I was 18 years old. It was my freshman year in college, I was studying abroad in Europe, away from my family. My best friend at the time and I went out drinking. I was the only one in my crowd who was still a virgin, and I have dated a few boys, but I guess I wanted something “special”.
We used to party pretty heavily, and that day we got very drunk. We were coming back from a bar, walking to her home at night. My recollections from the event are very blurry, because I was intoxicated, and because of the trauma, I assume. I remember a guy in a car started talking to us. He was older, probably in his late twenties or early thirties. He told us he had beer in the trunk of the car. I wanted to keep on partying so I said yes. He parked the car and opened the trunk, he had many beers there and we started talking. I think it was at that point that my friend left. I stayed with the guy. I didn’t trusted him particularly, ‘he looks like a petty criminal’, I thought. But i still kept drinking with him outside the car. At some point we went inside the car and start making out in the front seat. Then he took me to the back seat and next thing I know we were having sex. I’m not sure if he asked me if I wanted to. I just remember being scared. I didn’t know how to react. I was so inexperienced. I was a virgin. It hurt. I remember that at some point he asked me if I liked it. And I said yes. And I pretended I liked it, for a few moments. It was then when I panicked. I asked him to stop. He didn’t listen. I started screaming. I pushed him away and I escaped, leaving behind some of my clothes, my purse and cellphone. I just remember running, panicked, in that quiet, upper middle class neighborhood. I was terrified he’d come for me. I hid behind a big garbage disposal. I waited for a while and then I started running to my friend’s house. I knocked the door screaming for help. When I saw my friend I blamed her. I was crying, hysterical, asking her “why did you abandoned me?”.
The day after I felt like dying. I was so ashamed, I felt I was living in a nightmare. But I had no choice but to face reality and ask help from that friend, my only friend, and the one who left me behind. We went to get an emergency pill. The following days I waited, waited until it was time to get a pregnancy test and an HIV test. I didn’t remember him using a condom. I was terrified I was going to end up with HIV. Luckily the tests were all negative. I felt grateful for that, but i was full of shame. I felt like it was my fault. I felt disgusting for faking to take pleasure in it. For not saying no before he was inside me. I couldn’t come up with the fact that I had been raped.
I was scared too because that man had my phone and my wallet. He knew who I was and I couldn’t remember his face or his name. I remember being scared while in the metro, while walking on the street. Suddenly all men looked like him. I was terrified. I didn’t go to the police. I didn’t tell my parents. I never spoke about it with my friend, and our friendship ended soon after that horrible night.
My coping mechanism was to deny it. I kept living in Europe, finishing school, getting a fancy job, away from my family. It was almost ten years ago. I thought i was over it. I have never spoken about it openly to anyone, not even my family or closest friends. I don’t want to cause them pain, I don’t want to be a victim, but I feel so alone.
I appear to other people as an attractive, outgoing, smart, successful young woman, with the best sense of humor, who is always there to listen. As of today I project confidence, but i came to realize that I have a very low self esteem. It’s been ten years that I cope with what happened to me by drinking heavily, working too much or being “too busy”, having casual sex with a lot of men and, most disturbingly, by starting relationships with men who are somehow unavailable. As if I wanted to remain alone, by choosing men who can’t correspond my love or that live far away. I think I avoid getting too close, to avoid revealing the truth. I think that I have so much love to offer, so much kindness, but deep down I feel unworthy of it. I feel ashamed. I feel that no one will love me if they know how broken I am.
I’m starting a therapy for the first time in my life in a few days. After ten years of denial, I am finally determined to tell my story. I want to be happy, and be able to love someone who can love me back. I want to break the silence, because I know I am brave and I don’t want this to define who I am.
Thank you for this website.
— Survivor, age 27