I was raped two years ago at a high school party when I was 16. A lot of factors made the experience traumatic for me, but I think the most disturbing and upsetting of those was the fact that I was unconscious for most of it. I had passed out, I was extremely intoxicated. My best friend at the time gave my rapist permission to “hook up” with me, simply so she could hook up with his friend. This creep actually had a reputation of taking advantage of drunk girls at parties… he even had a nickname “Raper Ryan” (I have changed his name here). I had bummed a cigarette from him once and he flirted with me, but I knew his reputation and anytime I ran into him at parties, I blew him off.
When I began to wake up on this particular night, I found myself in the back of my own car being raped by a guy I knew only as “Raper Ryan.” I couldn’t say a word. I was scared and alone and drunk and confused. He was a big guy, not fat but tall and broad – he was older. He was 19 and I heard one time that he was a great baseball player. His hands were wrapped tightly around my upper arms and his body was heavy on mine, I was held down and helpless. I was in pain but couldn’t move or speak. Eventually, I was able to whisper “I have to pee, I have to pee, get off.” It was only then that he noticed I was awake and aware – and his eyes filled with what I believe to be a sudden shiver of panic when he noticed the same in mine.
He eventually let go of his hold and as soon as he did, I hurriedly tried to get out of the car, but before my feet could reach the pavement, he threw his arms around me and yanked me back into the car saying “you have no clothes on sweetie.” He said my name too, he knew who I was and that is something that forever haunts my memory. Sometimes I can still hear his voice saying that sentence, saying my name, and it repeats over and over in my head.
The month and a half right after I was raped, I suffered from PTSD. I could not sleep. I would toss and turn each night with anxiety and I would relive the event over and over. It was not until I nearly died from an intense illness, spinal meningitis, that I finally spoke to my family about what had happened. The doctors said that I got the illness because of stress and lack of sleep.
Through therapy and the help of my close friends and family, I was able to heal and accept this event as part of my life that is in the past. It happened, it was unfortunate, but I REFUSED to allow it to DEFINE ME. And I will tell you how I did that…
I forgave my rapist.
After nearly two years of “being over it,” something unexpected happened, something that I knew would either make or break me… I ran into him. He walked into Easter Sunday Mass with his family – and it was then that I recognized him as more than my rapist… I saw him as a son, a brother, a student, a friend. And as he stared at me nervously all through that service, I eventually worked up the courage to look him in the eyes and face my fear. We never spoke, but in that moment I not only forgave him, but I also gave myself freedom. I allowed myself to live again and that was something I never realized was in my control. Here is part of a letter I wrote to him but never mailed:
“Today I am doing something you might not even realize you need; I am forgiving you for what you did and what you had robbed from me. I forgive you, dear Rapist; that is what I choose. To hate you would be easy, but to forgive you is one of the hardest things I have had to do. And that is just a testament to my power, the power that I now hold over you. But I will never forget it, nor do I want to. I have grown because I had to and I have learned to live again. Not many can share in my experience, but that is precisely what makes me a stronger and more beautiful person than I was before… that ugliness you made me live through and my capability, today, to overcome you.”