Trigger warning for detailed discussion and description of rape.
I was 21-years-old when I was raped at a party. It left me feeling like I was nothing. I considered myself damaged. I knew that if I ever told anyone, they would never look at me as they once did. I’ve always been known as the smart one. The one who plans things out. I take my time and consider all of my options before making a big decision. I am not the type of girl to go to a party, get drunk, and sleep with someone. That night in August of 2012, my entire life changed. The person I am has no recollection of who I once was. I look the same to people on the outside, but on the inside I am forever changed. I am not the same girl who looked at life as if it were full of flowers and butterflies. I am not the same girl who viewed everything in its most simple form. I am a girl who had something very valuable taken away. But I choose every single day to not be defined by what was done to me. Every morning I wake up I choose to regain a little more of the power that was stolen on that August night.
A “victim” is defined by Merriam-Webster as one that is acted on and adversely affected by a force or agent; one that is injured, destroyed or sacrificed under any various condition. One doesn’t ever think they will become a “victim” of something like rape. We read stories about it and we feel bad for the victims. We might think, “That will never happen to me. I’m too smart to be put in such a dumb situation.” What we don’t understand is that you don’t have to be unintelligent to be raped. You just have to be exactly what that rapist is looking for at that given moment.
I remember in flashes what happened. One minute I was washing my hands, the next I was thrown onto a bed and held down. The man forced himself into me, raping me in his bed. I wasn’t familiar with anyone at the party except one girl, who was outside. I was so intoxicated I couldn’t even think straight, all I knew was something was very, very wrong.
In my head I remember screaming. The flashbacks I have, they’ve become very vivid. In August they started so small and fragile. Now, six months later, I can see quite a bit of that night. I remember the sheets on the bed, first white, then red. I remember my head pounding, liquor and stress. I remember the man. A greasy figure that was moving up and down on top of me. He enjoyed every single minute of my pain and suffering. It was like he really did “get off” to it.
This man didn’t want to harm me in such a way as to endanger my life. He just wanted to feel the power a rapist gets by taking someone else’s power and dwindling it down to nothing.
When I woke up the next morning at my friend’s house, I didn’t remember anything. When I urinated there was blood, and I grew worried because it was painful. My friend explained to me she walked in on me being raped by an older man at the party. She got him off of me and took me to somewhere safe. In the next few hours, I began the process of trying to remember the tragic events of the previous night. No matter how much I truly did not want to relive it, I knew I needed answers.
I felt so disgusted. By him, by myself, by the situation i was in. I was worried about diseases and pregnancy. I wanted to throw up, to sleep, to die. That man took all of my self-respect, my dignity, the confidence I had in myself as a person. He took everything I once held sacred and he took it for his own. I can’t help but feel he was proud of what he did to me. He got a rush when he stole everything I considered mine.
I never told anyone of authority about being raped. I wish I had now. I wish I would have sent him to jail for what he did to me, for what he took. I can’t go back in time and change my actions, although I think about it daily. I wonder if I would have felt like I had the power back if I would have sent him to jail. I wonder if he would have felt like I did: alone and scared, powerless and hopeless. The difference between my rapist and myself is I don’t want to make another human being suffer. Even him, the person who hurt me the most. I believe that shows a lot of compassion and empathy, something I don’t believe he has ever felt.
For six months I coped with what happened by myself. I tried pushing it to the back burner. I later realized that to be the strong person I once was I needed to get help. I always pictured therapy as a place where you lay on a couch with your eyes closed talking about your day and feeling sorry for yourself. Turns out I was wrong, and it is much, much more than that. I believe therapy is the most important thing you can do to take care of yourself after you’ve gone through a major life event. Being in therapy does not make one weak. It shows their strength and a desire to better themselves.
The rape that I experienced and was forced to deal with (and continue dealing with every single day of my life) weakened my soul at first. It brought me down and made me lose most of my self-worth. Through talking to my therapist and doing a lot of inner soul searching, I am starting to get myself back. It is a slow process and one takes a lot of hard work and patience, but it’s the best thing I can do for myself. This has pushed me toward a career in writing, and I have also been doing a lot of research on the topic of “feminism.” I am proud to say that I am happy with myself again. I know where I came from and where I am going. The mountain might be high, but finding myself means finding my way to the very top. This is a dream I will not let go of, a power I know I have and that my rapist will never take or keep away from me. Not if I have anything to do with it.
Reader submission by Victoria (Tori) A.