I was so young when it started that I can’t even recall how old I was when it happened the first time, but I know it had been happening since my first visit to India. My cousin said it was a game-we were just ‘playing house’. When I became old enough to realize that whatever happening wasn’t right, I stopped spending time with that cousin. I told him I didn’t want to play ‘house’ anymore. He proceeded to tell me I was nothing but a bone without meat: worthless. And that no one would want bones-except maybe dogs. I tried to tell my mom, but her response was “okay so stop hanging out with him”. I’ll never shake the feeling of shame that washed over me. Even now, as I recall it, I feel so small, so weak, so helpless, when I think of how I felt when I tried telling someone.
I pushed those experiences aside and continued on through high school. I went on to college and I went out of my way to be kind, perhaps because somewhere in my heart, I wanted to feel like I belonged and being “everyone’s best friend” awarded me that feeling. This meant going out of my way to help out anyone in need. One night, after partying on sixth street, I saw a good guy friend who was drunk out of his mind. He didn’t even appear to know where he was, much less sober enough to get home safely. Instead of going home with my friends like I normally would, I instead decided I would help him. I didn’t think of how he was literally a foot taller and much stronger than my petite stature at 5”2’. I didn’t think of how he could have easily overpowered me if he wanted to.
As I tried to hail us a cab, he grabbed my shoulder roughly. I turned around and asked him to stop. He took that as permission to grab my breast and use it to pull me towards him. I tried to push him away as he shoved his tongue down my throat. I pushed him away and told him that I wasn’t interested in him that way. He seemingly dropped it and I thought I’d be safe. He apparently had had a rough weekend and then proceeded to tell me about it while dragging me as he held my arm and I kept begging him to let me go. I wasn’t sure how to get help as my friends had already left and his friends were nowhere to be found either. And if I’m honest, I froze and it felt like I was 6 years old all over again. Fighting against a person who was taller, stronger and inherently seen as more powerful than me. I fought tears, still trying to get a cab, determined to at least drop him outside his dorm. I eventually got a cab and he shoved me inside. I don’t remember what time I got home, but I do remember staying up all night sobbing as every memory of being sexually abused as a child hit me, intermittently playing in my head along with what had just happened. I couldn’t look at anyone the next day; friends kept asking what was wrong and I couldn’t bring myself to tell them at the risk of not being believed.
I’m sharing my story because sexual abuse and sexual assault is so common and so underreported. I’m still not brave enough to publicly share my story with my name because I’m almost certain I won’t be believed.