If you asked me three years ago where I’d be today I would probably take a deep breath, look down, give you a discouraged shrug, shake my head and say something like, “Well I’ll be miserable!”‘
My parents decided to visit me at school on their 22nd anniversary. After leaving the nest, visits from them always made me feel overjoyed. I love spending time with family and being away from home actually ended up being harder than I thought it would. We spent the day soaking up some springtime sun-rays at Presque Isle State Park.
It was a joyous occasion. Sand in our toes…the breeze hitting us just enough to feel content. All of us completely unaware that these would be my last moments of bliss and contentment for a number of months.
Later that night after sending my parents off to enjoy the rest of their anniversary at home, I embraced the stereotypical college atmosphere and attended a party. Friends from my childhood were in the area and wanted to go out with us. We jammed to 2000s-style alternative rock music and reminisced on old times as we prepared for a night of pleasure.
An hour or two went by and the friends I came with wanted to leave, so I chose to stay until the party died down for the night. There was laughter, dancing, drinking, and TONS of picture taking. I spent half of the night gushing to my friend Sarah about my super cute crush and how he probably didn’t even notice me. “We’ll never be together. I’m not even in his league,” I told her with him standing 5 feet away.
In the drunken mess of evacuating the party after being busted by the cops, I became aware that I was now walking home by myself, without my keys, phone, or consciousness. At this moment in particular, I was completely unaware of the vulnerable position I had been put in. One of my guy friends insisted on walking me home. We both lived in the same dorm so it seemed like a good idea. In the months prior, I had observed this friend in particular developing a certain interest in me though it was not confirmed by him…until this night.
On our walk across campus, he attempted multiple times to convince me to spend the night with him by kissing me and calling me “babe”. I showed an obvious denial and agreed to no such terms, especially being called his “babe”. I made that quite clear. Once I got to my suite I noticed that my roommates had still not arrived home and I was very tired. There was no way for me to get into my private room since I had left my keys behind in my friend’s room. I also managed to become separated from my phone, so I agreed to spend the night in his room under one condition: We were going to sleep but nothing else would happen.
I remember the satisfaction of jumping into bed and passing out from exhaustion before waking up to a violation of sexual abuse. I was traumatized as expected and wanted to put the entire thing behind me.
I experienced symptoms of PTSD when triggered by people kissing, visualizing sex scenes on tv, noticing guys who looked like him, hearing the sound of his roommate’s car, and seeing anything Army related (as he was a member of the National Guard).
It took me 6 months to admit that I had been raped that night and then another 5 months to complete a lengthy Title IX hearing to report the incident that occurred.
To make matters even worse, he was in a class with me the semester following the assault and pretended like nothing had ever happened. On the first day, he even pretended we were super close friends and tried to give me a hug. He seemed so excited to see me. I could not reciprocate. Every Tuesday/Thursday, I walked to class in an anxious attempt to prepare myself to be immersed in his vexatious presence.
I spent the majority of those long 5 months alone in my room, crying, sleeping, and praying hard to numb the pain. I avoided interactions with friends and seeped into the most desolate depression of my life. I honestly don’t have much of a memory of those months nor memory of the slightest joy I may have experienced.
The school sided in favor of my appeal and my assailant was punished to one full year of suspension upon immediate effect of the decision. He was also suspended from any extra-curricular activities including athletics. My assailant had two days to pack up his belongings and leave campus. During his suspension he was not to make any appearances on campus nor contact me.
Upon hearing the news, I was filled with relief and comfort, though I knew I would never be able to go back to the life I once lived before this incident occurred. The good news was, I could pursue a journey of healing. I hoped to restore the confidence and joy that were robbed of me within the confinement of his room.
It has been exactly three years and one day since the night I described. It’s hard to comprehend such events occurred only three years ago. To me, the night occurred in another life, to another version of myself, as I am not the person I was three years ago.
I don’t attend parties or drink the way I used to, but I am able to enjoy a comfortable night out with friends from time to time.
I have chosen a life of celibacy until marriage because my body and spirit deserve to be valued and celebrated by someone who loves me unconditionally.
In this present moment, I feel comfortable with my sexuality and I feel free to explore this once I find my life partner.
I can now refer to my experience as rape. Even after abandoning denial and phasing into acceptance, for me to use the word rape was highly uncomfortable. The word sounded so harsh. It took some time for me to put things in perspective and be comfortable with the fact that I did in fact experience trauma. It was nothing to be ashamed of. It was not something to simply brush aside or hide. Using the term “sexually assaulted”, did not give anyone the full idea of what happened to me. Why should I undermine an event that dramatically transformed my life? I was raped. It happened. I survived and came out stronger than ever before.
