The first time I was sexually assaulted, it was by someone I thought was a close friend when I was just sixteen. Shortly after the date rape, I discovered I was pregnant. I was blessed to have a mother who was both understanding and economically able to aid me in having an abortion. It was a Saturday when she took me to the clinic. As we entered, we had to pass through a line of pro-life picketers. These faceless people waved their signs and threw wads of paper at us. They called me a whore and my mother even worse things. After that day, I vowed that I would never EVER let myself be violated again.
The second time I was raped, I was in my own apartment. My roommate’s birthday party was dying down and, having lent my bedroom out to a friend and her boyfriend, I fell asleep on the couch. I woke up to a man I had just met a few hours earlier inserting himself into my sleeping body. I jumped up and expected him to attack me. Instead, he ran right out the front door and across county lines. After a rape kit and a police report, I was informed that very little legal action could be taken since my attacker was beyond the local police’s geographical domain. A few months later, I discovered something very unpleasant in my downstairs region and was informed by my doctor that I had contracted a warts-inducing HPV strain. After discussing my sexual history with her, we both concluded that this STD most likely came from the second rape.
I thought I was an anomaly. I thought I must have been irresponsible, reckless, careless. A tease to men. I thought my behavior meant that I was asking for the things that happened to me. Maybe this was because of the way the officers treated me. Maybe their assumption that I was just another drunk girl regretful of bad behavior eventually became my own, as well. Maybe when they accused me of being the same woman that had drunkenly wandered into my neighbor’s apartment and forced herself on him, I just thought I may as well have been. Maybe when an old high school teacher who knew my rapist called me and asked me to drop the charges because he was a father, I considered myself a bad person for seeking justice against my rapist.
I must have forgotten that I was sleeping in my own home when I was raped for the second time. I must have forgotten that after incessant arguing with the detective on my case, she looked up the other woman’s identification and learned that my neighbor’s intruder wasn’t me. I must also have forgotten that that man who chose to rape me knew what he had to lose.
But I eventually remembered. In finishing my recollections with whomever I am sharing, I tell them that assault survivors are never anomalies. What has helped me remember are these conversations with other women who used to believe they were anomalies, too. My roommate’s boyfriend wrapped his hands around her throat and raped her when she did not acquiesce to his advances. She broke up with him but told no one for months. She thought it wasn’t rape if he was her boyfriend. She thought that maybe he didn’t realize it was rape. She though that maybe he just had problems. But now she knows the truth. And she learned this by sharing her experience.
Less than a year ago, I was telling my story to a new friend and I was surprised to find that she had no similar experiences in her life. I was overwhelmed with relief to know that this young woman in front me carried not the burden of sexual trauma. This was the first conversation I had had with another woman in a long while who harbored no sexual assault story. Then a couple of months later, I received a message from her. She had been walking to campus on a Sunday afternoon when a man dragged her into an alleyway and, while strangling her, attempted rape. She screamed and kicked and clawed until passersby intervened and the man fled. Like her and all those who learned what had happened, I was devastated. However, even in suffering from the trauma and knowing her attacker has yet to be found, she remains strong and continues to share her story.
No matter how our narrative goes, one thing is for sure. We are never an anomaly in our suffering and surviving trauma. Whether that trauma is discovering that a virus has taken up a home in your body or another person decides your body is nothing but their own object for the taking.
Now ten years after surviving my first rape and six years after surviving the second, I am a teacher to young people who are the same age as I was when I first began processing my trauma. I tell them that I am survivor. I tell them that they are not anomalies. That their friends are not anomalies. We have no control over who looks at our bodies as objects. We only have the power to survive and not feel ashamed. Overcoming the shame is what allows us to seek help and to heal. So share your story and seek guidance for your pain. Continue to survive knowing that you are one of many who may overcome.
Thank you for taking the time to read our first ever CHOICES’ Voices Community Blog post! We’ve put a lot of love into building this project, and we sincerely hope that you’ll follow us throughout our journey and laugh, cry, fist pump, and scream right along with us. We chose this amazing, powerful story as the first ever Community post because it’s beautiful, it’s courageous, and it’s a great example of the deeply held belief that gave us the idea to start this crazy project in the first place—that our stories are our most powerful tools. In telling her story, this anonymous blogger took control of her story and used it to do something magical.
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