It’s been four and a half years since the first time I was sexually assaulted. Looking back, I can only remember certain flashes of what happened. I can remember a crowded bus, a man almost straddling me, rubbing himself against me, and two old Italian women yelling at me to get away from him in words I didn’t understand. There was more, but the details are only preserved through words in a journal. Mostly, I’ve repressed it. I can’t remember what he looked like, I can’t remember how long it lasted,
but what I can remember is the overwhelming shame I felt.
I remember how confused I was as to what was happening. It was a crowded bus- you’re going to be touching some people. But when did it move from just being crowded to this man rubbing his crotch on my hip? I honestly don’t even know.
I always saw myself as a fighter. That if I ever got put in a tough situation, I would fight back. But there I was on a bus in the middle of the countryside silently standing there not fighting back. I didn’t know what to do, where to go. The full magnitude of what was happening didn’t sink in until later. It wasn’t happening. It wasn’t real.
In the moment, I just felt stuck.
Somehow it ended. I don’t really know how or when, but I remember the instant shame. I remember feeling so worthless and used. You don’t understand what the word “objectified” really means until you experience it and become it. I remember having this realization, “So this is what it’s like to be objectified.”
When a stranger who knows nothing about you feels like he has a right to you- that he’s entitled to you and you are nothing but there for his gain – that’s assault
When it comes to my romantic life, things tend to be uneventful. I have high standards and generally don’t open myself up to people in that way unless they’ve earned my trust. But here’s this stranger, that I’ve never spoken a word to, barging his way in.
I never agreed to this. I didn’t want this.
It took me years to feel comfortable even admitting it was sexual assault. I still can’t believe it sometimes. I never talked about it. Even with my friends who were there watching it all happen, we didn’t talk. When we stepped off the bus, we left the memory there.
But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t leave my shame on that bus.
If we don’t talk about it, it’s not real. Right? Please say that’s right.
I felt like other people had worse experiences, so I couldn’t compare. I felt like my experience didn’t “qualify” as assault. That’s the world we live in. One where I compared my humiliation and shame to others and considered myself lucky for not having it as bad as it could have been.
Fuck that. Fuck that so much.