Amandla Stenberg, the star of the Hate U Give opened up to Teen Vogue about being sexually assaulted twice in response to Dr.Christine Ford’s powerful testimony against Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh.
Stenberg said she too was silenced and damaged by two sexual assaults that she was reluctant to call rape even though she didn’t consent. The traumatic teenage experiences left her broken, she said, and sitting in a “soup of guilt and shame that often follows an unwanted sexual experience.
After experiencing her second assault, she recalls: “I woke up to a text message that said I should ‘probably find a plan B,’” she said as she outlined her journey into getting the pill designed to prevent a pregnancy.
“This proved to be much more challenging than I anticipated, and ultimately required a trek to a women’s clinic on the outskirts of town. The train bench felt like a murky pool under my thighs. 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.
“I blamed myself. This was my fault for not having been smarter,” she said.
Stenberg said she knew the man who violated well.
“My assaulter was someone who was respected by my peers and had invited us into his space. It seemed to me that often the trade-off of being invited into spaces by these sorts of cis straight men and getting their approval was the acceptance that what I had to contribute was the value of my body as a woman. Implicit within that was the notion that, because my body served such a transactional purpose, it was no longer just my property. That was a form of social currency I was familiar with and, honestly, at times accepted.”
“So, sitting on the train bench by myself, I reasoned, for the sake of my assaulter, that this result was to be expected. Right?”
What made matters worst for the star is that it was the second time she was victimized and the guilt ran deep.
“It was not the first time I had been assaulted. The first time it happened, I was sexually inexperienced, at that juncture between girl and woman, where I was beginning to understand power through sex and craved the approval from cisgender straight men I was being taught to seek. 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. So I did not consider what I had experienced an assault. I figured it was just an inherent part of sexual exploration as a teenage girl; the conundrum of compliance. And even in the throes of my discomfort, I prioritized the male ego. In both instances, I excused the behavior because I had been taught to, and it was easier than facing the full weight of my pain. Afterward, I clung to the tool of my breath that had been given to me by my mama, but I didn’t call her to tell her what had happened.”
Read Stenberg’s entire Teen Vogue here.