Like too many others, I was raised on a culture of shame and silence. I was built on the notion that the place between my legs was dirty; that being a girl made me a little bit less than. Most of all, I was made to think that my words shouldn’t matter to anybody.
It took me a long time to learn, but I know better now. So, to the world and every person who tried to forget my voice, here’s a list of all the times you should have heard me.
If only you’d listened to me that first time, or the second, or the third. I lost count of how many times I said “no” before I gave up fighting. I was thirteen years old, and you were nearly a man – was that not reason enough to stop at my pleading? You used me up for a few moments of pleasure, and it cost me the rest of my life.
Mom, I wonder if you have any idea how many years I spent living in my shame. I wonder if you could ever begin to know the courage it took to say: “I was raped.” The first and only time I managed to say those words aloud to you, you silenced me with your disbelief. My god, did you make sure that I would never voice those words again.
My love, did you hear me when I told you that I could never love you back? I knew I could never love you the way you wanted me to, but you forced me. Every time you put your hands on me, I felt the shame settle foul and heavy on me all over again. I was a broken thing for not being able to love you; a lesser woman for all the love I could never give back.
I didn’t want to have sex. I wasn’t ready, but it was only a matter of time before I could no longer refuse you.
Once upon a younger day, I blamed myself for the violence; today, I fault myself no longer. If you haven’t heard me yet, hear me now when I say: “Me too.” Hear the cacophony as my voice joins so many others to roar something undeniable. You can’t quiet me with an army of empowered women at my back, ready to reclaim what you took from us.
Do you hear me now?