My "Me Too" Story

My "Me Too" Story

To my younger self
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After the outpouring of stories of sexual assault and harassment became trending with the hashtag ‘Me Too,’ many are realizing the impact of rape culture in society. After seeing it a few times on my social media accounts, I, curiously, Googled it. Sadly, I found out what it entailed. I sat staring at my cellphone debating whether or not I should post my story of sexual assault. I thought about the repercussions. I thought “what if someone sees it and asks me about it?” I thought about my abuser. I thought about if I would be viewed differently if the interweb knew that I too have been affected, and silenced, by sexual abuse.

I then thought about my younger self. I thought about how there was not a trending post for me when I was seven. There was not a viral army for me when I was first learning about molestation at the age of nine in school after my abuser convinced me that what he did years ago was normal. There were no Facebook react hearts or sad faces giving me the reassurance that that my experience was and is valid and that a young kid cannot just make that stuff up. There was not a movement toward social justice that was powerful enough to reach me when I was barely passed kindergarten. There were not other powerful young women teaching me how to notice signs of abuse until it was too late.

I thought about my shame that I was ever assaulted. I thought about being a disappointment to my mom-- not for being assaulted but for not feeling comfortable in telling her. I haven’t told any single person the entire story or the trauma it caused. In some respect, I thought that my story was too small to be considered abuse. I thought, “well, I wasn't rapped, so it's not that bad.” That is rape culture-- the worst of the worst assault is the only thing that will receive an inkling of respect. Assault is assault. Harassment is harassment. I only recently came to terms with this. I still struggle with minimizing my experience. I try to rationalize my trauma. But, because of the attention being brought to the assaults in public, I felt called to do something. Not for anyone but for me.

I posted “Me Too,” on my Facebook timeline. I felt the same fear I did throughout my whole childhood that I would be sexually touched again as I clicked “post.” I felt naked. I felt empowered. I controlled how much the outer world knew about me. I only posted two words, and I think that explained a lot.

I still would never want to tell anyone the entire story. Why? Because it’s my story, and I do not owe an explanation to anyone but myself.

What I think is missing in a lot of these “me too”’s is the fact that you don’t need one. Posting or not posting does not make your experience any less valid. If I didn’t post, my notion on assault and my experience is still true and worthy of me speaking about. By posting, I supported myself and the other young woman around me that have too been traumatized by sexual assault and harassment. But, by not posting, I would have been supporting myself and others around me. It doesn't take a post to make my outlook on my experience more valid or of higher worth than anyone else's trauma. Your story, even your silent one, is heard.

You're worthy of space, time, and recognition. Your assault does not define you, but it does add to your narrative-- a story that is meant to be heard. If not by other people, it deserves to be heard by you.

Practice self care.

Thank you.

Cover Image Credit: Kelsey Fiander-Carr

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20 Things That Happen When A Jersey Person Leaves Jersey

Hoagies, pizza, and bagels will never be the same.
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Ah, the "armpit of America." Whether you traveled far for college, moved away, or even just went on vacation--you know these things to be true about leaving New Jersey. It turns out to be quite a unique state, and leaving will definitely take some lifestyle adjustment.

1. You discover an accent you swore you never had.

Suddenly, people start calling you out on your pronunciation of "cawfee," "wooter," "begel," and a lot more words you totally thought you were saying normal.

2. Pork Roll will never exist again.

Say goodbye to the beautiful luxury that is pork roll, egg, and cheese on a bagel. In fact, say goodbye to high-quality breakfast sandwiches completely.

3. Dealing with people who use Papa Johns, Pizza Hut, or Dominos as their go-to pizza.

It's weird learning that a lot of the country considers chain pizza to be good pizza. You're forever wishing you could expose them to a real, local, family-style, Italian-owned pizza shop. It's also a super hard adjustment to not have a pizza place on every single block anymore.

4. You probably encounter people that are genuinely friendly.

Sure Jersey contains its fair share of friendly people, but as a whole, it's a huge difference from somewhere like the South. People will honestly, genuinely smile and converse with strangers, and it takes some time to not find it sketchy.

5. People drive way slower and calmer.

You start to become embarrassed by the road rage that has been implanted in your soul. You'll get cut off, flipped off, and honked at way less. In fact, no one even honks, almost ever.

6. You realize that not everyone lives an hour from the shore.

Being able to wake up and text your friends for a quick beach trip on your day off is a thing of the past. No one should have to live this way.

