Filter Coffee Not People

By Peyton Land

Sometimes I think about what will be left of me when I’m long gone from this world. Will my pictures still be here? Would I have written a book that sticks around? Will my words have any impact? Hopefully they will. When I think about the things I will leave behind, I mostly think about my words and what I hope they do and will do for people.

A long time ago I realized that I had no one telling me that everything that had happened to me was awful, but I was still a precious jewel underneath it all. Yes, I have the best parents in the world who support me as much as they can, but I don’t think anything prepares anyone for an overly sensitive kid. As great as they are, what about the other kids? The ones without great parents? Who is telling them how great and worthy they are no matter what their grade in a math class is or no matter how their significant other treats them?

I don’t know why, but I want to be that person. I always will be that person. I won’t ever stop telling people that they deserve to be here. This is the thought that fiiinally brings me to “Filter coffee, not people”. FCNP is a series I’m starting talking about a very personal subject involving my friends and I, and our different sexual abuse stories. As I grow more and more aware I see the impact our communities have on us either through the media or friendships and I just want to be able to say  y o u  a r e  n o t  a l o n e. You are not alone!! We lose so many people every day because of the shame they’re feeling. I hate the shame I feel on a regular basis. All of this to say; we all have different ways of getting over things; mine was and still is, talking about it. So I’m here to talk about sexual assault.

The other day while I was scrolling through Facebook, I came across an article about a girl who had been sexually assaulted in Alabama, she was a student who originated from Austin, and was on her way home after a party (not in Austin, Alabama). This is the same story for so many girls and unfortunately it ended the same way many others end, no one being held accountable for his or her actions. All anyone focused on in her situation was the strong and powerful man who had enough money to make it go away. When Brock Turner raped the women behind the dumpster, all anyone could do is talk about the great swimmer he was. The media never calls it rape. The media never covers the women in these stories. In even bigger news, coverage on people like Bill Cosby or Donald Trump, there’s a feeling of doubt consuming everyone’s minds on how true their stories actually are.

Why not make it harder for people to ignore sexual survivors stories? It’s also not just the hard and ugly I want to shed light on, but the happy and how we are thriving! There is life after being sexually assaulted. I can’t ask people to be open about their stories if I can’t be open about mine. I’ve had my fair share of things happen to me but I’ve never let them define me. I can thank my parents for that.

The summer I had turned 15 I was “dating” a boy, really, my first ever boyfriend. He made me feel pretty and wanted; he constantly made me feel heard in whatever I was talking about. Whenever we had met up we had only kissed a few times because as I had told him, I wasn’t ready for anything beyond that. He said he respected it, and moved on… Except he really hadn’t. The guy I really liked had disappeared and this aggressive, controlling boy came out. He didn’t want me to hang out with friends, and made me feel bad for things that weren’t even my fault. 15 was a rough year. It feels like forever ago. I honestly couldn’t tell you how certain actions happened. I can tell you though, that I didn’t want any of it. I remember breaking up with him the day after everything happened. I didn’t know for sure what had happened, but I knew I felt really unsafe. I didn’t want to talk to my parents about it. I could see my relationships with everyone around me crumbling, I was super sassy around my mom and dad, I was mean to my brother, Clay. I’m pretty sure he thought I hated him. I didn’t hate him; I hated myself. I was anxious all the time because I didn’t know my true feelings. I thought maybe I had wanted it and I was just a bad Christian. I thought it was my fault. I just really wanted to know what happened. It took me a year to figure out the name for it: Rape.

One night at bible study I remember crying and telling my friends what had happened and someone’s response was, “But did you do anything before that with him?” Someone backed me up immediately and said no, this wasn’t just him thinking there was a sequence of events happening…. I said no, but he said yes anyways. My story is real. This happened to me. This happened to me because of a really bad guy. Just because I didn’t know what to call what happened to me, didn’t scream, didn’t rush to the police, doesn’t make it less real. Of course there were many ways I could’ve gotten myself out of the situation- I could’ve seen the signs of emotional abuse a lot sooner, I could’ve realized how controlling he was, but I wasn’t educated on the signs. The lack of education teenagers get on sex education is appalling. I thought that the rape that happened to me was sex. The guy thought it was consensual too, he didn’t see how he was manipulating me.

Some guys literally have never been taught what consensual sex is. People aren’t being educated on what’s okay and what’s not okay. That’s not to make what happened lesser. It’s still important. My pain is important and me learning from what happened is important. I wouldn’t be as much as an advocate for girls if it wasn’t for this guy. My relationship with God wouldn’t be what it is today without it.

I tell this story because as a young girl, I wasn’t sure what the heck was going on. Maybe there’s another young girl out there who doesn’t know the signs of a controlling boyfriend. Maybe she doesn’t know what consent is. This is for you.

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I’m still very angry about this next part of my story, but I’m thriving. Thriving in ways I never thought I could be thriving. A few years after the last crap boyfriend, a guy a year older than me who I went to school with started to give me some attention. He was always the quiet and nerdy guy who had been in my classes so I never gave him much thought, but soon after dating, I fell in love. He was a game changer; at that point in life I viewed myself as unlovable in the eyes of boys. He was kind, sweet, and everything I wanted in a guy. After basic training for the Air Force, we spent more and more time together and I was convinced that I would spend the rest of my life with him. When he looked at me I knew he loved me back and that’s all I needed and wanted.

We went through a lot in the first year we dated. He moved and I went off to college, through his cheating and lies, I still loved him. A lot. I willed it to get better. For a while it did, but the emotional toll it took me on was getting heavier and heavier. I didn’t think highly of myself and was constantly anxious, as before when I was 15. Some how he had gotten me to think I needed him like I needed water and the idea of leaving him left me crippled. He had manipulated me so much, lying about all the cheating he was doing or attempting to do through our engagement season. Even through the early stages of our marriage. It was awful. I remember lying in bed and thinking, “Will this always be how it is?” I felt trapped. I lived for the few minutes a day he was actually nice to me.

Even with the cheating, the worst thing he did to me was not understand the word no. He thought that just because we were married (together, boyfriend/girlfriend, insert any situation you’re in, here) that he could do whatever he wanted. I should just have to say no to sex, and that be that. There were even some times I had to kick him off me, but mostly it was just easier to let the sex just happen. I would make myself sick thinking about what I would have to do when he got home, and I hated it. I hated my life. He didn’t listen to how I felt about it, and then he would hint at that if he didn’t get it from me he would go elsewhere.

Just because you are with someone, doesn’t mean you have to have sex. If they’re making you, get out. You are worthy of so much more than what some guy thinks of you. It took a long time, a lot of great friends, and family to help me learn that. It’s been over two years and I haven’t had anything serious because I now know what I deserve and what God wants from me. This is my light: You have options. Your story is important, you are important, and there is someone out there better for you!! I haven’t found that person yet, and I don’t even know if there’s going to be that person. I’m just happy with the season I’m in right now.

I won’t let people ignore my story. It’s really scary to put myself out there like this but I’m not sure anyone’s view sexual assault will change without people being open to sharing their story. It was hard for me to tell my parents what happened to me, and I couldn’t even imagine how mortifying it would’ve been to go to law enforcement with sexual abuse accusations. These men aren’t even that powerful and I was still scared. I can’t imagine what pressures other women who come out in the media trying to tell their story go through. Women are wise and strong. Our experiences speak for themselves.

Please, if you want to share your story, don’t hesitate to get in contact with me!!

peytontoftland@icloud.com