And most of all, anger.
These emotions overwhelmed me on December 23, the day I was sexually assaulted.
Drinking makes you vulnerable. Wearing revealing clothing makes it your fault. Walking alone in dark places puts you at risk.
Sexual assault is painted in a way that puts it as the girl’s fault. But that was not my case.
In fact, I was wearing not-too-tight flared jeans and a long sleeve, blue shirt that went all the way up to my neck, surprising right?
The flashbacks are vivid. I see a place that was supposed to keep me safe, but sadly it was the opposite. This place, which was supposed to be full of fun and transformative memories, became a source of the worst experience, the worst memory, of my life. This place, my school, looms large and ominously in my mind.
It was not a typical school day. It was the day before winter break, and I was in charge of my first anti-bully campaign: movie day. Through fundraising and the admission price I raised $300 for Know Resolve, an organization working to reduce youth suicides. All that good, though, is lost in the ugliness that followed.
The boy was a friend, one I’d known since ninth grade. One I trusted.
In the control booth of the school’s auditorium, I was excited for the movie to start.
“Break up with your boyfriend. I will treat you better.” His hands overpowered me. I was trapped. Pushed up against a table, I was unable to find enough strength to push him off of me. Helpless, scared, speechless, I realized I wasn’t just a victim of bullying. Now I was a victim of sexual assault.
I wanted to scream. I wanted to fight back. I wanted my friend that stood right next to us to make him stop. I wanted the 200 people that sat two feet from the wall that my body was pushed against, to cut him off. But my body froze and the words that filled my mouth were gone. At that time, my words felt gone forever.
Embarrassment filled my head. I did not want anyone to find out. Instead of pushing him off of me, my friend made the situation worse. She confronted the principals. In that moment, my bad dream came into a reality.
“He admitted that he was wrong, but it’s all up to you. If you go to the cops, we will suspend him. If not, we aren’t going to.” Why was that my choice? Isn’t that supposed to be their decision?
I was the victim, not them.
New emotions filled my mind. He was getting away with harming my emotional well-being. In that situation, I didn’t matter. All that mattered was, the school’s reputation. Sexual assault can’t happen at their school. Reality check: it did. To me.
Two weeks later, my parents were informed. That day was the first time I have ever seen my father cry.
He was given a one day suspension.
My mother is what it took to make it five. Her over-protective mom powers came out. The principal’s hands trembled as my mom did what the school board should have done — got involved.
I never wanted to step foot in that school again. When the principal found out that I was transferring, he cut down my classes to three instead. All I had left were three classes to take to graduate. I loved school. Why would I only want to come to school for three hours because I was the victim? I lost valuable time in my own education.
Senior year was supposed to be made of laughs, smiles, and the year to make all the farewell memories. My senior year was nothing like that. I cried more than I smiled. My positive memories turned into a nightmare.
Every day, the flashbacks continued as I ran into him in the hallway. I wanted to hide… from the feelings that were eating me alive.
He knew my schedule. There was no place to run.
Prom was cut two hours short. Because everywhere I looked, he appeared in the distance. Staring, maybe not staring at me, but in my mind I couldn’t get away. I had to get out of there.
As the legal case began, it constantly reminded me of the events on December 23. I didn’t have the strength to face him in court. I gave him a plea deal: fourth degree sexual criminal conduct was charged.
The thing is no sexual assault story is alike. Our wounds need to be healed, our stories need to be understood, and our words need to be heard. We all need to be supported.