Christina Lopez

It happened suddenly -- almost in a single instant.

The touch was surreal.

Inappropriate and life changing.

I watched this individual, who I worked closely with for over a year, approach me in a busy newsroom.

With a single movement, this individual decided to exude all of their power against me and take advantage of me.

In a single moment, I was sexually assaulted: touched, squeezed, and instantly made to feel inferior.

My career was on the rise prior to the assault. I was fulfilled with my news position and energized by the stories I was working on. I was setting goals and meeting deadlines. It seemed nobody or nothing could stop me -- except for an unassuming sexual predator I had no knowledge existed just inches from my desk.

I fell into a depression. My psychiatrist diagnosed me with acute PTSD in the weeks and months following the assault. I experienced insomnia, night sweats, and developed insecurities. I tried my best to put on a “happy face,” but internally I was crying and there was no one who could hear me.

Breaking news continued; the sound of my 2:30 a.m. alarm clock would go off, and I would be forced to start another day of deceit -- persuading those around me that I was 100 percent fine. When in reality, the sexual predator whom I worked closely with and had come to know as a mentor was actually wearing a mask -- to those in and out of the newsroom this individual was respected; their work recognized and awarded several times over.

In between reporting, writing, and producing, I would be forced to take alternate routes to the ladies room in fear I would run into this individual and be forced to relive the painful details of the assault. I dodged this individual in the newsroom at every opportunity. Imagine calculating your walk to the restroom each day. This kind of mental anguish was exhausting and only added to my depression.

Although at times, I felt marginalized knowing that reporting the assault could potentially result in “career suicide”, I had to fight for what I believed was right. The battle between right versus wrong played out until I resigned several months later.

I had asked other women in the newsroom if this individual had touched them inappropriately at any time. Their answers were all the same. No.

How could I be the only one targeted? Was it something I said? Could it have been something I did to attract this type of lewd and disrespectful behavior in such a professional setting? With each question that crossed my mind, the answers, again, were all the same. No.

I had done nothing wrong.

On this anniversary of my sexual assault, I have come to realize my story is not atypical -- especially in newsrooms across the country.

With stunning sexual assault and harassment allegations against high-profile individuals like Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly, all the way to the Oval Office against our Commander-in-Chief, this type of behavior is not only trending but it is becoming the new norm.

When Oscar Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o recently published an op-ed in The New York Times sharing in great detail her sexual harassment experience with Weinstein, she ended her essay with this profound thought, “I speak up to contribute to the end of the conspiracy of silence.”

The sound of our silence as victims of sexual assault cannot endure any longer.

Men and women who are victims must unite and hold accountable individuals who seek to belittle, degrade, and disrespect the rights of those affected regardless of race, gender, socio-economic standing, or stature in life.

If not for yourself, then for the next victim. It will continue to happen until our voices are louder than the silence that has become the new standard.

A disgusting and despicable pattern has developed overtime in our places of work and school.

Where do we draw the line?

When does the behavior stop?

When does “zero tolerance against sexual assault and harassment” mean zero tolerance?

Christina Lopez is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and educator. Her work has been featured on NBC News, ABC News, and the San Francisco Chronicle. She currently teaches mass communications at Bakersfield College.