April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)

**(TW)*(Graphic SA)**
Somehow this year it hits me so much deeper than before and I am willing to bet quite a few people would agree with me on that. This year marks the 20th anniversary for SAAM but it has been recognized long before 2001. Since the 80’s April has represented sexual assault and there used to be a week where there were events, marches, and observances held.
Recently though, the allegations towards Harvey Weinstein, David Dobrik’s Vlog Squad, Bill Cosby and so many others have really spotlighted the need for awareness of sexual violence with their brave victims coming forward and no longer letting these perpetrators to get away with it.
An extremely startling study held in UK reported 97% of women had been sexually harassed in some way. And worse – 96% of those women chose not to report it because of their lack of faith in the justice system.
Hearing these stories has forced me to think about my own sexual abuse, that which I’ve tried so hard to stuff DEEP down inside.
I am going to warn you the following is graphic and I’m sorry if it may make anyone uncomfortable but I believe talking about it will bring it to light and encourage anyone currently experiencing this abuse to speak out. I’ve been silent for so long and I refuse to continue to let anyone get away with it.
A brief background of my childhood would show you my parents moved my brother and I all over the United States, meaning I was always the new girl in every school I would enter. It made me a little bit of a target, for the girls to befriend or gossip about but for the boys I was seen as “fresh meat”. Desperate for friendship and attention, I welcomed anyone inside my bubble of trust no matter their intent. The older I got, the girls became more distant and the boys were always right there to welcome me and perhaps even claim me. I lived for their attention and the more I got, the better I felt about myself. When I was barely 15 years old I started dating a guy that was 18 years old and looking back on this, I’m really not sure why my parents never did anything about this. That (illegal) relationship essentially changed my life and spun me into some very self-destructive years. Being that I was so young, I didn’t realize how wrong this was but I trusted my boyfriend and did anything he asked me to. I will note that at this time I was still a virgin but he was quick to push my boundaries and despite how uncomfortable and wrong it felt, I let him. Fast forward to a night that I snuck out and was hanging out with this boyfriend and his (20 years old) friend, they were quick to offer alcohol and I drank a lot as did my boyfriend. He became so drunk in fact that he could not even stand straight. His friend, who was completely sober sat with me as we watched my boyfriend run around and fall over, and soon placed his hands on me. He tried to feel up my shirt but I pushed him away and then more forcefully he put a hand down my pants. I remember standing up with my heart pounding and the feeling of panic taking over. My boyfriend who was supposed to be my protector, was incoherently drunk and I couldn’t call my parents because I was scared of getting in trouble for sneaking out. The friend was my only ride home.
When we first arrive to my boyfriend’s house, my heart sinks. I sat there unable to focus my thoughts, but still with it enough to feel like something isn’t right as I watch the friend help my boyfriend inside. He comes back and we start to drive down some neighborhoods and I think I faded out for a bit until I was woken up by the friend opening up my door and I stumble out thinking I’m home but I look around and see an empty parking lot. I feel him grab me and then I’m being tossed into the back of his SUV. I start to scream and push away but he overpowers me and that night I lost my virginity against my will, raped.
He drops me off at my parent’s house and I climb into my bed, drunk, violated, and a complete mess. In the following days, I confront my boyfriend and tell him what happened, but his friend denies it and he takes his side. I become too afraid no one else will believe me so I resided to sit in the agony all alone and keep it all a secret.
What followed this event was spending the remaining four years of my teens living to numb the pain. I began to drink, do drugs, and sleep with many men that were much too old for me. At the time I didn’t see anything wrong with it, but now as I’m 31 years old, I can’t imagine how a 27-year-old man could be okay with having sex with a high school girl. And there were many of them. I’d meet them through friends, parties, and online. It was always the same scenario – they buy me alcohol, then have sex with me then they disappear. It was so easy to find them and let me be clear I never lied about my age. These creeps were turned on by the fact that I was illegal to them.
I blamed myself but I realize now that I was a child, and these men were adults. These men need to be stopped. Now with social media, apps, websites, it is way too easy for the perverts to have such easy access to young children. And besides the age of consent issue, the problem is the male mentality and their abuse of power. This happens in the street, at home, at work…anywhere. And almost all women stay silent.
I have had to live with my trauma and stay quiet, out of embarrassment and shame, and I will do anything to prevent this from happening to anyone else.
Sexual Assault Awareness shouldn’t be ignored after April, it needs to be constantly talked about and the men doing this need to be locked up. Please share this, talk to family, friends, kids about the issue. Support any victims that come forward. We need to make the world a safer place for women where we can walk around without the constant fear of men attacking us.
If you are reading this and are currently experiencing sexual assault, please do not hesitate to call the RAINN foundation at 800.656.HOPE.
Stay safe, xo.

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