulted (and even when they haven’t), to believe women when they report assaults, and to not blame the victim for their dress/inebriation/sexual history…

me too.

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