Preface: This post refers to very difficult subject matter and is not suitable for all audiences. It comes with a heavy trigger warning. However, as April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I thought it was important to share my own story. For more information on SAAM, resources and how you can get involved in the campaign, visit their website.
You probably don't even remember me. If you happen to be reading this, scroll down to the bottom and ask yourself if you'd be able to guess my name or pick me out of a line up. That's what I thought.
I guess I can't blame you there. We aren't friends, and we don't have any mutual friends -- because I dropped all those friends to make sure I'd never have to see you ever again.
I stopped talking to one of my best friends, wouldn't return his phone calls for months, avoided anyone who even knew him, just so I would never have to tell him about you or the things you did to me. I knew I couldn't tell him -- because I used to love this best friend a long time ago, when we were both stupid. I couldn't stand to see his face change when he found out. I thought he wouldn't be able to love me anymore.
I still don't talk to this friend, and I don't even know how to get in touch with him anymore. A mutual friend of ours died a couple years ago, one I didn't really talk to anymore either, and I missed his funeral. I missed getting to see his parents, the parents who partially raised me, the ones who needed all the love they could get, because I didn't talk to that friend or any of his friends anymore.
I couldn't pick up the phone. I didn't know where to start in telling them what had happened to me. I couldn't tell them where I'd been.
I used to blame myself for this, as I used to blame myself for a lot of things. But today, I'm going to start holding somebody else accountable. I'm going to blame you -- for every stupid, horrible, awful, dirty thing you made me feel.
In case you have forgotten what you did, there's a name for it. After everything happened, I called my friend in the morning, sobbing so hard that she couldn't understand anything I was telling her. Even after I stopped, she still couldn't -- because I didn't want to say it, wouldn't say it, still can't say it out loud. I didn't have the words then, and they still hurt to think about.
Because she didn't want to say the other thing, she told me the thing I could hear: "Honey, you got molested." She had been through a similar thing with her ex-boyfriend, who also didn't understand the definition of "No" or "Don't" or "Please" or "I'm begging you." We went through that together, and I even made her a birthday cake when she got back from the clinic, as everybody loves a surprise celebration, even if you celebrate in silence.
That morning, all I had was images and smells. How hard your eyes looked when you told me not to say anything, so hard that they looked like they could crack open. How the weed on your breath mixed with the weed on mine, as I panted, hyperventilated, tried to find the words that would get you to stop. How you were there in the morning, just lying on the floor like nothing had happened, your legs flayed out like the chalk lines of a crime scene.
However, since then, a lot of it has come back to me in dreams, in half-remembered nightmares of you. I remember hanging out with your friends and the way my friends told me to go for you, even though I had a boyfriend. They didn't know if you were gay, but I did because you had Mandy Moore in your ITunes. My gaydar might not be perfect, but Mandy's is.
And I thought you were cute, thought you were nice, thought I might make a friend. You seemed like someone I could trust; you had a face that made me want to believe in you. I wasn't happy in my relationship, and I was lonely and needed someone to listen to me. And I thought that, maybe one day, if I were ready to be happy again, then I would let you buy me some flowers and take me out for coffee.
I think a lot about what might have happened if you only bought me flowers. My life might have gone very differently.
But instead, we did what college students do. We got drunk, a little too drunk, we got high, definitely too high. I had never really smoked before, unless you count smoking as "juicing up a Coca-Cola can in the bushes down by the river" when I was 15. I don't. It tasted like pencils. I'd always been the good kid, the one who made the right decisions, the one who always brought home his report cards, the one who gave himself extra homework, the one you didn't have to worry about.
You probably didn't know this and wouldn't have cared, but I only lost my virginity about six months before you came along. He had the same name as I do, and I wanted to start falling in love with him so much, but he had to drop out of school and move away the week after. All of this was fresh for me.
And you can't play the "I was drunk, too" game. That won't work with me. You saw that I was new at this, how completely gone I was, the way my words kept falling out everywhere like candy from a broken gumball machine. I actually pictured them falling one by one, like Skittles from a rainbow.
