I wonder if there’s a phenomenon that occurs when a sexual assault survivor shares her story–that it triggers stored trauma in others. Since listening to Dr. Ford’s testimony, I find myself cycling through grief, anger, depression, disgust, resignation, and deep sadness. Is it that I’ve kept secret since a child that a janitor in my grandmother’s condo building exposed himself to my sister and me when we were in grade school? Or is it that the first time I saw a boy’s penis at age 15, he forced my head down onto it, told me to open my mouth and nearly choked me with it until he was finished? Or was it the guys who called me Timmy Tease and Play because being nice and not delivering the sexual goods denied them of their right to my body? Or is it that I lost my virginity to a guy who forced himself on me? Or perhaps it was my boss who lunged at me with his tongue in a walk-in freezer at his restaurant? Or maybe it was my married-with-children colleague who walked me out on my final day of work only to grab my hand and put it on his cock because he thought I’d like to feel how big he was. All the while, I somehow felt that their penis was my responsibility, their blue balls my fault. Their pleasure was my duty. I started the job by just being present. I needed to finish it.

I didn’t realize until much later that sexuality was for me, too. That my pleasure mattered as much if not more than my male partner’s. Sexuality wasn’t just penises coming at me from all angles, targeting orifices. I had to pretend I thought they were sexy when I mostly thought of them as tools of aggression, weapons even.

I learned early that if I just stayed pretty and silent, the world would oblige. And if I did speak, I should be nice and accommodating, definitely never aggressive or angry. Those would be turn-offs. I should let men interrupt, take up more space, tell me what to do, and take a piece of me if they so desired.

What I’m waking up to is that it’s not all their fault. I’ve been participating in their patriarchy. Sure, I’ve known that sexism exists—things like few women in upper level management, Congress, and women earning consistently less than men. But what I’ve been blind to is how sexism permeates everything and the extent to which I’ve been a willing participant in my own oppression.

Every time a man launches into mansplaining and I don’t call him on it, I’m participating. Every time a man interrupts me and I let him, I’m participating. Each time I let a man take up more space in the room, on the train or the plane, I’m participating. Every time a man condescends and I go along with it, I’m participating. Each time I let a man pleasure himself with my body when I don’t want him to, I’m participating.

I don’t care anymore. I don’t care if being powerful and speaking my truth is a turn-off. Turning men on that I didn’t want as lovers or partners was never what I wanted anyway. It was what I was told to want. And then when it happened and I didn’t deliver, I was shamed. I was shamed for owning my body. Shamed for speaking up.

It’s time to take back our bodies, our voices, our space, our lives. And stop participating in a system that neglects, abuses, assaults, undervalues, marginalizes, uses and demeans us. If we stop, their patriarchy will crumble. And while they will throw entitled temper tantrums–like Brett Kavanaugh did during the Senate Judicial Committee hearing–as their while male privilege slips away, it will be better for our society. Women will rise up and do what we do best—create a world with liberty and justice for all.