Aya tiktok

“I used to think you had to sleep with someone for them to be interested, and you couldn’t say no if you didn’t want to.”

Those are the words I started a Tik Tok with in which I detailed my experience being sexually assaulted. It’s an experience I’ve long assumed was invalid. I had come to believe sacrificing your comfortability was natural in the pursuit of a romantic relationship. 

In the video I go on to describe how I had said no to a man asking for sex. After saying no several times, I consented. Not because I wanted to, rather I could tell his frustration was mounting and he refused to move from on top of me. I was too afraid of what he might do to say no again. 

After the encounter I felt violated, but didn’t understand why. How could I have been sexually assaulted if I said yes?

I didn’t fully conceptualize what I went through until my therapist said “Aya, that’s rape,” after I described the encounter. 

Within days, the Tiktok amassed over 100k views, hundreds of individuals commented words of support and some shared similar experiences. This was a surprise considering I made the video to conceptualize my residual trauma. I quickly learned far too many women share similar experiences. 

According to RAINN, one in six women are a victim of sexual violence in their lifetime. 26.4% of undergraduate college students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence or incapacitation. Women ages 18-24 in college are also at a 3x higher risk of experiencing sexual violence. Yet, only 20% of female students within this age group report their experience to law enforcement. 

Following my experience, I didn’t even consider reporting my sexual assault to law enforcement. It was hard for me to wrap my mind around what happened because it wasn’t something one could prosecute as sexual assault. Reading these statistics, I wonder if my experience even counts because it wasn’t violent. 

Though it may not be a criminal offense, instances in which individuals are pressured into sexual activity is coersion and not consensual sex. Those who were coerced into sexual activity have valid experiences and experience trauma. 

A common response I received while seeking medical attention after being sexually assaulted was a reminder of how important contraception is. Every time someone told me this, I wish I could scream at them that I know; that I said no until I felt my only other option was to fight my way out of the situation. But I was afraid they wouldn’t care because, in the end, I said yes. 

Not taking coercion seriously invalidates the mental trauma victims of coerced sexual assault face. Personally, I felt like I was powerless and not deserving of romantic interest in a non-sexual context. To this day, I have to remind myself that being sexually assaulted doesn’t mean I’m undeserving of love or a healthy relationship. 

After first making the video, I was terrified that people I know would see it. I thought if those I worked with in Western Herald saw it, they would see me as weak and not deserving of respect. I wondered, ‘how could someone see me as empowered or intelligent if I was sexually assaulted?’

Since then I’ve realized the experience has made me stronger. It has started me on a journey of learning there’s power in my womanhood, and being sexually assaulted does not detract from that fact. My vulnerability is a step on a necessary healing journey and I have nothing to be ashamed of. 

Opening up made me realize I’m not alone, and don’t have to hide my experience. For anyone who has suppressed a similar experience, you’re not alone. Even if someone takes advantage of you sexually, they can’t take away your power.

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