Kids are sponges. They take in what they see, they mirror what they observe. When a child is exposed to trauma, they might accept this as part of life, something they must learn.
So, imagine an 11 year old girl not understanding what was going on when her 13 year old sister’s boyfriend started touching her.
Imagine what this experience was supposed to enter the child’s mind as: Normal? Then why does it feel so awful? Wrong? Then why did it happen? Is it my fault? Did I do something wrong? Did I bring this upon myself? Did I give the sense that I owed it to him? Did I owe it to him?
11-year-olds are capable of a lot, but processing trauma isn’t something they’ve learned to do yet. This 11-year-old girl just joined an overwhelming statistic of people who, at some points in their lives, will experience sexual assault, sexual violence, and rape. And she hasn’t gotten to college yet. Hasn’t had her first kiss, hasn’t known love in a romantic capacity…. No, she would experience those things only after discovering that her humanity falls second after others’ entitlement to her body.
At 12, a boy she had a crush on pressured her into kissing him, and wouldn’t let go of her when she didn’t like it.
At 13, a school friend messaged her and asked for a blowjob. She didn’t know what that meant.
At 14, a neighborhood friend decided her new nickname would be “legs,” because damn she was growing up so fast.
At 15, she dated a nice guy that she couldn’t bring herself to be comfortable with. The relationship ended before it got anywhere.
At 16, she called the cops on a man who was masturbating in a car, parked behind her while she was taking photos at the beach.
At 17, she was cornered in a coffee shop for 20 minutes while a 40-year-old repeatedly asked if she had a boyfriend and if she wanted one.
At 18, she flipped off a group of cat callers, who then came up to her and asked how such a beautiful girl could be acting like such a bitch.
At 19, a man twice her size followed her from work to her car in an unlit parking garage. She had a panic attack as she drove home.
At 20, an employee at an auto shop asked if he could give her a ride home instead of the company shuttle. He could even give her a ride in the morning too.
At 21, a stranger tipped a glass of wine into her mouth and told her everything would be okay.
Every day and night, this same girl checks over her shoulder and calls her mom in LA when walking to her car at night. She takes screenshots of Google Maps while in an uncomfortable Uber ride and sends the pictures to her sister in Mississippi so that someone has her “last known location” if anything happens. She tells her roommates that she’s going on a date, and to worry if she’s not home by 9, and sends a picture of the boy to them in a group chat.
This woman, at 22, lives in an apartment with her boyfriend. Every time she is alone and there is a knock at the door, she checks the peephole and wonders if she should sacrifice safety for politeness, because that stranger outside could hear the TV on in here.
She doesn’t go out to drink without her boyfriend, because “no” doesn’t guarantee anything. She never gets too drunk because what if her girl friend needs help getting away from someone at the bar. She covers her drink when walking through the crowd to get to the bathroom; she thinks about how sharp her heels are in case the people behind her on the walk home aren’t just other people out for drinks; she gets home and locks the door and checks her phone to see if her friends made it home safe too.
This woman was 11 when someone first violated her body, her trust, took away her right to peace of mind and steady emotions.
And this woman is 22 when she decides to call out to others who have experienced the same violation. To find comfort in community, support in friendship. To prompt a dialogue and stimulate a call to action. To tell others, including her friends and family and people that never really understood, that rape and sexual assault is a trauma. And it has happened to many people you know.
Survivors are entitled to their feelings, and Ulzi Stories is here to give them a platform to share.
My name is Hannah, I am an Ulzi Stories team member, and I want readers and survivors to know that this platform is for them. It is a community for the people that never had one, or need a little more. Because survivors are strong. Supporters are strong.
Consent needs to be taught, reported crimes need to be taken seriously, stigma needs to break, and solutions need to be found. We’re starting here.
This woman will be 23 next month, and things are going to change.