Trigger warning: this post contains discussion related to sexual abuse and harassment. Please read with caution.
Life isn’t a fairytale, as much as we’d like to make it one sometimes. As a little girl, I assumed that all love stories were filled with unicorns, rainbows, and sunshine, but didn’t realize that poisonous relationships could be disguised as the sweetest of beginnings. I’m grateful to say at this point in my life, I’m engaged to an incredible man who treats me like the real-life princess I always wanted to be, and respects me like crazy. That’s not how my previous experience played out, however.
As I’m writing this up, I can feel my mouth getting dry and my palms sweating, because it’s something I’ve refused to share with the blogging world, or even much in my social circle, for over two years. However, when Alyssa Milano asked the world to begin tweeting #MeToo if they had experienced sexual assault or harassment, I read hundreds of stories in the span of a week. Even more, the hashtag was tweeted over 1.7 million times as of October 24. I knew I had to take the time to share my own story – and it would take more than 140 characters to do so. So here you are, dear reader friends: this is why I will stand and say #MeToo.
I thought he loved me. He said he loved me. Every once in a while he even made me feel like he loved me. The problem was, he didn’t love me. Not even a little bit. Not even enough to respect me. I was with him for a year. I thought I was alright, but I wasn’t. I have acquaintances to this day who tell me, “I was worried about you, but wasn’t sure what to do.” I didn’t like myself, and I wasn’t even close to loving myself, so how should I know when someone else was taking advantage of me? I was twenty years old, and on the first day of us being together, on the floor of his brother’s house, he had his way with me. He refused to use protection, and he never listened when I said it hurt. It was like I was watching from outside of myself, feeling the pain, the shame, and the frustration that I would learn to endure for a year straight with this … boy (I refuse to call him a man).
It became a near-daily activity for him to force himself on me, even when I was tired – even when I was discovering that I had a stomach disease and was spending hours or days at a time curled up on the bathroom floor, vomiting until there was nothing left. He didn’t care about my pain, he only cared about his own satisfaction. I would celebrate the arrival of my “time of the month,” because those were the only weeks I was spared of his harsh touch, and I was only forced to please him in other ways that didn’t cause my body as much pain.
I had no say in this relationship. No ground to stand on. He spent a year degrading me and I was too scared to stop him. If only I had seen sooner the strength I had in me, the strength God gave me, to make him leave. Sometimes I cry, I ache over what he took from me, the innocence that was ripped away, the gift I should have had the opportunity to give readily to my future husband – the man I love more dearly than anything in this world. I also cry because I know I am not the only one who has suffered. I know too many women personally who used the #MeToo hashtag over the past few weeks. I saw too many women sharing painful stories with the world, like mine.
While I’m grateful for this hashtag, bringing us together as sisters, knowing we aren’t alone and finding that it’s okay to talk about it, I’m also wrecked by the numbers. These numbers are increasing on a daily basis, and it’s up to us to bring it to an end. We are worth being treated with respect. Our sexuality is not to be used for exploitation or entertainment. We are ravishing, breathtaking, awesome creatures created with a divine purpose to bring beauty and life to the universe and spread love and joy. Teach your sons, talk to your husbands, text your brothers, reach out to your friends – tell them that we are God’s perfect creations, given the opportunity to experience life to the fullest, and we shouldn’t need to fear touch or intimacy or relationships.
Women who relate to my #MeToo story: do not feel obligated to speak on yours. Your story is your own, and should only be shared if and when you feel comfortable doing so. Never give in to a trend if it means sacrificing your sanity. Also know that you’re not alone. You’re never alone. Even if I didn’t have this story to tell, I would still be standing beside you, holding your hand and showing you love. You’re worth more than you’ll ever know, and I can only hope that you experience healing in your heart and your mind as time passes.
I say #MeToo because I’ve been there, and I never want anyone else to be there again.