When I had my first kiss, I enveloped myself in this notion that I was finally being entered into the dimensional realm of love. I had gone all my high school years without the nearest grasp on what it meant to have a boy like me, and so when it finally happened during senior year on New Year’s Day, I was euphoric. I became accustomed to the flutter that wrung itself around my stomach, almost to the point where I eventually convinced myself of this boy being the one who’d alter my life.
In a way, he did alter my life, but not in the manner I initially envisioned.
We hung out a few times after that, and the first time I told him “no” as he was coercing me into other pursuits, he listened and stopped. That provided me with some kind of affirmation that this boy might, in fact, be a decent person.
There were a few instances during which I had to firmly tell him to stop doing something—be it because it was painful or because I merely felt the situation to be too fast-paced for my comfort—and it got to the point where he would persist, each time prodding at my reasoning.
“Don’t be a prude.”
“It’s just sex.”
He was ultimately attempting to pressure me into doing the one thing I was most intimidated by, and I had simply regarded his appeals as this sexually-frustrated-teenage-boy complex. It took me a long, long while to realize that most of what he had done to me were under manipulative efforts. I remained grounded in my “no,” which I found myself having to utter continuously the more often I hung out with him.
At the time, I don’t know why I really stuck around. In conflation with his apologies and pleas to forgive him, I think I felt this sort of underlying obligation to fall under his needs, which is a pretty pervasive feeling among young girls. I didn’t want his image of me to become misconstrued to the point where he’d embarrass me or talk about me to his football buddies, and, in turn, I didn’t want the idealized image I had illustrated of him to become distorted.
The last time I saw him, he resorted to physical force and completely discounted what was consensual and what was not. I didn’t realize it was assault until I had finally opened up to a friend about it and identified the facets that constituted it as such.
For the next several weeks, I faced vivid recounts of what had happened and what had felt like a perpetual amount of anxiety attacks. I completely lost what perception I had of autonomy—my body no longer felt like mine but his, because that’s what both his hands and eyes ever latched onto. I think I fell under the presumption that I needed to succumb to his manipulation so as to finally peel off this idea that I was a prude. Instead, he utilized my naivety to assert himself of his own masculinity.
Six months later, the memory still pricks at arbitrary moments: while sitting at a lecture or in an organization meeting, while in the dining hall or walking to an 8 A.M. class—not a day has passed by without my thinking of it.
The assault has essentially forced me to become more explicit with men in terms of what I am most comfortable with, but there is always the underside of reluctance that remains. Will they take full advantage of me regardless? Will they hurl the word “prude” as a way to undermine my reasoning? It was completely transformative in the way I perceived those around me—as if I had to assemble a barricade in order to deter others from deliberately taking advantage of me.
Now that I’m in college, I’ve realized that there desperately needs to be a more visceral and outward approach in regards to how sexual assault is mannered on all grounds. I have exhausted and fleshed out the subject matter in the vast majority of my creative writing but still cannot seem to capture the emotional disparity that had been imposed into me.
I’ve also realized that I’ve been indulging in this fallacy that time heals all wounds—time only diminishes pain, not the biggest wound of them all: memory. I wish I could abolish the memory from every rift of my mind, but it also reminds me that the experience does not denote my lack of strength but rather the presence of it. I have always placed myself at fault, which resulted in my staying silent about that day until recently, for fear that others would vilify me just as he had, but there needs to more amplification for assault victims.
It’s been difficult having to acknowledge my autonomy and validity when recalling the assault. It’s been difficult having to open a portion of myself that I find to be the most vulnerable. But I also revel in the strength and firmness that I’ve molded throughout the duration of these six months, in the support that has unequivocally been shown by my friends, and in the resilience that I’ve gained in both my writing and verbal voice.
I am tired of having to reside in this omnipresent paradigm where sexual assault is brushed by a simple shrug or a crisp sigh. And I am tired of having to remain silent or stifled—sexual assault strips victims of their governance and of their perceptions and it is vital that this is acknowledged. As a whole, there needs to be better emphasis on curating a sphere through which victims can feel both secure and validated in their emotions.