I wasn’t even through my first semester living at school before I was sexually assaulted. One day, Im feeling like a normal teenager, and the next I’m scrubbing vigorously in the shower trying to remove my skin. You know, when they do the consent unit in health, they never tell you the amount of confusion you will feel. The sheer amount of self doubt on what just happened. You think- of course I will be able to tell if I ever get sexually assaulted, it’s not that hard! But it is that hard. You start doubting your memories. “Did I really say no”? “Was I clear enough”? “Could I have done more to make it stop”? And in those moments I wish I knew more- wish there was more information given in the one class we would ever learn about this. Was what happened to me a big enough deal to take it to someone? Was I that important? Did something even happen to me- or was it just normal? And yet in health class all I got was tea. Don’t give tea to someone who doesn’t want it, don’t force it down a person’s throat, unconscious people don’t want tea. But tea is a clear line, how could tea possibly explain the situation I was in. Have I ever met anyone who I know has been in the same situation as me? Nope. Did I expect the survivors guilt? Not at all. There were many difficult things about this whole experience. Deciding to report this, picking which teacher I could trust enough to tell, them telling me that I was sexually assaulted, the whole process of meeting with guidance counselors, writing down my statement, Hearing my moms voice on the phone when she tells me that the school called, telling her her only daughter was sexually assaulted on school grounds. God- don’t even get me started on my dad- just imagine- heyyyy dad- guess what’s new? Well I know you might *think* that I haven’t had my first kiss yet- but surpiseeee Sexual assault 1, Kate 0!! Ugh. I don’t want to ever relive the sheer embarrassment, and the consequences. So that was rough. But I think the worst part was l, the constant mantra in the back of my head saying : this is all my fault. My head would come up with a million possibilities on how we would meet again inevitably someday, and what I would say. And all I wanted to say, above everything else was “I’m sorry”. I’m sorry. Can you believe it? Me- the victim here, wanting to apologize, even if it’s just to get some modicum of relief- of forgiveness. I’m sorry that I had to report you, I’m sorry I wasn’t clear enough, I’m sorry I made you think it was ok, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Needless to say, it was a long process of pulling away from the guilt. My therapist, my friends, my family, they were all saying the same thing- it was not your fault. And in my brain this was true, in my body it was true- in every place except my heart- it was true. Every time I would be reminded of what happened, the urge to apologize persisted. I would be constantly mentally smacking myself every time the thought came into my mind- And I guess that leads into my coping mechanisms -they never teach you how to cope in health class, or I turned to what’s natural to me. humor. In case you haven’t noticed, this speech is lighthearted. Humor, I find, makes things more accessible. If a speech such as this one is done in an accusatory way, or an angry way, people tend to be defensive. Don’t get me wrong- this is supposed to be uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable- I’m sure your uncomfortable. It always is. You know how we had those talks about the AI plagiarism that was going on? I don’t know if it was just me, but I felt like it was specifically targeting me, even though I know rationally that I didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t want that to happen here, which is why I’m trying for a balance. It needs to be uncomfortable, but accessible too. Because hearing this stuff is nessesary. Personally . I guess I’ve always relied on humor as a crutch. When talking about it with my parents I would always joke, or downplay all of it- actually I did that for all my friends. I don’t think I ever properly cried over the whole experience. At first the denial stopped me, and then the guilt. After all, Did I really deserve to be the one complaining about this? The only time when I wouldn’t downplay it was with writing. In English we did a poetry unit, and I was able to channel my emotions much more productively than before. In fact- writing this speech has also been a therapeutic process for me. Late at night- an idea would pop into my head, and I would go on my notes app and literally write the whole speech. My first draft of this speech was done even before I was cleared to present a chapel talk. So probably since December. Lucky for y’all, I won’t read you the poem I wrote in softmore English- although I did had it copy pasted in here for a while.- It basically said that our priory motto of “always we being again” doesn’t apply to every situation. While it may seem like a downer, In fact- Writing everything down has helped me come to terms with it all. I have long since forgiven the other person, and the biggest lesson I have found it is much harder to forgive yourself. Even if you know in your head you did nothing wrong. Honestly, I wish life wasn’t so complicated. I wish that this experience was something that only happened to me, but it isn’t. Every 68 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted. And it’s funny cause Sexual assault always feels distant until it happens. If it was less stigmatized, maybe people would talk about it more. But it’s a hard subject. It can trigger many people, and make many others feel uncomfortable, especially when they learn that someone they know was sexually assaulted. But it is invaluable to anyone who has experienced anything similar to this- and because (as I’ve said before) the discomfort is intentional. It helps people have more empathy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for pity here. The point of the talk wasn’t to be all “woe is me” or “look I’m so miserable”. The point of this talk was to show that it is possible to move through sexual assault, and beyond that, to even speak out about it. And that it’s nessesary. I told my friends in art class that this speech would give a new depth of layer to me. Some context: I’m known to my art class as being the sort of devil on the shoulder- always trying to stir up mayhem , although it’s out of love. When I mentioned this to them, they said “so there’s gonna be a 10th circle of hell now?” And to that I say “haha suckers! I proved you wrong! Bet you feel guilty now don’t you?” I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Now what Benedictine value is the whole speech about? Honestly I still don’t know. For me this talk for me was to show how it’s possible to overcome, and even speak out about topics that are often stigmatized. And that takes a lot of bravery and effort. So I’m gonna go for individuality. After all, your experiences shape who you are, and like it or not, this has helped make me into who I am. It’s the part of me that made me want to come up here and give a talk to a ton of people, most of which I’ve never spoken a word to in my life, and tell them about this deeply personal thing. So yeah, individuality kinda fits the mark for me. Thank you.
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