“I am not my virginity”

When he told the story to our friends, it sounded consensual. How could I, at age 13, jump in and tell everyone he was wrong? At 13, when I was just starting to have positive sexual experiences, my whole world was shattered. For nearly seven years I convinced myself that because he didn’t physically hold me down or rape me; it couldn’t have been sexual assault. I have sat with a few friends throughout high school and college who were more intensely and more violently assaulted and it made me insecure about my own experience. I felt like I didn’t have the right to be affected by my assault.

At age 19 I was flooded with memories after hearing a friend share a similar story. I finally began to look at the event the way it actually happened and not the way my friends thought it happened. I understood why I had an intense fear of intimacy. For all those years I was terrified to be touched or alone with a guy. There was almost no one who could make me feel comfortable. I was terrified this would be my life forever. Luckily, it wasn’t my life forever and with the help of some professionals and an incredible (and very patient) guy I have been able to open myself up more to intimacy.

I would be lying if I said the only reason I am still a virgin is because I was sexually assaulted. It definitely put off the idea of sex for much longer than all my friends, but I did always want to share that moment with someone special. I have recently been facing this internal struggle about whether or not it’s the right time. Yes, I can say that I have overcome the intense fear of being alone with a guy. But does that mean I have to have sex just because I can?

For anyone who has experienced sexual assault, you should know that you are not to blame. We must demand that men (and women) learn self-control and respect, and be held to a higher standard of behavior, rather than taking this one-sided approach of perpetuating slut-shaming. It doesn’t matter what you were wearing. You didn’t “deserve” to be assaulted because you were drunk, high, or just too young to clearly say no. It is never OK for someone to pressure you or force you into an intimate experience.

Most importantly, you have the right to feel the way you do. Sexual assaults happen at all different ages, in all different settings, and at all different stages of our lives. Just because your assault was less violent than your friends, does not mean that it didn’t shatter your life and affect you deeply. Someone stole a part of you… so be kind to yourself and your sensitivity. And know that you are never alone.