I was raped twice my sophomore year of college. The first time was August 31, 2016, just a few weeks after classes had begun, then almost exactly six months later at the end of February 2017 at a new university I had just transferred to.

The first, I had known this person for only 10 hours before I was raped at a park at midnight that night, completely sober. The second, I had known the person for about a month, and he had convinced me to drink, and to this day, I believe something had been in the alcohol because there’s no way I could’ve blacked out from less than a bottle of champagne and two beers. Not to mention that I could hardly drive home hours later and that I was sick the entire next day.

Two very different instances of rape, each only six months apart. Two traumatic changes in my life that have haunted me still, only a year later after the first rape and six months after the second.

I wrote an article a few months ago about my first rape, Healing From Rape Does Not Happen Overnight. And now, I want to talk briefly about both, and why these events completely changed me, but why they do not and never will define me.

Let’s start off with how I define myself.

I’m a junior in college who studies history and minors in screenwriting. I transferred to my university in the spring of 2017 from a technical college. I have two amazing and supportive and strong parents and a younger brother who uplifts me and keeps me going (he’s kind of taken the role of the older sibling at this point, oops), not to mention adopted mama to the world's most beautiful and amazing cat (no bias, I can confirm from multiple sources besides me ha).

I identify as bisexual since I first realized it in seventh grade, and I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder almost a year ago.

My experience with bipolar has led me to become a co-founder of a mental health awareness organization at my current university, along with four other amazing people. I suffered from severe anorexia for three years, and I’ve only truly been recovered for five months (but a "healthy" weight for eleven months).

I became a vegetarian in fifth grade, but I broke that halfway through my freshman year of college (but I became vegetarian again end of my sophomore year of college, so I am currently vegetarian again). My favorite colors are maroon, olive green, and mauve, and I love doing creative and artsy projects. I love to write and read, and I’m an incredibly outgoing person who loves to be around and talk with others, especially to boost spirits.

My two all-time favorite movies are polar opposites: "Gone With The Wind" and "2001: A Space Odyssey." I have a few tattoos, but my first, my satellite on my right shoulder blade, is because of my all-time favorite song, ever, Satellite by Guster. I also go to shows/concerts a LOT. If we want to pull Meyers-Briggs into this description, I’m an ENTJ.

And if you were wondering based off that, no, I’m not a tyrant, but I am stubborn, moody, and do like to be in control. But I’ve slowly (and finally) begun to let things go and do what I can in a comfortable and respectful way.

Now let’s begin by stating how I don’t define myself: a victim of rape. Notice how I italicized “victim”? I hate that word. It immediately puts a negative connotation and definition onto me.

Yes, I was raped, and twice at that, but no, I will never consider myself a victim.

I consider myself, in the simplest way possible, a woman who was raped. I tried to fight against my first rape, and in my second rape, I had no control or awareness of what was happening to me, though in the moments I was somewhat conscious, I tried to mumble words but couldn't communicate it well.

I was a woman who was raped, but I am not and never will be, a victim. I was put into horrible situations that were more powerful than I was and took control, but I do not want people to pitty me, and the word "victim" often implies that.

I want to be, and I am, stronger than my rapes. I am a fighter, and I tried to fight during these acts, and I will continue to fight for the voice of others who were raped as well.

My rapes have taught me many, many important lessons, and as awful as it sounds, I may never have learned these things, at least not as soon as was needed, if I hadn’t had these two severe things happen to me.

I was naïve, I was foolish, I was blind, I was unaware of myself and utterly lost at the time these two things happened to me, and for a long time afterwards, I still was.

My rapes stripped me of what independence I thought I had, of what little worth I had for myself, of the idea that the world and people in it were kind and incapable of terrible acts/things (at least those around me), that everyone could read my mind, that I was in control, that I was more than an object. It stripped me of trust towards others and even myself, and it stripped me of a sense of identity that I was already struggling with for so long.

The first time, I was in a park with a new classmate that I had only known for 10 hours. We met in a class that I later dropped a week later because of this person.

He showed up to my work at close, took me to a park where we skateboarded for a bit, walked around, talked, and honestly, I had a good time, before the rape. Even though he was drinking a tallboy (aka a 24oz beer can), I didn’t start to get uncomfortable until I kept trying to leave the park before midnight since I had to be up at 6 a.m. the next morning.

He kept pressuring me to stay, until I finally had enough, got up, and next thing you know, he’s kissing me forcibly and literally stripping me down in the middle of the park, late at night. I shouted “NO!” more times than I could count, until the shouting turned to screaming and my own “NO!”s were drowned out in painful cries.

I was too scared to report him then and even now, almost exactly one year later. I told very few people, too, and I first told my boyfriend at the time but he was far away at a new college and couldn’t do anything for me other than to listen to me on the other end of the phone. I slowly told other friends and adult figures, especially when I had to leave work early the next day from severe pain down there then get tests done on my body only days later that no woman should ever have to go through.

Fortunately, I checked out okay, but it was many days of testing then many more days of waiting for results before I knew I was fine. My parents, I told months later, and it all clicked for them: my actions, reactions, and what I did during the timeline that only could have been the repercussions of rape. They urged me to report him, but I still have not; I want to keep this person out of my life and as far from me as possible.

