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A lost girlhood

This photo essay was made to highlight the issue of sexual harassment and assault in the U.S. Each woman tells their story  in their own words and how it impacted their lives moving forward. 

Disclaimer: The DrumBeat was given permission by these women to use their photos, names and stories in this way. Some have chosen to remain anonymous for this article.

Anonymous, just 15.

“As my barely teen self begged for male attention from her crush, his friend saw an opportunity and took a piece of my innocence that I will never get back. The only thing that was on my mind at that moment was getting caught because I had invited a boy over without my mom knowing. My crush got what he wanted and took off to get some food, while clueless me was forced to entertain his friend. What seemed like the longest 30 minutes of my life ended with the only thing on my mind being oh God, what just happened? What did he do?”

Grace Smith, just 16.

“It was such a nice day. I was active and fit. Holding my body to a high standard, I decided to go for a jog, something I’ve done a few times. I was stopped by a truck, a bearded man, and a dog interrogated by a stranger. What was I doing? What was my name? Where did I stay? Do you wanna pet my dog? Just come here for a second. My heart was pounding more than it ever had on a run. My body screamed at me to fly, so I ran. He watched me run, telling me to come back. In the neighborhood I grew up in, in a beautiful place hidden away by the comfort of trees, I never felt safe again.”

Heather Smith, just 10.

“You should really be able to trust your family. I was 10 and hanging out with my 13-year-old cousin in my room. We have done this a million times, but this day, it was different. He kept asking questions about boys and if I had ever been kissed “No, of course not, I’m 10,” He laughed, so I thought OK, that’s over. So I got up to get something out of my closet; when I turned around, he was there. He had the door blocked and said, “If you want out, give me a kiss.” I said no. He wouldn’t move, no matter how hard I pushed. The laugh he made still gives me chills when I think about him. God must have heard my pleas to let me out because my mom came to the door and told us dinner was ready. Till this day, I still wonder what would have happened if my mother wouldn’t have come to the door.”

Anonymous, just 17.

“Seventeen. The age of new beginnings, focusing on myself and what the future holds. Feeling grown but still underage. I knew what I was getting myself into with the pathway I paved, the parties, the alcohol, the music, but most importantly, the boys. Flirting is fun until no doesn’t mean no anymore. One drink turns to two, which leads to many more. That was the night I realized what it felt like to not be in control of myself anymore. My body being held down, my tears running down my face. But he was drunk too. Did that make it OK? Did it make it OK that when I awoke the next morning, hurt and confused with my clothes on backward but he told me good morning? Did it make it OK that he said I ‘wanted it’ but couldn’t remember the entire night? It was not OK. It was not OK when he told me he was taking care of me all night. It was not OK when he told me I said “no,” but he thought I was joking. It was not OK, and it will never be OK. No means no, no matter what.”

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