Content warning: The following story contains references to someone being sexually assaulted, which may be triggering for some readers.
"I Survived," Nicole
It was school spirit week, and it was formal day. Being a freshman, spirit week was crucial in becoming one with school. During homeroom, my advisor was taking a picture of my group when it started with just a touch on the shoulder. Nothing to worry about right?
We had been friends for two years, nothing would ever happen. We were talking by the door, when he backed me into the door, i struggled to break free but he wouldn't let me go. He moved so he could press his stomach against my back.
I kept struggling, the only thing he said was that struggling wouldn't help and neither would no. He pressed his hips into mine and ran his hand up my dress telling me not to tease him. Tears streamed down my face as the school bell rang, the only thing saving me from going to far. The first thought that ran through my mind was how did no one notice me struggling? Why during school?
It took two weeks for me to report him, I had to sit in the principals office for four hours repeating my story, and typing it out. I saw him for two weeks before he was removed from my classes. He told his friends that I was a lying whore.
Imagine being a freshman in school and just being re-attacked once more.
To think that someone could just ruin my life in a matter of twenty minutes.
Everyone believed him, and made him out to be a victim.
I had to keep reliving the assault until it finally died down.
It wasn't until his father made the decision to switch schools for the rumors and lies to stop spreading. I have only told 5 people about the assault. And how I survived was that my desire to not let this define me as a person was greater than letting him think he won. I graduated high school a month ago, and I have never looked back.
Talking about this never really becomes more comfortable, but just something easier, because I’m not alone. There are so many people I can go to, and ones that will support me. The hashtag #MeToo has shown me I don’t have to fight this battle alone. As I type this, I ponder everything that I have been through, and to this day a former friend still sees him. Post snapchat stories, and when I think of her I just feel sadness.
And I hope she doesn’t end up in the same position as me. She even admitted that he made her uncomfortable but I guess once you start to leave someone who meant so much to you in your past, some people don’t really know who to turn to. So you turn to anyone who will attempt to be loyal. But as I just continue to learn to love myself, I hope maybe one day she will do the same.
Can someone learn to love themselves after she has done so much to hurt people? Yes she can, she can push through the pain of people not understanding. And no one caring, and being miserable, and rise above everything that has happened. To hope that one day, I will be able to walk the streets and not look behind my back. That one day I will feel okay, his face won’t flashback anymore. And when it does, it’s just a mere thought.
About the art:
When Nicole first reached out to us to share her story, she had only shared a few sentences and I could tell she had a lot more to share, so I asked her to elaborate on some of the stuff she brought up in the initial message to us! I'm thankful she did because she unraveled a lot of elements of her experience with which I think many people with relate.
I wrote the quote, “I survived because the fire inside me burned brighter than the fire around me," repeatedly in the background because the quote stood out to me as one that really resonated with Nicole's story. And then I taped off a lot of the canvas and left the words, "I Survived," visible amid all of the paint. It was cool to create a painting like this! And then I painted, "#MeToo," on the canvas a few times for the MeToo campaign.