At first, you don’t acknowledge it. It was just sex, right? It happens. It’s whatever. I just won’t see him again. But that’s not true. It’s not “whatever.” You know this, but you don’t want to accept it. You’re confused. You don’t know how to feel.
You begin to process what has happened. It’s my fault, you think. I could’ve done something to stop it. Next thing you know, you’re crying. Tears form in your eyes and cascade down your cheeks uncontrollably. You hide in your room because you don’t want anyone to see you and ask why you’re upset. You isolate yourself from the world, fearful that people will know and you will be judged. Should I say something? Should I report it? Should I just let it go? This becomes a daily routine.
You tell someone. Your best friend. Maybe a trustworthy family member. But nothing changes. They sympathize, telling you that everything will be okay and claim he’s just a pushy asshole. Nothing changes the fact that you were physically violated by someone whom you trusted. The world doesn’t make sense anymore.
You ache. You have frequent anxiety attacks. In the middle of class, your throat starts to constrict. You can barely breathe. You feel like an anchor is attached to your ankle and it’s pulling you down, down to the bottom of the ocean. You get up and leave to go cry in the bathroom. Then you retreat back to your dorm and cry in your room. This happens every. Single. Day. Your friends don’t know what to do or how to help. They leave you alone.
You seek help. You book an appointment at the university’s counseling center, as soon as possible, please. You tell the doctor what happened. She tells you it’s not your fault. You don’t need to press charges if you don’t want to. You’re not okay, and that’s perfectly normal. You didn’t deserve this. “Then why did it happen?” you mutter through the tears and short breaths. She can’t give you an answer. She wishes she could, but she can’t. She tells you what you need to do. You comply.
You begin to heal. You keep a journal. You remind yourself every day that this wasn’t your fault. You’re beautiful. You deserve respect. People like That Asshole don’t deserve you or your presence. You eliminate him from your life; delete him from your contacts, Facebook, and Snapchat. The pictures you took together get cut up and thrown away. You avoid all the places where you two went together. He’s out of your life. You breathe. In and out, in and out. Slowly. Every time you feel anxious. Every time you begin to panic. You breathe.
You share your story. You join clubs on campus that stand against rape and sexual assault and promote safe, consensual sex. You make friends who have gone through similar experiences. You help each other. They’re there for you when you call at 3 am on a Thursday morning when you feel like you want to cry. You’re there for them, too. It’s a safe space. You need this.
You become yourself again, slowly but surely. You start to enjoy life again. You manage to sit through an hour and a half of calculus without having an anxiety attack. Going downtown isn’t a problem anymore. You eliminate the memories you have with Him and make new ones with your friends. You recognize your beauty and worth. He won’t bring you down anymore. You are important. You are alive for a reason.
You will never be 100% again. You know this. But you continue to try. You live your life as best as you can.
You are not a victim.