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Something so Horrible Could Make Me This Strong

I am a survivor of childhood trauma, and while working toward recovery from this trauma, I was raped a couple months ago. Ironically, the assault happened while I was traveling and interviewing to work toward my exciting career goals. I gave clear messages to the man who raped me that I was not interested. I thought he would get the message and back away, just like the similar situations I’ve been in with more normal men. I had a false sense of safety that my rapist took advantage of and there was nothing I could have done to prevent it. I accept that now. My boyfriend and I have been working really hard to support each other as individuals and as a couple. Some sexual situations that were okay, even sexy, with us before are no longer okay with me. We are learning a new way to be together and thrive as a couple, but with any behavior change, set-backs should be expected. The other night he pursued me while I was sleeping. He thought he woke me up and that I fully consented. I was extremely groggy and didn’t know what was happening right away. Once I woke up I went along with it to avoid any hurt feelings. This was okay before the rape in my mind. After the rape, I knew that I never want to be in a situation where my mind is not completely clear and consent is fully understood. I communicated this with my boyfriend and he of course respected my wishes. He was tired the other night and fell back into old patterns. I did too, and I participated and did not say no. I know based on strong evidence that my boyfriend would stop immediately if I told him to, but I forgot that I had that power at the time. The next morning I was completely re-traumatized, disoriented, and begging him to leave me alone. I hated him and all men. I was convinced there was no hope to find a decent man in this world. But when my mind cleared and I actually communicated with him, I was reminded that I should always feel comfortable saying no, and that he was tired and fell into a behavior that I now know was never okay! I accepted intercourse without clear consent prior to the rape and now I DEMAND CONSENT. At the end of the day, I realized that the anger that came from that event with my boyfriend was a sign that I am growing into a stronger woman than I ever thought was possible. The childhood trauma made me complaisant, and the rape made me realize that is unacceptable. I wanted to share this story with you to show you all that even when you feel it so strongly, you are not damaged goods and it’s not really hopeless. You can choose to die after rape, or you can make the choice to demand respect and grow into a much much stronger person. I wish the latter for all of you.

— Survivor, age 28


  • Alissa Ackerman
  • Richard


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