I never forget anything. I can tell you about that time in kindergarten when little boy Ben told me he was in love with me after I flipped my long hair and my best friend at the time got so mad and didn’t talk to me for a week. Something that if I ask either of them about, they will look at me like I’m making it all up.

I remember everything.

So when I sit in my class, weeks after I filed a sexual assault report – and even longer after the actual incident – I stare at the front of the room and I can feel his hand on my hip.

I know what the person in front of me is saying is important, but all I can focus on is this feeling. Just as vividly as when it happened.

I do what I can to get my mind off it, anything I can, and it works until reality sets in and I have to go sit in a room with my thoughts, a bunch of strangers and this phantom hand that never leaves my side.

My teachers ask where my head is and my friends’ lives go on as normal, but memory of the feeling literally holds me back.

Friends are great, but people rarely want to get involved. So often I am told it is none of their business and that they’d rather just stay out of it, and I get it! It’s an uncomfortable topic, and they’ve never been through anything like it before, but I envy their ability to ignore or forget it or just step away from the situation when I carry it with me every day on my waist.

One of my professors told me to, “Just, what you’re going through, put it aside. Deal with it over the summer. Focus on the now and do well.”

What a luxury to think it is so easy.

You don’t think I have thought of that?

You don’t think I’m trying?

You think I like that this semester will be the end to my consecutive Dean’s List awards?

You don’t think I have times where motivation overwhelms me and I want nothing but to be successful, only to be halted by a hand that comes back to grab and tell me, “Stop! Remember, I’m still here!”

I remember everything. Hopefully, this will get stored into one of those useless folders that fades into the back of my mind that takes a lot to bring back up, like test answers or where I left my keys. For now though, it’s sitting on my hip, every day.

It has now been a little under two months since the incident, and a little under a month since I’ve reported it. Initially I wrote this piece to be a therapeutic way to get my thoughts on paper, and I was going to have it published anonymously because I was ashamed and embarrassed of what happened to me. I wanted as few people to know about it as possible. I was afraid they would think I was overreacting, or seeking attention.

Now I am standing tall and telling my story, because it is one that is far too familiar to far too many women, children and even men. Staying silent made me feel worse about myself and began to encourage my feelings of shame and disgust. Through speaking up I have re-learned that I am not at fault. What happened to me was not because of me. This is not a secret. I am not ashamed. I did nothing wrong.

No survivor should ever feel ashamed or silenced by what has happened to them. You are not alone. I am with you. I am here, and I am speaking out.

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