Trigger Warning: sexual assault, rape, drug use, child neglect, self-harm
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and I took the entire month of March off from blogging to prepare for such an important topic. I have three interviews lined up for the first three weeks of April, and in each interview, you will read the story of a sexual assault survivor. First up, please meet Wing, an artist with a love for drawing, painting, and expressing themselves through alternative fashion. They were assigned female at birth (AFAB) but identify as non-binary, and they prefer the pronouns ‘they’ and ‘them’. Wing discovered that they were non-binary in their teenage years, and have since been an advocate for transgender people. Wing has trusted me to tell their story, and I am honored to do that today and shed light on sexual assault. Thank you in advance for reading.
Q: Can you start by telling me a little about yourself? Who is Wing?
I grew up in a pretty bad situation from the start: I never went to school, I had few friends, and I went through neglect when I was younger, which impacted my personality and lifestyle. In my past, and at the time that my assault occurred (15), I used drugs heavily. I’ve also had struggles with and an interest in religion since I was a kid. I was raised a Christian but for trauma reasons, I doubted that for a little while. Now, I consider myself a theist, plain as that.
Q: Can you tell me some of the things that you define as sexual assault? A lot of people equate sexual assault to only rape, and I want to dispel this misconception and show that sexual assault is a large umbrella.
Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact — this can be touching someone sexually who doesn’t want it, exposing someone to sexual content who doesn’t want to see it, engaging in a sex act with someone without them knowing (i.e. they’re unconscious or on drugs), doing anything sexual with a minor or someone who can’t consent or make choices for themselves, and rape.
Q: Can you tell me about what happened to you? Please only share as much as you feel comfortable sharing.
When I was 15-years-old, a friend of mine took me down to the local beach to look at the water. I was a very naive kid because of the neglect I was going through, so I thought nothing of this — I only ever thought that sexual assault happened to little kids and that it was always a creepy old man that you could spot from a mile away. I never suspected that it could be a friend.
When we got down to the beach, he sat down against the stone wall that separates the sand of the beach from the road, and I stood with my back to the road, looking out at the lake. In a few minutes, I turned to him to comment on the look of the sky and I saw he had undone his pants and was touching himself while smiling. I mentioned to him my age, which he already knew, but he said that I was lying. That I had to be at least 23. I told him I wasn’t comfortable with what he was doing and that I wanted to go home. I started to walk away, but he reached up to grab my wrist and said, “No, baby, you’re staying right here.” He touched me and himself, and for lack of the right words, rubbed fluids on me and in me. He then told me, “You can go home now,” as he lit a blunt.
Q: Was your attacker someone you trusted, or someone you knew but weren’t necessarily close to?
He was my friend and also a Bible studies teacher in a neighboring city. He was very homophobic, and at the time, I was struggling with my sexual orientation and gender. He told me that’s why he did what he did to me, to save me from going to Hell if I had lost my virginity to the girl that I was with at the time. I believed him then, so you could say that I did trust him.
Q: What was going through your head during and after the assault?
During the assault, I just thought of nothing. I thought if I fought, he would physically hurt me or, as he told me, I would go to Hell. So, I just blocked all my thoughts out as much as possible and just followed directions. Afterward, I didn’t want anyone to know. I was worried that they might think I’m a slut or that I’m dirty, so I took all of the clothes with his fluids on them and threw them in the garbage. I showered with Comet cleaner and brushed my teeth several times. After that, I went to get ice cream with my mom and brother, but I was worried that my mom knew that I had ‘lost my virginity’.
Q: Did you confide in anyone about what happened to you?
I told people two years after it happened, once I realized that he was in the wrong. People could tell something was up with me, so I finally told my mom first. Very soon after that, I was telling everyone. My mom wasn’t necessarily supportive, but she was very sad and encouraged me to file a police report and tell my therapist, which I did.
Q: How did the police respond to you or your story when you filed the report?
When I reported it, the officers involved were very professional. At first, I was scared because of the guns on their belts, but I overlooked it and ended up talking to two male officers in a room downstairs. I could tell they were cringing in asking a 17-year-old ‘female’ questions like, “How did you know he came?” and “Did you have panties on?” They also cringed at hearing all the answers, but none of the officers were mean to me. Unfortunately, my attacker was not charged, and I later found out that he assaulted at least one other girl after I reported my assault.
Q: How has your mental health and other aspects of your life been negatively impacted as a result of the attack?
I suffer from complex PTSD from both my neglect and the assault, and my drug habit became much worse after the attack. I also started to wonder if I was going to Hell because of my sexuality and gender identity, and I started worrying if I was coming across as slutty. I stopped trusting everyone, I started self-harming more, I stopped eating, and I constantly questioned my faith in God.
Q: What advice do you have for someone who says hurtful things like, “What were you wearing?” or “What did you do to provoke the attack?”
What I always say to those people is a simple, straightforward fact. I was wearing knee-length shorts, my dad’s 3XL tie-dye shirt, and Converse shoes. Women in the Middle East wear Burgas, and it still happens to them. Babies wear diapers, and it still happens to them. You’re no more likely to be assaulted wearing a G-string and pasties dancing on tables at a bar than you are walking to the coffee shop wearing the baggiest and most unrevealing clothes known to mankind. I’m living proof.
Q: What advice do you have for someone who is also a survivor of sexual assault?
Do what you have to do to heal. I’m not gonna lie — whether you tell people or not, report or not report, do everything ‘right’ or don’t know what the f*** you’re doing, people will judge you. But at the end of the day, you survived, and only you know how you can keep on living. There is no such thing as the right way to handle sexual assault, no right way to handle it while it’s happening, and no right way to handle the situation afterward. So, just focus on making yourself feel the most okay that you can, whatever that means to you. Don’t ever let anyone shame you for crying about it, being pissed off about it, falling into bad habits, wanting to kill the person who did it, feeling bad for the person who did it, having trouble with consensual sexual encounters, having trouble with sleep, being paranoid, or any way you react. Always prioritize your own recovery.
Wow, even after typing up this interview, I have goosebumps. This was so vulnerable and brave of Wing, and I am so appreciative of them sharing their story with me and the world. My hope for this interview is that it helps educate someone about sexual assault and clears up any common misconceptions surrounding the topic. I also hope that this interview allows other sexual assault survivors to know that they are not alone and they are not at fault for what happened. Sexual assault can happen to anyone at any time, and we must talk about subjects as sensitive as this so that it is no longer a taboo topic that makes us uncomfortable or causes us to shy away from it. Please know that there are resources available to you, such as the Sexual Assault Hotline, should you feel the need to talk to someone who can help you navigate through what you’ve experienced or what you may be feeling.
Please be sure to leave a comment and let me know if you’ve learned anything new or what you thought about this interview. Thank you.