Friday, September 16, 2016

Calling it by it's Name

|| Times have changed.
Things that we went through many years ago now have names |labels |diagnosis.
We are now more courageous to speak up about "taboo" subjects.
We now call things by its name. ||

For the last eleven years I have attended (worked or volunteered) a national non-profit's annual gala dinner. In a nutshell it is a fundraising dinner where the President of the United States addresses DC Latino "who's who;" incredible individuals are celebrated with awards; and Latino youth are lauded (they are our present and future!).

Last night I knew the drill (it's like clockwork to me now), but this time I brought along two of my close girl friends to volunteer with me. Thank God I did. We were in the VIP reception waiting for our Members of Congress to arrive (part of our assignment); laughing; chit-chatting; and scoping out the fashion (some of the evening gowns were fierce!). I was having a great time...until I saw someone from my past. I know he saw me and I definitely saw him. Instantly all of the bad memories flooded my mind; right there in the middle of the VIP reception while glasses were clinking and laughter and chatter filled the room, I choked on my past. Wish I could have seen my face, but I know it said it all. My heart dropped to my stomach and I felt numb.

I had to get it off my chest so I wouldn't have to suffer in silence so I told my girls. In essence, without giving too much information, when I was a early teenager I liked this one guy a lot (was probably more of a teen crush). In today's terms, he basically "friend zoned" me and life went on. Fast forward a couple years when I was either 17 or 18, he started paying attention to me and wanted to hangout more and more. One night he took me to eat and on the way back home he parked the car in a neighborhood. We have all watched enough movies and TV shows to know that when two people park a car in a dark, lonely neighborhood it's not to play Uno, parcheesi, or checkers. Sure enough, that's when he started making "moves." To make a long story short, he tried to get me do things that I was not comfortable with and it was frightening. I remember feeling alone during that moment and wanting to flee into the dark streets. I did not get raped, but I was sexually assaulted. I got so angry that I cursed him out and told him to take me home that very moment. He ended up dropping me off and I never looked back. He called me several times the days after and I ignored the calls. He even drunk dialed me a couple times admitting that he liked me, etc. etc on voicemail. I rejected and rebuked all of that and never looked back. It was a huge blow to his ego and 'til this day he does not like me. It's okay. My life obviously moved on.

Seeing him last night and sharing the memories with my girls at the gala (and today with my work best friend), it completely hit me that I was [[sexually assaulted]] as a young woman. When I was younger I internalized it because I didn't want people to think, "Uh huh, what were you doing hanging out with him anyway?" Back then it was simply a situation where a "guy went a little too far," but now I know it was way more than that. Now it has a name; sexual assault.

My guess is that I have been repressing these memories and feelings all of these years, but they surfaced with a vengeance last night after being hit in the face with it. It was like an epiphany of some sorts. Last year a group of us ran into him in DC and I was the "bad" one because I kept walking when everyone else stopped to greet and chat with him. To be fair, my friends had no idea what happened over a decade ago, but here I am, finally speaking up and unafraid.

I'm speaking up for any of my girls who might have been sexually assaulted or raped and feel ashamed to share with others in fear of being deemed as "loose," "wreckless," "too flirty or friendly," etc. You are not alone. Please don't internalize it for years like I did. Speak to someone you trust and can help you. Think of a trusted friend, family member, clergy member, church leader, obviously God, teacher/professor, or counselor, close work colleague, or even me (if you trust me and would like to open up; I am here for you).

I'm speaking up for healing and ending the silence of shame. Today I am finally calling it by it's name.

__________________________ has some great tips on what to do if you are sexually assaulted:

If you are in danger or need medical care, call 9-1-1. If you can, get away from the person who assaulted you and get to a safe place as fast as you can.
If you have been physically assaulted or raped, there are other important steps you can take right away:
  • Save everything that might have the attacker's DNA on it. As hard as it may be to not wash up, you might wash away important evidence if you do. Don't brush, comb, or clean any part of your body. Don't change clothes, if possible. Don't touch or change anything at the scene of the assault. That way the local police will have physical evidence from the person who assaulted you.
  • Go to your nearest hospital emergency room as soon as possible. You need to be examined and treated for injuries. You can be given medicine to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy. The National Sexual Assault Hotline  at 800-656-HOPE (4673) can help you find a hospital able to collect evidence of sexual assault. Ask for a sexual assault forensic examiner (SAFE) . A doctor or nurse will use a rape kit to collect evidence. This might be fibers, hairs, saliva, semen, or clothing left behind by the attacker. You do not have to decide whether to press charges while at the hospital.
    • If you think you were drugged, talk to the hospital staff about being tested for date rape drugs, such as Rohypnol and Gamma Hydroxybutyrate (GHB), and other drugs.
    • The hospital staff can also connect you with the local rape crisis center. Staff there can help you make choices about reporting the sexual assault and getting help through counseling and support groups.
  • Reach out for help. Call a friend or family member you trust, or call a crisis center or hotline. Crisis centers and hotlines have trained volunteers and counselors who can help you find support and resources near you. One hotline is the National Sexual Assault Hotline  at 800-656-HOPE (4673). If you are in the military, you may also call the DoD Safe Helpline  at 877-995-5246.
  • Report the sexual assault to the police: Call 911. If you want to talk to someone first about reporting the assault, you can also call the National Sexual Assault Hotline  at 800-656-HOPE (4673). A counselor can help you understand how to report the crime. Even though these calls are free, they may appear on your phone bill. If you think that the person who sexually assaulted you may check your phone bill, try to call from a friend's phone or a public phone.
  • Write down the details about the person who sexually assaulted you and what happened.
After a sexual assault, you may feel fear, shame, guilt, or shock. These feelings are normal. But sexual assault is never your fault. It may be frightening to think about talking about the assault, but it is important to get help. You can call these organizations any time, day or night. The calls are free and confidential:
Each state and territory has organizations and hotlines to help people who have been sexually assaulted.