Lessons Learned From A Rape Survivor 

Twenty-four years, four months and three days. Only about a third of the lifespan of an average person. Though this may be young, I have learned what people shouldn’t have to learn and have experienced what I wish no one to experience. Much of my history I wish to share, but I know not where to start.

1. Love who you are first. And respect yourself.

Especially in today’s society “love who you are” can be applied to many different aspects. Learning your personal meanings of your roles, goals, your gender, race, religion, age, sexual orientation, political views, morals, and values are all important things to learn and love about yourself. These aspects of yourself change nearly perpetual. Example: I was 18 when I first considered myself an adult, and now at 24 I barely believe I constitute as an adult. The older I get and the more I learn about myself and the world the more I realize how little I know. It is hard for me to learn to love myself through my many faults and failures, but no one can love you like you love yourself. Once you know who you are and love your ever changing self, respect that person and pretect that person.

Twenty-one years, ten months, and four days. This is the age I was when I actively stopped loving myself enough to respect myself. This was the day I lost my virginity.  I grew up in a Christian household and community where it was taught that sex was meant to be saved for marriage. Even the most liberal in the congregation believed sex was meant to be saved for someone you believed you will marry. Being twenty-one, one would hope I would have been astute enough to have sex with someone meaningful. However that is far from reality. A one night stand whom I had known for less than an hour and of which I cannot recal the name. In my personal diary I wrote:

I’m forgetting what it meant to be me. He didn’t even know it was my first time. He didn’t even care about me. This isn’t what I wanted. As soon as it was over, I felt my heart sink. I can still smell him on me. His cologne intoxicates my whole being.

I knew in that moment that I had disrespected myself. But this theme of disrespect of myself continued. Eventually it lead me to a relationship riddled with domestic abuse and rape. This was the day I hit rock bottom. Only with the help of friend and family that loved and respected me more than I did myself was I able to escape the situation alive. This is my biggest hurdle. I am currently still learning how to fully pick myself back up.
Learn from me: love yourself, respect yourself, protect yourself.

5. Losing Faith

Just pray.

Trust in God.

He has a plan for everything.

If you have faith, He will move mountains.

Ask and you shall receive. – Luke 11:9.

I grew up in a strong Christian background. I was very involved in my small local church. In college I was active in a Catholic missionary organization. I took RCIA classes and was confirmed. My life was going so well, I had so much to be thankful for. Even in a few hard times I did experienced in college, I firmly believed that “God helped me through.”

When I was being raped, I was screaming and praying  “God please help me! God please make him stop! God please!” That was the only thing I could do. Pray. I knew I couldn’t get out of the situation alone, if anyone could help me, God would. Or so I thought. That moment shook my faith to the core. I chronically questioned “Why didn’t he answer me? Why was he silent? Why did he allow this to happen to me? What happened to: ask and you shall receive? What happened to if you have faith the size of a mustard seed you will move mountains?” Upon asking my friend that is a priest, he said that it’s a hard question to answer, but to watch Father Mike Schmitz Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People. This sufficed my burning questions for a bit. He talks about how free will plays a lot into how there is so much pain in the world. God allows free choice, because if he didn’t we would be robots, and that isn’t love. That I can understand. That I can live with, God can ignore my pleas, and mess with my life because of the choices I’ve made, or someone’s choice to hurt me. I can live with that. What about infants born, only to die due to genetic disorder before their first birthday. What about children stricken with cancer, to only know a life that is painful and unfair. Who made the decision to do that. No one. That’s who. No one made a single choice to make their child born into chronic pain and suffering. Excuse my French, but, there is so much fucking pain and suffering in this world to the undeserving. Especially now a days. My innate moral code will not let me sit idly by doing nothing and supporting an ignoring god.

God can ignore my pleas all he wants if he is “protecting” my free will. I am not, however, okay with him ignoring the please of innocent children who’s situation is not a result of anyone’s choice. The accumulation of my experience and the horrors and suffering I’ve seen, has turned me into what I call a “Hopeful Agnostic.” While I try to remain hopeful that if he is real, he will come down and take all the suffering away. But I am a realist that also acknowledges that it probably will never happen. I am not writing this to make you question your faith or religion,  I am writing this to show that being raped changes a person fundamentally. It shook me. It made me hyper vigilant of the pain and suffering around me. I was firm in my believe in god, before the rape. The rape made me change as a person and change my beliefs.  It made me realize that if there was a God, he is either cruel or doesn’t care for his creations. Either way, that is not the god I would want to follow. Until he proves me wrong, I will remain a Hopeful Agnostic.


