TRIGGER WARNING: The following contains a description of a sexual assault. As much as I try to avoid peddling in trauma, sharing my story is something I’ve realized recently that I need to do. The following traumatic experience was the most formative experience of my young adult life. It has held me stuck, stripped me of my power, kept me from my life, and potentially ended my career.
Well, that chapter officially needs to be over. And my therapist says one way to process through trauma is exposure to it. In other words, sharing my story. Hearing it. Reading it. Discussing it. So my brain can file this information away differently and my body doesn’t have to perpetually live in fight or flight mode. Selective mutism has kept me from speaking these words out loud, even to my therapist. That hasn’t changed. I still can’t speak about these things out loud (like, literally, physically can’t). Which means I’m not going to be able to answer questions associated with this post quite yet either.
So, as usual, I’m using this online space as an experiment in being open and vulnerable, and hopefully therefore, a bridge to healing. My tarot reading this morning gave me the confidence to feel like today is the day for step 1… so here we go…
If you feel like you can’t handle reading the specifics, I see you and I respect you, thanks for stopping by.
I was in college. It was Halloween. I was dressed like a bird. Earlier that week a boy had stopped by my apartment looking for his mail as he had been the previous tenant. I thought he was cute and we flirted a little bit before he took his mail and left. Imagine my sense of it’s-a-small-world surprise when he walked into the Halloween party I was at a few days later. He immediately struck up a conversation with me. He told me I had pretty eyes and fed me a fifth of Bacardi Razz. I, on my college budget and underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, had only eaten white rice that day. The alcohol quickly took control as it traveled through my empty stomach into my bloodstream. I remember talking to him. I remember kissing him. I remember following him upstairs. Then we were in the bathroom and I was sitting on the sink and he slid his hand up my skirt and took off my panties. At that point I had a breathtaking moment of lucidity where my brain cut through the alcohol fog and I realized what was about to happen. And I didn’t want it to happen. I did not want to have sex with this stranger.
I slid off the counter.
I gently pushed him away from me.
I said I needed to find my friends.
I said I was sorry
I said I had to go
I said please stop
I said I was sorry
I pushed him away a little harder
I reached around him for the doorknob he grabbed my wrist he turned me around he pinned me against the counter he pushed up my skirt.
From the moment of penetration on I don’t remember feeling him inside me. I remember numbness. I remember hearing his breathing in my left ear. I remember staring into my own eyes in the mirror over the dirty sink.
The next thing I remember I was waking up on the couch in my friends’ dark apartment and my friend-with-benefits-hook-up-buddy-who-really-wanted-to-be-my-boyfriend came to get me. As I descended the exterior stairs down from the third floor apartment – riding fireman style on my fwb’s shoulder – I vomited white rice everywhere. I remember looking at it and thinking “no one will even know this is vomit, it just looks like someone spilled some rice.” I laughed about it to myself.
The next morning I remembered nothing. My brain had initially blacked out everything that had taken place once the fifth of Bacardi was empty. It wasn’t until a days-later conversation with a friend who was at the party that it all came rushing back to me. You see, she revealed my rapist had come down from the bathroom that night, and told everyone in attendance we had had sex.
I went to Planned Parenthood. When they asked if there had been a recent occurrence that made me want to get tested for all STDs including HIV I told them “no.” I stopped going out with my friends and practically moved in with my fwb who was rapidly becoming my partner. I stopped eating. I cried every night. I convinced everyone it was because I missed high-school-boyfriend with whom I had broken up a couple months before. People thought I was just conflicted over my feelings for new boy. People had no idea I was falling apart. People had no idea I was going back to Planned Parenthood every 3 months to get tested for HIV. People had no idea because I never told them. I never told anyone until 2 years later after then-friend-with-benefits had turned into boyfriend and I realized that I loved him and that I was safe with him. I felt guilty keeping this secret from him, like I was damaged goods and he didn’t even know. Like keeping it from him was duping him into falling in love with someone who wasn’t worth any more than what he could get from her body.