In the winter of 2009, I was a young, excited college student, off to spend a semester studying abroad in Paris. My excitement was barely containable; I was achieving one of my life dreams: studying in Paris.
Paris was good to me. I ran into trouble during spring break. See, I had made friends with a foreign exchange student while in high school, and upon learning that he was studying abroad in Rome, decided to visit him over spring break.
I can’t remember much of that first night I was in Rome. I know it included a bar, dancing, alcohol, and new acquaintances. What I do recall from later that night are moments that grip my chest with horrible, fleeting images. I still can’t seem to write them down here, even though they are forever imprinted in my mind. I know I was unusually and heavily intoxicated that night, and I can’t help but wonder if my stupor was somehow forced upon me by means of a drug. I will never know.
Honestly, the worst part, the worst bit, the thing that makes me sick to my stomach to this day, was that he left the condom in me, and I didn’t find it until the next morning as I was washing myself in the shower. It felt as though I was just some trash receptacle, a piece of garbage…
At the time, I honestly didn’t even realize that I had been raped. No, it was not so much that I didn’t realize it, it was more so that I could not accept that it had happened. I couldn’t process the idea that someone who I believed to be my friend, had stolen so shamelessly from me. Only upon recounting what had happened to a close friend did she tell me that she thought I was raped. After months of denial, and falling into deep depression, did I see her point and seek counseling.
What I don’t understand is that this person, this man, tried keeping in touch with me for a few years after that fateful night, as though nothing had happened. It took him years to stop, even after I repeatedly told him I never wanted to talk to him again.
There is no doubt that I’m a survivor. I’m brave, I’m fierce, I’m a hell of a lot wiser, and I will never let what he did keep me down. There’s also no doubt that I’ve changed my perspective on life. My heart breaks a little, thinking about that sweet, young, optimistic college student I used to be…