09/03/2016 12:28 GMT | Updated 04/03/2017 05:12 GMT

Lack of Education Around Consent Culture Meant I Didn't Even Know I'd Been Sexually Assaulted

all women everywhere

I have survived sexual assault more times than I can count.

You're probably thinking, "What?"

It's true. The more I learned about consent culture, the more I realized that I had been in many situations what were indeed sexual assault- without even knowing it. I always imagined rape to be a masked man jumping out of bushes attacking a female night runner. Never did I imagine it could happen to me by a friend, a family member, or a lesbian lover.

Since I started #StopRapeEducate in 2014, thousands of beautiful souls that have reached out to me. Their survival stories have impacted my self-awareness and growth profoundly. When we share our experiences, we help others recognize what has happened to them so that they may move forward in healing.

Here are examples from my life that I did not know were sexual assault:

1. That time I apprehensively consented to someone...

Let me break it down to you: there are two types of consent: enthusiastic consent and apprehensive consent. Enthusiastic consent is sober, informed, ongoing, freely-given, mutual, sexual activity among adults. Apprehensive consent is a "yes" that is given when someone has been coerced, forced, manipulated, or threatened. Consenting apprehensively is survival mode, it's what we do when our life is at risk and the body chooses to do the safest thing possible. Sometimes your body and voice shut down, letting the attacker have their way. Inebriation, manipulation, and abuse of minors or those with mental or physical handicaps also fall under the category of apprehensive consent since one party is not in a position to actively and enthusiastically consent to a sexual act. Apprehensive consent is rape. When I was 17 years old, I was in my someone's room watching a movie, something we had done many times before. Only this time was different, he started feeling me up. Terrified of violence, I let him have his way.

2. That time my safe word was ignored.... Before I became aware of the dozens of ways sexual assault takes place, I never knew that a woman could be capable of sexual violence. The odds of woman-on-woman rape happening seemed low, if not impossible. I wrongly viewed rape as a crime only men committed, imagine my confusion when I was in the middle of an S&M scene and yelled out the safe word only to hear my partner say, "There is no safe word, anymore. I'm in control now," she growled as she proceeded to have her way.

3. That time I blacked out and woke up to a naked "friend" in my bed...

I remember seeing my nude body in the morning sun after a party I threw at my house the night before. I glanced left to find my dress on the floor and then to the right to find my friend sleeping naked in my bed. I didn't remember saying he could stay the night - let alone, touch me, kiss me, or more! I had absolutely no recollection of the incident. Last thing I remembered was saying goodnight, turning my back to him, and dozing off. How did I end up naked? When did I say yes? Did he use a condom?! The questions were endless. I was so upset that I stopped speaking to him and I blamed myself for years until I realized the importance of his actions. If I was blackout drunk, there's no way I was in a clear state-of-mind to consent to sex (neither was he for that matter). Many cultures today have normalized sex and drinking. However, sex and drugs and alcohol should NEVER be mixed. If it's not sober, it's not sex. As a society, we should protect our peers and partners when we see that they are under the influence and trying to engage in sexual activity.

As survivors of trauma, it's up to us to take healing in our own hands. Some amazing techniques that have worked for me and that I still use today are: yoga, meditation, rape counseling, spending time in nature, dance, modeling, writing, connecting with other survivors, and practicing forgiveness and self-love. Healing is not a one way road, it's a multilevel process but with a bit of work, you can turn your pain into power just like I did!

For more information, follow me on Instagram @ambertheactivist and @creatingconsentculture

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