#MeToo — the hashtag has taken Instagram, Facebook & Twitter by storm. Activist Tarana Burke created the Me Too movement by in 2006 on MySpace to bring awareness to the stories of women of color who have survived sexual abuse & sexual assault (more on the origin of the movement here). But when sexual misconduct allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein came to light, the hashtag went viral. Actress Alyssa Milano encouraged women to share their personal accounts with the now-famed hashtag.
Seeing all these women come forward with their stories was bittersweet. On the one hand, it was comforting to know that none of us is alone and that there was a place (even if that place is online) where women could go to share the stories and not be judged. On the other hand, it was disheartening. It made me sad to know that so many women all over the world had gone through the same thing and for most of us, we’ve kept it to ourselves for so long.
I wrote a post back in September titled “The First Time” which dealt with my own sexual assault experience. The inspiration for the post came about because I realized that I was still carrying baggage from the experience. I thought I had forgiven the person who violated me in such a way, but I realized that I hadn’t. I also realized that I was still blaming myself, as so many girls do. I decided that writing a poem about it, without being too explicit about the ordeal, would be the best way for me to process and begin to move past it. After all, I do consider myself a writer, so why not do what I do best to for emotional release.
It happened in the summer of 2010. I was 18 and had just graduated from high school. I was living on campus at the University of Cincinnati as a student in the Upward Bound program, which was helping to prepare me for my upcoming college courses. The guy was someone I had met on MySpace, and we had been texting for a few months prior to the incident. I really liked him and thought he liked me as well. He had came to visit me on campus a few times and I thought he was a genuine person. The night it happened, I remember having an 8 a.m. class the next day, so I was going to bed pretty early and told him that we could try to see another day that week. But he insisted that he had to see me this particular Sunday and didn’t want to wait to see me later that week. I thought it was cute (at the time, now not so much) and agreed that he could come and see me.
We watched a movie in the living room of my dorm room and then I really wanted to go to bed and he said that he wanted to stay the night with me. Right then, I felt extremely uneasy for two reasons: one, because I had never stayed the night with a boy before and two, I didn’t want him to think that we were going to have sex. Instead of letting my uneasiness be known, I tried to assert myself and let him know that absolutely nothing was going to happen and he claimed that he understood. Looking back, this is where I started to blame myself for obvious reasons.
Fast forward, we were in the bed and everything was fine … at first. Then he started rubbing on me and kissing my neck and shoulder and before I knew it, I could hear him unzipping my pants and him attempting to pull mine down. Several times, I said “stop” and “no” and made it known that I didn’t want what was happening to happen. But it didn’t matter to him. He forcefully shoved himself inside of me and I laid there and allowed it to happen. What’s worse is that my roommate was in the room, laying in her bed witnessing everything. As if that wasn’t bad enough, my other two roommates and someone I considered a good friend of mine were in the living room. My roommate got out of her bed and went into the living room and told them what was happening as if it was consensual. He finished, got out of the bed, fixed his clothes and just left. I never heard from him again. I was left lying there, in pain and so embarrassed.
I went to the bathroom and when I saw the blood, I was so scared. This was the other reason as to why I blamed myself for all these years. Why didn’t I yell for help? Why didn’t I do more to stop what was happening to me? I never told anyone what happened to me because I felt like no one would understand. I let the people in the living room think whatever they wanted. I felt like people would harshly judge me because they would think that it all could have been avoided. Up until recently, I didn’t even acknowledge it as assault because of how much I blamed myself. That definitely wasn’t how I pictured my first time and honestly, it still hurts that it was taken from me. But seven years later, I’m glad that I can finally open up about and help to get rid of the power that it has had over me. I’m glad I don’t have to be silent about it anymore.