As a child I had learned to silence my intuition.
When I was five, I did not tell anyone about a the inappropriate advances of a teenage boy who tried to make me sit on his lap and french kiss him whenever he could get me alone. His parents were close friends with my parents and attended a church were my father was a pastor. I didn’t want cause problems or bring shame to my parents. Again and again through my childhood, I received the message that it was better to keep appearances, make nice and defer to others than to speak up or rock the boat.
It took me years into adulthood to learn how to identify how I truly felt, what I wanted, what I didn’t and that I had a choice and a voice.
The result was many poor choices, especially in my relationships with men. I lacked a sense of self, of boundaries and often found myself in destructive, dangerous and unwanted situations without a clear idea of how I had become involved. It felt like a mystery why I seemed to attract attention from predatory men and trapped in relationships I did not want.
In college I made friends with an acquaintance of my sister-in-law, a married man. He was in the area looking for work and housing so that he could move his wife and two kids across the country. He seemed like a nice guy and I wanted to help him. I never sensed any romantic or otherwise misplaced intent. But I had long ago shut down my intuitive alarm system.
One night he attended a party at the house where I was renting a room. Everyone was drinking heavily and by the end of the night I was very drunk. He stayed long after everyone had left and my roommates had gone to bed and then he forced himself on me and we had sex. I remember very little except feeling sick to my stomach. The consequences were disastrous. I was humiliated. He confessed to his wife and my sister-in-law and family found out. I ended up leaving school mid-semester. I struggled with deep depression, self-hatred. He disappeared and we never spoke again.
Even with the help of therapy and after regaining my health, I was tormented by deep shame for nearly ten years. It was not until I heard a friend recount her story of sexual assault that I remembered: I had said no, too.
I had said No, no, no and I had pushed him. And then – because “I was drunk” or because “I should not have known better”, and because “I must have been leading him on”, I gave up and accepted my fate. And in doing so, I had also accepted the blame.
Recovering my power and reclaiming my choices and my self has been a redeeming and beautiful journey. Yoga and meditation have been profound avenues of healing in my life, connecting me back to my body and leading me on the ever-unfolding daily adventure of discovering my authentic self. Through yoga I learned to experience joy and pleasure in my body that for so many years I resented and felt ashamed of.
I wish I could go back to the girl I was and give her the voice I have now, to tell her she is radiant, that she is strong. But instead of shame I now feel compassion and gratitude.
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It’s been 22 years and I still have flashbacks about that night. I couldn’t tell you what season it was, the day or even the year. The thoughts are like Polaroid pictures that I had to piece together one picture at a time. Even today, most times it’s out of nowhere that a memory just pops into my head that I hadn’t even remembered until that very moment.