Wednesday, August 31, 2016.

My sophomore year of college had just begun, and it was now exactly two weeks after classes had started. It began as a normal day, and I was in my last class for the day: entrepreneurship. I was sitting in the middle of the room, boxed in by the gray concrete walls, paying no attention to the professor and doodling in a small journal. Occasionally, I’d hear fellow classmates respond to things, in particular, this guy behind me with, what I thought at the time, was an attractive voice. I was too afraid to turn around and even catch a glimpse of this mysterious voice, as I hadn’t noticed it before in the previous two classes.

It had been just over two weeks since the guy I had been dating off and on at the time had left to a new college, about an hour away. I had been very depressed, as we had decided to break everything off again when he left (but it didn’t stop some of the feelings). Part of me didn’t want to see the attractive voice behind me because I was still hurting from (hmmm let’s call the guy I’d broken it off with…) Nic having left. But at the end of class, I turned around, and asked the voice behind me a question, that I actually needed to know because I hadn’t been paying attention.

Immediately, I saw the desire in this guy’s eyes when I turned around. It made my stomach stir, as some guy was actually giving me attention and showing interest, something Nic hadn’t done in a while, even before he had left. Then the mystery voice and I started chatting, and we realized that we shared a lot of mutual friends and that we enjoyed similar things. He’d seen me drawing and was asking about that, and he was asking about so much more. I was actually enjoying my time chatting with him when we both realized we should be leaving the class, as it had already ended quite a bit before.

He decided then to walk me to my car, even though (if I remember right) he had another class to get to. As we walked he started complimenting me, this guy I’d only known for maybe ten minutes or so. He mentioned how he loved my style, and that he loved the tattoo on my shoulder when I took my jacket off in the middle of class. He told me how cute I was and how cute my outfit was and how cute my smile was. And he told me how beautiful my green eyes were.

Almost to my car, he invited me to go to the driving range and rolling up the next day, and I was very excited because I’d been wanting to go for a while now, but Nic wouldn’t take me. And I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity. So I said yes, gave him my number, and he continued to linger around my car, asking where I worked and when I got off and if I wanted to hang out tonight. Because I felt so flattered by a guy giving me so much attention in such a short time, when I was already feeling depressed and insecure, I immediately said okay. The compliments only increased before he (we’ll call him Michael), finally walked away, and I got in my car feeling happier than I had in days.

Little did I know, not even twenty-four eyes later, I’d be feeling utterly frightened and ashamed.

He had been texting me throughout the rest of the day and evening while I was at work. Near closing time, he announced to me that he was going to come to work and we could hang out when I got off. I was fine with that, as other friend’s of mine and I had done that before. It wasn’t until maybe ten minutes before the closing time that he came, and we closed at 10 PM that night. Unsure of where to go or what to do afterward, he invited me to go to a park with him, maybe ten minutes away, and we could just walk and talk. I agreed and he told me he’d meet me there and grab a tall-boy for us to split.

I met him at the park about 15 minutes later. We got out, and we pulled out a skateboard and started trying to teach me to skate in the parking lot. I didn’t do so well, but it was fun, and we did that for about 15 to 20 minutes. Then when I’d had enough, we started walking, him occasionally handing me the beer, and I’d take a sip. It was obvious though that he was drinking the majority of it, and I was fine with that because I didn’t want to drink tonight anyway. And I assumed he could hold his alcohol. But later I come to find out, he couldn’t.

At first, everything was fine while we were talking and walking around. We got into deep questions and reflections on life and our philosophies, and we talked about favorite memories and fun experiences. We found a bench and sat down, and he began really gulping down the beer as we talked. At this point, I stopped taking sips altogether, not feeling even a buzz at this point, and just letting him finish it all.

By this point, he hadn’t touched me.

-

We decided to start heading back, as it was getting late, and I had to be up shortly after 6 AM for an 8 AM class the next morning. While heading back, he stopped me in this well-lit area by a little pond and stairs. I didn’t realize at the time that he was stalling me, and so I stopped and we sat down on the edge of the path on a stone wall. He turned on some music, playing mostly Drake songs, and we started talking about deeper things again. He was to my left, seeing me completely in the lights overhead, and he was cast somewhat in a shadow since the lights were behind him. He could see my features in full and began calling me beautiful. He wouldn’t stop complimenting me, and my eyes. I started to notice him looking me up and down hungrily, and it made me uncomfortable. I told him I needed to leave, but he placed a hand on my thigh, telling me to stay a little longer and that, gosh, I was so beautiful.

I noticed he was definitely under the influence, which didn’t make me feel any better as he scooted closer. We talked a few minutes longer, and this time I stood up and said that I had to go. I turned around to face him as I said this, just in time to see him finish off the beer, stand up, grab my face, and forcefully kiss me. I remember pushing back and saying I really have to go, but he grabbed my face, repeated how beautiful my eyes were, and kissed me harder and immediately I felt myself freak out inside. I began saying no, but the next thing I knew, he had pushed me down on the park grass, and my pants were coming off.

I felt myself gnarl and twist, and I started saying no and stop and I really have to go and no and no please and my body was shaking and I realized what was about to happen and I realized I couldn’t stop it.

Then I remember screaming.