The second time, I was over for brunch at this other person’s house, and at the time I viewed him as a new friend at my new university. I knew he was into me, but up until later that day, he had been respectful of my wishes stating, repeatedly, that no I was not into him and no I only want to be friends.

We had champagne with breakfast, which he poured me, but he drank more than half afterwards and I had the rest after I finished my first cup, then we went to the pool and I had two beers there. But even I could tell by that point that I was drunker than I ever should’ve been, especially from experience of consuming the same amount of alcohol. I don’t remember much after leaving the pool, not until the next moment when I woke up, and, in a haze, I recall being naked and he was having sex with me. I kept trying to force my mind to stay conscious, but I couldn’t.

I thought I was swimming and drowning in this fog. I tried mumbling things but couldn’t get words out to stop what he was doing to be. My body felt limp, and I felt like I was being played with as some sort of puppet-thing.

Then I remember blackness all over again. When I came to again, he was gone and I was naked in his bed. I managed to dizzily get out of bed, get on my clothes, find him downstairs with a roommate, adamant that I was going to drive home. It was by now evening and so he offered I’d stay, but that was the last thing I wanted. I hardly remember driving home because I was still so out of it. I fell asleep an hour after getting home on my couch and spent the entire next day on my couch, sick, and fading in and out of consciousness. I couldn’t eat or even get up to shower that entire day.

My dad came by later that evening thinking I was sick, but I know I wasn't just "sick". It wasn’t just a normal hangover either as I’ve never experienced one like that, especially from so little alcohol. I almost reported him to the school, especially since I had been raped only six months earlier by someone else, and this university had a better way of dealing with rape cases.

But I was still too scared, because I was new to this university and was thinking of worse case-scenarios of what would happen to me if I reported him, just like with the first guy who raped me.

I am open about my two stories, though only recently the second one because I was scared for so long to tell people that I was raped twice, once sober and once drugged, and the negative connotations that follow those. Especially the negative connotation of being raped while blacked out and vulnerable; I didn’t want people to know that happened to me, and that rape had happened to me twice. I was so ashamed. I still am a little bit. But I refuse to let these rapes define me and hold me back from my potential.

I’ve learned to be more cautious of people I meet, especially people I’ve just met. I’ve learned to not give out my phone number or information so quickly and to not allow people to follow or add me on my social media if I don’t know or trust them well enough.

I’ve learned to keep many people at a distance, to not disclose everything about myself and being overly kind, like I used to.

My rapes taught me that the world is full of cruel and selfish people who will take advantage of you without blinking an eye, and that you must be aware of this at all times.

My rapes taught me to trust my instincts, to be weary of things that seem out of place or bad vibes I get that I can’t explain (which I had inklings of those towards the two people that raped me even before I was raped). Now, I pay very close attention to gut-feelings and vibes, and I let those help guide me.

I’ve learned to stop being so vulnerable and naïve, to be strong and confident in myself, not insecure and wrapped in the idea of being kind to everyone or trusting everyone and that I will gain the same thing back. I’ve learned that my worth is not defined by others or what has happened to me, but rather how I react to the world and how I view myself.

There are beautiful people out there, and there are slimy people out there. But you have the ability to make yourself either, or to surround yourself with either. I blocked my rapists on everything I could. I have tried to erase them from my life. But you can never erase the rape. You can never erase the after effects of the rape. You can never erase how you view the world differently now.

My rapes were some of the most crushing things to ever happen to me, as well as the consequences and reactions that followed, but I learned and grown up fast from them.

Rape is something no one should ever have to go through, especially at nineteen years old, and especially twice in such a short time.

But rape is never okay.

It opened my eyes from the land of the naïve to the land of the aware. I grew up, I learned, I changed, I started over. I had no choice. But the lessons I have learned, I never would’ve learned, at least not as soon as I did and needed to, if the rapes did not happen to me.

I am not and never will be or grateful of the fact that I was raped in two different ways not long after the other, simply because they taught me crucial lessons. But I do acknowledge how it changed me and what it taught me for the better. But I will never be thankful that I was raped, twice.

And after all of this, I am still not the victim. I tried to fight off my rapists in the way that a weak, young, naïve girl like myself was at the time; I could only use words, and even those were not enough.

I tried to learn from it rather than shove it down inside me for eternity, never to confront it. But I had to confront it, and I did confront it. I still do. I learned from my rapes.

But I will never let them define me. But they have taught me cruel lessons that I will carry with me always. It has affected me in ways I never imagined, even abstractly, it comes out in odd ways, but I have learned to become stronger and more aware of myself and my surroundings most of all, and all the other lessons that followed spawn from those characteristics.

I am still all the things I define myself as, that does not change, but I do not let my being raped, twice, ever define me.

I am still the bubbly, supportive, creative, motivated, stubborn, adventurous girl that I have always been. I’ve just grown up quickly and learned important lessons that the naïve me never knew before. I am still the beautiful soul I am, and I will always be that way, no matter what terrible things happen to me. I grow stronger every day.

My rapes do not define me.

I define me.