It has taken me a long time to be brave enough to share this story and the only thing driving me to publically display my experience with this severely invasive and painfully horrendous act is the fact that I may help someone by doing so. I fear that those close to me will see me differently because of what I’ve been through but I pray that will not be the case. I ask that while reading and/or sharing your opinions that you carefully consider the tenderness of the topic and the effect your words may have on others. I hope that by writing this I may be able to give hope to those victims that are feeling hopeless and lost like I was. I wish to restore confidence to all of those who feel like they have been stripped of their power, that their identity and self-worth have been stolen, ruthlessly sold to the devil in the form of this sexually deviant, violent act. You are not at fault, you are not worthless and you will heal.
On the night of October 11, 2015, my life was turned upside down. That night, after attending my first college frat party, I was raped. Under the cover of darkness, hidden by a thin patch of woods, my body was violated and my soul was shattered. There is no way to accurately describe what you feel before, during and after rape. All I know is that no one should ever have to experience, or even imagine, what it’s like, and I am continually appalled by the growing number of people that have. I share this story now, difficult as it is for me to type each word because it is such a prevalent issue and yes, it is hard to talk about but that’s why we need to talk about it. There is a silver lining to my experience. Thin as it is, glimmering beneath the absolute destruction that was my life, I have found purpose again. Here is how I rediscovered myself, the lessons I learned that got me here and why you should never give up on yourself.
There’s only one person at fault.
And it is NOT you. I didn’t want to accept this and when I say I heard it a million times, I mean that these words were the first out of the mouths of every single person that I shared my story with. “It’s not your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong.” As much as I heard it, however, this was the hardest thing for me to accept. What if I hadn’t gotten so drunk? What if I hadn’t taken that drink from a boy I didn’t know? What if I hadn’t followed him when he wanted “to go somewhere more private?” What if I had stayed with my friends? What if I had screamed or fought or ran? I could have stopped him. I could have prevented this. I nearly drove myself crazy with self-blame and when the blame turned to self-hatred, I descended into a dark hole from which I couldn’t drag myself out. But I took a step back and thought about it - if I was going to put this much responsibility on myself, then I had to put equally as much responsibility on my rapist. He knew I was inebriated, he could see me stumbling, he knew I was vulnerable and he took advantage. Once I realized this, I was angry. But I was angry at him. I was furious at his deviance, his cunning predation and this boiling fury I had was my first step in healing. I was a victim and I was not at fault.
He can’t hurt you anymore.
Obviously, I knew in my mind that he wasn’t going to come for me in the night. He didn’t know who I was or where I lived. He probably didn’t even remember what I looked like. It is hard to separate this reality from impossible imagination when all you see when you close your eyes is him. His face, though a beer-blurred image, was burned into my mind and I could so clearly see his hands as they wandered my unwilling body. I could smell and feel his hot breath as he huffed and grunted into my neck. Then I was awake, drenched in sweat and shaking as I sobbed into the pillow I desperately clung to trying to bring myself out of this nightmare. It is hard to escape a nightmare when it becomes your reality but living in fear is also no way to live. He could only hurt me now if I kept letting him have the power, so I took it back. I told myself every time I felt my feelings of fear returning that I was not scared of him anymore. He was just like the monster under my bed and I kicked that guy’s ass out years ago.
You are not dirty.
After such an intimate violation, I felt like I could not get clean, no matter how many times I showered. Despite spending hours under water so hot it burned my skin and despite scrubbing my skin down to the last layer, I couldn’t wash him off me. I felt like I was covered in a permanent, putrid film of filth, that I would never be clean again. I felt like damaged goods and I convinced myself that no one would ever want me again because of it. After all, no one wants to buy a new laptop if the hardware has been destroyed. It took almost nine months for me to be able to even look at a boy again, never mind being intimate with one. However, it took my accepting of the fact that yes, I was damaged, but my repairs made me invaluable. I became a new and improved version of myself. I am not dirty, and if a man is worth my time, he’ll accept me, damage and all. He will accept the damage but also appreciate the repairs and admire the strength of my improved hardware. I am limited edition and this damage helped me become so.
You are F-ing awesome.
I have journeyed to the deepest, darkest pits of Hell. I have looked demons right in the face, and I made it out alive. I have overcome the most difficult experience I have ever been confronted with, and I became a better person because of it. I am in a place now that I never thought I would be because when I was able to emerge victoriously, after a year-long (and still continuing) exhausting battle, the victory gave me so much more than what the war took away. I emerged more confident, I learned who I was and the magnitude of what I could accomplish. I became a more accepting human being because I gained a better understanding of people's behaviors based on the principle of individual, silent struggle. I knew what it was like to be going through something difficult and to keep that struggle a secret. People could see the change in me after I was attacked. I was darker, sadder and not myself but no one knew why. I can relate to others and it gives me a unique ability to view the world from other’s points of view. When I was able to turn my suffering into strength I became driven, academically and in daily life, to perform to my full potential. I began accomplishing things I never thought I was capable of and slowly but surely I found purpose and life is once again fulfilling. I became confident in myself and I felt powerful in the control I had over my life. I was healing and I never thought I would. You will surprise yourself in how far you can come if you keep fighting. You can overcome, you can accomplish and you can prosper. This is not the end for you.
The year after my rape was the hardest year of my life. After transferring schools and having the opportunity to start over and to heal, I have become someone that I can be proud of. The future was bleak to me a year ago, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to make it through twenty-four hours nevertheless the rest of my life. But since making long strides in the journey to find my purpose I am hopeful for the future and look forward to experiencing the rest of my life to the fullest, despite this dark splotch that will always exist on my windshield of character. I hope that by sharing my story and the lessons that I’ve learned in the past year I can help someone who is struggling.
You are not worthless, you are not at fault and you have hope. This violence does not define you, He does not define you and you will overcome this. Be brave, be strong and keep fighting.