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When It Happens

My sexual assault may have made me feel broken, but I’m still here

Warning: This article discusses potentially triggering topics, including sexual assault and suicide.

When it happens, you feel like your body no longer belongs to you. You think you have control but you don’t. You feel you are stripped of dignity, respect, and self-worth. No matter how much strength you muster to kick and to scream, nothing works. Nothing can remove the hands that are pushing you against the wall over and over again, the same hands that are running up and down your body as if doing so were a sport. Nothing can remove the face that is forcing its tongue down your throat and keeping you from breathing. Nothing can remove that part that is shoving itself up your dress, trying to get inside you and destroy you completely.

Nothing ever works.

And after unconsciousness has consumed you for several minutes, nothing can remove the unrelenting weight that has pinned you down on a table, holding you there until you can no longer feel anything. That’s when it hits you.

You are going to be raped here.

You look into the face, that familiar face, and you question everything. Why is he doing this to me? How could he do this to me? What am I going to do?

So you throw out everything you’ve got. Kicks, punches, pushes, slaps, twists, and turns until there is no more air to breathe.

And then suddenly, you’re free. You can’t believe it. You don’t know how, but you did it. You saved yourself. He’s on the floor. You threw him on the floor.

So, what now? Do you run? Find your friends? Beat the living shit out of him?

No. You go over to his drunken body and you put on his clothes. You help him up and leave the dark room that you were thrown into — the dark room that consumed you.

The lights hit you. You are stone. The music has stopped and you are absolute stone. The adrenaline dies down and the pain begins to pierce right through you.

Somehow, he walks away as if nothing had happened, calling out, “Have a nice summer!” in his wake.

What? You don’t understand.

On the ride home, your best friend — too drunk to sit up straight — doesn’t understand either. She giggles and asks, “How big was it?” So you give up. You sit in silence, hoping to never feel anything ever again.

The next morning you look at your back in the mirror. Dark streaks of blue and purple run down it, making it too painful to sit and forget that they are there. No matter how you move, you feel them, the marks of a real-life nightmare.

You decide to tell your mother, who in turn scolds you.

“How could you let yourself get in this position? I have taught you not to be alone with boys, haven’t you learned anything? You should have known better. This is going to ruin my friendship with his mother. How could you do this?”

But then she stops. She thinks. She sees you: the emotionless, lifeless body who can no longer feel. Her eyes turn from accusing to determined and angry. She says, ”I want to hurt him so bad.”

Months go by. Summer arrives and you try to forget about it with all your might. It was just a dream. It was all in your head. It wasn’t real. And soon after, your senior year begins. You hope.

You tried to hope. Then you see him: normal, smiling, happy. A girlfriend?

Your body turns lifeless again and you can no longer stand. You start to question everything and you become someone else. Every day becomes a battle. Every day is a struggle. You cannot leave the house without screaming or crying or collapsing or hitting something. Your self-esteem becomes nonexistent. No one understands. Therapists are unsuccessful. Medication drills a hole into you. You try and try, but nothing ever works.

Talking about it is difficult, but you need to try. You need someone to be there and to listen. But what do you receive in return? Responses like, “Aw, that sucks,” or “Was he circumcised?” You wonder if there’s any part of you that is left undiminished.

More than a year later, you come across a letter written by a stranger, a woman who was raped by a man at Stanford University. You read her words again and again, allowing her pain and her bravery to tear right through you. All she asked for was an apology. So where was it? Where was his admission of abuse, his asking for forgiveness? It was nowhere, because it did and does not exist.

I can’t imagine being in her place because at the very least, the familiar face that hurt me owned up to what he did. He said he was sorry. I cannot compare my experience to hers because if that familiar face had not apologized, I’m afraid I would not be here right now.

I am broken, but I’m still here. Did this situation scar me? Yes. Do I still have nightmares of that night to this day? Yes. Have I accomplished complete closure? No. What happened to me will always stay with me, no matter how much I wish it wouldn’t. But at least I had the comfort of knowing he was sorry and that I was able to talk about it. The woman at Stanford had to fight for over a year to be heard.

I hope that anyone out there who has gone through the same thing does not have to fight to have a voice. Scars may always be there, but they fade.

I hope that those of you who know someone who has been through something similar treat that person with the care and respect that they deserve. Don’t let them give up.

If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, call the 24-hour National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673), or visit RAINN.

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