Today marks 6 years since the worst day of my life. On this day in 2011, I was raped at knife point by a man who made my life a living hell for months prior. On this day every year, I can’t help but feel sorrowful. I tend to have panic attacks, I cry a lot, sometimes, I can’t even bring myself to leave the house, and I hate it all. I hate that he has had that kind of impact on my life. I hate that I constantly look over my shoulder when I’m alone. I hate that I don’t trust people as much as I used to. I hate that a part of me looks down on other’s thoughts/feelings/stories because they have no idea what it’s like to suffer the way that I have. I hate how this day out of the year makes me remember things that I try so hard to forget.
There was a time when I thought I was pregnant by him. My period was late and I became frantic, so he bought me a couple of home pregnancy tests to take. He made comments about how he wouldn’t mind us having a child together and how I would make a great mother, as if we were a happy couple trying to get pregnant. Luckily, they were both negative and I got my period days later. In any given scenario when a woman thinks she’s pregnant (and not trying to conceive), it is one of the most surreal experiences of her life taking a pregnancy test. Imagine that same experience, but with your rapist as the possible father… no woman should ever have to experience that.
During my SANE exam, the nurse had to swab every inch of my body, but not just for evidence; she had to gather samples to test for STIs. Throughout the 6 months of being raped, it never once occurred to me that he could be infected; that I could have contracted HIV/AIDs, herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, any number of diseases from this man. The nurse informed me that my results would come back in a week. Talk about one of the most nerve-racking weeks ever. Thank God my results all came back negative.
In an attempt at spending more time with me, he blackmailed me into ‘inviting’ him over to spend time with my family; during family gatherings and football games in particular. He would sit next to me and run his finger up and down my thigh where no one would see. He would grab my ass when we passed in the kitchen. He would talk sports with my dad, complement my moms cooking, and discuss video games with my brother. He made my family like him and I despised him for it.
There are so many memories from those 6 months that haunt me today, and no matter how hard I try to not let them consume me, they fight their way in and take over, leaving me feeling as helpless as I once was.
Part of me feels as though today should be a celebration of my freedom from him; he was arrested on this day years ago, thus ending my nightmare. But no part of me can feel joy; only fear, hatred, sadness… Will I ever be able to live life this day like any other? I have no idea. Does it at least get easier as years pass? A little.
When I was raped, not only did I feel like less of a woman, I felt like less of a human being. For the longest time afterward, I didn’t feel pretty; I didn’t want to feel pretty. I didn’t want men to look at me the way he looked at me. There are times that I have flashbacks to that time in my life and all I can do is cry. I hated the person he turned me into then: scared, insignificant, timid, constantly worried about his next move and how it would affect me. My life was so full of wondering what if…? And that is no way to live.
People who have come to know my story tell me that I am strong; that I’m an inspiration; that I am a symbol of hope for others like me. I don’t feel that I am any of those things. I feel like a coward who couldn’t stand up to her abuser; like a girl striped of her innocence; like a play thing that he took advantage of and tossed aside once he was done. Not in any way, do I feel like an inspiring figure for others to look to.
I’ve taken the time to write about my experience to shed light on sexual abuse. Not all rapes happen in the dimly lit parking garage or behind the dumpster in a dark alley. I was suffering in front of those I loved and they couldn’t see it. My abuser attended church and preached God’s word verbatim. I was a straight-A student working two part-time jobs and was in a monogamous relationship with my long-term boyfriend. I want people to take a closer look at the life happening around them. The woman sitting across from you on the train might be going home to an abusive spouse and is too afraid to say anything. The young girl you see at your favorite restaurant eating with her family might be sustaining abuse from her own father while the rest of the family is asleep at night.
This world we live in is a cruel place, even more so when you are being abused and feel as though you have no where to run. How about, instead of pointing fingers at the victims, judging their level of promiscuity on the way they look or the way the act, we start holding the abusers accountable for how they prey on their victim(s) and attack them. It’s never the victim’s fault for wearing a skirt and being fondled on the street; it’s the disgusting pervert who thought he had the right to grope an unassuming woman. It isn’t the victim’s fault for drinking one too many mixed drinks at a party and being gang-raped by a group of men she thought were her friends; it’s the group of despicable lowlifes who took advantage of a defenseless girl and blamed it on the alcohol.
Being sexually assaulted in any form will haunt you for the rest of your life. I’m lucky I survived my experience and that I was able to overcome it with the help and support of my loved ones. I want people in similar circumstances to know that they are not alone, and that you can say no. What you have endured does not define who you are.
Maybe later on down the line, I will be able to experience this day just like any other, but until then, I won’t blame myself for what happened. I will stop asking myself ‘what if’ and ‘why’ and instead, come to terms with the fact that: I am not a victim, I am a survivor. I will allow myself to cry about those horrible memories, because only then, will I find the strength to move on with my life.