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  • Writer's pictureemilynmoser

Own It

Updated: Aug 20, 2020

As if dating wasn’t hard enough as it is, then you throw being a survivor into the mix. I was questioning everything - myself, my purpose in life, how being a survivor would affect my relationships with friends and romantic interests. I was protective over my heart and my body; I wanted to be in control, but I was learning that sometimes things weren't always going to be in my control.

Enter: Boy #1

The year is 2009, quite possibly 2010 (who keeps track of dates anyway). I’m in 10th or 11th grade, AOL Instant Messenger is the main form of communication amongst high schoolers, iPhones have just recently come out but no one really has one yet, BlackBerrys are cool, my closet is curated by Abercrombie, Hollister, and Fruit of the Loom wife beater shirts, my dad still packs my lunch, iPods are very much still a thing, I have just been sexually assaulted, and I am beginning to understand the brutal world of dating.

Boy #1 was a stoner and the type of person who thought he was something special. Spoiler alert: he wasn’t. He was not the first boy, and most definitely not the last, to leave me feeling disappointed and disheartened by dating.

We went on one single “date.” That’s if you can call going to a party together, sitting on opposite sides of the room, and not interacting for the entirety of the party a date. As you can probably image, the party was dull and the date was even more lackluster. We left the party and he drove me the 20 minutes home. He didn’t try to make a move and I honestly don’t recall if I even wanted him to. He never asked me to hang out after that (until many years later as boys from your past like to do).

I later found out that Boy #1 had been telling people that he didn’t want to touch me because of what had happened to me (aka my sexual assault).

Mind you, we have never talked about it with each other. He never asked me about being sexually assaulted and it was never a discussion. It was just one of those things that everyone at my school knew because I happened to be assaulted on campus and administration sent a note home with every student about it.

Boy #1 had made the decision to stop talking to me because of what had happened to me without ever asking me about it. Perhaps he thought I was damaged goods and he didn’t want to deal with my baggage, or he thought he was sparing me from any further hurting. How fucking self-righteous. Whatever the reasoning, the point is, he never consulted me about it.

I was hurt and scared of that happening again, so from there on out I was on the defensive. My experience with Boy #1 I had ingrained in my mind that I had to tread lightly when disclosing my past with people or else I ran the risk of it scaring them away. Something that became more challenging when I went off to college and no one knew about me or my past.

On one hand, I wanted to wait for the perfect opportunity to share my past with these new people, but on the other hand, the longer I waited the more I felt like I was a fraud, like I was hiding a huge part of myself. I wanted my past to organically come up in conversation because I didn't want to experience what I had with Boy #1. I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me, I didn’t want friends to feel like they needed to be weary when bringing up a certain topic, and I didn’t want any romantic interests to feel like they needed to protect me when I was fully capable of protecting myself. The one thing I just couldn’t seem to protect myself from was boys becoming distant once I shared my survivorship with them.

Enter: Boy #2

It’s now the summer of 2012, I’m going into my sophomore year of college at UC Santa Barbara and enjoying my first summer in the college town called Isla Vista, land of endless parties, beautiful people, and a constant ocean breeze. I went to a party at the Crew house (you know, that sport where they basically row boats) with the hope that I would finally meet a boy I had been pining over from afar for the past year, but instead I met Boy #2.

Boy #2 had this perfectly coiffed hair, a smile that could melt your heart, and these tiny, yet totally cool gauge earrings (which I later found out were totally fake, how telling).

From the time we met, we talked incessantly and spent time together whenever we got the chance. We bonded over the fact that we were both from the same part of town (shout out to all my SF Valley kids out there), we talked about our dreams for the future, and we shared a love for music including anything Kendrick Lamar which became the soundtrack to our romance, albeit rather short lived.

It had maybe been 2 or so months, but how much time had passed doesn't really matter. For the first time, I had strong enough feelings for someone that I could see some sort of future with him that extended past this summer fling. Things felt like they were getting real and I was ready to open up to him about being a survivor of sexual assault (I had yet to admit to myself that I had also been molested, so disclosing that wasn’t even on my radar). I told him about what had happened to me and it felt so freeing. I was finally able to be open and honest and no longer felt like I was keeping this huge part of me a secret.

Apparently what made me feel free made him feel like he needed to be free of me. I hardly heard from him again after that. He was either unresponsive or had some excuse for not being able to hang out and eventually the communication stopped altogether. He ghosted me before ghosting was even a thing.

I was heart broken and beyond confused. I was left guessing why he would have blown me off and the only logical explanation I could come up with was that I had shared my story with him too soon and scared him away.

So there I was feeling unlovable, alone and anxious as fuck. I couldn’t help but think that dating a survivor was more than anyone wanted to handle, but I couldn’t quite pinpoint why. Was it really that much baggage? Did they think that now I must be an emotional mess who has a fear of intimacy? These are questions that I wasn’t even able to answer for myself at the time.

I was so worried that my story would change how people, especially anyone I was dating, felt about me that I got it in my head that I would scare them away rather than owning it and standing by my story as an incredible piece of me. Because the truth is, my past isn’t too much to handle. It’s not even anyone else’s to handle other than my own. Being a survivor is a part of me that I can’t change, and quite frankly, even if I could, I don’t know that I would want to. It has made me the person I am today - resilient, strong, courageous, fearless, and a fucking badass.

I’m done worrying about people perceiving my strength as intimidating. I’m done stressing about my outspokenness being regarded as too loud. I’m done being hindered by my awkwardness. I’m done letting other people influence how I present myself. I’m done with letting fear stop me - done letting it stop me from being authentic, from taking risks, from trying to tackle new challenges and goals, and from putting myself (and I mean all of it) out there. This is me, baby. I’m choosing to pursue fearlessness, and I encourage you to join me.

Don’t let anyone stop you from being any less than what you are. Own your past and present, and the right people will want to be a part of your future.

Be you. Be authentic. Be fearless.

In fearless pursuit,


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