4. Hyper vigilance lasts forever. 

After the incident, I couldn’t go anywhere without thinking everyone knew what happened to me. Any laughs I heard, I just knew they were laughing at me. My anxiety was suffocating me. A constant struggle to not break down in public, look normal, breathe, leave the situation, get to my car or apartment, and step by step think out what caused this episode, realize the trigger was absurd and logically calm myself down. 

My rapist was African American and Hawaiian. Muscular stature and six feet seven inches. Even eight months and  three and a half states away, any person that slightly resembles him, I keep a close eye on them. It was about a month and a half since the attack, and my life didn’t stop. I was still working 8-5pm Monday to Friday, and going to school 6-9pm Monday- Thursday. After class I would study at Starbucks, facing the door cause I couldn’t sit anywhere else without the feeling of an attack was just around the corner. One night and group of about eight frat boys come in, and immediately all of my focus shifted to them. None of them even resembled him, but I could not help myself but keep an eye on them. I feel like the one who wrote “I’ll be watching you” by The Police. 

“Every breath you take. 

Every move you make.

Every bond you break. 

Every step you take. 

I’ll be watching you. “

This paranoia went on for at least four months. Every man that I didn’t know, I would avoid eye contact, but keep my eye on them. It was exhausting. Strangers passing by, I watched. Man across the restaurant, I watched. I’m studying, and someone walks in; I determined their threat to me, and I watched. I was watching my own back 24/7. Even in my own home, I didn’t feel safe. I had no peace. I was mentally and physically exhausted.  My SAAFE House Therapist told me it is called “Hyper Vigilance,” being extra observant of my sourrounding. I hear this term a lot on crime shows; the police are in search of a serial killer, and they tell the public to be “hyper vigilant” and report any abnormal activity to the police. And that was my life now. I was a deer with a target on my back, and it’s hunting season. 

It slowly gets better. The target on your back feels smaller, and it seems to be getting towards the end of hunting season; but not quite. There will always be something that “clicks” and for a moment, maybe two, you are back in that hyper vigilant state. Just breathe and tell yourself “you will be just fine.” 

3. Your Past Becomes Who You Are. 

At the ripe and mischievous young age between four and twelve I was a troublemaker. My daily goal was to do anything I could to annoy my older sister. Some of my favorite acts of annoyance was to barge in her room and leave with some trinket of hers in hand, ask her a million questions of which I argued every answer, poke her, and even show her my small childish bare bum. My parent probably thought we hated each other. Hell, even my sister thought I hated her, and she probably hated me. However, looking back at my childhood, that was my own funny and outlandish way of showing her love. Even now, with my closest friends it is not uncommon for me to tell them “I hate you,” and “You’re Satan.” I know, The Worlds Worst Friend Award goes to me. They know every time I say something mean I am really showing them love. Am I mentally insane? Probably. I’ve learned to accept my idiosyncrasies. The peculiar child I was only grew to became the unorthodoxed adult I am today. 
It may be the second most cliche thing to express as a lesson I learned, but your past becomes who you are. There were many times when I was  bashished to a few hours jail time in my small six year old room, while my sister was allowed to wonder about the free world and watch whatever Disney movie her heart desired. I can specifically recall a time she was watching Lion King and I was in my room. I was just old enough to know how to manipulate a mirror to allow me to watch the TV while laying in the floor right outside my “jail cell.” No matter how much I yearned to be Nala… or even Tamon, I knew my spirit animal was the annoyance of Rifiki fused with the mannerisms of Pumba. One of my favorite parts of the whole movie is this interaction:

After my initial denial of being raped, I accepted my experiences. Many rape survivors undergo a period feeling of shame. Ashamed of what happened to them. Ashamed of “allowing” the rape to happened. I was fortunate enough not to feel ashamed of myself. Endless questions definitely riddled my mind of why and how this happened, but never was I ashamed. I do not mean I went around with a Barbara Streisand-esque “Don’t Rain On My Parade” attitude announcing to all of Broadway and the world that I was raped.  Even with some of the closest of my friends I use the vague description of “assault” to express why we broke up. My immediate goal after the incident was to make this event my past. I wanted to think of this event as many think of how they broke their arm in grade school. It was painful, terrible, and inconvient event that happened and is now in the past. Everyday I tried my best not to think of him or what happened to me, and failed. Even over eight long months later, I can only recall one day that he didn’t enter my mind. That one day I yearn to be everyday. Until one day the thought “I haven’t thought about him in a long time” is the only thought I have for him. 

