What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by Emily.

I was the second born of three and grew up in Southern California. I have been blessed with blonde hair, blue eyes, a thin frame, and my breasts fill a D cup. I now love my body but I used to hate it. I remember sitting on the top bunk that my little brother and I shared and feeling little bumps underneath my nipples, I was terrified that I had breast cancer, but I later figured out that those squishy bumps were boobs. I was nine years old when I started my period. By sixth grade I had a B cup and I hated my body. I wore thick, heavy sweatshirts in 90* weather because I didn’t want anyone to notice my figure. My sweatshirts betrayed me though, coming home from sixth grade camp I remember sitting on the bus and looking back towards giggling boys as they air mimicked squeezing boobs right to me. I was caught. As I am writing this I can still remember the blood rushing from my body, feeling so embarrassed and violated and dirty. All feelings I knew too well because I was continually molested by a neighborhood kid over the course of a few years. Thankfully I have gone through many years of therapy with an extraordinary therapist who worked with me to overcome the abuse I went through. But before that, I rebelled. Oh boy did I ever become a rebel.

In eighth grade instant messaging was incredibly popular, and digital cameras were just beginning to become the photography norm. Instant messaging + digital cameras + hormonal pre-teens= naked pictures. I was bombarded with requests (non-stop begging and threats) to take these special pictures and send them to a couple boys, and because I wanted to be liked, because I had a history of abuse, because I was used to being used, because I was also hormonal and thought this was the way to interact and get boyfriends, I took many, many of these pictures. I am horrified to think of how many pictures of me are out there in cyberspace. I think of all the celebrities who are constantly getting their private pictures leaked, and think “Guess I can never be famous! Or if I do get famous, I need to make this a platform for educating teens!” You guys, there is no reason why I would be famous so don’t worry.

I took naked pictures. I freak danced with a lot of guys. I drank. I smoked weed. I hooked up with guys. A lot of guys. I consensually lost my virginity at 15. I gave oral sex in cars. At 15, I had sex in a port-o-potty at Coachella. Let’s all collectively gasp/shudder/go find a loved one to hug and tell them you love them. I was a Miley Cyrus. I was Mrs. Hall’s WORST nightmare. If I was hanging out with a son of Mrs. Hall, I am pretty positive she would delete me from his life with no hesitation. Even though most of these guys went to my youth group, and we all went to a very prominent mega-church in the area, I would be the one called a slut. But guess what, I was still worthy of love, kindness, grace, friends, a healthy committed relationship, people who would have a conversation with me without telling me to put a sweater on because my boobs were making my brothers in Christ stumble.

My case seems extreme (yes, it is pretty crazy), but one in three girls in America have been sexually abused. I’m not saying that all abuse leads to this type of behavior, but it does lead to unhealthy habits in one way or another. Many of these choices were mine. Yes, I did physically take pictures of my boobs and send them to boys. Yes, I did consent to the sex I had as a teen. But I did so because that is how I was showed affection when I was little. Because the world is continually begging me to be sexy but then turning around and calling me a slut or skank because of my sexy behavior. Because the Church was always accusing me of causing boys to stumble or being an immodest girl for wearing a one piece bathing suit and showing my arms, legs, and neck at the beach when the boys weren’t wearing shirts (plenty of crushes and fantasies started because of this… yeah girls notice that kind of thing too). Girls have it hard. In this culture we shove so many different expectations down their throats and ridicule them when they act in a way that is not what you prescribed. We need to be having an open dialogue with girls AND boys about healthy consensual relationships. We need to be talking to girls AND boys about what happens when you ask for a picture, send a picture, or receive one from a third party. We need to be teaching boys that girls are not responsible for their raging hormones. We need to be teaching girls that their raging hormones are not abnormal.

Last year I got married to a guy who was a virgin. I was worried when we started dating that he would never think I was worthy of being his wife because of my very sexual past. When I told him of this he seemed dumbfounded. He embraced me and told me that my past is what made me who I am, and that his admiration for me was immense. I’m so thankful that he was raised to know the worth of a human being based on the fact that they are human. He was raised to love without judgement or hate, and for that I am thankful. I want to be friends with the girls who Mrs. Hall shamed. I want to hang out with Miley Cyrus. I want to sit with them at a coffee shop and exchange life stories, and laugh with them, and tell them that they are beautiful.

I am currently getting my Masters in Social Work with the hope of working with incarcerated women with mental illnesses. I go to a wonderful tiny church where the congregation calls me sister even when I wear a tank top.