Last week, I wrote an article about how I was raped earlier in the year. I had previously told two family members, and maybe about 20 friends. I had talked in front of a group of maybe 40 students and led an amazing discussion of rape culture on campus and changes that needed to be made. But it wasn’t enough. Pricks like Brock Allen Turner were still out there. It wasn’t enough to just tell a few people. So I used my privilege as a writer for Odyssey to share my story in hope that it would help even just one person know that they are not alone.
Here’s what happened:
1. It was read a lot.
My article was shared over 500 times, and my personal post was read over 250 times. My story reached a lot of people, and they reacted.
2. My inbox blew up.
I was getting Facebook messages, texts, even messages over SnapChat. Everyone from old bosses, high school teachers, people that I graduated high school with, current friends, family, sorority sisters and even people I hardly knew were reaching out to me.
3. People were shocked.
Some messaged me to express their surprise at my story. They said that even though they knew stories like mine happened at our college campus, they weren’t expecting to hear a narrative from someone they knew.
4. People were mad.
Others messaged me, outraged. They were upset that I had been assaulted, and they were frustrated by the epidemic of sexual assault that has taken over college campuses. We talked about how we could fight rape culture, but we often came up empty.
5. Some of the messages were from other victims.
So many people messaged me saying, “I went through a similar situation too,” or “I was drugged at a party and raped,” or “I woke up naked in a stranger’s bed and I have no idea how I got there.” I cried when I saw how many people that I loved had been affected by sexual assault. I realized that sexual assault is so much more common than I had ever imagined. Many of these victims said that reading my story helped them, and it made them feel less alone in their pain. I realized that if one good thing came of telling the world my darkest secret, it was that.
6. I was blamed.
Not everyone reacted positively to my testimony. Some told me that I deserved what happened to me because I had been drinking. Some said that I shouldn’t blame the guy whot raped me. Nasty tweets were written about me, and rumors spread. These comments came from close friends that I thought would support me through thick and thin, and I was wrong. I realized that not everyone is going to understand sexual assault without going through it, a fate I would wish on no one. However, I know that no matter what the circumstance may be, no one has the “right” to your body without your explicit permission. I have cut these people from my life, and I will not be looking back.
7. However, it was all worth it because I was freed.
I had been afraid of being called a victim. I had been afraid of being seen as weak. The thing is, I don’t feel like that any more. I feel strong, empowered, in control. I chose to share my story in hope that it would help others, and I believe it has. The results were certainly mixed, but I was surrounded by love and support, and I know I am going to be okay. Sometimes I’m still afraid. I’ll be at a party and start to panic if I get too drunk. If someone gets too close while we're dancing I'll run away. A guy will rest his hand on my thigh on the first date and my blood runs cold. I still have trouble trusting people, but I know eventually I will be okay.
If you’re thinking of sharing your experience, take all of this into consideration. Make sure that you are ready to accept the reality of what happened. Telling the world invites the world to share its opinions on what happened to you with you, whether you like it or not. However, it also lets you take control of what happened.
Let us stand together; let us end rape culture.