Each month, Ci3’s South Side Stories project features digital stories that spotlight the lives of adolescents and young adults from the South Side of Chicago.
November’s South Side Spotlight focuses on sexual coercion, a critical topic for adolescents. Sexual coercion refers to the act of making another person engage in sexual activity against their will (Brousseau, Bergeron, Hébert & McDuff, 2011). This term includes rape and sexual assault, as well as acts that persuade someone to engage in unwanted sexual activity, such as using pressure, drugs or alcohol. Sexual violence is achieved through physical force, threats, emotional manipulation, consistent pressure, fear or coercion.
Two stories are presented, one from a young man, who experienced childhood sexual abuse, and another from a young woman, who experienced rape. In The Unveiling, the male narrator is just beginning to talk about his sexual trauma, although several years have passed since the event occurred. I was 10 and barely knew about sex. But this tragic process was continuously repeated. And I? …Remained silent. It’s seven years later and I’m finally starting to confront my feelings, I am wondering why it has taken so long.
In his story, the narrator discusses a challenge common to many victims of sexual assault: the difficulty of telling people what has happened, which may be especially hard for boys and men. Who could I have turned to? he asks. Family? Friends? Someone at school…where teachers are too busy and social workers switch year after year? The silence that shrouds his experience is depicted by the word “Shhh” on the blackboard. His comments highlight the importance of ensuring that youth have trusting relationships with adults with whom they can share their experiences regarding sexual violence. Despite this violence, he ends his story on a hopeful note, with the declaration that he still “deserves love and care.”
The second story, Untitled, recounts the experience of a young woman who was raped by a man. The narrator shares her memories of the event and how she felt disassociated from her experience with sexual violence: I am watching the situation as if it isn’t even me. Watching her underneath him. Panting. Crying. Pleading for him to stop. Too weak to fight, too scared to scream. I want to ask her: How did you get into this situation? I want to ask him: If she’s so beautiful… how could you do this?
Remembering the event trigger[s] memories that leave you feeling stuck. We also hear the narrator’s disappointment at not having experienced first love in the way she imagined: Her first love, her first kiss, it should be a positive thing, but that’s not her story. Though impacted by her experience, she is aware that she can move past this. There’s this beautiful girl trapped inside of me, who is not running, or scared of her dreams.
We thank the authors for sharing their stories and honor their courage.
The following are national resources available to victims of sexual violence:
Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN)
1 (800) 656-HOPE
Department of Defense Hotline
Stop It Now
If you need immediate assistance, please contact either your local police, 911 or hospital. You can also contact ChildHelp at 1.800.4ACHILD (1.800.422.4453).
Men Can Stop Rape
National Sexual Violence Resource Center
(717) 909-0710 Phone
(877) 739-3895 Toll Free
The following resources are available to victims of sexual violence in the Greater Chicago Metropolitan area.
Rape Crisis Hotline
Call (888) 293-2080 in Chicago Metropolitan Area
Call (630) 971-3927 in DuPage County
Call (708) 748-5672 in the South Suburbs
Rape Victim Advocates (RVA)
Young Women’s Association of Metropolitan Chicago (YWCA)
(312) 733-2102, ext. 2146
Click here for a full Spotlight including broader research and policy implications.
South Side Stories is made possible through the generous support of the Ford Foundation.