In my class last week, we talked about Aziz Ansari, and honestly until that class, I hadn’t heard anything about him. He’s an actor in the news for allegedly sexually harassing a woman on their first date. In the class we were discussing why this case was important, and at first I didn’t get it. I thought it was just another sexual assault case. Then I read a part of what she wrote in her testimony, and it hit me. This story is important because it hits close to home for a lot of people. This was no longer sexual assault in a work setting, it was sexual assault in a relationship.
When class was over, I went straight home. As soon as I got there, I fell, sobbing, into my best friend’s arms, because that woman’s story hit home for me, too. For the first time in my life, I realized what had happened to me in my own relationship qualified as sexual harassment, and it broke me.
I think a part of me always knew, but to grasp that several years after being removed from that situation was devastating. I didn’t want to be a part of #metoo. For so long, I was afraid to tell anyone that things in my seemingly perfect relationship went too far. I was terrified that my friends would judge me and think less of me because I couldn’t control my boyfriend. I should have said “No” louder, more clearly, and better removed myself from those situations.
But keeping it inside was debilitating. I was destroyed mentally, but more dangerously, I was wrecked spiritually. I felt like I was impure, like I had let God down because I couldn’t maintain the boundaries we, as Christians, always say are important, but never really talk about. I got to the point where I couldn’t pray for myself anymore, and I was forced to reach out to a friend.
I wrote my experience out first. Then I gave it to one of my best friends to read, and her reaction gave me hope. She didn’t judge me for any of it. Instead, she wrapped me in her love and in her arms, and she prayed over me. She said the words that I couldn’t find within myself, and through that, I found a comfort I didn’t know existed. I found a strength I didn’t know I had, strength to get out of that position, and strength to lay that hurt and dirtiness before God.
For a while, it was just that one friend that knew, but as I healed, I told a few more people that I trusted. They, too, loved me in that hurt rather than judging me. I think so often we let the fear of judgment crush us into silence. I’m not saying that we need to be loud, or even that every person’s story needs to be heard in graphic detail. What I am saying is that I think there are a lot of women like me. A lot of women who desperately don’t want the title of victim — or survivor for that matter — who don’t want to believe that they fall into the category of having been sexually harassed.
Those are the women that need to know they are loved. They are not dirty, impure or worthless. God still loves them deeply. They need to know that there is trauma that comes out of a relationship like that, and it’s OK to cry it out. It is OK for it to break you, as long as you let other people help put you back together.
For me, that’s been a process, one that is ongoing. Through this, I have found the importance of vulnerability with those you love and the strength that comes from people fiercely loving you. I have had physical touch redeemed by friends who have shown me there is a difference between lust and love. And ultimately, I’ve learned that God is faithful and love from him is always pure.