It took me two years to tell the police and the university I attended that I was raped. That was nearly a year ago now.
When my university had a hearing for what happened this past semester, I submitted a piece I had written around that time as to why I waited to report. Why I didn't go screaming to the police about what happened to me. Why I didn't tell anyone. Why I was secretive. I knew that my rapist would read that document, and he needed to know why I waited too because it essentially allowed for him to be a free man.
I wasn't just sitting the whole time plotting and planning to ruin my rapist's life, I had much more pressing issues to address. I was trying to see how I could survive what he had done to me and make the most out of what happened.
It took me 10 months for me to finally allow myself to admit out loud to myself that I was raped.
It took one year for me to tell my boyfriend and a couple of my closest friends.
It took one and a half, almost two, years for me to tell my parents, only after they knew I was seeking treatment for PTSD and they could not understand why.
It took me two years to report my rape.
Why on earth would it take 10 months for someone to admit to themselves that they were raped? It has to be because it's not true and only for attention, right? Wrong.
Being raped is a trauma. You can, like myself, develop PTSD from it. When you go through a trauma, you do anything it takes to be able to maintain whatever your sense of normal was. So, in my case, I made excuses for my rapist. I blamed myself. I made myself believe that I had misremembered it.
And it drove me insane. I knew what happened was wrong. But I was 19 years old and did not want my friends and family know that "I had let myself get raped." That was only something that happened to girls who were "sluts" or "ones that deserved it."
And I most certainly did not deserve it. I am smart, top of my class, involved in so many different things, and I had such a future shaped out for me. Getting raped doesn't happen to girls like that... right? So it was pushed down.
So why didn't I report when I finally said it out loud to myself and eventually those close to me?
I was such an absolute wreck that there was no way I could survive having to talk to police, lawyers, and face my rapist. I went so dark that I did not think I could come out of it or that anyone would ever look at me the same if I told them. So I lived my misery in solitude.
When I finally got officially diagnosed with PTSD, I cried. Not because of having to go through my trauma again to yet another doctor, but because someone who had never met me before believed me and told me that what I was feeling was normal. I hadn't felt normal since it had happened.
The therapy I did was called "prolonged exposure," which had the highest drop out rates among patients because it made me have to purposefully relive what happened and each of my stressors about the incident. It was hell. There's no way to sugarcoat it or make it seem nice. It was the hardest three months of my life, and at first, it didn't make me "better," it made me worse.
But after I had been doing the exposures for a little over a month, I felt bits of myself come back to me. I could walk on campus more easily. I could step outside my house. I could go to Skyline. I could listen to The Beatles. Simple things that most people wouldn't bat an eye at.
I was becoming stable enough that I knew I would make it out of this alive.
So, it took two years to report because I wanted my rapist to have to answer for his actions, even though I knew no one would actually believe me because I knew I had no evidence. But when I reported, I reported because I didn't want anyone else to ever have to go through what I went through.
I waited because if I had reported it that next day after I had been raped, I don't know if I would have made it to today because of how dark or low I had gotten during that time.
I waited because I made excuses for what happened.
I waited because I was afraid of how people might look at me if they knew.
I waited because of the stigma surrounding rape.
I waited because I honestly didn't know what to do.
I reported because I know how much it can ruin someone's life, and I know that not all of the survivors will make it out alive.
I keep talking about it because rape and sexual assault have not gone away.
I keep talking because, after a long fought battle, I can, and you have no idea how many voices are silenced out there this very minute.
I keep talking because I am no longer afraid of the backlash.