*This post contains references to sexual assault that could be triggering for some readers.*
I can only imagine the type of person I would be if I hadn’t experienced sexual assault. What would I be doing at this point in my life? Would I be able to trust others and not let my anger control me? The truth is, I will never know that woman. Assault took away a piece of me. Sometimes I feel like I’ll never get that piece back, no matter how hard I search for it.
I started getting molested at 12 years old. I went to an event hosted by members of my church at his house, and all the children were playing in the pool and having fun. I was instructed by one of the church chaperones to go upstairs and take a shower, so I did. When I was done I looked up, and he was in the bathroom with me.
He escorted me to his room and started touching me, and every time I resisted he held me down. I thought I was going to get raped but I did not, however the emotional torture was the same. Afterwards, I went downstairs and I just sat on the couch until the party was over. I did not tell anyone because I was afraid of what he might do. He was 32 at the time. This continued for five years in public places, my room when he visited my house, and at the church. Most of the time I closed my eyes and imagined I was somewhere else.
It’s unfortunate that at such a young age I lost myself, before I even had the chance to start that journey. Some days I just wanted to end it all. Mentally and emotionally I just couldn’t handle it. My abuse ended because I moved away, and soon it was time for me to go to college.
I was so excited. This was a fresh start! I met a guy within the first few weeks of school. He was really cool, on the football team, and we hung out a lot around campus. One day he suggested I visit his apartment for a party. When I got there thought, nobody else was there. I sat on the couch and waited for more people to arrive. He started kissing me and I was extremely uncomfortable. He lifted my dress. I told him I was a virgin and definitely wasn’t ready for that. He was so strong though. There was NOTHING I could do. I said no. He didn’t listen. He didn’t stop. So just like I did when I was molested as a child, I closed my eyes as tight as I could and tried to imagine that I was in a different place. I could feel the pressure, and blood coming down but I kept trying to imagine I was in a happy place. I wasn’t. I got up, went to the bathroom and just looked at myself in the mirror. I came back in the room and sat on the couch just like I did when I was younger, not saying a word.
For me, overcoming these traumas, finding my voice, and becoming an activist for ending sexual violence, has been a long process. Every day I’m learning to love myself more, and it will only get better. I want more people to understand the harsh, painful, reality of sexual abuse and assault. They happened to me, and to so many others like me. We must do more as a society to end these crimes once and for all and everyone needs to be involved.
This NO MORE Week, I had the opportunity to educate my fellow students about consent, and the steps we can all take to ensure sexual violence is no longer tolerated by our society. Enough is enough.
I’m saying, NO MORE and I hope that you will too.
Join me and take the pledge to say NO MORE.
And if you or someone you know needs help, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-4673). You can also chat online through the RAINN website.
ABOUT VENKAYLA HAYNES
Venkayla Haynes is a student at Spelman College studying biology with hopes of becoming a forensic pathologist specializing in rape and sexual homicides. In recognition of her commitment to ending sexual assault, NO MORE invited Venkayla to join the campaign as an official no more ambassador in 2016. She has also served as 1 of 17 students across the United States on the ItsOnUs Student Advisory Committee 2015-2016 for the White House and Generation Progress and works with End Rape On Campus. Venkayla has helped survivors at colleges across the country, including Spelman College, Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University, Kennesaw State University, Dillard University, Florida State University, and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.