I was an extremely shy, yet creative child. In fact, the only times I spoke was when I wanted to share a new song that I’d written with my family, or to explain the intent behind my visual drawings and creations. I’ve never been one to speak unnecessarily, though there is a defining moment when I gave up my voice altogether.
It was during the fall of 2008 – the start of my traumatic experience with sexual assault. I was molested for about 6 months, which at the time didn’t seem to be a huge deal because it happened to most women I knew. It was one of those things where you knew it happened to a few people, though no one talked about it outwardly. It was taboo, or so I’d been told.
I’ve lived with OCD for most of my life, though being molested made my obsessive and compulsive tendencies worse than I’d ever known. I began to slack in school, avoid home at all costs, and sleep in my brother’s room each night to not be woken up to yet another traumatic experience. As quoted on RAINN’s website, “Approximately 70% of rape or sexual assault victims experience moderate to severe distress, a larger percentage than for any other violent crime.” Having this information now gives me a freedom in knowing that the emotions I experienced during that time were not because I was different from the other folks who went through similar experiences. I went from being a straight A student, to a student with D’s and F’s on her report card. I got into a number of altercations because I was so infused with anger. I stopped hanging out with my family and friends and drew into myself until there was no one around me anymore. I became bulimic, and obsessive with my hygiene because I simply wanted to feel clean again. I wanted my body to be untouched. I was going through a deep depression, and I felt I had no one to talk to.
At the start, there were many instances where I’d be sworn to secrecy. My abuser threatened to kill himself because he couldn’t live with himself if I had told anyone about it. I was coerced into believing that it was my fault that it happened; if my legs weren’t out, if I wasn’t so beautiful, if I was less “mature” for my age. The logic was that these were the reasons I was assaulted. Likewise, I was coerced into believing that the consequences would be my fault if I spoke up. I believed it to be true through my formative years, until I met a dear friend who shared a similar experience as I had. She and I would talk for hours in an attempt to counsel each other without knowing that’s what we were doing. Talking to her and getting it out of my head was the first step in a journey I didn’t know I’d be embarking on—I hadn’t even known I’d needed to.
My dear friend wound up moving out of state, and I began to feel the effects of her absence. With her physically around me it was easier to face the world, so it seemed, and I’d discovered a friendship that was built on honesty and courage. After all, she’d helped me to uncover my trauma and speak out about it, in a safe and welcoming space. After she moved, I returned to my reclusive state, became silent, and limited my interactions with humans altogether. I allowed myself to return to the belief that no one else would believe what happened to me, and that if I had spoken up, nothing would have been done to the man who abused me. And I was correct, for the time being.