Everyone thought that I was going through a bad breakup. And for a long time, I made myself believe it too. It was like losing a piece of my voice, my life, my skin, my heart, my soul. My mind became a place of torment that I could never escape. I couldn’t look at myself without feeling repulsed, I couldn’t think without my mind slipping deeper into a dark hole, and I couldn’t close my eyes without seeing him, without seeing us, without hearing the sound of my own voice begging for him to stop as I laid beneath him…my pleading was always met with silence. Could he hear me?
Dark. That was the only word I could think of to describe the relationship that I entered into my sophomore year of college. I was in over my head dating a guy who was a few years older than me. He pursued me, romanced me, and swept me off my feet like nothing I had experienced before. He was mysterious, charming, funny, and confident—I couldn’t find anything wrong with him. I kept asking myself, ‘how did I get this lucky?’ It was too good to be true. I would have never thought that this ‘too good to be true’ relationship would spiral uncontrollably.
I still remember the first night that he sexually assaulted me. It replays over and over in my head. I was a virgin, and had always planned to save myself for the right time with a person I felt I loved and trusted. Growing up in a strict Christian background I had almost come to believe that in losing my virginity I would also lose my self-worth. I loved to be physical and close with him, but only up to a certain point. He had been relatively respectful of these boundaries up until that night.
We were in bed together after a night out. He began pulling down my shorts, but I gasped and grabbed onto them. I started shaking my head saying ‘I don’t know.’ He continued to hold onto them as he repeatedly said ‘It’s okay, it’s okay.’ I continued to shake my head until he said ‘trust me’. And I wanted to trust him. So I let him take them off.
But once they were off I began to panic. I didn’t want him to assume I was ready for sex. “Wait” I kept saying as he aggressively got on me then pulled me on him. ‘Wait! Don’t!’ He was grinding his penis against me and I was terrified. I didn’t want to have sex. ‘Wait, I’m a virgin!’ I said.
What terrified me the most was that he wouldn’t even acknowledge that I was speaking. He wouldn’t look at me or react when I pleaded with him. He ignored me. It was like he couldn’t hear me at all. I started wondering if I wasn’t being clear enough—what didn’t he understand? What was I doing wrong?
Finally I grabbed him with tears in my eyes and tried to make eye contact. ‘I’m not ready, I’m not ready. Please don’t put it in.” I kept repeating.
I finally got a response from him. ‘I know.’ He said—still pressing his penis against me and refusing to look at my face. ‘It’s not going in.’ I relaxed when he acknowledged me and my wishes. However, soon after he asked for oral sex. I already felt completely out of my comfort zone and had no intention of giving him oral that night. I shook my head to say no. Immediately, he groaned loudly and in anger, and got on top of me. He began fingering me roughly. He had fingered me before so I laid there and tried to take it, but this time felt much different than the times before. I could sense his frustration and rage, and I was in so much pain from the intensity, speed, and pressure of his fingers. I tried to resist asking him to stop to avoid upsetting him more, but I finally couldn’t bare it any longer.
‘Okay wait!’ I whispered, expecting him to stop. But he didn’t. ‘Stop!’ I tried again, but he continued. ‘Please!’ I begged, grabbing his hand to pull it away. But he only slowed momentarily before speeding up to an even more unbearable intensity. I still remember lying beneath him, hearing myself plead over and over again. “It’s too much!” ‘It’s too much!’ I was disgusted by the frailty of my voice as he persisted harder than before. Never had I felt so beneath someone as I did in that moment. The pain, the humiliation, the worthlessness, the powerlessness, the fear. I remember hearing myself grow quieter as I detached from my body. I don’t know how long it was before he stopped but it felt like eternity. I felt tears flood my eyes when he finally stopped, but I willed myself not to cry. My first thought was that I was being ridiculous if I cried. I couldn’t make this into a big deal. He grabbed me to cuddle after he was finished. ‘Come here’ he said. Couldn’t he see how upset I was?
But I let him hold me and whisper his favorite things about me in my ear as if nothing had just happened. ‘Do you know what I thought about you when I first saw you?” He whispered, as if that angry person I had witnessed only moments before had never been there at all.
