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Opening up about sexual assault

Opening up about sexual assault

By: Janelle Allison

I find it easy to write about almost anything. Probably because I find it easy to talk about almost anything. Almost. Anything. Almost. But not everything. There are still things I skim over the details of. I shorthand the stories when I have to talk about them, making them sound like they aren’t that big of a deal, but really, they’re probably the biggest of deals. 

I write freely about my shitty exes, I speak openly about my relationship with my father, I display my love and appreciation for my friends and my boyfriend, I have finally accepted my depression and wear it like war paint. But I never, NEVER, talk about my sexual assault. It’s so much easier not to. It’s easier to pretend that nothing happened. I don’t even consider it to be the worst night of my life. Probably because it happened more than once. 

So, I guess to ease myself into the story, here are some statistics: 1 out of 5 women in America has been the victim of a sexual assault, four out of five sexual assaults are committed by someone the woman knows (think about it: a neighbor, a teacher, a friend...the list of possible threats never ends), one in four girls will be sexually assaulted before turning 18, 12.3% of women were 10 years old or younger at the time of their first assault, more than one-third of women who report being raped before 18 will also experience sexual assault as an adult. (Statistics taken from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center). 

Those statistics are scary; especially considering that sexual assault is the most underreported crime in the US. Coming forward is hard. Your story gets scrutinized, examined, and torn apart. It’s like being assaulted all over again. You feel small, dirty, less-than-whole. Like you could have done something to prevent it if you had just not gotten yourself into that situation to begin with. Well, I never asked for it. No one ever asks for it. No one looks at the victim of a robbery and says, “Well, if you’d just left your wallet at home tonight…” It’s ludicrous to look at the victim of a sexual assault any differently. But everyone does. And you will look at me differently too. That’s just a fact. 

I was 10 the first time. I had a crush on this older boy in the neighborhood. Sometimes, he stayed at our house. Mainly because he was friends with my brother, and because we were the type of family who took in neighborhood kids and took care of them. Late one night, he came into my room. He climbed into my bed. He put his hands and his mouth on me. He touched me. And I didn’t stop him. I’m sure that if my bedroom had not been right next to the bathroom, and my parents had not been home, things could have been much worse than what they were. But the fact of the matter is, he did it again, two years later. And the horrible, terrible truth is: no matter how much worse I tell myself it could have been, it still happened. And any amount of what he did or didn't do to me is still not acceptable. 

I’ve wrestled with the fact that I didn't stop him for years. I. Didn’t. Stop. Him. I never said yes, but I also never told him explicitly no. Could I have said or done something to have prevented him from doing anything at all? Or would that have just made it worse? Is this a form of self-blame? But how do you not blame yourself to some extent when something like that happens? 

I was a child, and I’m still trying to find ways to blame myself for it. But it wasn’t my fault. I could have done nothing. Nothing. And I need to remember that. Everyone needs to remember that. 

The victims do nothing wrong. The victims should never be blamed for any part of a sexual assault. Don’t let the next child wait fourteen years to talk about it.