The Challenge's Ammo Pens #MeToo Essay About Sexual Abuse by Ex-Boyfriend: 'I Barely Felt Like a Person At All'
The reality star pens an emotional essay for PEOPLE after being inspired by the #MeToo movement
The Challenge contestant Ammo revealed they were raped by an ex-boyfriend after collapsing from PTSD on a recent episode. Below, the reality star pens an emotional essay for PEOPLE after being inspired by the #MeToo movement.
*Editor’s note: The name of Ammo’s ex has been changed to a pseudonym.
This week I watched those two words spread across my social media like wildfire. Paired with them were posts by friends and family members who for the first time felt empowered to share their stories of sexual assault and abuse.
Originally conceived by activist Tarana Burke, #MeToo is a campaign designed to show the vast amount of women who are the victims of harassment and assault. In the recent iteration of the campaign — ignited by actress and activist Alyssa Milano — the invitation to share was extended to transgender and gender nonconforming people as well.
As I scrolled through my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, I began to notice a disturbing trend.
The stories of assault, rape, and violence from my trans and GNC (gender nonconforming) friends were nearly identical to those shared by friends who are cisgender females.
This forced me to reflect on my own experience with assault, one that many became intimately aware of when it was brought to light on the current season of MTV’s The Challenge, on which I was a cast member.
This month marks one year since my sexual assault. Today, I have decided to tell my story
Tom* and I had met on Facebook. Our early online conversations had been about queer community building, politics and the election. I was equal parts taken with his sensitivity to issues that affected our community as I was by his his dedication to resolving them. In my mind, here was a Social Justice Warrior, a standard bearer. An unlikely abuser, to say the least.
Our first night out, we met at his apartment in Brooklyn. The first half of our night was spent engaged in passionate conversation, the second half wrapped around each other in an equally passionate embrace. Afterward, he made me a chef’s dinner. He then surprised me by taking me out onto his porch, where he had hung hundreds of Christmas lights and invited me to slow dance with him under the stars.
A week later, I told my friends I was seeing someone.
Two weeks later, I met his parents.
And then, after only a month, we were suddenly practically living together.
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After 30 days of perfect sex, with the perfect gentleman, in what felt like the perfect relationship, I started to let my walls down. When we would go out to the bar, I would wear clothing I felt comfortable in, forgoing my masculine “costume” for clothing that was more flirtatious, fitted — “feminine.”
Around this time, I had just barely started coming to terms with my gender identity. Realizing that I no longer wanted to hide behind a visage of faux-masculinity, I began letting my boyfriend (and everyone else in my life) see me as me. When I wore the clothing that felt natural to me, I felt confident and beautiful. I was excited to share this with my partner as I felt that in a healthy relationship, you support each other in becoming your best selves.
I had no idea that he saw things so differently.
As if out of nowhere, the power dynamic in our relationship began to change. When we first started seeing one another, the sex was focused on connection and communication. Once I started presenting and acting more effeminately, the bedroom became a breeding ground for domination and humiliation. I felt myself becoming a piece of flesh beneath my partner for him to act out his sexual fantasies and frustrations on. The more he dominated me, the less of an actual “person” I became. It reached a point where during sex I barely felt like a person at all.
When we would go out, my partner began to make an example of other men who were expressing or presenting themselves more effeminately by insulting them or critiquing them in front of me. The way he spoke about women and femininity also changed, and I was shocked to hear sexist and misogynistic rhetoric from him that previously I had only heard when around seemingly ignorant straight men.
I was shocked, hurt, and confused. I asked myself: what had changed?
Then one day, as Tom and I were walking down the street together, I noticed him continually adjusting his pace so that he fell two to three feet behind me. When I asked him about the distance, he looked me up and down, and without blinking said:
“I like thinking of you as my whore. You’re my whore, and I’m your pimp. A pimp doesn’t walk next to his whore, he walks behind her.”
He actually saw me as his property.
It was only two weeks later that we were lying in bed next to each other when Tom tried to initiate sex. I told him that I was tired and that I was not in the mood, but he persisted. I told him to stop, but he climbed on top of me and forced my head into the mattress. I cried out in pain and begged him to leave me be.
He responded: “Today I’m going to teach you how to take it like a man.”
In the aftermath of our relationship I found myself sitting in the office of a social worker at Planned Parenthood. During a checkup with my doctor, I sheepishly confessed to her that oftentimes after “rough sex” with my now ex-partner, I had found blood in my stool. I confessed my embarrassment, stating that his brash behavior toward the end of our relationship had left me in a bit of a tailspin. She asked me if I had been in an abusive relationship. I replied honestly:
“I don’t know.”
As I sat with the social worker, she began to question me about the details of my relationship with Tom.
“Did you ever feel like your partner was isolating you from people you care about?”
“Were there ever times you felt unsafe around your partner?”
“Did your partner ever force you to do anything you didn’t want to do?”
This time, I stopped. I felt blood rush into my cheeks and the sting of hot tears start to pool in the corners of my eyes.
“Yes,” I whispered, “but you have to understand: It wasn’t his fault. You know how men are. He just had a higher sex drive than me. Men can’t control themselves when they get like that. You can’t be forced to have sex with someone who loves you.”
The social worker paused. She looked me in the eye and asked me:
“Ammo, did you give Tom consent to have sex with you that day?”
For the first time that day, I answered: “no.”
It was then that I realized: regardless of whether he loved me or not, my boyfriend had raped me.
In the year since my assault, I have often wondered if being “female” or “feminine” is synonymous with being a recipient of abuse. As I have come to terms with my own gender identity, I have become more painfully aware of the ways in which it inspires sexual violence in the men around me.
Research shows 1 in 2 cis gender women report being the victims of sexual violence in their lifetime and that 50 percent of transgender people report experiencing some form of sexual violence in their life as well.
Regardless of the orientation of the perpetrator, it is clearly femininity that is under attack.
Historically, men have always been portrayed as protectors. Men, who in our cave dwelling days were there to fight off the monsters in the night. Men who go to war to protect us from foreign invaders. Men who tell us where to go, what to do and how to live in order to be “safe.”
But what happens when the men who are trying to protect us are simultaneously the ones putting our safety the most at risk?
For as long as our culture perpetuates the idea that the feminine is “lesser” or “weak,” the abuse will continue. Rapes and sexual violence will continue to escalate. The toxic masculinity and sexism that is still so present in both heterosexual and homosexual male culture will continue to destroy the safe spaces that women and those who have embraced the feminine work so hard to build.
If we want to end assault and harassment, it starts with movements like #MeToo. Movements that show the gravity of these issues and the vast amount of people whom they affect. There is great power in numbers, just as there is great power in femininity. As we continue to create visibility, it is both our responsibility and our right to stand together, and with one voice proclaim: