Just eight minutes, but it felt like forever. I sat there dumbfounded wondering if that really happened or if I was so drunk I had imagined it. I was sixteen years old at a party. Like always my boyfriend and I were in a huge fight, so I was flirting with a guy he hated. Typical high school drama. I was drunk which was actually unlike me because I hated to feel that way, but I was in a horrible mood.
I was sitting on the couch and this guy who was three years older and real trouble was next to me. I knew better but was so upset I couldn't think straight, plus the alcohol. My best friend was sitting on the arm of the couch. The guy was inching closer to me saying all the right things. “You are so cute” playing with my hair. I can still smell the room. His hand landed on my thigh. I told him to get his hand off of me. He rolled his eyes. I was so confused as to why was he touching me. I did not want to kiss him, I was just trying to piss off my boyfriend. He moved his hand into my pants right there with all those people around us. Grabbed my breasts and I said, "get your fucking hands off me now.” His eyes showed no care. He laughed and I was scared, I never got scared. He shoved me back on the plaid couch that was so scratchy-- hate that material now. My friend was frozen, not her fault. He unzipped his pants, how could he be aroused? This was disgusting. Looking at me he pulled my pants down just enough. No one paid l attention. I swear I yelled but nothing came out, the music was loud and I am sure everyone thought we were “making out.” He did it and that was that. I sat there so shook. He zip up and said "you ain't worth it," and like that walked away. It was that easy, for him.
It was only eight minute but I felt it lasted longer, I stopped breathing for that time. I grabbed my best friend and as fast as we could we ran to the bathroom and I threw up. My whole body hurt. I told her what happened and she cried because she had seen and could not stop it. We sat on the bathroom floor and cried and I wondered how did I get here? She knew I couldn't tell anyone. If I told my boyfriend he would have gone after the guy.
About a month later the guy ended up in jail. Looking back I realize I should have told someone, but I was so scared of what would happen that I couldn’t. Telling my bestie helped me get the emotions out and that was what I needed the most. I do not think we have spoken of it since but at certain times she will text me or remind me and I know she remembers.
The worst part wasn't the assault because I felt like I stood my ground. The hardest part was when he told me I was not worth it. What was I not worth? A rape? Sex? I thought about that for days after months really and any time I see "you are worthy.” What was I not worth that night and I am glad I wasn't? That makes me even sicker than what happened.
Our worth is a value that only we can place, not someone else. Not someone trying to steal a piece of our soul. When we stand up for ourselves we are proving just how worthy we are. Even when we say no and the unspeakable happens, we are worthy. I recently sent a tweet out and a guy who I went to highschool with “liked it.” Well he was more than a “guy” we had dated. He was pretty awesome, but I always thought he was too good for me. Mostly because I did not feel worthy. He had no idea that if it was not for him I would have never felt worth as a teen. He would sneak into my house and one night actually said “that was so worth it.” I realized that I was more than that attack. But the truth is, when he reacted to my tweet it validated so many years of feeling less than. I sobbed when he did. I am worthy.
When my oldest son turned sixteen I got sick. What if he becomes one of them? Then the second son and I felt sick again. Where did we go wrong in our society that this is acceptable? That you feel scared to say you were attacked? That some men think it is ok? I raised my boys from the beginning to ask permission, be respectful, never be with someone under the influence, make sure you have protection and always always remember that person is worthy.
Sometimes you remember something and as you grow older you wonder “did that happen or is that something you made up in your head?” I reached out to the boyfriend that found me worthy recently. He was blown away by what I told him. He had no idea what happened to me at that party. He did however remember the night we were together in more detail. He told me “Cruel Summer” was playing on my radio and corrected what he had said to me as he left through my window. “YOU are so worth it” were the exact words he told me. I cried hard when he told me this thirty years later. He admitted he was crying too. I realized I was not making it up to feel better that he really said it to me. The fact that he told me I was worth something validated my emotions. It was not the moment he found worthy but me. I am worthy. It wasn’t because he told me I was it was because he made me feel I was. He gave me back my worth.
-Ann Marie Giannino-Otis
Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer is Ann Marie Giannino-Otis’ fierce and unconventional initiative to promote awareness, early detection, and advocacy, with a special focus on how the disease impacts younger people. On behalf of her organization, Ann Marie has been featured in area publications, appeared on TV, local radio, and HuffPost Live, and hosts a series of monthly events. Since its inception in 2012, Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer has raised and contributed over $750,000 to a variety of breast cancer organizations, including Stand Up to Cancer, Duke Hospital, Wilmot Cancer Center, the Upstate Cancer Center, Cancer Connects, Personal P.Ink and the Maureen’s Hope Foundation.
Ann Marie communicates regularly with a growing network of patients, their loved ones, and supporters via a variety of social media, where she candidly shares her thoughts and experiences, and welcomes others to join the conversation, discover their own strengths, and discuss their journeys.