I’ve always believed in love. And now I’ve had it returned to me in kind but there was a long period of time in my life where love and self love were ideas that I’d only see play out in movies and the lives of other people. Never me. (Stay tuned for the happy ending at the end though). • When I was in college, after a series of anxiety ridden failures I distanced myself from my caring friends and associated with some not so great people. They were the kind of people that were enablers of even worse people who hung out with them. I came upon the group because we lived in the dorms together and some of my good friends and I ran into them in the common areas. The drinking and the partying we did numbed the sting from my endless stream of professional and academic failures and after a while it was either numbness or suicide so my sick version of self-preservation kicked in and I just chose to be one of the numb partiers in this group. The only way I can tell the rest of the story is to do so surgically so please don’t mind the detached tone: • The sexual assault that happened unfolded like so: I liked this guy and he knew I liked him. When we first met he liked both me and my roommate and tried his chance with both of us. But the prude in me was still alive and kicking and hadn’t made way for the wayward partier I had turned into eventually, so he never got passed a simple peck on the cheek. Fast forward several months and we are at a party. We both got really drunk and I became none responsive and he took advantage. Woke up to it. Passed out. And then the next day overhead him telling someone he wouldn’t touch me with a ten foot pole because I was short fat and Indian. Short. Fat. Indian. Those words still kill me. And the messed up thing was that those senseless words ruined me more than the actual assault because at that point I didn’t understand the depth of the whole “being passed out even around someone you like isn’t consent”. I had wanted to be physical with him, but not like that. And I didn’t know I was allowed to be upset or allowed to tell anyone. In the end I just wanted to be loved and in some sick way I thought I had that but...no. No one would ever love me I thought. And on top of that to be so publicly rejected even after being taken from so harshly. It just burned like a slow fire until the mixed feelings burned a hole right through my self worth. • In the months that followed, I ended up being in an abusive relationship with a “nice guy” who basically guilted me into a relationship because we were friends and he wanted more when I didn’t. Later after graduation I ended up in a relationship with someone who was using my crush on him to exploit me sexually into convincing me to marry him because he wanted to be a citizen. The last frog I kissed before I met my prince was the player who gave me my first kiss in high school and wanted to give us a second chance after seeing how professionally successful I’d become. I saved up to visit him only to be hidden from his roommates and stood up in front of his colleagues because I was pudgy. Long story short... • You see, the thing with not understanding and talking about sexual assault is the mental gymnastics your mind does to your self worth. That last chance of owning what happened to you and moving on...when that’s minimized, you potentially take from yourself and others the ability for them to be the hero of their story...forever trapping yourself or them in a cycle of victimhood. I thank MannMukti and the communities it operates in for giving brown girls and guys a chance to reclaim their narrative. I was finally able to find my happy love story and I’m sharing this so that everyone reading knows they’ll find theirs too if they haven’t already.