Trigger warning: This post contains description of sexual violence.
I speak to rooms of strangers with nothing. A microphone attached to my heart. I am emotional. I am passionate. I am defiant. I am determined. And, I cry sometimes.
I am not there to please the people. I am there to hope they listen. The challenge is how to connect one life with lives so different. I tell my story to ensure there is a name and a face instead of a crime of silence. The venue changes: auditorium, cafeteria, tent, gym, assembly hall, arena, outdoor theatre.
I am never shocked with the aftermath. There are so many stories, just beneath the surface. I feel like I am pin-pricking Helium balloons so that this unnatural air seeps out. I end up with an inbox of thousands of seeped out life stories. So, I thought I would share a nip. Four schools in a week.
Students write their stories with more word count, uncoaxed, than one might imagine. If only their pieces could count toward writing composition class.
Private High School: The email reads, "This fall he's been in one of my classes, and he won't stop touching me. I can't get him to stop. I keep telling him to get his hands off of me and he thinks it's a joke. He's always saying that he will have sex with me. He tells me that every time he sees my breasts he imagines making love to me. (sorry for being so blunt) Frankly, it has really freaked me out to the point that he takes up most of my thought during the day and even when I'm dreaming. I currently have a boyfriend now, after a long time being jaded, and he's the only one I've been close to telling all that has happened."
Public High School: The email reads, "Last year for spring break, my friend asked me to go to Myrtle Beach with her parents and her. I was 15. We went down for a week and I admit it, we did drink. I was a virgin and my friend had sex with a different guy every night we were there. On the last night, we were walking past this one hotel when some guys outside started talking to us. The guys turned out to be 21 so they could get alcohol. I think I was given a drug in my dink bc before I knew it, I kept passing out throughout this one guy having sex with me."
Private High School: The email reads, "I'm a senior and I heard you tell your story at my school. See about a year ago I was at a party and very drunk. Me and a girl started making out randomly. She was drunk as well. Now it was a mutual hook-up. I didn't force myself but as we went to be alone, I became very aggressive and the more aggressive I became the more resistant this girl became. I took my clothes and some of her clothes off and she was only playfully resistant by not fully. When I started getting rough with her she started trying to back me up and saying no. I wouldn't stop and she started screaming and yelling. I am not proud of myself that night."
Private Middle School: The email reads, "I have been forced to do something sexual through a guilt trip. He told me that I should do it because I had done it with someone before and 'how was this time going to be any different if I have already done it before.' I began to do what was told of me. What can I do to prevent that from ever happening again?"
I give you no school names. I would be removed from circulation within a week. Just envision highly ranked and beloved schools. So now, what? Or, should it be, "So what?" Do we -- me and these four -- make it to your fitness center locker room, or your carpool drop-off, or your cocktail party?
Some of you say, "Kids do stuff like this all the time. They are kids. They don't get it yet." I say, "Are you telling me that we expect them to get a 5 on the Calc AP and not know what 'Leave me alone' means?"
Some of you say, "Their parents should have monitored their children better." I'll say, "OK. But what about teaching what is illegal when it comes to touching someone else without consent?"
Some of you say, "I've been there, too. I got through it." I'll say, "What common youth experiences do we want? Rape, abuse, exploitation?"
For me, I'm about to speak at another school, raise some awareness, and not ignore this problem. I don't mind if this isn't your cause, there are plenty from which to choose. I just hope you'll choose one, too, with your whole heart.
Need help? In the U.S., visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by RAINN. For more resources, visit theNational Sexual Violence Resource Center's website.