Trigger Warning: The passage you are about to read contains disturbing content and may trigger an anxiety response, especially in those who have a history of trauma.
I was raped in college.
I never reported it to anyone. I didn't want to be that girl. I didn't want to be on the news and I didn't want to be judged. After all, I had gone to his dorm. I had gone into his room. I had chosen to be on his bed. In my defense, I thought we were just there to watch cartoons.
How could I ever explain this to anyone?
I don't think I have ever met a woman who hasn't been sexually abused or been the victim of rape culture. We don't talk about it enough.
I'm done not talking about it.
You see, I grew up tall and awkward. It was hell.
So, I worked on my sense of humor. That's what most "ugly" girls do. It became my weapon. The more I would get teased, the funnier I got. The more my feelings were hurt, the more sarcastic I became. It gave me confidence and it allowed me to deflect. I might not have been pretty but I sure as hell had personality.
That's what matters, right?
Except, I felt I was playing a constant game of confidence. I would build it up, like Jenga blocks, piling wildly as I worked on getting to know myself. Then, one single person would make any comment and I would crumble like a house of cards.
So, like any other girl my age, I sought validation. I was immature in mind but my body was not. That meant that at 13, my boobs were huge. I would hike those suckers up with a push up bra and parade around like they made a difference.
I got attention.
That was the foundation of my teenage life. The "sexier" I became, the more confident I was. The sad thing was, I thought I was alone. I thought no other person could possibly understand what it was like to feel this ugly and that desperate for attention.
So, when I went to college, I did what any smart girl would do. I researched. I read book after book on sexuality, psychology and beauty. I spent countless hours, watching documentaries, learning about makeup and reading about attraction.
I became a master.
People were shocked by my transformation but I wasn't. I had waited years to break from my ugly cocoon and every part of it was thickly calculated. I was tired of feeling lonely, so I surrounded myself with company. I was finally in control. Somehow though, I still felt like I was playing Jenga. My confidence was a facade. All it took was for someone to make a single reference to before and my inner self would whimper and fall back in pain. I was still that funny girl, though. Full of personality and wit. Except, now my fake self lead with one foot forward.
When did this stop being fun?
I had created this socially acceptable persona but I was still suffocating. Boys wanted me. Though, none of them stayed. So I turned up the volume. They were like moths drawn to a flame. The closer they got, the faster they burned and the quicker things fizzled.
Why wasn't it working?
My rapist was one of the moths. When I met him, he seemed just like any other nice guy. He said all he wanted to do was watch cartoons at his dorm. I should have smelled the thirst a mile away. Instead, I stupidly went along believing that he might actually want something more. He did want more, more of my body. He wanted it so much that "No," wasn't an answer.
I blamed myself. I even went as far as trying to justify it. I had created this strong and sexual persona so I could be the center of attention but it was quickly dismantled by one selfish man. When all was said and done, though, I grabbed my things and went back to my dorm and didn't talk about it. I was embarrassed. I felt so stupid. It was like I was little red and I had fallen for the tricks of the big bad wolf.
Hadn't I known how the story would end?
I write this piece with high hope, though. You see, there were multiple factors that led to that point in my life. Multiple things have come from it. I learned a lot from that moment, about myself and about my life. I also learned that sharing my story helped others get through some of theirs. I stopped blaming myself. His actions reflect on who he is as a person and not who I was. Possibly the greatest thing I've learned is that rape does not define me. It has not ended me or destroyed me. Although a piece of me was stolen that day, it did not put out my flame. My fire burns brighter than ever before.
I write this piece with the hopes of teaching others that you too will do the same.