7. You almost speak a different language.

The lingo and slang used in the Jersey area is... unique. It's totally normal until you leave, but then you find yourself receiving funny looks for your jargon and way fewer people relating to your humor. People don't say "jawn" in place of every noun.

8. Hoagies are never the same.

Or as others would say, "subs." There is nothing even close in comparison.

9. Needing Wawa more than life, and there's no one to relate.

When you complain to your friends about missing Wawa, they have no reaction. Their only response is to ask what it is, but there's no rightful explanation that can capture why it is so much better than just some convenient store.

10. You have to learn to pump gas. Eventually.

After a long period of avoidance and reluctance, I can now pump gas. The days of pulling up, rolling down your window, handing over your card and yelling "Fill it up regular please!" are over. When it's raining or cold, you miss this the most.

11. Your average pace of walking is suddenly very above-average.

Your friends will complain that you're walking too fast - when in reality - that was probably your slow-paced walk. Getting stuck behind painfully slow people is your utmost inconvenience.

12. You're asked about "Jersey Shore" way too often.

No, I don't know Snooki. No, our whole state and shore is not actually like that. We have 130 miles of some of the best beach towns in the country.

13. You can't casually mention NYC without people idealizing some magical, beautiful city.

Someone who has never been there has way too perfect an image of it. The place is quite average and dirty. Don't get me wrong, I love a good NYC day trip as much as the next person, but that's all it is to you... a day trip.

14. The lack of swearing is almost uncomfortable.

Jerseyans are known for their foul mouths, and going somewhere that isn't as aggressive as us is quite a culture adjustment.

15. No more jughandles.

No longer do you have to get in the far right lane to make a left turn.

16. You realize that other states are not nearly as extreme about their North/South division.

We literally consider them two different states. There are constant arguments and debates about it. The only thing that North and South Jersey can agree on is that a "Central Jersey" does not exist.

17. Most places also are not in a war over meat.

"Pork roll" or "taylor ham"... The most famous debate amongst North and South Jersey. It's quite a stupid argument, however, considering it is definitely pork roll.

18. You realize you were spoiled with fresh produce.

After all, it's called the "Garden State" for a reason. Your mouth may water just by thinking about some fresh Jersey corn.

19. You'll regret taking advantage of your proximity to everything.

Super short ride to the beach and a super short ride to Philly or NYC. Why was I ever bored?

20. Lastly, you realize how much pride you actually have in the "armpit of America," even if you claimed to dislike it before.

After all, there aren't many places with quite as much pride. You find yourself defending your state at all necessary moments, even if you never thought that would be the case.

Cover Image Credit: Travel Channel

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To The Big-Hearted Girls Who Just Can't Hit The Block Button

Your compassion for others knows no bounds, and that's why you can't seem to let them go.

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Not everyone is worthy of your good heart.

It might be hard to accept that, but it's true. The ones that don't deserve your attention and your care always out themselves. Maybe they take advantage of your kindness, maybe they use you for your love, or maybe they hurt you because they envy some aspect of you or your life. Whatever the case may be, I know you feel the pain from it. I know you are not naive enough to believe that they don't mean the hurtful things they say or that the awful things they put you through are only mere accidents.

Your problem is that you have too big of a heart. You love giving second chances and when they screw that chance up as well, you just can't help yourself from giving them a third, a fourth, or a fifth. Far too easily you are swept up in this cycle of forgiving and forgetting, only to have it blow up in your face time and time again.

You know better.

How many times have you sworn you wouldn't help them again, that it was the last time you'd speak to them, only to snatch up your phone the second you see their name pop up across the screen? How often have you cried over someone who only wanted to be a part of your life when they needed something from you?

Stop giving your all to people that don't care.

Trust me, I know it's easier said than done. It's a difficult habit to break, but once you do you are completely and utterly free from the toxicity. If you're looking for a sign to block that boy who has done nothing but break your heart, or if you were waiting for your cue to finally end that friendship that does nothing but make you feel small, here it is.

Unfortunately, not everyone is going to treat you with the love and respect that you so freely give. Most of the time the people that treat you like crap are just crappy people. It's not your responsibility to save every troubled soul, and you've probably learned by now that not all of them want to be saved.

There's nothing wrong with looking for the good in people, but when they start to drain you of your light you need to have the strength to let them go.

To the girls gifted with hearts too sensitive and ready to burst with compassion, it's OK to cut ties with those who hurt you time and time again. It doesn't mean you've stooped to their level; it doesn't mean you're a bad person. You tried your hardest, but toxic people rarely change their ways. You don't deserve that kind of pain.

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