According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, one out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. On January 13, 2018, I became one of those statistics. I have spent the last four months trying to make sense of my sexual assault.
The thoughts that rushed through my head ranged from: Am I at fault? Should I have not offered him the bowl?
Maybe I could have done more to say no?
I have even defended him; claiming that maybe he was too stoned to understand what he was doing.
But when I take a step back and painfully replay what happened; I know that he knew what he was doing. I know that he ignored my pleas to stop. I know that my body went completely numb. I know that my body stopped moving and he continued to touch me despite my verbal and nonverbal requests. I know that I was terrified and scared. I know that I wanted it so badly to end but I didn’t know how to get it stop. And I know that I’ll never be the same again.
I have seen my therapist religiously since the assault. And we have worked to help me move forward and to learn to cope with the flashbacks. She says I need to confront the assault instead of avoiding it. And honestly, that’s terrifying. I want to forget it ever happened. But I can’t forget, it happened and nothing is going to change that. I was sexually assaulted. Those four words still haunt me and I think in a sense they always will.
I know that I view sex differently. I don’t trust as easily. And I know that my anxiety is more intense and terrifying than it has ever been. You might be wondering if I reported my assault. I didn’t. I agonize over this decision on a daily basis. ‘What if he assaults someone else?’ I often wonder, followed by ‘If he assaults someone else it’s my fault because I didn’t report it.’ But as my therapist so kindly reminds me, a decision to report sexual assault is unique and different for everyone; to be honest with me I think it was best not to report it.
However, this individual goes to my university, and since the assault, I have seen him three times on campus. Each time I’ve seen him the rush of emotions that I felt that night take over my body. My body goes numb, I feel the tears slide down my face. Even months later and the sight of him sends chills down my spine. I even get the same rush of emotions when I see someone who resembles him.
Being in therapy has helped me and it has made coping much easier, but I still don’t know how to move forward. I am very sex positive. I love having and discussing sex.
But since my assault, I’ve only been able to have sober sex once.
My anxiety around sex is so high, and the only thing that seems to calm my anxiety is being intoxicated. It’s like a bit of a darkness has crept into what once was a very happy and joyful place for me.
Why not just stop having sex? you might ask.
I honestly cannot give you a good answer.
Maybe I am trying to regain a sense of control when it comes to sex that I feel like he took from me? Maybe I want to return to the sexually free individual that I once was and for some reason, I think that having sex will bring that sense of freedom back? On that night four months ago something changed, something was taken from me that I don’t think I’ll ever fully be able to take back.
Unfortunately, I cannot change what happened, as much as I may wish and pray and plead that it never happened, it did. As I write this I am wondering how I will put myself back together. I think that writing this piece is the first step. I am finally telling my story. These past four months I have felt shame, embarrassment, and anguish over my assault.
But my assault is not my fault.
Yes, he took something from me, and yes I view sex and intimacy differently. But I’m still here and I’m telling my story. He cannot take that from me. I am strong and resilient. Everyone women and men who have experienced sexual assault is strong and resilient. We have overcome something that no one should ever have too. Our assault does not define us.
This piece isn’t to tell you that I’m all better and that I don’t get flashbacks anymore. This piece is the story of my struggle. I’m sharing this so others know they aren’t alone. My recovery from my sexual assault has only just begun. But I know that it wasn’t my fault; it’s never the victim's fault. I know that one day this won’t have as much of a hold on me. And most importantly, I am learning that my assault doesn’t define me.
And as my best friend so lovingly reminds me – “time will eventually heal all wounds.”