*This is Part 2 of a series. Read Part 1 here.
I kept the secret of my assault for the majority of my life. I had told only a few people by time I was 40 – my parents, my sister, and a handful of others who had experienced sexual assault. I didn’t tell anyone the summer it happened or for 24 summers after.
Did this experience affect my life? Yes, it did. I had to struggle with intimacy. I had to overcome nightmares. I get triggered and my husband has had to deal with it. We never talked about it, but we know why I behave the way I do.
I never drank alcohol until my mid 40s and seldom had an odd glass of wine. I completely stopped since my cancer diagnosis. I never wanted to lose control. I threw myself into my career and rarely partied past midnight. I dated super sweet, nice guys that did not expect intimacy from me and I truly loved them for that more than they will ever know. They allowed me to feel normal and fit in.
I met my husband when I was 25 and it was love at first sight. I believe we are soul mates because it felt like my anger and anxiety left the day we met. I knew he would be my life partner. It took me years to confide in him and we never talked about again until the Metoo Movement began.
I started hearing similar stories to mine and eventually shut down. I told my husband I did not watch it on CNN. What was I supposed to do? Come out? Tell people my story? Why? For what reason? I had kept it a secret for so long it sometimes felt imaginary. I could store it in the back of my brain and I convinced myself it was better back there, safer back there.
What prompted it this summer? I was on my tenth radiation treatment and it was close to my brain. It affected my brain in ways no one expected, especially me. All of my previous radiation treatments were easy for me – a little nausea and that was it. So, when this affected my mental state, it was very unexpected.
I went from not thinking about my experience to dreaming about it almost every night and it did not hold back! It was saying:
Let me out! Deal with me! What have you got to lose? You are already dying. Be courageous. Stop pretending you are strong. Be strong! Show others it is okay to share their story. It will help others. You can be open about your life decisions of choosing less fun and more work. No drinking or drugs so that you were always in control. Give back to lots of places, so no one suspects it is sexual assault you want to really give back too. You want men to be Men, not rapists. You want women to step up when raising their sons to be gentlemen, not misogynistic. You want every person on the planet to watch the movie Promising Young Woman with Carey Mulligan.
For the first time in my life, I wanted my rage to be seen and to release the anger I had held inside of me.
I thought about what would happen if rapists experienced rape themselves. If they understood what it does to a person. Or maybe we should just cut off their penis or just plain murder them. All of these thoughts were going through my head.
Men who visit sex workers and love the ones who look 14? I still dream of putting their names all over social media and ruining their lives, like they do to those women.
Over the years, I have done my research. I think most of us think human trafficking is a rare occurance and that if it does happen in Canada, it involves people much different than us. But 93 percent of identified sex trafficking victims are Canadian citizens, not foreign citizens. The majority of sex trafficking victims are reportedly Canadian-born teenage girls, some as young as 13, who are recruited in various ways, including at school, through social media, and at shopping malls. Techniques used by traffickers include building dependence by buying gifts and posing as boyfriends. Even 6% of those accused of human trafficking in Canada are between the ages of 12 and 17. (source)
Why is it normal to joke with your son about strippers and hookers and that girl he met who was “slutty”. Why has it become normal for males to need magazines and videos of sexualized or exploited women to masturbate? What about using your imagination?
Kids, on average, start watching porn at age 10. How the fuck did that happen? Where are these so-called helicopter parents? Where are these parents who never learn how to talk their children about sexual abuse and human trafficking? There are lots of resources available for free.
Think it’s not happening in your backyard? That it couldn’t happen to your child? The busiest days for assault centres are university holidays, when students come home after being assaulted, when rapists use the excuse of alcohol as consent. Sons, who got into university, might play sports and get good grades, are the assailants.
I, myself, was not who I think a lot of people imagine this could happen to. I came from a loving home in a good neighborhood. But, that didn’t stop it from happening. Where you come from doesn’t protect you.
I told my son after we watched the movie Promising Young Woman. I could not stop crying in a few scenes and he asked, “Is there something you want to share with me?” I didn’t tell him all the details, but that I had been raped while drunk. He hugged me and said he was so sorry I had to go through that. He was here if I ever wanted to talk about it.
He said he was glad I shared, as it made a lot of sense in how he was raised. How, from a young age, we talked about pornography: who it effects, how it is made, and what is fake. I had explained that amateur porn was usually a couple who consented and videotaped lovemaking, if he was curious. Theirs is women produced and directed pornography.
Human trafficking was introduced as a concept to him in his early teens. He was shown where it exists in our area and where everyone shops and no one notices. How it happens right beneath most people’s noses. I wanted him to understand that sex is meant to be empowering and pleasurable and not physically or emotionally painful.
I can not tell you the number of customers, family and friends who have said to me: “Those No Consent designs are so strange.” “Why design a pillow that says “No, Thanks” for teens at university?” “Or a print about consent?” I tried to give statistics about assault in teens and universities hoping those would be enough. These pieces are conversation starters and anything that starts that conversation could save a life.
If most of my family and friends never even suspected I was raped, you might have no idea what you own loved ones and children have been through or how at risk they are. I thought I was keeping a secret because I had something to be ashamed of. Even when I learned that was wrong, the emotion still felt shameful.
How many other women did they take advantage of? How did they learn this type of behaviour?
So am I fixed? No. Do I want to figure this out and bring it all to the surface? Also no. But I have too. I need to heal myself before I can heal my cancer. I really believe that. Secrets make you weaker, not stronger.
I was inspired to tell my story after reading about the International Women’s Week #ChooseaChallenge Campaign. I hoped telling this story would help spread awareness of how this can happen to anyone.
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