This is going to be difficult for me to write, but I’m sure it’s even more difficult for you to read. I’m nobody important, but I’ve been through things that nobody should ever have to go through. And so many others have gone through the same horrible things. But I want to be the voice for all of us, to describe in detail what we’ve gone through. Maybe you’ve been through it too, or maybe you have no idea what it’s like to be hurt at all. Either way, I’m here to speak my message and tell you what it feels like to be raped.
It isn’t just about rape. It’s about everything that falls under “sexual assault”, all the things that everyone just brushes under the rug. The things that aren’t okay, no matter what the circumstances are. It doesn’t matter that my bra strap was showing through my shirt, or that my initial friendliness towards you was anything more than it was. It doesn’t matter that I was okay with you kissing me, so you felt entitled to forcefully grope me as well. It doesn’t even matter if I’m in a relationship with you, because NO will always have the same definition.
To be raped is to be broken, in more ways than I could ever count. To be raped is to have somebody reach inside to your soul, and force it to slowly die. Have you ever had somebody grab your hand, maybe playfully at first, but then hold on just a little too tightly, and for a moment you realize you’re not strong enough to break free and just have to wait for your hand to be released? It’s a common scenario, something that happens all the time on the preschool playground, starting all the way from playful childhood. Imagine that feeling, that moment where you realize you aren’t strong enough to break free when that person grabs your wrist, and imagine that feeling applied to your whole body. Your arms, legs, voice, everything…become useless. Your body isn’t even your body anymore. It belongs to them. And not only your body, but everything you are is exposed and ripped away from you. And there’s nothing for you to do except wait. At some point, you stop struggling, or maybe you never even could, paralyzed by fear or alcohol. And you feel as though anything in the world could be better than this. Even death. You may even pray that you could choose death instead. Unfortunately, you couldn’t, and every second that passed felt like an hour, excruciating hour by excruciating hour.
When it’s over, when your body is freed, you feel foreign in your own skin. Your body isn’t your body anymore; it’s contaminated, destroyed.
I took ten showers and I still didn’t feel clean. For weeks and months and maybe even years following, you still find it hard to recognize yourself, or think of yourself as the person you were before you were raped. It’s not something that can ever be erased, even as the physical bruises fade. Every person around you becomes a virtual threat and sometimes I still hold my breath when I walk past a group of boys because I know what people are capable of.
They always say, “you’re not alone” in rape prevention campaigns. But sometimes, that doesn’t make it better. I’ve had friends in college tell me that they were raped the night before, at a party, or at a friend’s house. They didn’t tell anyone, and neither did I. But they were hurting, and destroyed, just like I was. We numbed ourselves with alcohol and pretended that nothing ever happened, and the countdown begun to the next time it would happen to us. And sadly, it did. To me. To my best friends. To other girls I knew. To other boys I knew. Every single person, including myself, just kept moving as if the incident never happened.
Why did this happen to me? Why did this happen to you? I’ve felt angry, confused, terrified, scared, powerless. Why do people do horrible things? I don’t think I’ll ever know the answer, and for a while, I just wanted to die. But I didn’t, because even though every day I lived on felt like I was being dragged through glass, I saw good things around me and I realized that not everything is bad and evil.
I became friends with boys that I’ve grown to trust, that I feel safe around. If you’ve gone through this, you know what I’m talking about. It takes time. Nothing will ever erase what happened to you, and sooner or later you’ll have to acknowledge the event in order to begin healing from it. During therapy, I had to relive one of the worst encounters I’ve had, and it was one of the most painful things I’ve had to go through. After months and months of being numb, I had to rip off the band-aid that I’d placed on my soul and expose it again so I could learn how to stitch myself together to properly heal.
I can’t fix you, your friends can’t fix you, and future relationships can’t even fix you. Alcohol and drugs can’t erase what happened to you, and trust me, I’ve tried. You might never be able to go back to the person you used to be, but it is possible for you to heal and finally learn to recognize yourself. You didn’t deserve what happened to you, and it’s not fair. But I promise you that you’re going to be okay, and that this can make you even stronger. Don’t be afraid to share your story, or reach out to others that have gone through similar experiences. Together we can spread awareness and learn to be live again.