Survivor Cameron Tagavilla shares her story during Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Stories that Matter presents Cameron Tagavilla, a survivor of sexual assault. Cameron was sexually abused by someone she thought she could trust. Cameron wants other victims of sexual assault to know that: “Just because your reaction to your sexual assault is different from the way others reacted to theirs doesn’t mean that you’re exaggerating or lying about what happened to you. Your feelings are valid, and you are not alone.” 

Please share your story about sexual abuse (please give as much information as you would like)

In late April 2018, during my junior year of high school, I started a sexual relationship with a boy I thought I could trust. It didn’t go on for too long since it only lasted about a week. Throughout the week, when we would have sex, he would not put a condom on, or he would take it off right before anything happened. I repeatedly told him to use one, but he refused to do it. I was very uncomfortable with how he would take pictures of me half-naked without my consent. It wasn’t until closer to the end of the week when the sexual assault happened. When this happened, we were lying on the couch in the game room of my house watching tv. He was lying behind me, and he held me very tightly to make sure I wouldn’t move. I remember saying “no,” but maybe not loud enough for him to hear. After this, he got up and left, and we never really spoke to each other again. A few months later, I realized that what he had done was sexual assault. I started talking about it with my friends because it bothered me and couldn’t keep it to myself. In March of 2019, I got a random text from my rapist saying, “Are you going to explain to me how I raped you?”. I was so confused about how he got my phone number and how he found out. The next day, at school, I found out that one friend I confided in told him that I was talking about it openly. His knowing that I spoke about it forced me to report it to the school because I felt threatened by him, and I wanted to avoid him at all costs since I shared a class with him. Since the sexual assault didn’t happen on school property, it was directed to the sheriff’s office for them to investigate. After being interrogated and having a statement written by a detective, she told me it would be sent to the district attorney so that they could decide if the case was worth pursuing. It’s been two years since I reported it, and absolutely nothing has been done or said.

What are some of mental challenges that follow along with sexual abuse - how do you cope? Some mental challenges have been severe anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Ways of coping that are best for me are spending time with my cat, spending time outside, listening to music, and talking about my emotions.

What tools, tactics, people, have you used to stay uplifted and get through these tough situations? Whenever emotions and memories reemerge, I like to talk to my family, friends, and boyfriend about it. 

What would you tell other people that have experienced sexual abuse - to motivate them to stay uplifted?
It’s okay to feel the way you do. Just because your reaction to your sexual assault is different from the way others reacted to theirs doesn’t mean that you’re exaggerating or lying about what happened to you. Your feelings are valid, and you are not alone.

What does this month mean to you - sexual assault awareness month? This month means a lot to me. Even though it’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, it’s also the month when my sexual assault happened. This time last year, I shared my “Why I Didn’t Report,” and the number of people who reached out to me sharing their stories and support made me more aware of how much the legal system has failed many survivors. 

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