Traumatic stories are finally being brought to light from women who have harbored them internally for quite some time, some even a decade or more.
It is liberating for me to hear these stories as a woman who was sexually assaulted/harassed herself. Of course they are distressing, and no woman should ever have to experience such heartache, let alone feel ashamed for it. Still, it’s a powerful reminder that I am not isolated.
That is an important thought to tell myself on the nights I lie awake in bed with one-hundred thousand thoughts running through my head.
I’ve had this knot underneath my right shoulder blade for years that even the best masseuse is unable to dig out, the deepest stretches cannot uncoil, and my TENS unit can’t put to rest. It runs up into my shoulder and along the side of my neck. Whenever I am under stress, I can feel it pulsating, as if it has its very own heartbeat. What started out as small as a pill has grown into the size of a clementine.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s holding in some of the pain I’ve been through and kept silent about. Just a theory, I suppose.
One Monday morning I walked into school and all eyes were on me. A friend of mine came up to me and said, “Cameron, are you okay?” to which I replied, “Yeah, why?” She said, “I heard that you had a rough weekend.”
The previous weekend I had snuck out of my house and went to a party with my best friend. We had already been drinking before we got there, and as soon as I walked in the door everyone was taking shots of vodka.
I blacked out right away.
The next thing I remember was it was getting light outside and I was sitting in my friends car headed back to my house. I couldn’t recall anything that had happened. At the time I was taking an SSRI, Prozac, I believe. I took it for two or three months and then stopped because I absolutely hated the way it made me feel- numb to any type of emotion, bored of the things that once gave me pleasure, and difficulty falling asleep.
There is a reason your doctor or pharmacist will tell you not to drink if you are taking certain medications, and one is wise to listen to that advice. Not only because it can cause a blackout in the blink of an eye, but it can also shut down your respiratory system.
I was sexually assaulted that weekend, and I didn’t even know, but everyone else did.
This was something I didn’t learn about until months later. I can’t specifically remember how I found out because I’ve repressed that pain for so many years, but learning that it happened traumatized a part of me. I’ve attempted to run from it for so long. I relied on alcohol to mask that sorrow, and in turn, it put me into more risky situations where it could have easily happened to me again.
That shame has held me back from so many things, because as a result, I began to care too much about what people might think of me.
Being from a small town in Northern Minnesota where the cold weather and lack of sunlight causes a lot of people to sink into a depression, a lot of us would use drugs and alcohol to cope. There are about 15,000 people living in the city of Bemidji, 46,000 including the surrounding areas. It should also be known that Beltrami County poverty rate is roughly 19%, higher than the nation’s average of around 14% (United States Census Bureau).
In a small town, people are going to talk. In High School, people are going to talk even more.
It wasn’t so much the idea of people talking about me behind my back, but to find out my own friends were shaming me, that was absolutely agonizing. Instead of showing their concern and support, some people said I got what I deserved.
I’m so glad I’m not in High School anymore.
Over the years I worry less. I suppose that is what happens as you age and become more wise. Well, at least for some people. My Grandma’s friends still gossip as if they are fifteen. Yeah, it’s weird. Gossip, weather, and death are the main topics. God, I never want to be like them.
The way that has helped me to heal is to open up and share my experiences (it is different for each individual, so don’t feel like you have to, just making it through each day is courageous). I’ve learned that the anxiousness I feel is all in my head, and it is quite a relief to get everything out there in the open.
There is beauty in vulnerability.
If people want to say cruel things about you behind your back, so fucking what. That is the worst that might happen, and it’s not even bad at all. It will help you to determine who your genuine friends are.
So I conclude my assault story. I have also had the following happen to me (in no particular order):
•I’ve been cat called (one time my friend Amera and I even had guys pull over and beg for us to get into the car with them while we were on a walk by my college campus)
•I’ve received unwanted photos of the male genitalia
•I’ve had my ass grabbed by complete strangers
•I’ve had a man call me a bitch because I “friend-zoned” him
•I’ve had friends and strangers make unwanted remarks about my body
•I’ve had men plead for me to send them naked photos of myself
•I’ve been made to feel guilty for saying “no”
….as I am sure most women have had one if not all of these things occur to herself. Unfortunately.
Do what you can and that will be more than enough. When you heal yourself, you help to heal society.
Sending lots of love to my fellow women during this HUGE shift in societal norms! Never stop educating yourself and others on ways in which we can make the world more safe and mindful.
United States Census Bureau. (July 2016). Web.(https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/beltramicountyminnesota/PST045216)