me, too smiling and rising above the pain

*this photo was taken a few years ago and represents a girl who was very different than the woman she is today. Today, this woman stands here saying proudly me, too.

My lovely readers, today I come to you with a heavy, yet empowered heart as I choose to address the phenomenon that is touching and sweeping our world right now. As I sit behind my phone and my computer reading the countless status updates from friends and loved ones, I find my heart aching and feeling encouraged all at the same time. I have sat here for days debating whether or not to share my story with you loves, when suddenly something so important hit me.

I am not defined by my past. Jesus has redeemed it, the fight has already been won. There is no spot or blemish that can tarnish my story.  Rather each and every hard moment is purposely there to serve a purpose. Each of our stories are so unique and SO incredibly valuable…. and mine is too. Yes, me, too.

It was with loads of meditating and prayer on these truths that led me to write this post. Over the last year and a half I have worked to transform this blog into a platform of inspiration, authenticity, encouragement, and LIGHT through sharing my own personal experiences, learnings, and life lessons with you loves. So today I plan to continue this journey of realness with the hopes that it would not serve as a means e sadness, but rather empowerment and encouragement.

content warning: the below may be a bit hard to read.

First and foremost, ladies, you are NOT alone.

“If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

Me, Too. 

The Realization

A few months ago someone asked me a question that I had never actually EVER been asked before in my life. “Have you ever been raped?”. The question stopped me in my tracks. I felt my palms sweat as thoughts of past events that had been pushed down for years and years came creeping back to mind. I went to respond but hesitated. Finally, I let out a defeated, “I don’t know.” Wait, what? How could I now know? Immediately I felt puzzled, fearful, angry, and sad all at once. What really happened all those years ago?

I think in my heart of hearts I knew it to be true, but I had strangely compartmentalized the events in an attempt to make them lighter and less traumatic. I suffered from the same reasoning so many others experience: “I knew the person. I had been drinking. It must not count if I knew him. It was probably my fault anyway. I should have been more responsible.”

Before we begin, I want to offer some advice. I have chosen to share this story with you loves because I feel safe sharing it. I have recognized the hurt and have spent time processing it through therapy, mentorship, and close friends. I have prayed through the pain and have spoken truth over my life in place of the lies that point to worthlessness, doubt, confusion, lack of beauty, guilt, and shame. It is through this processing that I feel ready to share this story with you today. I encourage any of you reading that have been through similar incidents to not feel pressured to share your stories if you are not yet ready. While there is SO much strength and courage that comes from sharing, there is no need to rush the processing of past traumatic events. I want to empower you to take your time, should you need it. Your story does not matter any less if you do not share it.

The Story

While the actual events of the night still remain a bit blurry, I remember some key details that I am willing to share today with you loves. I had met up with a close guy friend at a bar he worked at just around the block from my apartment. This specific guy friend truly was a brother to me for more reasons than one. Our families were very close and we saw one another frequently. This specific evening I was dealing with a recent breakup and was distraught over the situation. I explained to him how I was feeling after this specific breakup. I was heartbroken, confused, and weak, but felt safe sharing the position of my fragile heart with this guy friend  because he was like family to me.

In typical “temporary healing of the pain” style, he brought me drinks to numb the pain. Slowly through the course of the night I realized he was bringing me drink after drink after drink without me even asking for them. After a while, he took a break from working and joined me at a table outside [at this point I was pretty tipsy]. We talked and drank some more and specifically in my mind I remember thinking “Thank goodness for guy friends that are like brothers.”

Soon I found him passing me an electronic cigarette. DISCLAIMER: I NEVER ever smoke you guys… EVER. And while I know an electronic cigarette isn’t exactly the same, it still doesn’t exactly float my boat. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that I was being coerced into drinking more and was also being convinced to smoke an e-cigarette. It was peer pressure. Reluctantly, I tried the e-cigarette [at this point I started veering from tipsy to drunk]. To this day, I am not convinced the e-cigarette only had tobacco in it.  He could see the affect on me and offered to walk me home. One could perceive this suggesstion as sweet, I suppose.

From here the memories are few and far between. What I do remember is that I did not go inside right away. Instead, we made a detour to a pool at a nearby apartment complex. Next came a suggestion to go into the pool which meant we had to remove some clothes… even then I remember thinking nothing possibly would happen with this guy because he was such a close friend.

After being in the pool we needed towels to dry off. This was his invitation to come inside. We proceeded to walk into my apartment and I handed him a towel downstairs. I thought that would be it. This was not someone I ever wanted to or intended to do anything with sexually. When he first made a move towards me, I vaguely remember saying I was not comfortable with the situation.  I remember telling him I don’t feel “that way” about him. He said it didn’t matter. He said it would be fine.

Somehow we ended up upstairs. In the brief flashes of my memory from the moments after coming to my room I remember feeling like I was distinctly paralyzed. I could not move and I could not speak. I felt like all I could do was count down the minutes until it was all over. Silent tears rolled down my face. I never wanted this. There was a deep seeded feeling of regret and sadness and simultaneous worthlessness. “How did I get here? Why is this happening? Is this what every man wants?” All I wanted was for it to end.

