To all those who have been sexually assaulted,
I know what it’s like to feel like you lost a part of yourself that you weren’t ready to give up. I know what it’s like to not recognize who you see in the mirror. I know what it’s like to cry until your eyes swell shut. I know what it’s like to forget who you used to be. I know what it’s like to want to end all of the pain and escape the horrors of your new reality. I know what it’s like to long for the days when you weren’t haunted by the worst night of your life. I know what it’s like to think you’re ok and then find yourself crying yourself to sleep 6 months later. I know what it’s like to be blamed for something that ruined your life. I know what it’s like to lose your best friends because it’s easier to blame the victim than take a stand. I know this because I was sexually assaulted the night of my senior prom.
I was determined to deal with that night all by myself. I was going to stand strong and play it off cool–no need to tell anyone. “I’m going to be ok”–WRONG. The shame I felt walking into my house that morning drove me straight to the protection of my bed covers. I hid from the world that had so quickly betrayed me–a girl once so strong and confident in herself became someone who cowered from her own shadow. I was determined to not tell my parents and keep the worst night of my life a secret from everyone around me. Eventually, the anxiety and shock of it all became too much–I cried until I ran out of tears; I hyperventilated until I couldn’t breathe; I shook until I couldn’t move. My mother begged me to tell her what was the matter and I finally cracked under it all–I could not face what had happened alone; I didn’t need to.
Victim blaming is a very real thing. Saying what happened out loud that night was arguably one of the hardest moments of my life–no relief came from voicing that nightmare. It just made it more real. Suddenly, I was a victim of sexual assault. I wasn’t the happy-go-lucky kid that everyone knew. I stopped laughing as much and I became closed off to those around me–I mean if you don’t let anyone in, then how can they hurt you. So that’s what I learned to do. When my friends declared their disbelief, I pleaded with them to understand that I was living a nightmare. I wanted nothing more than for them to say that they believed me and that it wasn’t my fault. But, it’s easy to blame the victim and walk away. It’s easy to see someone who is broken and decide it’s too much to deal with. I watched my entire life crumble before my eyes–I distanced myself from my family, I lost my dearest friends, I forgot who I used to be and became someone who I hated. I slapped a smile on my face and prayed that no one would be able to see the agony going on in my head. I didn’t want help from anyone; I didn’t even want to be seen.
To all those who have been sexually assaulted, you are not alone. I struggle every day with what happened to me that night. I still cry about it, I still blame myself, and I still try to think of what I could have done differently. The fact of the matter is that being a victim of sexual assault is life changing. It was the first time I realized the true evil that can come out of this world. Not a day goes by where my mind doesn’t wander back to that night. I feel angry, sad, broken, hurt, depressed, anxious, horrified, embarrassed, but through it all I am relearning to love myself and my life. I’m not even close to being who I used to be; I don’t know if I’ll ever regain that innocence and happiness–but I will try. I will continue to try to move on, to accept that I am not at fault, to realize that one persons evil act does not (& should not) change the way I love myself.
To the coward who assaulted me, how dare you take advantage of someone the way you did. How dare you use evil to steal my innocence. How dare you be so selfish as to be such as evil human being–yes, evil to your core. I am here today, to tell you that you will not prevail because YOU are nothing more than a coward. You turned what was supposed to be a great night into a living hell–how dare you. That night will remain with me for the entirety of my life, but I will grow stronger. I will learn that I am not at fault. I will learn to love who I was and who I have become. I will learn to trust those around me and I will learn to laugh once again. Because, you are a coward and you will never define who I am or who I will become.
To myself, I love you. You were changed by a night that you could not have controlled. YOU ARE NOT AT FAULT, and never have been. The evil of one person does not take away from the goodness within you. You have a purpose and at times that you find yourself anxious because of that night, remember who you are. You are strong, you are smart, you are meant for something larger than life. You can change the world around you. One night does not define the rest of your life. You will find happiness and you will find love and support in those around you. Never give up because a life of greatness awaits. You are worthy of everything life has to offer. And if nothing else, remember: you will be okay, because YOU are a survivor.
— Survivor, age 18