So, by the time you got to me, I was barely conscious, barely breathing, barely able to raise a fuss. When I reminded you that I had a boyfriend, did you even hear me? Did you hear me when I cried? Did you even think about it after?
Of everything that happened, the thing that hurt the most wasn't you, your flesh on my flesh, tangled up in my flesh. The thing that hurt the most was me and all the stupid things that I thought while you were violating every part of me I was keeping secret, keeping safe.
I didn't yell because some part of me wanted to protect you. Of course, I was scared, too. I couldn't move a muscle, not even to blink, and I had to watch you do everything you did.
But I also thought about how much trouble you might get in if you got caught, if your parents would find out, if they even knew you were gay. I have a feeling that no one knows, that you still haven't gotten around to being honest about anything you are. And I wanted to protect that, and that disgusted me. I gave the most beautiful thing I could give to someone who didn't deserve it. Because I wanted to let him keep living a lie.
Somewhere, I thought that it didn't matter. At the time, I was dealing with issues of very low self esteem, accrued from years of not getting any interest from guys, not even the kind of interest you showed me. And I felt that maybe I was worth violating. I was gross. I was worthless. I deserved it.
I know now that absolutely none of this is true. None of the terrible things that night forced me to believe about myself are true. What was true was the way my mother cried when she said she loved me on the phone, the way the friends I told would hold my hand so tightly when they found out.
I spent a long time in the bathroom after that, thinking about terrible things, like aspiring pill bottle things and curling iron in the tub things, but love brought me back out, and every single day of my life, love keeps me coming out.
I've come out before -- about embarrassing things, about beautiful things, about the things that make me who I am now, but I've never really talked about you to anyone. And I think it's important to tell people about you, too. For a long time, I thought you were like a really horrible imaginary friend, and I wondered if I made you up in my head, hoped that I made you up.
But now, it's time to make you real.
Because you aren't the only one out there. Things like this happen every day to numbers of people I don't even want to think about the size of. They've happened to friends and relatives, and I was lucky to be let into the agonies of the people I've told. They've shared so many awful and terrible and inspiring things about their histories with consent, about all the times when their partner didn't know what no meant, and I felt honored that they let me into that struggle. In sharing our pain, I found something beautiful. I found a reason to live.
I was lucky. I wasn't one of the Penn State kids or the boys from the Catholic Church scandals. I was mostly an adult and old enough to understand everything that happened, that what you did was evil and sick, that you are evil and sick. I know that I'm lucky every single day, when I get to wake up and tell my mom how much I love her, when I get to thank the world for saving me.
However, every day that I live this life is another day that I protect you, that I keep you safe, and today is the day I stop.
I don't expect anything from sharing this with you now. I don't want anything from you. At this point, there's nothing you could possibly do or say that would take back the last five years, and frankly, I don't want it. I don't need you to be sorry anymore. I've healed past sorry. I've grown past sorry. I'm better now, and you didn't do that.
But I need to know that I'm not the only one that's better. I need to know that, by sharing this letter, someone else somewhere is going to feel a little less hurt or pain -- because of things that happened to them, because of people like you. I need to know that we get better because we have each other, because we fight for each other, because we can love each other through anything.
I've been loved so much, loved so hard I thought I might pop like a balloon, and you wouldn't know a thing about that. Love wasn't on your mind or on your hands, but it's the only thing on mine. It put me back together. It made me whole again. Little by little, I learned to love myself.
Afterword: Again, if this issue has affected you or someone you know, please, check out NVSRC or RAINN's websites for resources on how to cope with it. I'm not personally involved in counseling and I'm not an expert on the issue, but I urge you to seek any help that you are ready for. Know you are not alone. If you are loved, you are never alone. I also want to thank all of the people who have been so supportive through the process of writing this and living this, especially my mother. Words cannot express the love and gratitude I feel for being lucky enough to have you.
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