I Survived Sexual Assault, Twice

When I was a little boy, someone groped me. Nine years later, it happened again.

Keannu Constantine
Human Parts

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A monotone picture of a shirtless young man with a black background
Photo by Charlotte Knight on Unsplash

The Bus Incident

He sat beside me, out of all the empty seats.

Every time the bus bumped, he got closer and closer.

I felt his arms brushing against mine, his hands nearing the side of my thighs, crawling like a predator on the prowl.

I leaned away, faced the window, and shut my eyes it didn’t stop the tears from coming out.

Deep inside, I begged he’d go away.

But begging doesn’t do the trick for these people.

I could, however, scream for help like anyone who finds oneself in danger. I could jolt him away with all the strength ramped up by my pounding heart. I could knock him down with my fists; I wouldn’t mind if he’s bigger than me.

I imagined it already, his face battered, blood coming out his nostrils, fainting from my reckless punches, over and over again.

But none of these happened. I froze.

That morning, I made sure to buy a ticket ride back to the university on a LazyBoy-seated bus.

What better way to take a 13-hour night trip alone than to lie on a comfy chair without ever having to worry about maintaining personal space?

Well, that’s what I thought.

You see, it didn’t matter, the fact that there was a considerable amount of space between seats to prevent any accidental touch.

Why would it matter?

It was not an accident; it was ill-intent.

I should have known better, I thought.

I mean, it wasn’t the first time.

The First Time

I was twelve when it happened, the first one.

“Classes are now suspended! You can go home.” The teacher had just announced.

My face lit up like the rest of my friends. We looked at each other with big expectant eyes.

I knew we’d be playing League of Legends the rest of the day.

We entered an internet cafe thrilled to lay our fingers on the keys and start gaming the way fifth graders would.

For some reason, however, there were no vacant seats beside them.

So I found myself taking a seat in a corner, alone, away from the periphery of everyone fixated on their screens.

That’s when it started. That’s when everything went wrong.

Why did he choose to sit beside me out of the five vacant seats in the row? Why did he sit in front of a computer and decide not to use it, only to watch me play? Why did he start fidgeting his hands on my knees, onto my thighs, and eventually onto my penis?

I kept pushing his hands away, you know. But he kept on insisting back.

I had many questions about why he did what he did.

But I realized early on that it’s impossible to find the answers to that simply because I’m not him.

Maybe he craved power and control by taking advantage of an innocent little boy. Maybe it was a learned behavior from his childhood trauma that created a cycle of violence and abuse. Maybe he was drunk. Maybe he used drugs. Maybe he was a pedophile. Maybe he was simply a pervert.

The thing about perpetrators is that they may have a hundred reasons to do that, but I see only one thing it is, monstrosity.

It doesn’t matter, it’s all the same.

They’re monsters.

But what put my mind on a roller coaster were the questions about why I didn’t do the things I should have done.

I could have yelled for help in a room full of people who were more than willing to rescue a child. I could have stood right when I felt his hand going where it must not. I could have peeked at his face for evidence so as not to capture in memory, a faceless man; I only remember the look of his hand.

I could have run away as fast as I could to escape that horror.

But in the end, I didn’t.

I sat there like a statue, only that I was shaking and shedding tears.

Only that I was alive, almost dead, but not quite.

You thought after having experienced it twice, you would act right the next time it happens. Yet fear kicks in, and you still freeze.

But you know what, that’s okay. Why?

Because you did not deserve it.

You deserve to be unbothered sitting beside an empty seat. You deserve to walk on a street at midnight without being frantic by the sound of leaves or the sight of a moving silhouette. You deserve to have others understand that when you say “no,” it means no. You deserve to be reserved your personal space.

You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

No amount or weight of reason would ever excuse someone to deny you what you deserve.

Because it was not your fault.

It was not because you chose to be by yourself. It was not your careless decision to be where people’s eyes couldn’t see. It was not your clothes, your face, or your body. It was not your innocent smile, your natural kindness, or your faith in humanity.

Believe me, it was not because of you. It was simply because of him.

You bear no responsibility for the heinous acts of some twisted mind of a stranger. You didn’t ask for it, and you certainly didn’t bring it upon yourself.

Because you are human.

You are not a coward for freezing and not fighting back.

It’s a biological response humans have developed to boost alertness for incoming danger and an escape plan. Like a deer that listens to its sixth sense for a prowling predator that can leap at any moment.

But you’re not in the wild, and you’re definitely not a deer.

You are human, in a modern world where danger can take so many forms you can’t predict it coming.

He might carry a knife hidden behind his jacket. He might be a serial killer on the loose. Or he might just be crazy enough to kill another human being.

But just because you felt fear does not make you a “coward”.

A coward is what you call a person who lacks the courage to endure dangerous or unpleasant things.

You have survived, and that alone is a testament to your courage.

So, forgive yourself. Let forgiveness be the breaker of chains that hold you grounded; let it be the rain that will wash away the dirt that clings still.

Let yourself free.

It’s been nine months now, since the bus incident.

I fought hard before I mustered up the guts to write this story, let alone publish it for people around the world to read. But I had to.

You see, I was a survivor. But I became more than that.

You will become more than that.

You will have a friend who will stay by your side. You will carry a peppermint spray and an alarm that goes so loud nobody would dare miss. You will condition yourself to trust your instincts, to yell for help, and to avoid risky situations whenever possible.

You will make a promise to defend yourself, to stand up against those who dare touch without consent.

If it fails, you learn a lesson and you remake that promise again.

It is that relentless attempt to fight another round.

Because you did not only survive, you thrived.

You make sure that whatever evil you encounter, you become stronger, wiser, and braver.

You may not gain the muscle to scare them off, but you’ll have a resilient armor that will never be tarnished by anyone who dares so.

Your soul will persist to be pure. No amount of suffering will ever define you or your future.

And no matter what, you will fight with resolve.

For yourself, for the twelve-year-old boy, and for those who need an inspiration to fight still.

You survived. So believe it, you will thrive.

Thank you for taking the time to read my personal story. If my words resonated with you, I’d be honored to have you follow me on Medium. Let’s stay connected, supporting and uplifting each other through the power of our shared human experiences. Together, we can find strength and inspiration in our stories.

With heartfelt gratitude,
Keannu

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Keannu Constantine
Human Parts

Hi. I’m a Filipino writer, Nutrition student, & aspiring doctor. I’m passionate in helping people help themselves. I write all stuff in service of that passion.