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I'm sure most of you have heard about the #MeToo Movement, but if you haven't, it's a movement devoted to raising awareness against sexual harassment and assault. People all over the world are sharing their stories and inspiring others to do the same. Sexual assault can happen to anyone at any time. According to RAINN (2019), an American is assaulted every 32 seconds and on average 321,500 people over the age of 12 are victims of rape and sexual assault every year. The majority of sexual assault victims are under 30, especially for college-aged individuals. Another important statistic to note is that 1 in every 6 women will be involved in an attempted or completed sexual assault in their lifetime. You see assault on crime shows all the time, such as, Law and Order: SVU, but it definitely takes you by surprise when it happens to either yourself or someone you love.

Sexual assault can have lasting negative effects on anyone. Since it's extremely traumatizing, many victims will experience PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) for either a few weeks or long term. Several victims have also either contemplated or attempted suicide. Unfortunately, many younger victims don't realize they have been raped until they learn more about the situation, which happened in my case. Many others also become involved in drugs due to the traumatic stress weighing on their shoulders. It's definitely not easy to deal with and it doesn't go away, so it's important to always be supportive towards victims.

Now, here is my #MeToo story:

It all started in 2011 - my sophomore year of high school. I was living my life as the happy, kind, helpful person I've always been. I was the type of girl who was friendly towards everyone. I didn't have a "group", but I was friends with everyone. People knew they could always come to me for advice or help. It didn't matter what your background or social status was, I was always willing to be your friend. Then I met this guy. I will not disclose his name for privacy purposes. He was new to our school and a year older than me, but we had the same math class. He was cute, had a nice smile - it was your typical high school crush. After a month or so, we ended up dating. Looking back now, he definitely wasn't my type. He was that "bad boy" that drank a lot, smoked, and didn't care about his decisions - which is the total opposite of me. He introduced me to a whole new world that I never knew about, but it wasn't a good one. I had a lot of firsts during that relationship, even my first (and only) rape. It's been 8 years and the memory is still vivid.

It happened in a dark garage on a park bench on a cool fall day. We were sitting there on the bench and he leaned in to kiss me. Then he started to move his hands around my body. I was still learning about relationships, so I was super nervous. He grabbed my hands, pulled me over to the cabinets next to the door, and started digging in his pocket. I asked him what he was looking for, but he just told me to be quiet. Then he told me to pull down my pants. I'm sure most of you would have known what was going to happen next, but I didn't. I was a virgin. I was naive. He then pulled down my panties and told me to bend over. I was so nervous. I didn't know what was going on. Then it happened and it was honestly the worst pain in my life. He just forced it and wasn't gentle at all. I told him how badly it hurt, but he didn't care. He just told me it was normal and to suck it up. I wanted him to stop. I didn't want any more, but he wouldn't listen. Then he moved me over to the park bench. He kept going; telling me what to do. I was so scared and frozen. I honestly didn't even know what to think. He was my boyfriend, so maybe this was normal? Of course I know better now and unfortunately figured out many years later what had actually happened on that awful day. It only came to a halt because the pizza guy showed up. There were small windows on the garage door, so we could see him walking up to the house. He started to panic and demanded me to put my clothes back on. He thought it was a hilarious situation, but I was honestly still in shock over the entire situation.

We continued to date for another month or two, but he continued to harass me. He told everyone at school about our "moment", which caused several guys to crack jokes and give me a hard time. I was called names. I had lost friends. I went from being the "good girl", to the one with all the problems. The rest of my sophomore year was absolutely miserable. I had lost some of my lifelong friends and several people blocked me on social media. I just wanted to escape from it all and start a whole new life, which is exactly what I did. I switched schools, made new friends, and pushed off that part of my life. I wanted to forget about the entire situation and meet people who didn't know about my past. Thankfully, my last two years of high school were amazing and some of my greatest friendships came out of these years.

Sexual harassment and assault can happen to anyone, so it's important to spread awareness. I've only shared my story with a couple people, but I want to inspire others to do the same. It's hard, it hurts, but you're never alone. If you or someone you love has been a victim of sexual assault, please reach out to me. I'm always here to listen and support you. We will stand together and join the fight against sexual assault.

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