Following Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court this week, actress and activist Amandla Stenberg detailed her experience with sexual assault and the trauma that followed in an op-ed for Teen Vogue.
The Hate U Give star shines onscreen in the movie that outlines a young black girl’s struggle to find her place in the world following the death of her best friend at the hands of the police. Stenberg’s op-ed for Teen Vogue continues this theme of struggle as she details her personal experiences with sexual assault and society’s overall views on survivors who share their stories.
“I ended up in a foreign country on a three-hour train ride to find an emergency contraceptive,” the 19-year-old writes in Teen Vogue. “The night before, what started as a consensual experience had turned forceful…embarrassment coursed through my blood and I downplayed what had happened to my friends. Being candid about how I felt seemed disruptive or weak, and I didn’t want to burden them with the responsibility of helping me process something that I felt was my fault.”
By explaining the scrutiny that survivors face from society, Stenberg also draws parallels between herself and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who testified against Kavanaugh before his confirmation.
“The moment you speak out about assault, you’ve entered a battle where you’ve been appointed defender of your own legitimacy,” Stenberg writes. “You are given the responsibility of, after having just been subjected to devastating trauma, navigating impossible protocols, lest you be charged as the culprit in your own attack. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”
Stenberg goes on to reassure other survivors that “it is not your responsibility to figure this out by yourself, it is not your responsibility to sacrifice your comfort to gratify others, assault can look like many different things. You are not dirty. You are not stupid. You are not weak for needing help. You are not defined by this.”
Read her full essay here.