I no longer experience triggers, symptoms of PTSD, or anxiety when approached by something that would have previously set me into a spiral of unsettling emotions/memories. I owe this pivotal triumph to EMDR therapy which allowed me to experience the night of the incident with peace. Like many others who have gone through EMDR therapy, I can not explain how or why, but the event no longer has weight. It is still something I will always remember, vividly, but all emotions that instantaneously attached themselves to my identity no longer define how I feel.
Through EMDR therapy, I was able to resurface emotions I had subconsciously suppressed. Once brought forth, they were replaced with emotions I deserved and desired to feel. The emotions that were previously attached had no rational significance. They were simply placed because I unintentionally victimized myself, like many who experience sexual assault do.
When I reflect on the way my life has changed due to the course of such experiences, I am thankful and consider myself blessed to be able to comfortably share my testimony with others. I firmly believe my misfortune was transformed for good. I have since helped and encouraged many people with my story. It is my hope to be a beacon of light.
For those who have experienced trauma, sexual or otherwise, I stand beside you. I know how you feel. I have been to the darkest places in my life, positions I thought I would never get out of. I urge you to not give up. Your journey is not over. No matter how miserable or numb you feel, press on. The pattern of events in which you happened to fall into occurred, but they do not define you. You are a survivor, a warrior, and you will live on to experience immense feelings of joy. Yes you will have sorrow and pain in your life, it’s unfortunately something we can not always avoid. But you are loved and you will continue to be loved far more than you believe possible.
I can not tell you how proud I am of you. I commend your bravery. Embrace your destiny which is triumph. You hold victory at the palm of your hands. Pursue these things and encourage others to do the same. We are all agents of change.
If you or someone you know has experienced the trauma of sexual assault, know that there are resources to help you achieve healing.
What is Sexual Assault?
Sexual assault is any type of sexual activity or contact that you do not consent to. Sexual assault can happen through physical force or threats of force or if the attacker gave the victim drugs or alcohol as part of the assault. Sexual assault includes rape and sexual coercion. In the United States, one in three women has experienced some type of sexual violence.1 If you have been sexually assaulted, it is not your fault, regardless of the circumstances. -Direct Quote from The Office of Women’s Health https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/sexual-assault-and-rape/sexual-assault
Please consider contacting the National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-4673 or visit their website www.rainn.org
An online chat is also available by following this link https://hotline.rainn.org/online
Other helpful resources for sexual assault:
Rape kits are available at all hospitals within 72 hours of the attack. https://www.rainn.org/articles/rape-kit provides more detailed information about Rape Kits and what they do.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center
Local Crime Victim Centers
Consider visiting or contacting your local Crime Victim Center. Please google “Crime Victim Center” plus the city in which you reside. If you experience an issue locating a center, the National Sexual Assault Hotline should be able to refer you to a similar resource.
I referenced a type of therapy called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) Therapy which helped me through my latest process of healing. After deciding to begin this therapy, it took me a couple months to be ready to actually start. I first contacted my therapist in June 2018 and when she reached out to schedule an appointment with me I chickened out until September 2018. I was afraid. But I had no reason to be. This therapy was not painful at all. It helped me to tell my story the way I did today. While writing I experienced no pain, no anxiety. I instead felt empowered. (Thank you, Linda C.)
Sexual Assault or Rape May Cause…
Sexual Assault or Rape may cause suicidal thoughts and depression. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or actions, please consider contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 or visit their website https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/gethelp/.aspx to seek additonal help and guidance.
Anxiety, depression, and PTSD are common results of trauma. Please consider seeking therapy if you are feeling any of these things or feeling uncomfortable. Therapy does not mean that you are sick or weak. It simply means you are deciding to take action over your emotions. You desire to seek help and know that is OKAY.
Starting therapy was probably the best decision I have ever made. Lots of people do it and are grateful. Don’t give up if therapy isn’t working for you! There are many different kinds of therapy and not all therapists are meant to work with you. Seek out help until you find someone who makes you feel comfortable.
Want to advocate the importance of education and prevention of sexual assault?
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Its On Us Campaign
emerged in September, 2014 when Joe Biden served in Office as VP of the United States.
This campaign strives to educate and take action when it comes to Sexual Assault. Check out https://www.itsonus.org for more info.
If you have an idea and are interested in creating an initiative for Sexual Assault and Violence Awareness take action NOW! It begins with you.
I would love to stand beside you, please contact me via the Contact page.