As strong, accomplished, powerful women, we often feel the need to control everything; but of course, we can’t. Even when it comes to paramount things like our sexual health.
The fate of a woman’s sexual health is jeopardized when she becomes a victim of sexual assault. Recent studies report that nearly 25% of women in the US will experience some form of sexual assault in their lifetime. The truth is, this number is just wrong. Sexual assault is grossly underreported, primarily out of fear. Fear of being stigmatized, fear that nothing will be done, fear of embarrassment, fear of being blamed, and the list goes on.
As a victim of sexual assault, I personally have experienced the whole gamut of fears – but the worst was when I realized what came with my sexual assault wasn’t just emotional pain and suffering, but also an STD.
Picture this: a person you once loved and trusted betrayed you on such a fundamental level that your entire identity is permanently altered. As if that wasn’t bad enough, suddenly you’re running a fever and in excruciating pain. Kidney stones? Is something torn? Ok, this is getting unbearable – off to the stirrups we go. Then the doc says, “I’ve got some bad news … you have Herpes”.
I’ll be honest, in that moment I thought my life was over. I saw myself in 30 years alone, surrounded by cats, with long gray hairs growing out of my moles because IDGAF.
Who was going to love me? Who was going to risk their own sexual health to be with me? Nobody, I thought.
My sexual health was (and of course still is) so important to me, but I felt as if I was no longer in control of it. I found myself stuck with something for the rest of my life because an asshole just refused to take “NO!” for an answer. I’ve carried the shame and embarrassment with me every day, and because I was never given a choice, I have forced myself to have painful and awkward conversations with every. single. guy. I have decided to get romantically involved with. It wasn’t my fault, but I’m the carrying the burden.
Even with a fair amount of practice, those uncomfortable conversations are still nerve-wracking and painful. While most guys are understanding, there have been a few that couldn’t get past it. And, I respect that. But when you’re violated to that degree, and you’re robbed of some of your innocence, outright rejection for something you had no control over can be hard to swallow at times.
Yet, we endure. We are strong. We succeed despite all the obstacles life throws at us. It’s cliché, I know, but seriously…what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Besides, we don’t want a fuckboy who can’t handle a fierce woman with a little baggage.
We need to talk more. Listen more. Create a safe environment for sexual assault survivors.
It can’t remain so underreported. We need more platforms that keep the lines of communication regarding sexual health open and honest; void of stigma and negativity. Because we are still people.
We are still friends, lovers, entrepreneurs, extroverts and introverts, comedians and poets. I lived for so many years ashamed and reclusive, imprisoning myself in my own mind and allowing my STD to define who I was. But I’ve spent the better part of my adult life learning how to love myself, flaws and all. I even forgave the guy who put me in this position.
So be earnest about your sexual health, and don’t be embarrassed by your past. Oscar Wilde’s ironic title alludes to the fact that we must take things in life seriously if we are ever to find amusement in it.