How My Silence Led to My Sexual Assault
As you can tell by the title, this is a very heavy topic. I also grew up in an environment where sharing something like this is deeply shameful, so this is definitely not easy for me to write. But we live in a culture where women are assaulted then ashamed to report it, as if they did something deeply horrendous when they are victims. It’s time women stop suffering silently and know that their value is not based upon other people’s actions against them.
I’ve always been taught to be a “private person”. It was classy, it was graceful, I was told, and it became my idol. When I was 13, a boy in my class didn’t hide how he felt towards me, and naturally people began to ‘ship us. But my false idol said I wanted a relationship where my friends can’t make comments or judge us. The idea of hiding a relationship from my friends started to sound more and more desirable. Ten years later this summer, I learn that I had gotten exactly what I asked for.
I spent this summer working with a professional on why I struggled so much in the past year of my Christian life with being vulnerable with my sisters and loving to my brothers. I was way too used hiding from my friends. Hiding left me with no accountability, nothing to show me right from wrong, and nobody to tell me what I thought was a friendship with someone was actually a toxic relationship. It was a relationship where I had to listen to “male problems”, be available whenever he traveled to the city to take me out, be pressured to do things I am not comfortable with, and be told I was too high maintenance for saying no. Eventually, I began to give in with my other friendships to seek approval.
I got approval from someone who I also thought was a friend. What began as a friendship changed the day he said the game I was playing, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, sounded pornographic. I could have stopped it all then, but I was already terrified of saying no. Since then, almost everything he texted was sexual and he turned each one of Link’s weapons into something disgusting. Unknowingly, I had entered another toxic relationship on top of the one I was already unknowingly in. I lived thinking that there was something wrong with me for feeling sickened.
This second toxic relationship was my assault. I consider myself lucky. I had just started graduate school and it was a really cold winter. Spring was approaching so he said we could wait until to meet up when it’s warm enough for me to wear less clothes. However, I attended a gathering where both he and a female friend were present. It went smoothly until we had to say goodbye. My friend hugged him first, and when it was my turn, he assaulted me through the hug, in front of my friend, who later told me she had no idea for months because I acted “cool as ice” even though we had taken the train home together.
I did not acknowledge it as an assault, because the idea of what he did was normal had already been drilled into my head by our culture. I thought there was something wrong with me. I thought it was my fault. I thought if I told my friends, they would think I am too high maintenance and stop speaking to me. I had lost the ability to speak up and the ability to make my own decisions from my first toxic relationship. I thought it was wrong to have my own thoughts and emotions.
NYU Asian-American Christian Fellowship was the first environment in my life where I suddenly didn’t have to do things I didn’t want to, and could have filling, enriching conversations. My fire for Jesus was lit really quickly and I got baptized in five months, but my habits of pleasing guys and trying to prove myself weren’t washed away in Washington Square fountain. I wasn’t able to trust my friends or treat them well, but worse I wasn’t able to trust God. It wasn’t until my trip to St.Louis last Christmas at Urbana Missions Conference that I truly felt God for the first time when He called me to mission work, during which I also learned I had actually have a right to speak because I am a human.
It allowed me to finally put an end to my first toxic relationship, but the hard part was getting my life back this past spring. I was challenged to serve my campus by being a leader in my fellowship, I was challenging strangers to share their testimonies for my #OneLinerTestimony project, but what was far more challenging was merely speaking to my friends so that we could love each other and build each other up, and also be each other’s support when we are in need.
That brings me to why I am sharing so openly in this post. Silence is evil. We are all different in terms of comfort level – some of us can stand up in front of strangers and admit the most private things in our lives, others can only turn to our closest friends. Either way is perfectly okay. But silence is not our comfort. It is full of suffering and darkness.
To anybody who is struggling right now, please do know that your fear of speaking is valid. It’s okay to be afraid to ask for help, even from your closest friends. I’ve spoken up little by little this past year to be able to write this post today. This summer I had amazing support and warm comfort from my sisters when I learned I was in two toxic relationships and I’m slowly accepting it to be able to start anew. I am so lucky to be here, safe, and I have my whole life ahead of me.
Even now the thoughts going through my head are that people are going to think I’m fragile or be afraid to come near me after reading this, but I want to defeat that lie. I want to speak up for many women and girls out there who are afraid of the same things. You are not weak, you are not fragile, and your friends aren’t going to think they will hurt you by helping. They love you so much that they are willing to shower you with that love before anything else.
Please join me to end this silence.