The Aftermath

He left immediately after the incident. I couldn’t sleep all night. I actually remember wanting to call someone immediately after, but realized I had “lost” my phone in this process. Well I had thought I lost it… turns out he had it at his restaurant. I couldn’t have even contacted anyone to get out of this situation even if I wanted to.

I’ll never forget walking over to the restaurant the next morning, with sunglasses on afraid to take them off. The sunglasses offered a layer of protection against facing the world. I didn’t want to be seen. I felt ugly inside. I felt the internal ugliness reflecting onto my external beauty, too. It was all ugly. I walked up to the restaurant hoping with everything in me that he would not bethere. But there he was. He came prancing out with a smile on his face. I immediately felt like I wanted to vomit. Sick and horrified, I quickly asked if my phone was there, and he replied that he had it in his office. He handed it to me as I quickly took it and walked away, never removing my sunglasses. I thought maybe if I just hid behind them I could pretend none of it ever happened…

To make matters even worse, he had a girlfriend…. whom I was friends with. So now I was involved with cheating. I felt so much guilt and starting placing full blame on myself as though the entire situation was my fault. Thoughts of, “Maybe he felt bad for me so that’s why he did this? Maybe he was just trying to make me feel better?” starting flooding my mind. Now he had cheated on his girlfriend and it was all my fault. The lies were eating me alive. Pieces of my heart were shattering as my insides simultaneously imploded. I didn’t know what to do, who to tell, or what my next steps were. I just wanted to hide and pretend none of it ever happened.

We spoke later that day. The details are so vague at this point because the shock had overtaken my entire system. What I do remember him saying so clearly was this [with excitement in his voice I might add], “I had a great time last night and would love to do it again.” I felt my insides turn as literal vomit came up my throat. HOW COULD HE EVEN SAY THAT?! It took me a moment to reply as I held back tears but I finally I said back strongly, “I don’t remember all of what happened last night, but I never, ever want it to happen again.” Immediately I hung up the phone.

The Redemption

It took me years to actually see this situation for what it was. It took years for me to finally be rid of the guilt and shame and worthlessness that was filling my soul. But finally, I am now able to stand strong, face it all, and see it for what it truly is.

Indeed I definitely made mistakes in the process of this night. I could have been more careful, that is true. However, the point is that we should be able to make mistakes without getting taken advantage of. Just because I had impaired judgement, does not make it right to be assaulted. This is what SO many of us women get wrong. We think that because we knew the man, or because we were tipsy that it means it was our fault. We have got to stop putting the blame on ourselves. We have got to stop lowering our self worth for the sake of “protecting” the ones who are actually inflicting harm onto us.

I want to be very honest with you loves about how I have felt even as I type this story to you all today. So much of my subconscious has been telling me “ You cannot share this story. People will read it and say that it wasn’t actually sexual assault. People will think you are being dramatic.” I am dead serious. These thoughts keep popping into my head even as I type this very sentence. But as I reflect and dissect why I am feeling that way, I realize it is because of years and years of lies built up in my head as false truth. I have been telling myself for ages that it was my fault. I have convinced myself that I was out of control, young and reckless and should have known better.

Ladies, if ANY one of you right now is experiencing the same thoughts about a difficult sexual encounter you have had, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Also, I just want to empower you to see these thoughts for what they are: lies. The truth is, the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy. He is here to steal our pride, kill our sense of love, and destroy our self worth. He wants to fill us with guilt and shame. Ohhhhh it makes me so fired up just thinking of how sly he is and how often we let him win. And yet, it’s so hard not to let the lies take root. It is truly a battle we have to fight each and every day.

But do you want to know the best part? We do NOT have to live that way anymore. We do not have to believe those lies for a second longer. Our pasts do not define us, but rather they are the framework for the beautiful narrative of our lives. They make us uniquely US in every way, shape and form. Hear me when I say: There is only one of YOU, just one. You are irreplaceable. And just as you are so so special, so rare, so beautiful, so is your story. All of the past blemishes, deep hurts, and aching pains…. they are worth SO MUCH. The pain you have been through is not worthless, and your past is not meant to drive guilt and shame. Instead, it is time for you to start seeing that each and every part of your story is VALUABLE. 

Oh goodness do I just love that there is such BEAUTY IN THE ASHES. Praise Jesus that the fight has already been won. Praise Him that our God loves us SO much that He actually cares to know all of the little details in our lives… the good, bad, and the ugly. Truly, there is beauty to be found in all of the pain.

So today loves, I share my story of sexual assault to let you know that I, too stand alongside you.

Yes, me too.

Let this season of awakening to the pain in the hearts of so many women not be a time for us to feel further guilt and shame, but rather a time for us to OWN our stories and see the pain as a place of beautiful healing and redemption. After all, it is what has made us uniquely, wonderful, and beautifully our very own YOU.

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