I can’t keep quiet any longer. I feel proud that as a community of empowered and insanely badass women, we are finally taking that leap of courage and speaking out against an act that we should have never feared. At the time, one doesn’t see it as an assault or harassment because it’s just the way it’s always been. Men have been brought up to do and say whatever they please and as women, we have bitten our tongues to not “act out.”
I was 14 and he was probably in his early 40s. He was and is my uncle. Growing up in such a toxic environment as my father’s family has proven to be, it’s really simple and easy to just regard anything that occurred in that family as “normal.” PTSD is a real thing when it comes to these extreme acts and at the time, you really don’t know how to react to something like that. I never told anyone about this for the fear I had of being called “crazy” or that I just simply “made the whole thing up.” I couldn’t have that in my consciousness, I knew what happened but the fear of how others would perceive me was too much.
To me, I always believe that sexual assault meant rape not groping or unwanted advances. My father’s declaration to go back home to Colombia for New Years’ and his birthday was the trigger. I hadn’t thought about this for years, I think I was in shock when it happened so I just brushed it aside as being shameful. I was ashamed because I thought it was my fault, I believed that I did something wrong.
He approached me because my father had told him that the kiss on the cheek he gave me caused a redness because he purposely brushed his beard against it. He knew I hated that because I constantly told my dad about it. This uncle would also see it on my face and how it made me uncomfortable. He scared me. He grabbed my face in his hand and grip-locked me so that I physically couldn’t move my face to the sides. He acted like he cared about the pain he had caused with his beard. Then his gaze shifted, he looked towards my lips and kept getting closer and closer to me. I pulled my head back and I remember telling him no, I remember making gestures and faces of how uncomfortable and scared I was but he wouldn’t stop. Thankfully, my hands were free and I was my mother’s daughter. With my left arm, I elbowed him as hard as I possibly could and ran as far as I was allowed to in that small apartment my grandmother continues to live in. He tried to kiss me and we all know that it doesn’t stop there. Rape could have been next.
From then on, my fear of men emerged and it has been the hardest and most challenging aspect of my life. I literally can’t let any man into my life because of how fearful I still continue to be. I act like everything is fine and how confident I can be. It all is just a front, one trigger is all it takes for me to break down and I have tried to move past and live in the moment. Mindfulness is a nice heaven for awhile but when PTSD, Anxiety and Depression gang up on me, it’s not too easy to push them all aside. I keep trying, I never give up but toxic childhoods get to you.
I guess the big question is “Why now”? Why am I speaking on this after almost 10 years? I reject fear, I don’t want to live like this forever. Life was never meant to be easy but it wasn’t meant for you to be drowning in life’s horrible moments. Therapy may work for some, un-caging what has been suppressed for so long is mine.
— Nicole, age 23