I’m a 19 year old female living in a corrupt society. Ever since before I was walking, I was always taught to respect people. I would often hear things like, “treat people the way you would like to be treated” or “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. This always seemed to be a common conversation amongst my elementary classes. When I hit junior high school I met some new people and started to spend less time with my old friends. What I didn’t know was the culture and pressure around youth in our society. I started to notice boys in my junior high class grabbing bums and touching breasts. I got this weird feeling in my stomach when it would happen but never challenged the urge. Our society teaches men that women are objects, even though we preach to our boys to be gentlemen. I went through 3 years of the touching and grabbing before I got to high school. I always thought to myself, “Wow, I could never ask for a better group of friends. These guys will be my closest friends forever”. I started to be curious in high school and explore my passion for sports. I made a bunch of the teams and started making new friends, again. Soon enough, I was drifting away from the ones I thought would be there forever. I unconsciously made the decision to go my own way because I didn’t like how things were feeling. It didn’t take long for me to again be disappointed. I noticed the touching and grabbing again, and it was everywhere; the classroom, the hallways, houses and parties. I started getting used to that uneasy feeling around this social norm and just continued my day to day life.
It wasn’t until December 5th, 2008 that I challenged the urge in my stomach. I was slapped across the face by my boyfriend at the time, in front of my own basketball team as well as his. Fortunately enough for me, a teacher saw this happen and came directly over to address it. It tore me apart inside with self-blame and embarrassment that this would happen to me. After I had time to think about what happened, cool down and straighten out my thoughts, I realized the knot in my stomach had vanished. I finally gained the strength to challenge our society in the sense of respecting others. We always preach to people to respect everyone the way we would like to be treated but it doesn’t mean anything until it is practiced. Back then I would have said that that day was the most embarrassing and shameful day I had lived up to that point but then when I opened my eyes, it was empowering. He tried to take me from myself and I stood up against it. That was the tipping point for me to say to myself, “you know what? You’re a lot better than this. No one deserves to be humiliated and abused”. Although I didn’t choose to tell anyone and my parents were informed due to protocol, it was the best thing that could have happened. I knew the lines of communication were open with my family but that didn’t help. I didn’t want anyone to know this happened. I wanted to keep it to myself and move on with my life. As soon as my family was on board, I was able to regain my strength, my confidence and myself.
I am now at my dream University, in the program I always wished to be in and I’m following my dreams without looking back. Just because that incident happened to me, and I spent 3 years with that guy, doesn’t mean it defines who I am. I define who I am, not the experiences I go through. They may shape who I am, but don’t define me as a person. I look back on it now and realize it made me stronger, I used it to motivate me to do all the things he said I wasn’t capable of doing. I redefined my beliefs and my values. I cherish relationships more and found out who my real friends were.
First hand, I can say our society is shady. We live by these social rules and all we want is to be liked. Well if I’m liked for something I’m not, then why be liked at all? I want to help people; I want people to know that there are individuals out there that will choose to commit this crime. There are also people out there who want to help people when it happens, I’m one of those people. I will tell you it’s not your fault, because it isn’t and that you are good enough, because you are. That you do have the power to your own life and that there is support out there for you. No matter what your gender, your sexuality or your race, you don’t deserve to be assaulted and you do deserve to have a voice.