Trigger Warning: This post contains information about sexual assault and/or violence which may be triggering to some survivors.
I still remember like it was yesterday. I was 17. He was 27. I trusted him. He was supposed to be like a big brother. He took from me what I could never get back. I said no. I said it hurt. He didn’t listen.
I still remember going home and feeling disgusted. The shower didn’t help. I couldn’t wash the shame away no matter how hard I tried. I was in shock that this really happened to me, but I ignored my pain in hopes I would forget.
I still remember not being able to say the word rape aloud. I convinced myself that if I didn’t say the word then it really didn’t happen. I felt ashamed and unworthy of love. How would anyone ever want someone with damaged goods?
I still remember his red sports car. Every time I would see a car like his my heart would race. I would get nervous and afraid. I couldn’t stand it. Would I ever be able to drive without being overcome with anxiety?
I still remember numbing the pain. I was good at it. My smile could cover up any hurt I was feeling. I remember being able to get back to some normalcy in my life.
I still remember when the numbing disappeared. I was reading a book for a class I was co-teaching in graduate school. The character went into great detail about being raped. I saw myself in her. I was faced with the reality that I had been raped.
I still remember thinking I couldn’t tell anyone. It had been 7 years. Who would even believe me? I couldn’t function though so I went to see a counselor. I didn’t want to but I knew I needed help.
I still remember when he told me I needed to share this with others. I was scared. How could I share such a dark part of my life when everyone believed my life was full of sunshine? Would anyone believe me? Would they still accept me?
I still remember sharing it with a few friends. I remember being nervous. I remember the relief I felt when they supported me, hugged me, and told me how strong I was. I needed that. It built some strength in me that had been taken.
I still remember sitting in residence life training on sexual assault prevention. I was triggered. I didn’t know what to do. If I get up, people will know. If I stay here and cry they will also know. I got up. I was going to explode. My best friend noticed and came out. He just sat with me. He didn’t say anything, just that he was there. It was what I needed to hear.
I still remember going to a central staff member in my department and sharing with one of my superiors I had been raped. I told him how triggered I was every year during that part of training. He never told me it wasn’t my fault. He never asked if I needed anything. He didn’t seem to care. I was crushed and angry at myself that I was vulnerable and shared such a private part of my life.
I still remember how hard it is to call myself a survivor. I don’t feel like a survivor most days. I feel like a broken and tarnished soul that will never be full again. I feel alone and ashamed.
I still remember the people I’ve shared this with who never asked me about it again. I still remember how hurtful that is even though I pretend it doesn’t bother me.
I’ll always remember. And so do others who have been raped. So please, be an encouraging memory in our journey. Be a light in what sometimes feels like a dark tunnel. Because if you do, we’ll always remember.
This anonymous post is part of #SAsurvives, a series of pieces written by some of our colleagues who are survivors of campus sexual violence. Our contributors to this series are extremely diverse – we will hear from people of color, from men, from women, and from folks who identify as part of the LGBTQ community. Each is telling their story, in their way, and I am sincerely thankful for their courage and willingness to share with us. I hope you follow along with us this month by using the hashtag #sasurvives. For more information, check out the intro post written by Martha Compton.
If you are a survivor of sexual violence, know there are many resources available to help. For current #sagrads, your campus counseling center is a great resource. For #sapros, you may have access to an Employee Assistance Program as part of your benefits package – check with your Human Resources department if you’re not sure. Additionally, the National Sexual Assault Hotline is available to 24/7 at 1-800-656-4673. Lastly, anyone can search online for their nearest crisis center at http://centers.rainn.org/. Please take care of yourself and know you’re not alone.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.