Disclaimer: First, this is a very personal and honest post and I hope it will be treated as just that. Second, if sharing your story is empowering, great. If not sharing your story is empowering, great. There is no right way to be a survivor.
“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.”
It happened when I was 17, with a boy that I thought I loved. My first “real” boyfriend. At a time when I felt ugly and lonely and awkward the world told me if I had a boy that loved me and wanted me I would feel complete.
The first boy that found me didn’t know how to treat other people. He had watched his father abuse women physically and mentally his entire life and so he did the same to me.
He told me my worth was about what I could do for him, what I could give him. When we would drink at parties he did things to me I told him I wasn’t ready for when sober. I didn’t know it was rape. I didn’t know that when I said no and he didn’t listen he was in the wrong. He was my boyfriend after all, how could it be assault? If he loved me, how was it rape?
Eventually, I left. After a year of his cheating, yelling, abuse (both mental and physical) I left. I found safety in the arms of another boy. This one was much kinder. He did not pressure, he did not hurt me, he loved me. But I still traded sexual attention for self-esteem. The first boy had taught me that my body was my worth- sexual performance was equal to love.
“In adolescence, I traded the sexual attention of men for a boost in my self esteem. I didn’t get much out of those encounters for many years, but I felt temporarily less alone and more worthy. I feel bad for that teenage girl who thought she had to perform sexually to feel love. She was really funny and weird and smart and she didn’t need boys slobbering on her. She didn’t know.” Sarah Zimmerman
This initial pain was followed with years of cat calls and groping. Of men grabbing me in public and chasing me in parking garages. I would talk with the other women in my life and they responded with, “Me too.” For too long we have all been saying, “Me too” to each other, in hushed conversations and quiet confessions. And now? I don’t want to whisper it anymore. I don’t want to be silent. I want a better world for my son, my friends, my sister, for all women- all people. I want to break the silence so the next generation won’t have to experience this.
It took becoming a mother and the most patient and loving partner to figure out how to reclaim my body for me.“I’m a stronger version of me now and I have actual, real self esteem independent of others. So, until I feel like I’m again in authority of my body and using it for my purposes, I’m not compromising it again.”
How many need to tell you? To be clear: even one is too many.
Bonnie Rae xx
Photo: My Favorite Murder Instagram