Updated: Sep 5, 2022
i spent a year in mental hospitals recovering from a suicide attempt and anorexia which nearly took my life, along with my dreams, goals, and boundless zest for the beauty of the world. while i was at a long-term state hospital, the highest level of care in massachusetts, there were criminals who were minors (we called them “forensics”), who were in the ward awaiting their court dates.
i was 14 and sexually assaulted by a 19-year-old man while i was in a period of recovery, trying to get my life back.
it was scary and brought light to how the hospital system needs reform. the sexual assault took place in a classroom in the mental hospital. the man who assaulted me was always friendly and seemed safe, we played soccer in the yard together just before the assault. i was in a dress, sitting with both my feet on the floor. he was sitting close by me, the classroom was small. there were only about 7 people there, all busy watching the documentary that was on, even the teacher. He placed his hand on my thigh, holding it into place, and with no words, used his other hand to touch beneath my underpants. i was scared, stunned, and silent, and it took me a moment to get up, run to the hallway, and tell the staff about it. i was interviewed right after by the state board controlling the hospital and was offered the opportunity to file a lawsuit, which i declined. the entire process was formal and though i was in a place with many therapeutic supports that did help, i felt vulnerable. the sexual assault setback my recovery and cause a small relapse with my eating disorder.
i was luckily in the hospital so i received support, but the fact that I was in the hospital made me realize: i wasn’t safe anywhere, not even in one of the safest places.
i believe that i did all I could to keep myself safe, just like other survivors. i wish that the institution was able to protect me more. i received a lot of therapy that helped me work through the assault. however, i wish there was a way i could have connected to other people who had been through similar experiences, as i had no access to social media or the internet. i feel that being a part of something larger would have helped me feel connected and less alone.
i wish that every survivor knew that there was nothing they could do to prevent the assault and that it might feel like they are forced to be strong, but they possess deep and powerful bravery.