October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which is the time to honor victims and increase awareness of the impact in our community. My name is Lindsey, and over the next four weeks, I will be sharing my lived story. Before you continue reading, please be aware that what follows may be triggering for some. I am sharing my story to demonstrate resilience and bring hope to those still impacted. I am able to lead a full, happy life, but my account could have changed at any moment, as it has for the hundreds of persons killed through family and intimate partner violence this year.
By the age of 10, I experienced my first sexual assault. On the way home, I was sitting on the school bus when a young boy sat next to me. He was the cute boy in class, so I was excited to talk to him. Within minutes, this boy I had a crush on yet hardly knew pinned me against the seat and proceeded to stick his hand down my pants without reservations as I told him to stop. Upon getting off the bus, I did exactly what we were taught to do if someone hurt us: I told the authorities. Over the next 24 hours, I was called out of class with him in front of all our peers. I will never forget sitting in front of the Principal of this Christian middle school to be told that it was something I caused for myself and that I should treat my body as a temple.
This experience, coupled with the lack of safety boundaries I experienced as a child, caused me to fear reporting, which made me a prime target. Unfortunately, there are too many stories to recount the violence I was navigating through as a teen. I was held down in the backseat of a car by my first boyfriend so his friend could grope me. I was left on the side of the road because I would not perform sexual favors on a friend. I was stalked by a friend’s adult older brother, who always seemed to know how to find me.
My entire self-worth dwindled as my boundaries faded, and there was no safe adult to confide in. According to dating culture, the harassment and sexual bullying I was experiencing were my fault because of how I looked. It was during this period that my PTSD truly set in. I started having increased panic attacks that landed me in the hospital and nightmares occurring daily.
Over the last couple of decades, sexual violence has been more accessible to abusers through sexting and social media. I encourage parents to educate themselves on online safety and how to protect their children. Please have open, judgment-free conversations with your children on boundaries, consent, and what harassment looks like. Sexual attacks against teens are increasing yearly, with 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys being sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
If you or anyone you know needs help, call RARCC’s 24-hour hotline at (951) 686 – RAPE (7273). Educational resources can be found at RARCC.org.