The reason why I wanted to share what I’m about to say is because it sucks. 4 months after graduating high school, my life changed for the rest of my life. It only took 21 weeks. 147 days.
A dean of mine said a brief closing this past spring during my last senior class meeting: “Please, guys, be smart. Please be careful.”
I am not writing this to tell my story. I am not writing this for pity, for sympathy, for empathy. I am writing this to educate. I am writing this because when I heard the word “rape” a year ago, I denounced it, was disgusted by it. I felt emotions I couldn’t quite explain when I heard the stories. But it was a word paired with an unthinkable action. And that’s where the problem arose: I never really thought about it.
Please, take a moment to truly listen. Life is different after. No one talks about what happens After. And it breaks my heart to think that you all, where I was less than a year ago, could possibly go through as much shit as I have had to go through.
As I said, everything hanged for the rest of my life. It sounds so dramatic and so Law and Order: SVU when you say, “for the rest of my life.” But I want you all to think about what that means: instead of being exhausted from the traditional collegiate lack of sleep, you’re exhausted from trying to talk about how you feel to others who don’t understand. Not for lack of trying, but it’s almost impossible to understand if you are not the one who has felt the emotions. Instead of stressing about academics, you’re stressing over the fact that even though you’re trying your damnedest, your GPA keeps dropping because that one memory won’t stop replaying.
What happened to me wasn’t like what happens in SVU: no guns, no ropes and gags. But that doesn’t make it something less dramatic or traumatic. Rape is rape is rape.
That night, I counted my drinks, went out with trusted friends, watched my drink. I did what my dean had said: I was smart, I was careful. The thing is, it doesn’t matter how smart I was or how careful; I wasn’t given any option. What happened was that this person saw me and decided for me where I was going later that night. It was calculated and premeditated. And I was having too much fun to notice that I went from partier to prey. 147 days after I graduated from high school, I was raped.
What happens after isn’t pretty. Many people don’t share what happens after. Many people censor the people they were, and honestly that is what I’m doing right now, even though it may not seem like it. I am censoring because it is too personal and too intense to share with anyone outside of my immediate support system, and for that, I’m sorry that I’m not capable of that strength. If people do tell their stories, many share when they feel stronger, healthier, and safer. But I want to share my story with all of you when I’m not any of those things; in fact, the feelings you have After I can’t explain because I don’t even know. I’m still lost. And I guess that’s the best explanation: you’re wandering from somewhere to somewhere, but where either of those places are, you don’t know. You’re tired and you don’t feel like you, but you are you, and that’s the worst part. You are mentally, emotionally, tangibly you. You just don’t feel like it.
I realize this is deep. It’s frightening. I hope I made this real. The reason why I have said the things I have, and selected the words I have written, is because I do want to frighten you. I do want to make this real. This is too important to censor. It’s tragic that sometimes to make something real you need to make it frightening, but welcome to outside of the “bubble”. This place, the world, is beautiful, exciting. But please be cautious that you aren’t so removed from the parts of life that aren’t glamorous.
The world is so thrilling. Don’t be afraid of it. But please, don’t discount that it is dangerous at times. Don’t be fearless of it.
Look forward to your future endeavors. It’s not all fun and games, but fun and games is a big part of happiness. I’m not sharing this to frighten you, I promise. Don’t forget to have fun, don’t forget to make memories, and do take great photos. Don’t forget too however: all the things we hear over and over again, like “Be safe,” are said for a reason. And, as my dean said to my class 12 months ago, take care.