I am 1 in 3

The UN estimates that at least 1 in 3 women worldwide will experience physical or sexual violence in her lifetime.

I am 1 in 3.

In 1985, my family moved from the quiet suburbs of Washington, DC to Paris, France. I was nearly 10 years old and had already gone through puberty. By the time I was 15, I had been attacked in an elevator; sexually assaulted and bullied by five classmates on and off for three years; flashed by homeless men on my way to school; groped multiple times by “dirty old men” while taking public transportation; struck by a male principle with a fillip; catcalled by random men while going about my everyday life; and the recipient of an offer of child marriage. In the more than 25 years since, I have experienced numerous incidences of sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, and lewd behavior. Nearly all of my perpetrators have been acquaintances: classmates, colleagues, dates. I did not report the majority of these incidences to authorities or tell my community. Partly because, for a long time, every time I spoke up, it cost me more than if I hadn’t said anything at all. And partly because, by the time I was in my 30s, low-grade sexual harassment felt like the cost of being a woman in a man’s world.

For years, I blamed myself and, whenever yet another person hurt me or disrespected me or violated me, I minimized, de-escalated, and stuffed down my anger, fear, shame, and frustration. Several years ago, I began opening up about my experiences in women’s circles where I felt safe. Two amazing and unexpected things happened:

  1. The more vulnerable I was, the more women met me with support, sisterhood, and empathy, the more my shame melted away, and the more empowered I felt.
  2. Having the courage to share my survivor stories gave other women the courage to stand up and say “me, too” and share both their survivor stories and the times when they confided in a friend or relative and were met with blame, stigma, judgment, and re-victimization.

This collection is an invitation for you to share your survivor story (or stories) and take your power back. What happened to you is not your fault. You are not alone, love. Your voice matters. Together, let’s shed light on the darkness of rape culture and step more fully into our sovereignty as girls and women.


Andi’s Story

My first experience with violation was at age 7. My neighborhood was full of boys and I was a tomboy. I remember playing a game and losing. The older boy down the street decided that I had to touch his penis and he got to touch my vagina as punishment for losing.

The 2nd time was in high school. I was walking to my car in a dark parking lot after taking a SAT prep class at the local college. A man came out of nowhere and pushed me against a car and started to rip my pants off. Luckily I screamed loud enough and scared him off.

Then my first fraternity party in college… was on my way to the bathroom and a guy grabbed me and pulled me into a bedroom and assaulted me. His fraternity happened to be the house next door from my sorority and I had to see him almost every day. Every time I saw him he smiled and told me how good I was.

Then was in a long term relationship with a man who thought it was okay to hit me if I talked back to him.

A few years later I went on a date with a guy who told me over dinner how bad he wanted to “fuck me.” I nicely told him that it wasn’t going to happen, even though I wanted to tell him to fuck off and get the hell away from me. That night he broke into my house and found my room… he covered my mouth so my roommates wouldn’t hear me scream.

The latest was when I was pregnant with my daughter. On numerous occasions, men would tell me how they wanted to stick their dick in me as I was walking to lunch.

I’ve felt violated so many times in my life and most of my close friends, family, and husband know nothing about it.

The shame is real. The fear for my daughter is real.

I am thankful to share my voice here. Maybe one day I will be able to share with the people I love.

Michelle’s Story

The sexual abuse started when I was 3 years old.

It continued on for a further seven years, and only ended when I got my period, and the perpetrator told me “it was now too dangerous, I might get pregnant.”

The abuse was so imprinted on to my soul, that I blocked it out until I started my recovery from bulimia at age 35 and was under-going hypnotherapy.

Then the visions started. Graphic visions. Horrible visions. Visions I just couldn’t comprehend. These visions were not of a movie, they were of real life. My real life.

I was three years old and was playing doctors and nurses with the next door neighbour’s son who was a year older.

We were naked, lying under his bed, touching each other. We were three and four years old. Innocent.

Then his dad walked in, saw us, told us we were naughty and that if anybody found out, we would be in big trouble.

But if we did what he asked, he wouldn’t tell anybody.

He said he just wanted to take some photos of us playing doctors and nurses. So that’s what we did. Except, he directed us to play a much different version of doctors and nurses. He directed his son to touch me very differently, including touching me inside. All whilst he kept taking photos.

He set up an area in his wardrobe which was surrounded by black sheets so it was private and hidden from his wife.

This level of abuse continued for two years, and as I grew up, his son was removed from playing doctors and nurses, and his dad instead took his place and started touching me instead. Taking photos of himself touching me. Having me touch him, stroke him, whilst he took photos of me doing that.

Not long after, the penetration started. First, he would insert fingers inside of me and I remember him licking his fingers afterwards. I just didn’t understand what was happening.

But I knew what was happening wasn’t right but didn’t know why, or who to tell. So I started eating. Eating ALOT. I tried to build a fat suit so that somebody would notice something was wrong. But they didn’t.

