I’ve never been the type to trust easily. I come from a family riddled with dishonesty, so I have an inability to trust as tall and wide as the Berlin Wall. My mom says that I’ve had this distrust in people from birth. She always tells a story of how the nurses were worried something was wrong with me because they couldn’t get me to eat. It wasn’t until they took me to my mom that I latched onto the bottle with a devious smile. Nonetheless, even that wall had to come crashing down at some point, didn’t it? And while walls are built to keep out the bad, they also quite often keep out the good. As a result, I’ve been known to let it down when I’ve felt moved to do so–when I’ve felt safe enough to allow someone in. It’s too bad that my trust was misplaced that time, but I won’t go into every little detail that occurred. I won’t beat myself up about it here. Believe me. I have done that more than I can tell you. I will not describe what happened. I think about it enough. I remember it enough, and I won’t soon forget it regardless of how hard I try. I don’t need it to be recorded for the world, for my future children, or for the declination of my own mental health. Knowing the details of that moment won’t do anything for you anyway, and I’ve unburdened myself in the necessary and applicable safe spaces. It’s been far too hard as it is walking around smiling when I’m crying inside. It’s been too damn difficult to pretend to exude happiness and positivity when I’m fucking angry and more of a pessimist these days than even I can stomach.
It’s not all the time. I refuse to give his wack ass all my time, but it’s enough to realize that I’m not over it. Perhaps, I will never be over it if such a feat is even possible to accomplish. I try every day. I literally try to push that bullshit out of my mind every day, especially in the morning. It stabs in the mornings to the point that I’ve asked God to just kill me. Facing the day is just too daunting of a task. In those moments, I’m ready to go, and I become frustrated that I don’t have the courage to take myself out of my own misery…but I get up anyway. Used to it now, I guess. And by this point, you’re probably trying to figure out what my aim is in writing this because my words don’t seem to be moving in the direction of telling you that it’s going to be okay. I’m not writing this success story about how I overcame my rape and how you can, too. I know that’s what you’re hoping to get out of this, but that shit is for fiction novels with great plot twists. This is real life, and while it may be possible to overcome the affects of that night in his car, it’s not something that will be easily forgotten.
Half Egyptian Arab and half black American with curly hair. His skin was slightly lighter than caramel. He had lots of tattoos, and he wore glasses. They weren’t the geeky kind. His glasses seemed like a tool he used to peer into souls. I look back now and remember how he always awkwardly stared as you spoke. I thought he was kinda funny at the time. After seeing my sister come into the store one day, he felt the need to also let me know he was Muslim. He should have kept that part to himself because I’ve been around my sister enough to know the true principles of the faith to understand that he was just another perpetrator. He was a wolf trying to pass for a sheep, and I knew that, but you grow close to your coworkers…or close enough to believe that you can all hang out after work without an incident like mine. You laugh together. You even sometimes share personal information. You spend so much time with them that they become something like family, so I should have been more careful because past experiences have shown me that family will betray you first. Family will cut you down so low for so long that you won’t even imagine that there is a such thing as up. Down is up for you, and there’s nothing else to look forward to, so deep inside I knew. I knew he was lower than dog shit under my shoe, but I didn’t fathom he was the raping type. The cheating type? Sure. The woman beater type? Feasibly. The type to record a video having sex with a girl and show it to his friends? Absolutely. However, all we were doing was hanging out with the rest of the crew. All he had to do was be cool and chill. That’s what all our aims were because we all hated our jobs, yet we were all hamsters turning that damn wheel to nowhere. It’s unfortunate that alcohol was involved. I never wanted to be that girl, none of us do. When alcohol is added to the equation, people tend to feel less sympathy for the victim. It goes without saying that I don’t drink much anymore. I don’t ever want to feel that I’m not in control of my body.
I didn’t feel the need to guard myself the way I usually do. I was with familiar faces. I thought I was going to be okay because my cousin was going to be there. I thought she would have my back because that’s what women are supposed to do when they go out together. If one goes to the bathroom, the other follows whether she has to use it or not. That’s the code, but it’s apparent that my cousin had never been briefed. As of the time of this writing, she has no idea what happened while she was smiling in guys’ faces inside the building. She never went looking for me after not seeing me for a while, never really thought to, I guess. And I could put some blame on her, but I won’t. Ultimately, the blame lies with him.
The word ‘no’ is very simple to understand, but he wasn’t accepting that. It took me a year and a half to open up about what happened. I finally told my sister over dinner, and she was stoic about the ordeal. A few months after that, I became very ill. I felt dizzy and nauseous. I felt pain in my vaginal area to the point that I needed assistance walking. I went to the emergency room because I was sure I was dying. After lots of rest, painkillers, and several tests, it was revealed that the rape would never be forgotten. He made sure of that because he left me with something I can’t wash off or cure with a pill, something that won’t be left in an occasional flashback. What he left me is irrelevant for you to know, but I was and am thankful it wasn’t HIV or AIDS. I have days when I almost forget what happened. Then I’ll feel a symptom and go into complete despair over the incident all over again as if it just occurred, so I write this not to tell you that you’re going to be okay because I know you don’t feel like hearing that bullshit when you’re not sleeping at night or wake up crying in the morning. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you while you carry the weight of that day or night as if the world has literally crashed down on every fiber of who you once were, who you’re trying to be every day since. I write this for those women and men who just can’t talk about it, who feel that speaking about it is just too hard and altogether pointless for their recovery. I write this to say that you are not alone. There is a community of us standing together with you, going through the same daily struggles that you are. I write this to tell you that regardless of what your friends or family or media says, it wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t your fault. It WAS NOT YOUR fault. And if you have to say that in the mirror every day until you believe it, you say that shit. You say it loud. Put that positive energy in your atmosphere until that negative energy he or she put inside you can’t breathe anymore. WE may have been beaten, left with bruises and deep scars, but WE are not and WILL NOT be broken.
— Survivor, age 22