Trigger warning: this article contains sensitive content involving rape and sexual assault.
Three weeks ago, my world was turned upside down. A man I didn’t know held me against my will, and physically and sexually assaulted me. Because of someone else actions, in three weeks I became a different person, against my will.
In the days after the incident, I didn’t know how to feel or how to act. I didn’t want to be left alone, but I also didn’t want to be around a lot of people. I didn’t want to have to explain myself. I didn’t want to pretend to be happy, I didn’t want to pretend to be sad. So I decided to take all my feelings and write them down. This post is extremely personal, but I want to share it for all the girls who are afraid to speak out, for all the girls who think they aren’t strong enough, for all the girls who are told that they aren’t allowed to speak out. You are strong. You are beautiful. You do not deserve to be treated like this. This is not your fault. I will fight for you if it’s the last thing I do.
Four days. Four days since my world was turned upside down. Four days since my life was altered by someone else’s actions, actions that were out of my control, but have still had the ability to make me feel responsible. Four days since my mind, body, and soul were violated. Four days of self blaming. Four days of “what-ifs.” Four days of questioning who I will become and what will become of this. Four days of detaching myself from the situation. Four days of defense mechanisms. Four days of him thinking he’s gotten away with this. Four days of trying to be normal in an abnormal situation. Four days of wanting it to be five days ago.
Everyone has heard the phrase “fight or flight,” and we’d all like to think we know what we would do in a dangerous or life threatening situation. But the truth is, you never really know until you’re actually in it, until your life is actually in danger, until you’re truly fighting or fleeing for your life.
But the thing is, there’s a third option that no one really talks about. There aren’t only those two options. It’s also possible that you’ll just freeze up. You’ll just lay there and let whats happening just happen. Where you’re paralyzed with fear, or maybe it’s just shock, or maybe it’s just that fight or flight isn’t an option for you.
I’m here to tell you that if four days ago you were to ask me if I was fight or flight, I would have, without hesitation, said fight. I’m a fighter, I. Am. A. Fighter. I am a New York girl who don’t take no shit. But four days ago, I froze. I didn’t fight back, I didn’t protect myself. I just froze, and for me that’s the hardest part.
Everything that I’ve worked so hard to become, became non-existent. So my question is, what do you do with that information? What do you do when you feel like you don’t even know yourself anymore? And I know what you’re thinking. “This is a common reaction, you need to just stop blaming yourself.”
But you’re not getting it, I don’t know how. The what-ifs and the self doubts are still there. It’s like me telling you to stop loving chocolate,
that you shouldn’t blame yourself for getting fat, that it’s the chocolate who did this to you, it was the one who made you fat (Ok, maybe not the best example but that’s how it feels).
And it’s like I know, I hear you, I’m listening, but I can’t. It’s just that if I did one thing different, or if one thing that night did, or didn’t happen, would I be here, four days out, feeling like this? Isn’t it the unknowing that crushes us the most?
My entire world was altered in a matter of minutes and I did nothing to stop it. Are you really understanding how that makes me feel? I’m not afraid of the situation, I’m afraid of myself. I’m afraid because I feel like I actually don’t know the one person in the world I was supposed to know the most: myself.
Who are you if you don’t know yourself?
What causes people to think this type of behavior is okay? How can it be okay for someone in a matter of seconds change the course of my life, but feel no remorse? How come I am the one who has to be hurting? How come I’m the one who will feel no true sense of justice? I keep trying to reassure myself by saying it was just a crime of opportunity, but how could I of put myself in this inopportune situation? How come I’m the one who gets talked about in hushed voices?
“Oh, that’s the girl that was raped at that party…” while you get to high five your friends? Why will I never be 100% sure who you are because you forced yourself on top of me while I was dead asleep in the middle of the pitch black? Why is it that I will be the one to spend hundreds of thousands of hours replaying that night in my mind, while you get to sleep though the night? Why do I get to feel so horrible while you get to talk about that night with fond memories?
When do I get answers? When do I get to move on?
But among all of these feelings of loss, I have gained perspective on one thing: I will not stop fighting for all those girls who go through this on a daily basis. Sexual assault happens in Ghana more often than any of us would like to think, or know for that matter, considering the lack of reports filled.
What if I told you that in America, one in four girls have been sexually assaulted? That within your group of you and your three closest girl friends, statically, one of you has probably been sexually violated? Is that sinking in? And to think, America has a pretty high reporting rate, comparably to that of Africa.
In Africa, it’s said that at least one in three girls are at some point in their lives sexually assaulted, but again that’s only with what’s reported. How many cases of girls being abused by teachers, headmasters, their husbands, neighbors, etc., have gone unreported?
I found a quote from an article published in 2014 that said, “Available statistics show that a total of 1,296 girls in the country were defiled, while 335 other women were raped in 2014 alone.” 335 women were raped out of roughly 24,000,000 people in Ghana in 2014. Only 335 women were raped. That’s what you’re trying to tell me? And I’m supposed to believe that bull?
Anyone who lives in Ghana understands that the police are corrupt and religious and strong traditional views cloud most peoples’ (males’) opinion on forced sex. Ghana’s society is based on very traditional, patriarchal, and women ignoring values. But how can we change this? How can we make it be seen that forcing children to get married, having sex without a women consent is not okay. How do you change actions that have been taking place for thousands of years? How can you tell a young boy that what his father, uncle, brother, teacher, is doing is not okay? How can you make them better?
How can we protect these young girls? How can we reach them and tell them they’re not alone, that whats happening to them is not okay?
I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but I promise you I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to figure them out, because tomorrow it will be five days since my life was turned upside down.