TRIGGER WARNING: This post discusses abuse and rape culture. Some people may find it upsetting.
As we barrel through our everyday lives, we aren’t always conscious of what is fueling our mood, emotions and abilities. Some days, I feel like I just can’t get it together and nothing is going my way. Maybe its a full moon, or my Aunt Flo, but realistically, unless we stop to reflect on whats up in our heads, we just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Recently a client came to me and they were feeling stuck. It reminded me that the space of “stuck” can have many perspectives. It might not always be about what you’re eating or about how hard you are or aren’t exercising. There are deep mental and emotional layers on the path to success, AND to feeling successful. When it comes to self-love and self-advocacy, being honest about the things in life that have contributed to the person you are is an important part of the puzzle. I’ve been working so hard over the past year and a half to build a space where women can truly just be themselves. I work hard to make sure they know that they are safe and they are believed. As the founder of this space, I feel compelled to let them know they aren’t alone on this, or any journey when it comes to being a woman.
I originally wrote this blog during the Kavanaugh hearing. It didn’t get published during all the hype and my courage wore off, so there it sat. I believe that in order to become un-stuck, you need to effectively process emotions in order to make a clearing for growth and transformation. Our culture seems be under the wave of change. Women’s rights need to undergo a positive change…. and we are all about that over here in this corner of the internet. We are a studio created by a mom, for moms — meaning we are formed by and for WOMEN. We are here to empower women…. so if this offends you, then I truly apologize that this may not the corner you’ve been searching for.
My feelings are still so incredibly strong and twisted up. Literally, until I wrote this post, this was a story that only 3 people in this world knew. None of which included my mother, my husband or my sister. They have obviously gotten a chance to read this before it was dropped on the inter webs. I’ve been hanging on to this for far too long. While I don’t feel like it holds me back from day to day, it could be an important layer holding me back from success. I am ready to fully release what has happened, because #metoo. I guess this is a story about a trauma that I thought I filed away. But, it turns out that if left un-dealt and “unfelt” it eventually floats back to the surface. During the height of the Kavanaugh hearing, thats what happened for me. It’s finally time for me to work on healing the wounds that are so much deeper than I realized. Letting them heal and leave a scar is the only way we can really ever “get over” it and move on. After all, that’s what being a healthy adult is all about.
Today I want to tell you about a night over a decade ago.
I was 23, living in Orlando and working in timeshare sales. I was single, and one day the most charming and beautiful man asked me on a date. I knew him from the sales floor. I had seen him around for months, and so I said yes.
Now, my mother raised me to have a head on my shoulders and to ALWAYS be careful. I had known of this guy, but I didn’t really know him, and no one I talked to really seemed to know him.
The pit I have in my stomach just trying to type this is absolutely horrific. In fact it’s harder than when I wrote about our family’s struggle with depression and suicide.
The day that I accepted his invite to dinner, I planned to meet him at the restaurant. This way I would have my car & I would be in control. We met up and I don’t remember why, but he had this brilliant reason we needed to change the plan and go somewhere else. We could leave my car and get it on the way home. We weren't going that far, and obviously I didn’t want to offend him by saying I would drive my car to the other restaurant, so I got in his car and went.
We ate an uneventful dinner; things were okay. I wouldn’t say sparks were flying, but I also wasn’t dying to get home. After dinner, for some reason or another, he had some reason we just needed to stop at his apartment. Honestly, I can’t remember if it was that he had to let the dog out, or what the reason was, but I went along with it. When we got to his house, I sat down and I was waiting for him.
That’s when it all started to go bad… That is when for the first time in my life I was truly afraid. I remember him pinning me down. I remember him holding me so tight that I had bruises on my wrists. I remember him biting me, and telling me I liked it. I remember looking around the room for anything I could grab — only, I couldn’t move. He weighed much more than I did, and was much stronger than me. My eyes never stopped scanning and my brain never stopped planning for anyway I could get out of his grip. I remember the look in his eyes and the fear it created in me. I was scared to make him mad. Because, if he wasn’t already I wasn’t sure what would happen if he did get mad. I don’t remember the date, the restaurant or even his name, but I remember the feelings. I remember being so grateful the moment the front door opened. His roommate walked into the kitchen, which was visible from the living room. I knew at that moment, the ONLY reason I was not raped was because his roommate had spoiled his plan.
I shook trying to keep it together while he took me back to my car. I got home, I walked into my neighbors apartment and cried. I cried, and I cried some more, because tomorrow I had to go to work and look at him again.
To the day I wrote these words on my computer screen, there were only 3 people who knew what happened. My neighbor, my best friend at work and my roommate. That’s it. NO ONE ELSE. These three people who knew, I haven’t spoke to them in over 10 years. I couldn’t tell you the date this even happened. I couldn’t even tell you the season it happened… but I can remember the fear. Honestly, I don’t even remember his name, but I can still picture his face clear as day. And here was this poor woman, Dr. Ford, testifying about something so real, and it just didn’t seem to matter. Or matter enough.
I didn’t date for YEARS after this event.
I didn’t tell my story because I wasn’t raped.
I didn’t tell my story because I should have known better, it wasn’t random.
I didn’t tell my story because the thought of someone telling me to get over it might have damaged me more than the event itself.
I didn’t tell my story because I worked with my attacker, and what would happen if I made him mad?
I didn’t tell my story because I just wanted it to be OVER.
There are millions of reasons these stories go unreported. I can’t speak for any other woman on this planet. But, I can tell you I believe them.
I can’t imagine if anyone told me that this didn’t happen.
I can’t imagine if anyone told me it wasn’t that bad.
13 years later, I am putting this story out there because it is 2019 and I have a 4 year old baby girl. I cannot believe I am raising her amongst this culture. It scares me how misogynist this world still is, and I am concerned for her future. A lot of those thoughts I’ll save for another day, but for right now I want to focus on the rape culture and the #metoo movement. I want to focus on the fact that so many women don’t report these assaults because of shame, fear and a million other reasons.
If you don’t understand why women don’t tell their stories, it’s most likely because you haven’t experienced it. Thank God & the Universe for that, because NO ONE should experience it.
I have SO many more feelings. So many more thoughts. It doesn’t go away - it always happened - but getting it out to ANYONE means that it no longer has negative power over me. Deciding to not hold it in means that it can no longer hold me back (even if I didn’t realize it was holding me back).
Don’t let it hold you back. Don’t let anything hold you back, because you deserve more.
If you have a story- I believe you.
TABITHA SWEENEY is the founder and owner of Vitality Buffalo. Vitality Buffalo is a fitness studio specializing in family friendly fitness.