I tried to build a fat suit so he would stop touching me. Instead, he gave me gifts. He owned a jewellery business so would make jewellery for me. Not my brother or sister, just me. But nobody ever asked why.

It didn’t take long for the finger penetration to move to full penetration with his penis. I have really vivid clear memories of him bending me over a table in his bedroom, in the dining room, and doing whatever he pleased, and reminding me to not scream because I would get into trouble if anybody found out.

His son was always sent across to the neighbours’ house when it was taking place. His son went to the same primary school as me and would walk me home. To his dad. He would carry my books and we were always teased that “x” had a crush on me because he would follow me everywhere. If only they knew the truth.

Nobody noticed the abuse. Nobody questioned my constant tears. Nobody questioned the gifts. Nobody questioned why I hid in my bedroom when I was home. Nobody saw anything.

To this day, I have never shared my story with my family. But in sharing it here, I know I have to share it with them.

My soul still feels the trauma and pain of that abuse. The innocence that was lost needs to be healed. It it time.

I am 1 in 3.

Kathryn’s Story

I grew up in a family where my parents were always fighting. At some stage I decided to crawl into my brother’s bed for a cuddle. He was 4 years older than me. I was an affectionate child and just wanted a cuddle from my big brother.

Instead he told me I was his “teddy bear” and proceeded to rub me around and explore my vagina. He did this multiple times. I’m not sure how old I was — I think 7 or 9 — but he just kept telling me I was his teddy bear. I realised this was not right and went to sleep with my sister instead.

I finally confronted him about this at age 32, I had repressed it for many years and he admitted to it all. I gained a lot of weight after this incident and still have weight issues to this day and let’s just say after remembering and confronting him our “close” relationship has never been the same.

I had a best friend who I later found out was raped as a child and she too used to want to lie in bed and touch my private parts. I knew it felt wrong but when you brother and best friend are both doing it what’s a 7 year old meant to think? These are the people you trust.

I had a boyfriend in high school that held my head down so hard on his penis until I was gagging and couldn’t breathe. I never wanted to do this sexual act. He ruined that sexual act that maybe I would have enjoyed as an adult for me at just age 16.

I also had my drink spiked at a university camp and woke up the next morning in intense pain. I can’t remember anything that happened but my friends told me stories of my bizarre behaviour like walking around naked and all I can say is that I don’t think just his penis was used. I only remember having half a glass of champagne.

These are just a few of the stories I remember, I’m sure there are more instances of violation and my wants not being respected.

I am 1 in 3.

Justine’s Story

When I was fifteen, I met a guy in drivers ed. He was friends with some of my friends and was pretty popular with the basketball team. We started talking and he asked me to go to a movie with him.

At the movie he stuck his tongue down my throat and that wasn’t enjoyable.

On the way home, he pulled over and wouldn’t take me home until I gave him a blowjob. It was miserable and he shoved my head into his crotch.

I was so embarrassed, didn’t want to tell my family and in hindsight, had wished I had just gotten out of the car and not cared about what he thought or might do if I turned him down.

As a result, many of his athlete friends tried to “get some” from me.

One pulled me into the bathroom to give him a blowjob. Another hung out with me, but really just wanted to have sex. When he asked me to take my pants off, I laughed at him and told him to take me home. By then I had gotten smarter and neither of them was able to take advantage of me.

That didn’t stop the catcalls, remarks about my body, getting the nickname “Trouble” by one of the older guys I worked with, having an emotionally abusive relationship with my first boyfriend, being hit on constantly by men, having sexual innuendos fly my way nearly every day and finally being raped – all between ages 15 – 21.

Nisha’s Story

The first of many violations happened when I was 6 years old. I was at a small department store with my dad, and true to our usual routine at this store, I asked to go look at the toys and books.

In the aisle of children’s books, I became deeply engrossed in one, and barely noticed that a young man had come to stand next to me. At one point, he said something to me, and I looked up to see his penis in his hand.

I threw the book into the shelves and ran. I ran so hard, I was panting and red faced when I found my dad, my mind racing.

My dad looked at me and asked what happened. In that moment, I knew that if I told my dad, he would put the store on lock down and kill the guy. I was embarrassed. I didn’t want the guy to get hurt.

So I shrugged it off and held my dad’s hand tightly as we walked through the store. I was only 6 years old, but I remember feeling even smaller.

Several minutes later, the guy was walking down our aisle towards us. He pointed me out to his girlfriend and they walked by us, laughing.

My dad said something like “weirdos” under his breath, and I remember feeling so confused by their laughter. Had I done something wrong? Wasn’t it a bad thing that he did? Why did she in particular laugh at me?


There were at least 5 other physical violations by the time I was 19, and countless catcalls and unwanted come-ons. The other physical violations happened at the hands of a doctor, a man who approached me in his vehicle when I was walking alone on a dark road, a stalker who was given my home address by a college professor, a man who grabbed my pussy in a bar, and a date that I mysteriously don’t remember after the second drink.