This isn't a cry for help or an attention-seeking article. I want others who are still searching for their courage to know that their time will come, and it's okay to take your time, however long that is, to feel ready to tell your story. If you don't want to share your story, that's your personal decision, but I am here to tell you mine.
If you have been sexually assaulted or harassed in your life and feel as if my story could be triggering, you are more than welcome to skip ahead to read the message I want you to know, but if you do read on ahead and need to talk to someone, I highly recommend a trained professional who can be reached at 800-656-HOPE.
This is my story:
Just over a year ago, a laid-back girls night quickly turned into one of the worst days of my life. I had been celebrating a long day's work with my friends, accompanied by some adult beverages, and swimming at the beach. I know my limits when it comes to alcohol, but whether it was something I had eaten that day or the combination of swimming and drinking, I ended up black-out drunk. Most of the earlier part of the night is hazy, but the later it got, the less and less I remember.
I was raped by my coworker that night, a coworker that I had considered a friend since I had met him. I know, had my close friends realized what was happening, they would have been able to intervene but like anyone else, we trusted him. We trusted each other to watch out for one another in times like that, and instead, he saw that as an opportunity to 'score' with someone who had only ever seen him as a brother.
Later that night, I found myself at my friends' house, sitting in the driveway, sobbing, drunkenly trying to figure out who I could call to take me home. My roommate drove up, confused as to why I was outside alone when it looked like everyone was asleep, and that's when I first told her what had happened. She got me home, helped me to my bed, and checked up on me throughout the night. I ended up getting sick that night, and after I continually got sick throughout the night, she worried she'd have to take me to the hospital.
The next morning, I woke up with the sick flashbacks of what I did remember from the night before. I tried so hard to remember some of the details of the night, repeatedly asking those that were there that night how this or that happened. Working in a small town at a small company has its downsides. Everyone at work the next day knew something bad had happened, but somehow only those that had been at the beach the night before knew exactly what happened. When my friends had realized the events of the night before, they instantly knew that I shouldn't be at work, especially when all I wanted to do was cry.
That night, they carefully explained to the manager in charge that it was best that I leave work early, and they took me to the hospital to have a rape kit done. That night was long and painful, having to follow protocol in explaining the events of the night before over and over even though it's only a few, short moments that I remember. My biggest fear was calling the police because that would mean telling my mom, and I didn't know exactly how I was going to tell her that her little girl had experienced something so sickening, especially when I knew how much pain it would bring her.
I argued with the hospital staff, reminding them that it was my right to decide if and when I would contact police, and they knew they had overstepped, especially when one tried to guilt trip me into doing what SHE thought was best for me. I knew I had time to make up my mind about talking to police because they were legally obligated to keep everything that they had collected for at least three months.
Some people at work sided with my rapist because they were his friends, and to this day, I have no respect for them. Others knew the reality of the situation, and some even confronted my rapist about it. He attempted to talk to me about it, but the events of the night weren't up for discussion because it was plain and simple: I DID NOT WANT IT, and even when I said stop, he didn't stop. That night was easily the worst night of my life, and no amount of time, words, or hugs can fix it.
What you need to take away from this:
When the me too movement began, I was so incredibly shocked by all of the women I knew and didn't know who had been brave enough to proclaim that they, too, had been either sexually assaulted or harassed in their lifetime. I remember repeatedly typing out the words, but never quite feeling brave enough to put it out there, but in a year's time, I have found that bravery and then some.
It took me a long time to feel comfortable with saying the word rape. Somehow, it made me feel even more worthless, and somehow saying 'sexual assault' seemed to lessen the blow in a way. I found that taking control over the word gave me newfound courage in sharing my story.
I found that sharing my story has empowered me. In sharing my experience, I have come across others with similar experiences, and even helped others speak about theirs. I decided to take my experience and use it in a way that would not only help me but others. I helped spearhead a program in my college's Greek Life that was providing Sexual Assault Awareness and Active Bystander Training in efforts to lessen the number of on-campus rapes. I didn't want what happened to me to happen to someone else, and although I wasn't ready to say what happened, I was ready to make an impact.
There is no rush in feeling ready to share your story, but know that if and when you do, there will be people who stand with you. Not all will agree, and some may question your story or ask why or why not about certain decisions you made in following up what happened to you. Regardless, there are countless resources that you are able to take advantage of to assist you in any way that you need.
It took me a year to be ready to talk about it on a scale like this, and I think it was because I slowly began to open up to more of my friends about it and their support only empowered me more. It could take days, weeks, months, years to feel ready, and there is absolutely no hurry in that. It is your story to tell, and you decide how and when it will be told.
You are not alone. You will never be alone in your fight, and I want you to know that no matter what you decide to do after, it is fully your right to decide what will happen. There is nothing wrong in deciding to not press charges, and if you do decide to press charges, then it is justice I hope for you. It is no one's right to tell you how you should react, nor is it any of their business as to why you do what you do.
If you have found your courage to share your story, thank you. It is your stories that have inspired me to share mine. If you have yet to find that courage, I hope that you can find it, but if you don't, there is nothing wrong with that. If you are someone who is reading my story and knows someone who is a survivor, please remind them that they are brave and that you are there for them in any way they need you to be. Support is one of the only ways to make life a little more bearable after an assault.
If you are in need of resources, please check out this website. This website also provides information about what sexual assault is as many have been sexually assaulted and don't even realize it.