Like many, Amandla Stenberg has a #MeToo story.
The The Hate U Give star revealed her experiences with sexual violence and her admiration for Christine Blasey Ford in an emotional essay for Teen Vogue.
Stenberg was assaulted when a consensual encounter with a man she described as “someone who was respected by my peers” took an unfortunate turn.
“The night before, what started as a consensual experience had turned forceful,” she wrote. “Painful things had been done to my body that made me feel broken and disposable. I was unable to consent to them and was silenced verbally and physically when I protested.”
Following that incident, the 19-year-old described taking a lengthy train ride in search of emergency contraception after her abuser recommended doing so via text message. The trip was a somber one during which Stenberg, like many survivors, began to feel she'd done something wrong.
“The train bench felt like a murky pool under my thighs,” wrote Stenberg. “I was sitting in that soup of guilt and shame that often follows an unwarranted sexual experience. My body hurt and my mind was on a one-track loop, dissecting all the things that I was culpable for, that must have led me to my predicament. I felt stupid. My mama had taught me better than to put myself in positions of vulnerability that could lead to these possible ramifications.”
Stenberg also admitted this experience wasn’t the first time she was sexually violated. She said the first time was so quick that she had trouble considering the event a sexual assault, particularly given she didn’t verbally express her disapproval.
“It was so swift and forceful that by the time I recognized what was happening, I felt I only had two options: I could A. Voice my discomfort and protest, probably to be met with further force and/or male disapproval or, B. Convince myself that this was something I wanted. I chose the latter, out of self-preservation and to placate male desire. I had not consented, but I had not said no,” she wrote.
The actress expressed admiration for Ford and her willingness to tell her story.
“I am in awe of Dr. Ford’s bravery, honesty and the selflessness she exemplified by sacrificing her personal safety for the sake of 'civic duty.' My heart can’t help but feel sore that, once again, it has become a survivor’s responsibility to sacrifice self in the name of public safety,” Stenberg wrote. “But I am amazed and inspired by her refusal to continue excusing heteropatriarchy and the normalization of violence toward bodies that aren’t straight, cisgender and male.”
Ford's example inspired many to speak out about their experiences with sexual assault. After being made fun of by the president of the United States, Ford has been nominated for an distinguished alumna award by students, faculty and fellow alumni of the University of North Carolina, the Modesto Bee reports.
After sharing her experiences, Stenberg ended the essay with a statement every survivor needs to hear.
“It is not your fault,” the actress concluded. “It is not your responsibility to figure this out by yourself. It is not your responsibility to sacrifice your comfort to gratify others. Assault can look like many different things. Consent is continual. You are not dirty. You are not stupid. You are not weak for needing help. You are not defined by this. You are not alone. You are loved. Cry if you need to. Breathe. Your breath and your body belong wholly to you.”
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