The very first time I ever had a panic attack, I was 16, my boyfriend was there. I was lying on the floor of my bedroom listening to him tell me some stupid line about how he “had been thinking about me all week”, when it just hit me, not triggered by anything in particular, but there was o mistaking what it was- shallow breaths, chest pains, the complete inability to move, speak, or even think. Clearly something was wrong. I remember trying desperately to make some words come out, to tell him that something was happening; that I needed him to stop and just hold me. But he was too busy already unbuttoning his pants.
Most of what happened next was drowned in a blur of my own fear, but I remember more than enough. I remember him looking me in the eyes- tears streaming down my face, trying frantically to get out the word “no”- as he flipped me onto my stomach, pulled down my shorts, and had his way with me. I remember silently sobbing as the two most traumatic things that ever happened to me thus far coincided. I remember finally being able to speak again after he wiped himself off of my back, pouting and complaining about how I hadn’t helped him because he “knew I never really cared about him” and I was “just going to dump him anyways.” And I remember the first words out of my mouth after the whole ordeal were me trying to reassure him that I was never going to leave him. I remember tying to explain to him later “what was wrong with me,” and how he didn’t believe that it was a panic attack, because I couldn’t tell him what the trigger had been.
The most I can say is that I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed with myself for not realizing what that encounter truly was for over a year and a half after we broke up. We had an emotionally abusive relationship (another realization I didn’t have until the breakup) where I took care of him, and he didn’t give a damn about my feelings. At the time, that’s all I thought it had been-just me taking care of him again; yes it terrified me to think about, but it didn’t seem out of the ordinary for our relationship. I didn’t truly realize until I had another panic attack much more recently and a friend tried to comfort me by putting her arm around me and I completely flipped and shoved her off of me. Later she asked me out of curiosity why I didn’t like to be touched during an attack even tough I’m usually a very cuddly person, and I told her it was because of the first time. She just looked so appalled and said, “You realize that was rape, don’t you?”
No actually I hadn’t. It had never even occurred to me that that was the word for what had happened. In my mind it had always just been another example of how he always put himself before me, because clearly his sexual impulses were more important to him than my complete breakdown. I knew it had been wrong, but I hadn’t quite realized how wrong it was until that moment.
I’m ashamed I didn’t know, or that I didn’t tell anyone. I’m ashamed that I didn’t notice that my relationship was so messed up, I could justify my literal rape to myself, but most of all I’m ashamed that I am still his friend.
— Survivor, age 18