It’s not your fault


Emma Greco

Silenced, Restrained, Degraded. She is trying to break free from staying silent.

Emma Greco


*This article includes topics surrounding sexual assault, abuse, self harm, and suicide. Please read at your own discretion.

“Are you done? Is it over? Can you stop now?”

It happened when I was only 12 and it continued for a year. Like many middle schoolers, I wanted to be like everyone else and got into a relationship. It started out innocent, him making perverted jokes while I’d force out a laugh. I wanted him to like me. After a while, it started to turn into something more. I found myself being pressured to take pictures of myself or do things that no 12-year-old should be doing. 

   I just want to make you feel good. No one’s gonna see.

   No really, I don’t want you to do that to me.

   Not even for just a few seconds. Please?

   I’m tired and my stomach hurts. Please, I really don’t feel like it.

   Come on, don’t be like that. It’ll be quick.




   Every time I gave in, my face burned bright red with shame, I felt like I was going to throw up. I had to choke back tears, partially because of the embarrassment but also because of how painful it was. I bled. It hurt to sit after, and I’d walk funny because of it. People thought how I was walking funny was “cute”, or made fun of me. 

   He told me it was normal, so why does it hurt so much? Was all of this my fault? I don’t want him to hate me. If I tell someone, would they even believe me? I just want him to care about me. 

   I felt wrong, and that feeling was eating me up. I wanted so badly to escape. I started self-harming, and that made him furious. He would grab and twist the marks on my arm to get me to stop doing it or he’d do that again. I tried to break off the relationship, but I was guilt-tripped into staying. 

   Are you really trying to break up with me? Oh well. I guess I’ll just go up onto my roof. Hope I don’t fall off and die. 

   It took months to get the courage to leave. I had a hard time coming to terms with what happened. I wanted to forget it ever happened. I wanted it to just be a bad dream. 

   My mental health got worse over the following months, and on the way to school, I found myself having panic attacks and throwing up because of the stress. I was never like this before, I felt overwhelmed.

   I couldn’t take it anymore, so I ended up visiting the school counselor. I told her vaguely what happened, trying not to cry, almost in a state of shock. Before I knew it, she had contacted the authorities and I was now in front of a police officer who was writing down what I had said. I was terrified, and broke down crying. I was worried I had done something wrong for the police to be involved, but they assured me that it wasn’t my fault. 

   I felt like after talking to someone about it, a huge burden was lifted off of my shoulders, but that was only one of the first steps to a long journey.

   I went from place to place. I was taken to the Child’s Advocacy Center (CAC) to be interviewed and recorded; there was a double screen where police officers and counselors could view what was happening. I was screened medically, and had to take a rape kit. I had to see counselors, therapists, psychiatrists. I had to go through a legal process.

   They interviewed my abuser, and before I knew it he had told what seemed like the entire school. I only found out when my friends came up to me and asked me about it during class. I didn’t want them to know: it was mortifying. I told a few of the friends that I had trusted my side of the story, but it didn’t seem to matter to them. 

   There were friends who belittled me. Really? You were asking for it when you said yes to dating him. You could’ve just said no. People go through way worse. I’ve gone through worse than you.

   I had two friends tell me that they witnessed what he did to me. We heard you saying no and stuff, and we didn’t know whether to record it or not. We just didn’t wanna tell you because we didn’t want to get involved. 

   Another friend showed me screenshots of my abuser admitting to her what he had done, but she just said “I don’t want to get involved or anything.”

   Others didn’t even believe that it happened.

   You just reported it because you regret doing what you did.

   My abuser even made jokes about the situation.

   Well I guess I’m going to jail now. If I don’t come to school next week you’ll know what happened to me.

   When I went to a weekly counseling appointment, my counselor broke the news to me that the court decided to close the case because of a lack of evidence. The officer on the case even told me, “We know from the interview that he’s lying, but we just can’t convict him with just that.” 

   After all of the humiliating things that I went through, nothing came of it?

Was all of this for nothing?

   For years after, I felt frozen in that exact moment. The people I trusted and needed most didn’t believe me and even if they did, they clearly didn’t care. I felt like because of that, it didn’t happen. That I really was just overthinking things, and I deserved what happened to me.

It was hard to go to school and find the motivation to keep going. Almost every night I had nightmares of what happened. There were some days where I’d go multiple days without sleeping. I would have outbursts of uncontrollable anger, and other times I’d stay in bed all day and not eat.

   My parents started to take me to see a therapist and psychiatrist instead of a counselor. I was skeptical at first.

   How is talking about what I went through all over again going to help? 

   But it was different. Instead of focusing on the situation, they focused on helping me process the trauma that had rewired my brain at such a young age. It was then that I was diagnosed with PTSD, depression, and anxiety. I was prescribed different SSRIs and eventually found the right one for me. I found new ways to cope during therapy, and started working at a small pizza place where I met friends that made my days just a little bit better.

   Healing from the abuse hasn’t been a straight line to “getting over it.” Some days I’ll feel like I’m back where I started and others like I’m finally at peace. Sometimes I’ll have flashbacks or nightmares, but I’ve learned to manage my emotions and come to terms with what happened and to take care of myself. I’ve found that the more that I try to push forward, the less I feel like I’m still 12 and wondering if it’ll get better. I’m able to look ahead to the endless possibilities of the future and live in the present.

   Not a lot of people are comfortable talking about their experiences with sexual assault, and that’s exactly one of the reasons why we should be talking about it. Stories like mine happen every day and every minute. It’s hard to find the courage to speak out against sexual abuse, especially in a relationship. People don’t feel validated because it’s seen as a “taboo” topic, making it hard to set healthy boundaries in a relationship. Often, people are victim-blamed instead of taken seriously. 

    Because of this, there’s a common misconception that being in a relationship means that everything is consensual, that to be in a relationship you have to “put out” for your partner and fulfill their every desire or else they’ll leave you. This is far from the truth. According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network, 8/10 sexual abuse cases are perpatrated by someone the victim knows, 33% of those being committed by a current or former partner.

   Even in cases where people come out about their experience with sexual abuse, many are still told to “get over it” or to “be the bigger person”. 

Healing from abuse doesn’t mean to forgive and forget. You don’t have to forgive the boogeyman of your life. Healing from abuse is forgiving yourself. 

   It’s not your fault.

   If you or someone you know has experienced any form of abuse, harassment, or mental health issue please contact a school counselor or use any of the resources listed below:

The National Sexual Assault Hotline 800.656.HOPE (4673) and the Online Hotline ( offer free, confidential, and safe services for victims of sexual assault 24/7, 7 days a week.

National Suicide Hotline 1.800.784.2433 

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1.800.273.TALK (8255)

National Suicide Prevention Hotline in Spanish (Linea Directa Nacional para la Prevención del Suicidio en Espanol) 1.800.799.4899