Anniversaries are times of celebration, things that people throw parties for and go out to dinner over. Smiles and heart-warmings are shared in remembrance of the vows that were shared or accomplishments that were made. Then there are the anniversaries that aren't happy. The date to remember a passing of a loved one, the date you were violated, or the date that your life was flipped upside down. These days come with heaviness in hearts, apprehension, and grief.
This article comes on the anniversary of my rape. I've forgiven my attacker, which was my choice, but this has been a roller-coaster of a past year regardless of that decision.
At first, I wasn't sure I was raped. I honestly thought it wasn't because I didn't say "no" enough. The event left me in a puddle of sobbing tears and the most revolting feeling in my heart, but I still was fighting myself. It was only rape if it was a back alley or you were passed out drunk, right?
No. That's what our media and rape culture have taught us. It wasn't until I was trying to laugh off the event with close girlfriends that one of them, bless her soul, spoke up and told me what it was. It might sound like she was imposing her thoughts on me to get this guy in trouble, but once we arrived at the ER, I met a CSADV volunteer worker. I had explained what had gone through my head and she made everything so clear.
Our minds try to tell us it was our fault. That our brains as humans are hardwired to self-blame even before anyone else asks, "What were you wearing?" "Why didn't you say no more?" "Why didn't you scream?" and my favorite statement, "That's when you fucked up."
If that wasn't enough, though, a lot of the people around me didn't believe me because of that initial confusion. I was out of classes for almost a month and had to work my ass off to achieve straight A's, but I still pulled it off. The situation I was in left me with one strong rock of a friend who was by my side the entire time, while the others continued to talk to the guy and associate with him, corroding out my heart.
It didn't matter if they believed me. They're opinions of whether it happened or not didn't change that I felt like I was falling endlessly down a tunnel and suffocating all at the same time every time he walked through the cafe. Their opinions didn't stop my mind from playing my frantic thoughts from that night over and over on a loop. Other people's opinions didn't change the fact that I was traumatized and still continue to struggle with it.
I can see him and be completely fine. The forgiveness I granted him was for my survival, my health. With some of the friends I saw every day still associating with him and being in no position to isolate myself from these friends, it was healthier to forgive. I would save "forgive and forget" here, but in all reality, I don't think I ever will be able to forget.
There was a holistic wrongness to the entire situation. That is why I stand by and say it was rape, even though I wasn't drugged, drunk, or beaten into submission. He was drunk and refused to listen when I pushed off his advances and told him no.
It has been a year to the day. I can still remember how my heart raced like a caged hummingbird in my chest. How wrong I felt when he left me after I finally shoved him off. How my hands shook as I dialed my friends to try and talk to them about what had happened. How my heart caved in on itself as I slowly pieced together my new reality. I was a rape victim.
People still argue with me over it, too. People who grew close to him after-the-fact and side with him. But again, their thoughts and opinions really don't change how this has affected me and my life.
Today, I move through life stronger, and I will fight harder than I would have a year ago to abolish rape culture and misconceptions. On this day, my heart feels weak and wavering, but I am strong because I am still here. I live each second of the rest of my life with what happened to me, but I continue to live. I continue to push on despite it all.
My experience has taught me it is not something to joke about, ever. I had always been against the jokes but never this much so. They make my heart sink. I have flashbacks and my breath catches in my throat. When I tell people, the color drains from their faces and they stutter a bit, trying to form an apology as if their apology will absolve the trauma.
I smile at them and tell them that it's okay. I smile because I am still here. I will continue to smile and be here despite it all. This is the anniversary of the worst day of my life. But I will not let it continue to be the worst day of my year for the rest of my life. I am a survivor.