He didn’t acknowledge that anything had happened until the next day when I agreed to go on a date with him so that I could tell him I thought it was best if we ended the relationship, but he showered me with affection, romance, and kindness. So much so, that I had almost completely forgotten about what had taken place between us the night before. When I did try to bring it up, he immediately apologized for being too aggressive and told me he would never force me or pressure me to do anything I didn’t want to do. He told me he highly respected my virginity and that it showed him a lot about my character—he told me everything I wanted to hear and did everything I wanted him to do–and I completely fell for it. I chalked it up to a minor ‘mess up’ that came as a result of a misunderstanding or momentary frustration that wouldn’t happen again. But it did. It became a pattern.
What makes me cringe even more when I think back on this time period is that this was the first night of many, many more to come. After the first incident I tried to avoid spending the night with him altogether, but he would often convince me. Time and time again I would willingly go to bed with him, wanting to spend time with him and feel the same passion we had felt early on, and time and time again, after this first time, he would repeat the same pattern– becoming more extreme each time. I would try to be stronger and sterner about when I wanted him to stop. Or I would tell him to ‘wait’ to be ‘gentle’ or that something didn’t feel good. But he would continuously ignore me. He would shove my head down even after I said no. He would be rough with me even while I begged him to be gentle. He would tell me that it was ‘for me’ but he would give me orders and expect me to obey them. I will never be completely certain of the extent that he took things. Towards the end the countless number of traumatic moments and nights started to become a blur. Often times he would even deny that anything had happened at all.
For the longest time I thought of what he did to me as ‘maybe a little aggressive; maybe a little wrong’ but I didn’t dare label it as sexual abuse, assault, or rape until nearly a year later. He brought me lower than I had ever been before, and I lost all sense of self-worth and respect because of it. I hated myself. When I looked in the mirror all I could see was the word ‘weak’ staring back at me, and I took full blame for everything.
It has taken me a long time to come to terms with the fact that he was continuously assaulting me throughout our relationship. And even worse: that I stayed in the relationship for a while allowing it to continue. It’s something that I can learn to heal from, but will always impact my life.
After things ended with him, a few months later, I was sexually assaulted again, but this time by a crush at a party. We went into a room and started kissing, but he quickly started tearing off all my clothes. I kept saying ‘no’ and tried to grab them but he quickly ripped off my skirt and underwear and flung them on the floor, saying that he had no use for them. I tried to clamp my legs together and push his hands away but he forced my hands above my head and ordered me to spread my legs. I kept my legs clamped shut but he was much stronger than me and he shoved his finger up inside of me. I yelled out and he responded by saying ‘You like that don’t you!?’ He repeated the question over and over. He told me I was ‘stuck up’ and that I needed to grow up and stop waiting for Prince Charming. He asked me what he had to do to ‘get it.’ ‘Do I have to take you out to dinner?’ He said in a mocking way. He humiliated me, and when I tried to look away he told me to look at him while he was fingering me. I told him he was hurting me so he finally stopped but continued to touch me. Later, he took out his penis and shoved my whole body down. I tried to fight him but he held me there and ordered me to ‘suck his d***’. Finally when he left, he walked out saying ‘well at least I got farther than the guys said I would.’
After he left I was stunned. Some of my friends blamed me when I tried to tell them. ‘You shouldn’t have gone in the room with him’ they said. Or ‘did you really say no as assertively as you could have?’ This made things worse.
I stuffed all of these traumatic events inside, and for a long time felt so alone. As if I was living in a world that no one else could understand. I watched my life go by as if I was in a daze, and the best I could do was to manage day by day.
It’s been nearly two years since everything has happened, and it still follows me. But two years ago I would have never believed that I would be in the place that I’m in today. My life is not perfect. I have good days and bad days. But I am healing. Each day is a fight that I will never stop fighting. I never believed that the light-hearted girl who existed before everything happened would ever return. But I’m finding myself again. Countless nights of beating myself down, having flashbacks, panic attacks, and nightmares; feeling distant, dizzy, crazy, alone. I didn’t understand why other girls were able to find love, but all I seemed to be able to find was abuse. I kept wondering if it was something wrong with me. But I’m no longer in that dark place. Each day I’m growing stronger, loving myself, and accepting that what happened to me was not my fault. And each day my desire to speak out about the truth of what happened to me has gro wn. So I’m breaking the silence now.
Yes, I was raped. I think it’s time I finally admit that to myself, to my friends, my family. I’m not going to minimize it anymore. I’m not going to blame myself anymore. It’s not going to control me anymore. My life, my words, my skin, my mind, my soul. They are mine. And I will take them back tonight. I am not a victim. I am strong, resilient, and unbreakable. And I’m standing up now.