Opinion: My sexual assault does not define me


Chris Arias, Review Staff

Feature Photo By: Hannah Metzger- Senior Chris Arias stands against school lockers, looking into the distance. This is the first time her story will be shared to such a broad audience. 

It’s funny how some days it seems like a distant memory, or a dream that I almost remember. But other days, I can feel the morning breeze ruffle my hair, I can feel his warm breath on my face, his rough hands on my face, and the pricking fear running up my spine.

In May of 2015, I was sexually assaulted.

It takes a great deal of courage for me to even type those words, words that I’ve struggled to even utter in the past. For a while, I didn’t want to even think about it, let alone tell someone. I didn’t want to recognize it for what it was, and I felt that naming it would make it real.

So, instead I let it haunt me. I was constantly terrified — all men were threatening, and I was afraid of being alone. There was no escape. The same film that played behind my eyelids was projected on the blank ceiling of my bedroom and the desk in front of me at school and replaying, over and over again.

I was consumed by guilt; I thought I was a liar for even considering the fact that it might be sexual assault. I knew it had to be my choice, that it happened because I was a bad person.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in five women and one in 71 men will be sexually assaulted at some point in their lives.

I am infuriated by this statistic, infuriated that anyone would ever think that taking advantage of someone in that way would ever be okay, and that it is normal in our society.

We teach our children how to defend themselves, arm them with pepper spray and tell them not to walk alone at night, but why don’t we teach people not to sexually assault other people? Is it possible to lessen those numbers by teaching the meaning of consent and taking “no means no” seriously?

I can tell myself time after time that it was my fault, that I walked into that situation, that I was asking for it — but I wasn’t.

It wasn’t my fault.

It’s not my fault.

I will not say that I am completely okay. I will not say that I do not still have flashbacks, that I am not a little afraid of the dark and that I do not flinch a bit when I see someone that looks like Him walking down the street.

But I will say that I am on the upside, that time is a healer and that life goes on.

Asking for help was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but it was also one of the best things I have ever done. I have so many wonderful people in my life who are willing to support me.

Being a survivor of sexual assault does not define me. I will not live my life as a victim just because some guy decided that he could take advantage of me. It does not make me any less of a person, and it does not make me any less ready to take on the rest of my life.

To anyone who has been in a similar situation: you are not alone. There are dozen of people out there who care about you and who are there to help. Struggling does not make you weak; asking for help does not make you weak — it takes insurmountable courage.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673), or access a 24/7 online helpline at https://hotline.rainn.org/online/.