Sexual assault: any type of forced or coerced sexual contact or behavior that occurs without consent. Includes rape, attempted rape, child molestation, and sexual harassment or threats
Just as a forewarning, this is a heavier post than my typical reviews and tips, but it is something that I think is really important to bring awareness to. Because this is a topic that has had a great impact on my life, I wanted to touch a bit on this during Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Since I have not mentioned this is my previous blog posts, I want to preface this by saying that I do have firsthand experience with sexual assault in more than one instance. No, I did not report any of these instances, and for those of you who are very up to date on recent news stories, there is a lot of public awareness now for why many victims of sexual assault do not report their cases. One of my rapists was my boyfriend at the time. Not only was I afraid of what he might do if I reported it, it never seemed like it was believable whenever I went over the scenarios in my head. Who would believe the college girl that her boyfriend raped her in the shower on multiple occasions? Even though I was never under the influence of any drugs or alcohol in either of these cases, I just never thought anyone would believe me or if they did, that anything would come of me reporting the cases. I never thought to report anything until it was too late to provide any hard evidence that the act of sex had even occurred to begin with.
Looking back, especially now that I have gone through the break up that followed the instances of abuse, I really had wished that I had made a report of any kind. Our break up was messy and got to the point where he would show up at any moment, completely unannounced and start banging on my door in the middle of the night. He showed up at my work and stood by the front counter, just waiting for me to get off my shift. I was terrified. I stopped sleeping at my own apartment down at school and stayed with friends. Whenever I went to go pick something up from my apartment, I had to drive through the entire parking garage first before going in to make sure I didn’t see his car anywhere. I lived the last couple month of my senior year of college in fear that he was going to show up and do something worse to me than he already had done. And no one should ever feel like that.
It is so heartbreaking that this is something occurring regularly in our society. So many girls, women, boys, and men, live in fear of speaking out and those that do, typically don’t get the justice that they deserve. People today don’t ask people if they’re okay when they finally feel like they are able to speak out and say they were raped or assaulted. Many times, they are asked if they were under the influence, what they were wearing, and what they were doing. And that, to me, is terribly wrong and sad.
The aftermath of sexual assault is messy. I dealt with depression and anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Although I had already had experience with both anxiety and depression prior to these events, any progress I had made slid backwards and I fell deeper than I had before. Many people suffer mentally after experiencing sexual assault. After these events, I struggled greatly with trust issues and intimacy issues. I stopped caring about relationships. I went from being someone who had only had serious, long-term relationships to someone who just stopped caring about that.
Everyone suffers and deals with these events differently. I experienced both ends of the spectrum. The first time I was raped, in Summer 2013, was the first time I had any sexual encounter that was with someone I was not in a relationship with. Afterwards, I felt dirty and worthless and like I was nothing more than just something to have sex with. I felt like I was just an object and not a person with feelings. I felt empty. I started to just stop feeling. Eventually, I felt nothing. And that was when I just spiraled. I didn’t care anymore. I didn’t try to find a relationship, I didn’t try to have feelings for anyone. I started to sleep around. For the first month of my junior year it was a different guy each weekend. I didn’t realize what I was doing at the time and how I was just further during myself. And it’s definitely not something I am proud of, but this was a product of my rape. I felt like I wasn’t someone that someone else could ever love. I felt like I was just there, existing, but barely. I was still empty inside. I felt nothing each time I had sex with someone. There was no happiness, no enjoyment, no connection, nothing. That was the longest span I had of not being in a serious relationship. I hate looking back on this part of my life now, and it’s not easy to talk about, and I’m sure there are people out there that will read this and think to themselves that this was not a product of my rape experience, I was simply just a college slut that liked sex, and that’s okay with me, because I know what was going on in my head each time I had sex with someone I wasn’t in a relationship with and I know what was going on in my head afterwards. And I have gotten to a point in my life where if people think that, then that’s on them and they are going to belittle the traumatic experience that I went through, but they can think what they want. That was the coping mechanism that I had somehow become entangled with.
After my second sexual assault experience, this time with the one I was in a relationship with (and the first actual relationship I was in since the first sexual assault incident), I coped much differently. Once again, I shut down entirely, but this time, I didn’t let anyone near me. I was afraid for any guy to touch me, even if I was their friend for a long time and they were just trying to hug me or put their arm around my shoulder. I was antsy and flinched at any random noises or sudden movements out of the corner of my eye. I was afraid of everything. I never wanted to be alone, but I wanted my own space. I shut myself in my room at night and stopped trying to go out and celebrate the end of senior year with friends. I found myself going to see my parents a lot more, even in the middle of the school week. I was more excited than most people to be graduating and leaving campus for good. I wanted another relationship but felt that I could never trust again, because look at what happened when I finally did get back into a relationship.
To all the victims and survivors of sexual assault, be strong. You are not alone and you should never feel as though you are. What happened to you is not your fault. And you will get through it. It will be a tough and difficult road and it may feel like it is going to defeat you at times, but never let it. You will overcome it and it will make you stronger. If you ever need anyone to listen or provide comfort or vent to, I will be that for you. I went through those dark times alone and it took me 6 months to finally tell someone about what happened with my ex and it took me two years to tell someone about the first time I was raped. I felt like no one would believe me and that no one would help me through those times. I carried that weight on my shoulders until one day I cracked and all the emotions came out. Don’t bottle these things up- tell someone. Even if you tell someone anonymously, it really does feel better to finally open up and have that support and love from someone to let you know that you can get through it. And you will. You will get through it. You deserve happiness.