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The Truth About What Happened To Me, Empowerment, and Silencing

I’m between books at the moment, so I don’t have a new book review for you all yet, though you can read my last review here if you missed it!. (Let me know if there’s something you want me to read, by the way.) But instead I wanted to write about something that’s been on my mind lately. As you all know, I’ve worked super hard not to give in to Mouse when it’s not appropriate, and on top of that, one of the things that changed everything for me was when I finally found a way to tell people the truth about what happened to me.

Even now, it’s hard for me to put in black and white that I was raped, but I’m doing it deliberately. During one of my early sessions, Olivia told me that saying the words would help me reclaim a sense of power and control. I don’t understand fully how that works, but it’s true. I felt more in control of myself and less ashamed when I began to share the truth about my story.

It makes people uncomfortable sometimes when I say that, and I’m not talking about the bullies who want to shame me back into silence. That’s bad enough. And I’m not even talking about the well-meaning people like my mom, who didn’t want me to report it to the cops because she was afraid that it would be painful for me if I had to testify in court. Or people like Sierra who were afraid of what someone would do to them if she didn’t keep awful secrets that she shouldn’t have kept.

All of that is wrong, but right now I’m mad about a bigger issue. It seems like it’s hard to get the truth about what happened to me out there because I have to jump through hoops just to say the words “rape” or “sexual assault” in press releases or other media. Last year, Mrs. Marino helped me distribute press releases to the media about my sexual assault awareness event and you know what happened? Some of the press release services she contacted on my behalf said they weren’t sure they could distribute my release because the companies they work for don’t allow releases that use those words! She got them to make an exception somehow, but I had to work twice as hard to calm Mouse down and let me do what I wanted to do after that because it felt like I was doing something wrong when I wasn’t.

Mrs. Marino said her press contact told her that they have those rules because they don’t want people who run skeevy sexual services to slip through the cracks, like people who film porn movies where someone is raped or something like that.

It’s especially annoying because there is so much media that DOES glorify rape and sexual assault. There are shows and movies out there that depict abuse as “true love” and some people believe it. And that’s okay, but me putting in a press release that I was raped isn’t?

I guess they mean people like the ones I’m always blocking off my social media accounts who have a fake picture and a post saying they have lots of girls available for sex. Those give me the creeps and I wish these people would stop finding me. But I don’t understand why that means mentioning the words “sexual assault” or “rape” is a problem. I mean, how am I supposed to empower people when at the same time there’s all this pressure not to tell the truth about what happened to me or even use the words?

Maybe I’m being ridiculous and complaining about nothing. I don’t know. I mean, Mrs. Marino did get her contact to make an exception, so it wasn’t like I couldn’t promote what I was doing. And if I had to, I could probably have got around it since Brad’s dad is a reporter. This isn’t a hill to die on or anything. But really, the mixed messages and ridiculous hoops to jump through just to say the words that are part of the truth about what happened to me are super disempowering and it needs to change.

Hannah - the truth about what happened to me

Hannah Rose Kollman is a senior at Dwight D. Eisenhower High School in the. made-up Long Island town of Cedarwood. She is a sexual assault survivor advocate, the President of Students Against Destructive Decisions, and a proud member of the girls’ track team. Read the story of how she went from silent to survivor in Jack A Ori’s Reinventing Hannah

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