So… I was reading up on the Stanford victim trial - the letter from her, the letter from dad, the letter from his friend, and an open letter to dads about rape culture - and I think all are worth reading if you have the time.
You see, I work with people who have experienced this. I see people every week who have been through sexual assault, abuse, physical abuse, neglect, violence, and everything in between. And until this past New Year’s Eve, my experience was just that - someone else sitting across from me telling me the horrific things they’d been through.
Fast forward to now, six months later, and I’m reading about this trial and I’m floored. And I’m going to tell you why.
I’m going to begin this story a little abruptly, because, well, shying away from the truth never got anyone anywhere.
I was raped.
You see women come forth with their stories of conflicted emotions and torture over being victims of rape. Some stories are gruesome and disgusting, others are more subtle, but all are just gut-wrenchingly sad. And I swore I had empathy for every woman who had been through something like that, because hey, I’m a therapist and I come from a bumpy past myself.
But I was raped.
You really don’t know what it’s like until it happens to you. You don’t know what the battle is like inside the woman’s head of whether she should fight like hell or just grin and bear it until it’s over. And I thought I’d always be the fighter, the one who raised hell before anyone took my dignity like that.
They really do take your dignity. They take your security and safeness. They take your ability to rationalize and sift through your emotions to make sense of what’s going on. They take away your ability to stand up and say you are who you are.
Because who wants to stand up and be a woman who was raped?
Who wants to admit that they could be conquered and manhandled by someone else?
Not me. I don’t. But I am right now, because the truth of the matter is I was raped. And it’s been a pretty hellish six months trying to deal with it, as I’ll explain further (and probably in future posts).
Apologies for the family who didn’t know. It’s hard enough admitting it now, and I didn’t want the third degree of questioning that I got from some of the people I told. I didn’t want a lecture about what I should be doing, because frankly I wasn’t ready. The next part is going to go into some detail - I’m asking you to read it. Read it and feel it because maybe then you can start to understand what I went through. On a very tiny level.
When it happened, I couldn’t get back to sleep because I was confused. You see, it was New Year’s Eve, and I was enjoying myself by getting maybe a little too inebriated. I went to a bar with my two roommates, who happened to be dating, and drank some more. I decided at 12:20 am or so that I’d had enough and grabbed myself a cab to go home – the classic Irish Goodbye.
I don’t remember getting into my house. I don’t remember taking off my dress and heels to change into sweatpants and a tank top. I don’t remember crawling into bed with only enough energy to get under the fleece throw I had on the top of my comforter.
But I remember coming to and feeling fingers inside me. I remember my pants and panties being pulled off, and the continued feeling of something being pushed inside me. I continued to pretend to be asleep because confusion took over and I couldn’t figure out why this was happening. I remember it stopping, and him putting my pants/undies back on me. I remember what the glowing numbers on the clock were – 4:19 AM – and I remember hearing him walk out of my room, into the bathroom, and then straight into the next bedroom. And all I could think was, “what the fuck just happened!?”
I fell asleep again about an hour after that, and then awoke again at about 6 or so to feed my cats. I laid in bed, tired and hungover, thinking, “did that really happen? Or was it some fucked up dream?” To think back on it and question my own experience is just sad… what has the world taught women? Why should my first thought be that my experience was somehow invalid?
I instinctively grabbed my pants-waist, and I noticed that both pants and undies were on backwards. I maybe could have rationalized the pants being on backwards, because hey, I was blacked out and drunk. But the underwear? No. So it happened. Someone came into my room and took advantage of my lifeless body and then left when he was done. And I guess I shouldn’t say “someone” did, because I know who did it. And it wasn’t just someone. And then all I could think was, “this is such a weird situation.”
I stayed in bed all day, mostly because I was hungover, but also because I didn’t really want to see him. Luckily they both left for brunch, and I had the house to myself. I decided to tell a friend of mine, and her response, which was mine at the time, was “What is your life? How does this stuff happen to you?”
I nodded in concurrence, but I began thinking about all the nights I have the door open so that cats can come and lay with me when they want. How many nights I’ve left myself vulnerable to this very same thing, and that’s when I got scared – has this happened before?
I was binge watching a show that day, trying to catch up on missed seasons so that I could converse with some of my clients about them (but also because I really liked the show), and so as soon as the thought came in my head, my brain began making decisions about watching another episode and losing myself in that imagined world. And it worked for the day.
When it was time, I got up and got dressed to go have a wine night with my neighbors. And in those conversations, I let go and pretended that nothing ever happened to me. I talked about my future of internship interviews and my brother’s wedding, moving in the summer, and other topics that came up. None of them included rape, and I was thankful. I got home close to 12:30 am and stayed up for another hour… because I just couldn’t get myself to sleep.
The next day, I awoke first at 5 to feed my pets and then at 10:30. And I didn’t know what to do about my day. I didn’t want to stay in bed and watch tv, but I didn’t want to socialize with my roommates and the guest they had staying here for the rest of the weekend. So I got up, made a smoothie and got in my car. I drove to Marshalls; I drove to one that was 40 minutes away instead of the one that was 10 minutes away. I took my grocery list so that after I could get that done. And that took up some of the day, but not enough.
Or maybe it was too much time because in that drive to the store, I realized that I was raped. It wasn’t just a weird situation. This man, who I live with, had forced me into sexual acts without my consent or even knowledge. I. Was. Raped. Do you know how jarring it is to think that? How your perception can change so quickly by choosing certain words? When I parked the car and the thought was still racing through my head, my heart began beating faster and tears welled in my eyes. I took a deep breath and pushed it away. But it wasn’t going away. It would just pop up intermittently, reminding me of the things that I lost – security, confidence, trust… dignity. My values. Who I thought I was.
I came home and made small talk with him, quickly putting away my groceries and making my way to my bedroom. I cleaned up some stuff, and then got on my computer to begin watching more episodes of my lovely show (Once Upon A Time, if you wanted to know). He left shortly after… and I was alone again. I began writing about new beginnings, but everything was falling short. Nothing held the meaning that I was intending to portray and while I don’t think anyone would have noticed, I did.
Because all I could think about was the fact that my new beginning started with a break up text from a guy I was seeing and me being raped.
This is only a small portion of my story, and I am far from being done with it. And I want people to know and understand what I’ve been through. I need people to hear this story, and hear the story of other victims who have been through hell and lost pieces of themselves to people who couldn’t care less about the sanctity of a precious soul or life.
To the Stanford victim - I’m with you. And you’ve given me the little nudge that I needed to get my story out there, too.
So share my story. Post it on your Facebook wall, in your Twitter feed, on Linkedin, send to friends. Just do it. Have that conversation. Do the uncomfortable, because that’s the only way things will change.