Immediately after I was raped, I pretended everything was fine. I closed the door to my bedroom like a physical representation of my plans to repress the onslaught of feelings that came after. In my head, I could push it away and stop it from hurting me – exactly what I failed to do with him. Wherein he increased aggression when I fought – the backlash would sit nicely until I was “ready” to deal with it. Whatever that means.
The rest of the night was a blur. Overcompensating when my roommates got home from church and faking laughter at their jokes. All tempered with the thought that I couldn’t avoid my bedroom forever. That I couldn’t ignore the spot where one drop of his sweat landed, or the shirt with a torn sleeve laying on the floor, or the slight smell of his cologne that I knew would linger forever in my nostrils.
When I finally opened the door to my room I knew. I knew that I couldn’t be quiet. I knew that I had to tell people. But how does one start that? How do you drop that bomb and how do you not feel guilty for burdening people with that?
My sleep was fragmented that night. Odd dreams interrupted by alternating bouts of panic and resignation. I could’ve sworn that I could still smell him on me and still hear his breathing. The pain in my hip would wake me and I’d try to convince myself that it wasn’t a big deal. It was all in my head.
Turns out that was the problem. It was all in my head – I was afraid to let it go anywhere else. “It” was the uncertainty and shame and all those other scary feelings no one likes to take about. I had nowhere to go with it, no one to shoulder the pain alongside me. I kept all the pain and fear in my head and in turn it kept me awake.
As ridiculous as it sounds, I was the most worried about hurting people I was telling or making them uncomfortable. Rape is such an uncomfortable topic. I was convinced that they would wonder why someone would rape ME. I’ve never had a boyfriend, I was a virgin, I am not a particularly pretty girl and have always had weight issues. I was afraid I would disgust them and embarrass myself in the process. I was never a girl attached to the idea of virginity as something overly special, but there is something horrid in the fact that this rape is the only real intimacy I have ever had with a man. This made it more shameful to me.
Even with all of this, I am too much of an outward person to be able keep all that in. I have always been too easy to read. I am grateful for that now. Grateful that my own personality forced me into being open with the people I care about. I started to tell my closest friends. Started to see all the different reactions – from disbelief to sympathy and a disturbing amount of empathy. So many of the people I told had stories of their own. From rape to molestation to stalking, it simultaneously saddened and angered me. But is also made me realize that I had NO reason to be embarrassed for telling people – or at all. I was pleasantly surprised that not a single person was embarrassed for me. The first time that I felt that the rape wasn’t my fault was when I was telling a friend. So I kept telling friends. The more I talked about it, the more I was able to process that this was really happening.
It took me more than a month to fully accept that I was raped. I felt that if I let myself accept it, I was officially damaged.
But that’s the thing. Everyone is damaged. The amount or severity of damaging situations you have been through in no way determines your worth. It can certainly make you weaker or stronger – but strength is a measure of worth either. I don’t think there is a measure for a human’s worth – but if there is, mine sure as hell isn’t going to be decided by him.