I grew up hearing all the right information when it came to date rape, sexual assault and healthy relationships. My mother, my school and other sources were good at teaching me the facts about these realities. Even being equipped with the tools to be able to recognize these risks and a strong head on my shoulders I still found myself to be a victim of sexual assault on multiple occasions.
This first encounter was when I was 16, at a party. I had a few alcoholic drinks, which were “shared” by a close friend who I trusted and had known since I was 8. Shortly after this I remember my body literally become a pile of jello. I was complete dead weight, paralyzed. A group of people carried me inside and laid me down on the couch, I could still hear, smell, see and feel everything around me but was unable to move my body or speak. I heard my friend come down the stairs, lay on the couch behind me and that’s when he began to fondle my body.
I get chills thinking about the sounds of his panting breath smothering my left ear. I am still haunted by the smell of his deodorant. I can visually reconstruct the entire environment in vivid detail from the orange shag carpet with appx 300ml of beige vomit on it to the green Gain laundry detergent container in the corner. Lastly and most importantly, I am deeply sickened by the recollection of what it felt like to have his shaky sweaty hands claim my body as if I were a lifeless toy doll, an object of entitlement instead of a human being with a heartbeat.
The next day I had talked to this “friend” who did this, and did not receive any kind of acknowledgement or apology. I told another friend about what happened and was not believed because this assailant was charismatic, intelligent, athletic and was a very well respected individual at our school. It was a living nightmare for me to see him succeed on a daily basis and not have anyone understand how it felt to be violated by someone who everyone wanted to like. It made me feel completely powerless and stripped of my value. I didn’t tell anyone else about this until I was sexually assaulted for the second time years later.
Initially, I did not deal with healing from these traumas which created a big hole in my spirit, I was completely numb. I was so concerned about not being believed, there were actually moments where I would try to convince myself it didn’t happen because I thought that would be easier to deal with. I became very self destructive, putting myself in situations that were very high risk, not setting personal boundaries, choosing unhealthy relationships, drinking alcohol, being promiscuous, etc. trying desperately to be in control of something, anything.
It wasn’t until about a year ago, that I realized how disassociated I had become spiritually, emotionally, and sexually. I remembered what self respect and healthy relationships looked like and finally believed I deserved to be happy, and appreciated for who I was. No apologies, no regrets. This moment of realization was the most liberating feeling of my life, it was as if I was finally unchained from this dark cloud which I dragged behind me for so long. I had reclaimed not only my body but my life.
If you internalize this trauma, the sexual violence will own you, swallow up your mind, body and soul. The pain and suffering will continue to grow if you feed it your power and control. I have learned that healing from this will always be an ongoing journey but I cannot let it define who I am, what I deserve or what I am capable of.
I am now a forensic nurse working with other survivors of sexual violence during the crisis period after an assault. Hearing the courageous voices of the individuals I work with is what inspires me to continue shining light in the darkest corners to invite those who are lost or hurt to join in solidarity and know they are not alone.