When the #MeToo movement first invaded social media, I felt suffocated. I averted my eyes scrolling through Facebook, opting to watch cute videos of puppies rather than face the disturbing reality that many people I knew experienced trauma similar to my own. To my initial dismay, the stories didn’t stop, and, to my surprise, it has had a profound effect on me. Now, I feel inspired to keep this momentum moving.
I am choosing to speak up as a means to encourage, but in no way pressure or obligate, others to share their stories. A recent New York Times advertisement said, “The truth has a voice.” This is my voice, my truth, and my story.
During my sophomore year at Wake Forest, I was raped in my sleep the morning after a fraternity party.
Being raped stripped away all of my self-worth. It is an immensely degrading feeling to be treated like 130 pounds of straight-up flesh, instead of a consenting human being. A stranger took more control over my own body, and subsequently my mind, than I ever had myself. I spent the past four years fighting to take control back, and along the way I gained more strength and understanding about myself and humanity than I ever had before.
However, I want to emphasize that my own journey toward self-love and respect has not been without its struggles. My proudest accomplishment is actually recognizing and accepting the days where I am not okay, and not allowing them to tear me down.
“My proudest accomplishment is actually recognizing and accepting the days where I am not okay, and not allowing them to tear me down.”
The biggest obstacle I continue to struggle with is self-blame. From the outside, it’s easy to say that what happened wasn’t my fault. I can say with full confidence to anyone else who has been violated in any way: it is not your fault. But when I’m deep in my own thoughts, I play back the sequence of events from that night in my head (going to the fraternity with a questionable reputation, getting separated from friends, drinking in excess, losing my phone, chatting with my attacker, etc.) where if I had acted differently at any point, I may not have been raped. In no way am I implying I caused or deserved what happened to me; instead, I see my actions that night as links on a chain, where all it takes is a single link to go missing for the entire chain to break.
On the other hand, the part of me that becomes stronger and more confident each day reminds myself that living in this past, in the realm of what if’s and maybe’s, distracts from celebrating who I am right now.
I am a woman who carries my rape with me neither as a badge of shame nor pride, but simply as an integral part of my being. I have my moments of strength, like now, where I want to share what I have gone through in the hopes that someone else reading this will be able to relate and know they are not alone. But, I also have my moments of vulnerability (note: I am intentionally not using the word weakness, since coping with sexual assault does not make anyone weak) where I worry my future career and relationships will be tainted by the label of a rape victim. I worry I will set myself back. To combat this, I actively set a goal each day to strive toward personal progression over regression.
I struggle with balancing my fears. I am afraid to share my story and make others uncomfortable, and I am afraid of keeping my story to myself, knowing I can better myself and others through opening up. While this feels like an unresolvable dilemma, today I took a leap by placing my story in your hands.
If my story does make you feel uncomfortable, that’s okay. These stories are uncomfortable. Be disturbed by these stories and truths, and do something about it. Talk about it. Change begins when complacency ends.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual violence and are seeking crisis support, you can reach out to:
National Sexual Assault Hotline- Phone: (800) 656-HOPE (4673), Online Chat
National Domestic Violence Hotline- Phone: (800) 799−SAFE (7233), Online Chat