I was screaming repeatedly for who knows how long. In the middle of this park, in bright lights, and in the middle of the night. My insides were twisting and aching and I wanted to die. I wanted to die, I wanted to die, I wanted to die. He flipped me over and over countless times, he pulled me to my knees, at another point, all while I was sobbing and screaming and shouting nononono. At some point though, I became defenseless. I became limp and stopped trying. I had tears in my eyes, I was still shouting from the pain, but my body stopped resisting, which only made me want to die even more. That my body had given up.

After who knows how long, he finally pulled me up, kissing me forcefully and sloppily, between complimenting me. I told him that by now I really, really had to go, and he somehow agreed, pulled his pants back up while I shakily pulled up mine. And he grabbed his things, looked me up and down again like he wanted more, and then walked me back to the car as I walked slowly, my mind in a haze, unsure of what had just happened had really happened. At the car, he chatted with me a few minutes longer, grabbed my ass, and told me he’d see me tomorrow and that I was one of the most beautiful girls I’d ever seen. I nodded slightly and said thanks, got in my car, drove off, and began shaking, my mind racing and numb.

I had a vape in my car at the time, and smoked it the entire way home, feeling even more nauseous and hazy than I had before. I got home, got ready for bed, too numb and tired to think everything over, then crawled into my bed and stared at the ceiling for what felt like an eternity, not knowing what to think until sleep took me.

The next day, he waited for me to finish my second class, pulling me aside to an area behind the building where no passer-bys came. He handed me a book he wanted to have that he talked about the night before, telling me he wanted to write something on the cover but couldn’t think of anything to say that would be perfect enough for me. But he wouldn’t give me the book until he told me to kiss him. And then after that, his hungry looks returned and we went to Starbucks for a bit. I was incredibly uncomfortable, as I still hadn’t processed what he happened to me the night before, and he was, at a coffee shop, showering me with compliments all over again. I know I keep repeating how he told me my eyes were so beautiful, but it made me so uncomfortable because he kept saying it over and over and over.

We made plans to go to the mall after Starbucks, and he would skip his class to do so. I won’t forgot how, when we were at the mall, he was going to try on a suit, and he whispered in my ear that I should come in with him, not even disguising his voice what he wanted to do to me in there. I refused, and we left the mall not long after. He kissed me goodbye and I felt my body cringe.

That night at work, I had to leave early because I suddenly got an ache in my lower body, feeling like knives, and the pain was so severe I was crying in the back on a stool, hardly able to move, for more than thirty minutes until I felt I could get up and drive myself home. After getting home, that’s when I began to realize that I had been raped. The next day I spent over $1,000 in one day, and then three days after my rape had occurred, I told Nic, and I’ll never forget his response that night, and how much he cared about me when I told him. I blocked Michael’s number and all social media, and I dropped out of the entrepreneurship class. I waited weeks later to tell others, and months later to tell my parents. I fell into a deeper depression, and I felt so repulsed and ashamed at myself, feeling like it was my fault (and to be quite honest, I still do; I think that’s a hard thought for a rape victim to get over). I was too scared to report it to the police, and I had to go through so many examinations and tests afterward that a just a 19-year-old girl should never have to go through. I had to lie to people who cared about me, and I had to realize my life was forever changed. And I had to realize that maybe I didn’t make the best decision to not put him behind bars.

This rape still affects me every day. Not to mention that I had a second rape experience months later in February 2017, but that person had gotten so drunk that I don’t remember much of it, just that he forced me into intercourse I didn’t want, and that I just laid there like a doll as he did what he wanted to me. After that I immediately blocked him on everything the next day, and considered reporting this case to the university I was now at. But my fear got the better of me, and I did not report him.

I realize that I have been through traumatic experiences and that these experiences do not go away. I realize that these rapes have changed me indefinitely and that I will never get back who I was before it happened. I realized that I have a lot of healing and change ahead of me because of my rapes. I realize that I can only do my best in order to overcome the experiences and consequences of each (mostly the park rape, because I was sober and knew all that was happening).

Rape takes patience. Rape does not heal overnight. Rape is a long-lasting thing with many repercussions. Rape has made my heart race when it shouldn’t, has made me break down when I shouldn’t, has made me question my own worth and my own life. Rape has made me miss out on times of my life that I wouldn’t miss out on otherwise. Rape has made me realize how cruel and unfair the world really is, particularly my world. Rape has made it very hard for my mind to focus and feel okay. Rape takes patience to overcome, to be open about, to accept, and to simply work on.

Be patient and understanding with people who have experienced a rape. Recovering from rape is a long and gradual process, and it begins with the victim opening up about his or her experience like I have just done, to help him/herself heal. Healing cannot be done alone, healing takes the love and care and support of others to stay and become stronger that what has happened to him or her. I am not healed fully, anywhere close, but as I have become more open about my experience and have learned from the love and care and support of people around me, whether they are close friends or family or newly-made friends or strangers, I have realized that my rape can make me stronger. I realize that my rape does not have to define me or break me down and that it has not damaged me. I want to thank those that have listened to me and been there for me when the rape slips back into my head, and I lose my sense of self in that moment. Time and love and care and support will help heal me. But I cannot heal on my own, and neither can other rapes victims.

The sooner we all acknowledge our experiences or the experiences of others, the more all people, whether victims or not, can help make a difference and decrease the likelihood and consequences of rape. The important thing for a rape victim to know is that you are not alone, and do not make yourself alone. You must heal, and you need others to help you heal.