Sexual assault is a pervasive beast that plagues many lives. Last night, I was privileged with the opportunity to sit on a Sexual Assault Awareness panel with three amazing women (Alex Heathcock, Julie Diehl Weil, and Commissioner Paula Ryan) who, like me, have had many Me Too moments in their lives. My sexual trauma began when I was about 5/6 years old. People who my parents trusted to take care of their children, abused their power. I later, in college, encountered an aggressive man who would not take no for an answer and began to kiss me in a hallway. Thankfully, there were friends around and I avoided what could have led to rape. My four years experiencing trauma as a child did not end with rape being avoided, and I unfortunately did not know how to communicate what was happening to my parents. It has taken me years to heal, and I still deal with anxiety (social & panic disorder), depression, and self worth. Sexual trauma is not the fault of the children involved or their parents. However, there are some ways we can move toward a culture where sexual education and social norms do not repress those conversations. It is important for parents with young children to talk to them about their body parts and to create a system of trust. It is important that we maintain sexual education in the public school system and teach young adults how to engage with each other sexually. And it is imperative that we maintain a sex positive culture and that we do not encourage women/girls to play a hard to get card while we encourage men/boys to be on the prowl. I’d like to recognize that though sexual trauma affects girls & women by in large, young boys & men also fall victim. Junot Díaz’s essay was heartbreaking but a necessary part of the conversation. Sexual assault is a pervasive beast, but together we can work to put an end to it for every single human being, because no one deserves to live their life in the shadow of sexual assault. Lastly, it’s important to have conversations like this with compassion, but have them without pity. Those of us who have to say Me Too, as Junot Diaz outlines in his essay, sometimes feel romantically and sexually isolated — we don’t fit in society’s norms for what it means to be a woman or man or lover or fill-in-blank. Many of us struggle to have healthy romantic relationships. Don’t clump us into a box with walls of pity. Approach us with honest, open conversation, and if you seek any sort of relationship, be open to difficult conversation.
**Major thanks to the Palm Beach County Young Democrats for hosting the panel, and many thanks to Tarana Burke for using her voice consistently until we were heard.**
Sometimes it’s okay to just say “me, too.”