This is a guest post by Shereka Dunston. Shereka is currently a Stress Management Coach and an advocate for Sexual Assault Survivors. She is an author, blogger, mother and wife.
She has a book that you can buy at lulu.com and you can follow her on facebook here.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and according to rainn.org, someone is sexually assaulted every 2 minutes in the United States. Our children are at the greatest risk of being victimized. One in three girls and one in seven boys will survive sexual violence before the age of 18, and adolescents between the ages of 16 and 19 are 3.5 times more likely to be victims of rape, attempted rape and sexual assault than the general population.
I was a 16-year-old virgin the first time I was raped. I was on a school field trip when my best friend told our classmate that I would sleep with him. I tried my best to convince my classmate that I didn’t want to have sex, but he thought I was lying. On February 28, 2003, my best friend left our hotel room door unlocked so that my classmate could slip in while I was asleep to assault me.
My life changed that day: I withdrew from my friends and the activities I was once enjoyed, I stopped eating, I slept more, I became angry and bitter, and I decided that I would mistreat people before they’d have a chance to mistreat me. I became the mean girl, and I played that role until my junior year of college.
Then a few weeks before my 20th birthday I was introduced to my second rapist. He was friends with my closest male friends, charismatic, and funny. He was also a thug. He was not my type, but he convinced me to give him a chance as my boyfriend. As soon as our friends weren’t around he told me that I was his female and it was my job to please him. My new boyfriend raped me repeatedly over the course of 48 hours.
Once again my life changed. Instead of being bitter and angry, I was scared of the world. I was afraid to leave my apartment, I stopped going to class, I quit my on-campus job, and I was frequently absent from my off-campus job. Thankfully, many people noticed the change in my behavior and I disclosed to them. A good friend told me about counseling services for victims of sexual assault on our campus and this time around I decided to seek help.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in counseling. Over the years I’ve gone to individual and group therapy, self-medicated with alcohol, endured daily panic attacks, and suffered in silence. My aunt’s murder at the hands of her boyfriend on March 14, 2012, prompted me to stop living in shame and to start living on purpose. I started by rededicating my life to Christ and living His will for my life.
I am now certified life coach, a certified stress management coach, a teen mentor, a self-published author, and an advocate for sexual violence and domestic violence victims at the Durham Crisis Response Center. My responsibilities as a volunteer include sharing my story, training new volunteers on self-care techniques, and facilitating community education and prevention workshops for teens.
I’ve heard all sorts of things from adolescents who think they’re grown, but have no idea how to handle adult situations. The phrases I hear most often are: “No doesn’t always mean no,” “Girls aren’t supposed to seem easy, so they have to say ‘no’ first,” “You can tell by a person’s body language if they really want to do it,” “You don’t have to ask to touch or kiss someone that you’re dating,” and “If I ask someone to the prom they automatically know we’re having sex afterward.”
These children have no idea what consent is, and they believe that certain behaviors are expected in dating relationships, whether they or their partners are willing participants or not. I see so much of myself and my abusers in the children I encounter while volunteering, which causes my heart to ache.
Many of us adults are failing our youth because we don’t feel comfortable talking about sexual violence. When we fail to educate our young people, we set them up to become victims and perpetrators of sexual violence. It’s time for us to step out of our comfort zones to teach the next generation about healthy friendships and relationships because if we don’t teach them what’s right, they’ll learn what’s wrong from experience.