Trigger Warning: The following article discusses sexual assault and may be upsetting to some readers.
To the boy who sexually assaulted me,
I call you a boy because you are nothing more than one. You are no man, and in my eyes you never will be. You broke me. Absolutely and completely broke me. I feel empty and useless. You took more than a few minutes of my time, you took my innocence and my sanity. You took advantage of how naive I was and how nice my heart is. I saw you as a person who needed a friend and you saw me as your next victim. We only had one conversation before you hurt me. You waited until you had me alone in a room and out of sight of the cameras to pin me onto a table and reach behind and underneath my uniform. The very uniform I can’t look at or put on without shaking and feeling my chest tighten. Before you I was very extroverted. I loved events, parties, making friends, experiencing new things, and seeing the best in people. You’ve made crowds hard. Volunteering for new things hard. Making new friends is nearly impossible because I never want anyone to stay around. I refuse to meet new people unless it’s for my job or I have talked to the person who’s introducing us. I ask them so many questions about what that person is like, what their history is, any negative traits they have, everything. I can’t meet a new person without assuming the worst. I won’t keep people around because of how I view myself. I only see myself as a problem and a burden. I overthink everything I do, down to the littlest thing. Sometimes I’ll say something and instantly think to myself, “Why did you say that?” No matter how confident I’ll feel about it, I’ll often feel as though no one cares about what I say. I think that’s from you taking my sense of confidence like you thought you deserved it.
When it first happened I pushed you away and ran to my room. I laid in bed and tried processing what had happened. Asking myself, “Did that really happen to me? It happens all the time in the military but it couldn’t have happened to me, right?” Then I started blaming myself thinking, “Did I say something that made him think I wanted it? Was I acting a certain way?” Then I realized I didn’t do anything. I was standing there alone and you came from the corner of the room and came onto me. I don’t remember what you said to me and I don’t remember my response. Whatever I said, I know it was never an invitation for you to overstep your boundaries. I didn’t even know your name. You were much taller than me. I remember thinking that. I wish I hadn’t gone to that room. I wish I had gone straight to my room. God says everything happens for a reason, but I don’t see the reason for this. Maybe He thinks I’m strong enough for this, but as the months go on it doesn’t get better.
For the first few weeks after it happened, I never felt like I could shower enough. I could always feel your hands on me or your eyes staring at me. I couldn’t walk in that room without flashbacks. I haven’t put that uniform on since it happened. I started my new life in it and you’ve turned it into a trigger. Something I was so proud to have I am now embarrassed to look at. I know I will have to again soon and I dread that day. I’m nervous I’ll panic or replay it in my head. Right after it happened I remember when I got to my room I looked at myself in the mirror in that uniform thinking, “There’s no way that just happened. Not in this uniform, not to me, in what was supposed to be a safe place.”
I eventually admitted to needing help. I went to therapy for about 2 months before I left for California. She was a really nice lady who let me cry and talked to me about my problems. I didn’t tell her everything because I was afraid of opening up too much and getting in trouble. Gosh, the things I could have said would’ve gotten me in a lot of trouble. I told her what I thought would benefit me the most while recovering. Family issues, issues I had kept to myself growing up, things like that. We talked about what you did to me and how it impacted me. I told her a lot but not about the dark thoughts. I keep those to myself. I might talk to someone someday about them, but like I said before, I can’t trust people like I used to. The lady I talked to gave me ways to cope with the feelings I had, but the second I left that small, grey, warm room, I seemed to forget everything we had talked about. As if being out of that room was a way for you to get back to me. Small, dark spaces make me safer now. Being in control of what is around me helps too.
I have nightmares almost every night now. I jump at the slightest movements around me. Sometimes I cry just thinking of how much I miss the old girl I used to be. She was so full of life and love and it now, she’s nothing but sadness and anxiety. I’ve become numb to smiling and it doesn’t feel like there is much behind it anymore. I’m supposed to have training on sexual assault for my job, but I can never last more than 5 minutes because I can feel my chest tighten and the words they say get so loud in my head. The assault replays in my head over and over and I start to feel your hands on my body. A body that was never yours to touch. It itches and feels so wrong and I flash back to the panic and how vulnerable I felt. I didn’t eat for days, I couldn’t do anything. No one has questioned why I leave the trainings yet, and I’m hoping they never do. I don’t know how to tell them what happened. It feels embarrassing and makes me feel weak. You’re not supposed to be weak in the military, we are America’s defense. How can I protect the ones I love when I couldn’t even protect myself? I have good days and bad days, but all my nights are bad. When I’m alone with my thoughts and time. I’ve moved all around this country in the last 8 months, but you follow me everywhere. My MPO is no longer valid with you because you’ve been kicked out of the Navy. What if you try to find me? What if you try and contact me? Or if you show up somewhere around me? Even thinking about that makes me want to run and hide somewhere where you might not be able to ever find me. You might not even know the damage you’ve caused me.
There are a few things I want to tell you.
1. I’ve been told that forgiving someone is the best way to move on, but please understand I will never forgive you for what you’ve done. I will still try to move on, but forgiving you will never be an option. I wonder if you have remorse for what you’ve done, but can boys feel that? “Boys will be boys,” is the saying, right?
2. This one’s pretty selfish, but you were so selfish when you stole me. I hope there is always a piece of you that is sad. No matter how small it might be, I hope you always feel a small piece of the suffering that I have. I have a life to live with the damage you’ve caused and what will you live with? I’m not really sure.
3. Do you know what it feels like to question your whole existence over something you had no control over? I couldn’t control what you did to me. You pushing me on to a table, feeling me where only ones with consent should. The thoughts that followed took control of me. They still do to this day. I feel as though they have become me. As if another being took over my body when you touched it. Someone I had never met before, but she decided for me that I no longer would be the same. I would become only a shadow of the new person you created. She’s constantly nervous, anxious, and fearful for what could happen. I don’t step out of my comfort zone like I used to. That is your fault.
You, boy who I never knew, ruined me. Your selfish and greedy ego stole my light, and I will never get it back to the place it was before. You will never be a man, you will always be a boy; One I hope no woman ever has the misfortune of meeting in her lifetime.
Author’s Note: I fully understand how vulnerable this writing is and attaching my name to it makes me just as vulnerable. I am sharing my story to show that not everything in this life is sunshine and rainbows. If you read this and can relate even in the smallest way, just know that you are not alone. There will be hard times and times that change your future, but how you choose to deal with them is what defines you. Thank you all for letting me put my story out there.