Not once but twice I was raped. The first time I was young, I was recovering from a medical procedure and used this truth as an excuse to not engage in sex with the man I was in a relationship with. He was much older than I, and I had caught him in lies in the weeks and months earlier. I was ready to make a break. It was not to happen that way. Instead, he forced himself on me while I cried. How he had the ability to rape me, the person he supposedly cared for while I cried throughout is still a mystery to me. I knew then that I needed to escape him for good; it took some time but eventually, I did. I was freed.
Years later, a new me emerged. I had graduated from business school and decided to pursue another career which meant moving away from my friends and family to be totally alone and finally solely responsible for myself. I was ready for adventure and for hard work. I eventually moved into an apartment in a desirable neighbourhood with a roommate who told me that he was accused of sexually assaulting his old roommates friend. This didn’t raise flags for me, instead, I thought how awful it must have been to be accused of something he was innocent of. I was still very trusting. It might have been weeks later, maybe even a couple of months, but one time we went out for a night on the town. Just us, I didn’t invite any of my new friends and he didn’t either. I remember him saying how proud he was to be walking with me on his arm, and when we were dancing I remember him saying that he didn’t know I felt that way about him. I didn’t know what he meant by that comment so I laughed it off- I was not assertive those days and often would ignore or laugh off things that made me uncomfortable, especially if contradicting them would hurt others feelings. We walked home, and I remember he kissed me in front of my bed. I said “we shouldn’t” and he pushed me down. I was completely frozen and slipped into the role of someone who would rather not make others uncomfortable than fight or stand up for myself. I felt with that guilt for a long time- I should have kicked, I should have bit, I should have yelled stop. Instead I submitted to something I did not want and when it was over I retreated into myself. I eventually tried to kill myself. I woke up though and in the stupor of survival I moved ahead with life. Eventually that roommate kicked me out of our apartment because I took to padlocking my door- it showed a lack of trust which he was offended by.
I held myself responsible for these rapes for years, and even now as I write about them I feel very emotional. I tried to kill myself slowly, using anorexia then bulimia for many years. Next I turned to drinking and living in a state of self-repressed memories.
Now, many years later I feel compelled to work with women from all sorts of backgrounds. I know very well how a series of events can lead to homelessness, to mental illness, to substance abuse and eating disorders. How a happy exterior can mask pain, sorrow, blame and shame. I stand now as an assertive woman who albeit is extremely sensitive and tuned to the suffering of others, and who finds strength in the gift of empathy and power in advocacy. I hold my head high knowing that I am a survivor and am amongst the company of so many others survivors. There is less shame today, less self-blame. If I do anything in this life to offset the powerlessness and aloneness that rape causes it is because I finally feel empowered to speak my truth. Thank you for allowing me this forum.
— Survivor, age 38