By: Ofonime Idiong
Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault, Abuse
When I was around four or five years old and still living in Nigeria, male classmates put their hands in my underwear.
It’s not an incident I have ever really felt comfortable talking about. In sixth grade I told Kayla, my best friend at the time, and never really talked about it again. I mean, I’m not upset with them. After all, they were just kids.
I think I was also assaulted again at a young age. I say I think because I do not remember the incident, but I do remember the aftermath. I remember my mom yelling and running around. I remember telling her I was in pain. I remember so many other times in my youth being introduced to sexuality through multiple other incidents that I cannot talk about. Some I simply do not remember because I have suppressed the memories.
So after twenty something years, why am I finally saying something? I guess maybe it’s because all this time I have never really felt like a victim. These are things I have repressed because I don’t think that I was ever really raped. No, as a full grown adult woman, I have been sexualized my entire life, and it is something I have become used to and complacent about. I do not want people to look at me differently, but I still do not think I am a victim, especially compared to women who have been brutally abused and almost left for dead.
But I do think that I am left slightly triggered by most sexual encounters I have. There’s almost a fear when it comes to sex.
So I guess Me too.
There are so many women who are victims, yet so many men who yell out, “Not all men!” Well, enough men are out there terrorizing and victimizing women for this to be a problem. We need to talk about sexual assault and sexual violence. We have been raising generations of women who are afraid. Too long have women had to exist in environments that hold them responsible for the crimes committed against their bodies.
I have been cat called. People say I should feel complimented because it means that these men are interested. I have been honked at, stared at, followed. This is not comfortable. Me too. We need to talk about it. Men have been given a pass in a society that lets them do as they please. It is never about the man; it’s about telling women how to dress to not get assaulted. Telling women to hold keys between their hands, to never go out alone at night. We need to change the rhetoric. We need to teach men how not to be predators, to take no for an answer so we can begin to raise a new generation of women who do not have to be a part of Me Too.
Women who do not have stories to tell because they live in a society that does not objectify their bodies. A society where men have learned the meaning of no.
These movements are not to blame men; they are not meant to point fingers. We know not all men, but there are enough men who play a role in the assault on women. Too many women have stories that all sound the same. There are too many similarities.
But to the women out there who are still going through their pain, know that you are not alone. Know that you are strong, that the atrocities committed against you do not define you. Your stories matter. You matter. I believe you.
Edited by Elyse Notarianni