“I am not my rape”

On the night of September 10, 2011, my life changed forever. As an only child, I grew up in a fairly sheltered environment and didn’t have a full grasp of how drastically pain, hurt, and trauma could impact a person’s life. But on this night, when I was separated from my roommates and headed to the room of someone I considered to be a good friend – one who had told me I was like a sister to him – I had hardly an inkling of fear in my mind. Red flags didn’t pop up until it was too late; we stepped into his place, and as I realized we were alone, he pushed me into his room and locked the door, pulling me down onto his bed.

What happened for the next hour is permanently scarred into my mind; never again allowing me a day of relief to feel carefree, innocent, and naive. The pain, the helpless screams, the desperate search to break free of his grip as he pinned me down; my eyes frantically searching his room to find my clothes so I could run away as blood covered my inner thighs and ruined his sheets; the pain he caused me that night struck much deeper than his physical touch burning into my skin. It burned me to the core; he ripped my legs apart and stole the innocence of my life, broke the heart and trust of the little girl still protecting what was left of my naiveté, and wilted the flower in my soul that bloomed of positivity and passion for life.

When I finally broke free, I ran, ran as fast as I could. No longer able to run, I crumbled. I collapsed onto the grass and cried and howled and sobbed until I could only scream at every god imaginable and do nothing more than let friends hold my limp body and pick up the shattered pieces of my innocence as police questioned me and the ambulance took me away to have the scratches and bruises and bloody areas of my once whole – yet now discarded – body examined by probing hands and documented by flashing cameras. On this night, my soul died; I disassociated my inner being from my physical exterior. I couldn’t pinpoint how much my life would change, but I knew that it would never be the same.

The next two years following the attack, I struggled. To say I struggled is an understatement. I developed insomnia, had flashbacks that paralyzed my body on a daily basis and haunted my dreams as I tried to get a few feeble hours of sleep, and began purging as a means to gain control over something in my life as everything around me crumbled. I was the talk of school – blamed and called countless names, told I wasn’t worthy of attention or love and lost many of the friendships I had taken care to foster and hoped would’ve lasted a lifetime – as is often advertised for college life. I was left alone – left to die, as though I were ugly roadkill that had been struck by a careless driver. I attended countless therapy sessions, both individual and group, clinging to a tiny strand of hope that life would get better, that the flashbacks would fade. I went through an extremely dark phase, not sure if I wanted to go on, wanting to fall forward into the darkness rather than falling back into the supportive arms of the few who still supported me and wanted to help me get better.

One day, I woke up and realized what happened to me wasn’t my fault. I couldn’t have known that someone I trusted and had emotionally invested a part of my life would’ve ever committed such an unfathomable action against me. I couldn’t live my life carrying someone else’s guilt, and I certainly couldn’t continue harming myself for the sake of numbing a pain that I cautiously trusted would fade like a scar – not as prominent as a scab, but still there every day to remind me of what happened and why I changed – in order to regain control. That morning, I chose to take back my life and feel again, opposite the way my fingers forced my gag reflex into action to numb my body. I came to understand that it would be okay to forgive my attacker for his actions – although, I would never allow myself the opportunity to say it directly to his face – and that in order to move on with my life it was a necessity of sorts to forgive his poor judgement in order to heal my wounds.

I will never forget what he did, that is for certain. But I can move on and learn to trust again after internally forgiving him. The excruciating pain I felt, the helpless screams that escaped my throat, all of the begging for mercy that I cried in between sobs on the night of September 10, 2011 are forever a part of my life; what happened that night is not What I Be. I am a strong, independent, versatile, forgiving, happy, kind person, and I am not what has been done to me; I am so much more.