One Woman’s Personal Take On Sexual Assault
“Many people who suffer from sexual abuse or sexual assault can also suffer long-term effects from the abuse,” says psychologist John M. Grohol, Psy.D. When we say sexual harassment or abuse, most would always think that there’s a physical connection involved whether that be just words, or touching, or worse, rape. But what about those victims whose assailants just instilled fear in them without doing anything physical? Could that be considered sexual harassment or abuse, too? Or is it just a teenage girl’s imagination gone haywire?
That teenage girl – she’s me. And this is my story.
I don’t know who he is. I don’t even know his name. All my mind remembers is the yellow bike he rode in every one of our encounters and his cropped hair.
Later on, I resolved to put it out of my mind believing that it was just some random nightmarish incident.
Little did I know that nightmare would follow me home.
Just a few months after, I was walking my way home – a 40-yard long grassy stretch from the highway – when I encountered that same yellow bike and that same man. This time, he jacked off in front me, a sinister look on his face all the while saying vulgarities. I ran home as fast as I could, not minding my backpack full of books and talked frantically to my mom. But by the time she went to check things out, he was already gone.
Those two encounters turned into three. And then, they turned into more.
It seemed like he was just waiting in a corner, ready to pounce on me. For three years, he always ended up “victimizing” me – early mornings on my way to school, in the afternoons when I come home, even during noontime breaks on occasions when I decide to go back to my house to get some school things. Nevertheless, only two or three of my neighbors encountered him, and those were limited – only twice or thrice. Furthermore, they didn’t seem to look so fazed out with these encounters like me. So, I resolved to put on a brave face.
However, fear always accompanied my walks towards and from my own house. There were times I’d run those 40 yards as fast as I could, times I’d utter endless prayers in my mind as I ran, and most of the time, I carried something sharp inside my uniform’s pocket.
My fear of this nameless man gripped me so hard that whenever I see someone biking, my heart would frantically hammer inside my chest while my brain would tell me to run away on repeat. It controlled my young life for over three years. “When you are traumatized, you lose control of your life”, says Mary Ellen Copeland, Ph.D.
It has been over 15 years since. I want to say that I’m over that nightmare, but I’m not. I’m still scared of yellow bikes. I always feel wary of crop-haired strangers by habit. Thankfully, my parents don’t live in the same neighborhood anymore, so visiting them isn’t a problem. According to Sharie Stines, Psy.D., “Healing requires patience, understanding, safety, and validation.”
Years may have passed, but questions about that part of my life remain unanswered. Would it have made a difference if I brought my concerns to the police? Would they take notice of my case even if there was no physical contact involved? Or would they have dismissed it as some baseless worries of a young girl?