I do not and will not allow his actions to define me. However, your past become a integral part of you. “We are all just stories in the end. So, just make it a good one” as one of my favorite TV shows so eloquently phrased. As a character in this long and draw out short story of life, I am making the active decision everyday to make my story a brave and inspiring one. The hardest part about being a rape survivor is letting it be a part of your story.  I never want him to be a part of my life ever again, however he will always be a part of it. It is a continual and slow learning curve of how to allow this dreadful experience mold my future into a grander and happier one. A constant struggle between post traumatic flashbacks and taking all the frustration and anger and changing it into a positive. I would like to end this entry with my all time favorite moment in all of literature and cinema. Which, I hope, reminds you that we all need a Samwise Gamgee to our Frodo. Even if we are our own Sam. 

Your past becomes who you are. However, it is you who is in charge of how it become apart of you. 

*I apologize for all the movie and TV quotes. There were so many that I learned from and hold dear to my heart. 

You Can’t Just Trust Anyone

“Maybe you just didn’t fight him off hard enough.”

The worst phrase to ever echo in my ear drums and endlessly repeat like an empty cavern. Second guessing my every decision leading up to that dreadful point, and reliving that moment over and over again.  My mind flashes back like a broken movie reel on repeat until it finally breaks and I am  stranded in a desert of frustration and pain without any air to breathe. Detective Millner, who was assigned to my sexual assault case, accused me of not being persistent. Accused me of the rape being my own fault. Blamed the victim. Blamed the survivor. Detective Millner, I should have been able to trust you.

You can’t just trust anyone.

My rapist was my boyfriend. Six foot seven inches of muscle and power towering over me. He was my first boyfriend to introduce to my parent, and that I openly shared with my friends and family. I invited him into my home out of compassion, and that decision will haunt me forever. I would catch him lying, deceiving, cheating and controlling me, but he had a way of explaining himself that made me think he wasn’t the guilty party. I felt like I was guilty for accusing him of such travesties. He manipulated me into trusting him.

You can’t just trust anyone.

He raped me in what seemed to be an “altered state.” He was a werewolf, it was a full moon, and I was his prey. Initially I didn’t want to call it rape. It felt like I was angry at a child for sleep walking. I contacted my best friend and sister and told them “he attacked me in his sleep.” I was met with the responses of “he needs to go to the doctor.” It wasn’t until the following days did I realize what he did, the impact it had on me, and that my safety was in grave danger. I told a classmate exactly what happened, and she allowed me to stay with her as long as I needed. She urged me to tell the truth to my best friend, sister and parents. It wasn’t until the truth was exposed was I met with support and love.

You can’t just trust anyone. You need to trust the right ones.

Dear Rapist

Dear Rapist,

November 1st, 2016 circles my brain every day. I woke up to you caressing me, and it progressed  rapidly. I slapped you, scratched you, screamed for help, prayed to an ignoring God for help, I shouted “No! Please stop! Stop! No!” But just like God, you ignored my pleas. You held my arms down. Choked me. Covered my mouth to mute the screams. Elbowed me in my face. I was physically exhausted from the night before physically fighting a knife away from you so you didn’t kill yourself. Emotionally drained from caring for your life, when you didn’t. Then you returned the favor by forcing yourself on top of me until I couldn’t move, talk, or do anything. Paralyzed from fear; “If I move I’ll make it worse” I told myself. At that moment you ruined my life. In that moment I would have quit school, quit work, move in with my parents, and wallow in the horror you inflicted in my life. I had no will to live. I had no will to accomplish anything.

You haunted my dreams. I couldn’t close my eyes without seeing you choking me. Punching me. Killing me. More nightmares about you than I can count tormented my mind every night. Any noises I heard while alone in my apartment I knew it was you coming for me. I didn’t feel safe in that hell-hole of a town. I couldn’t go in public anymore with out feeling like you were watching my every move waiting for  opportune kill.

You lied to me every chance you got to help mold yourself into the person you manipulated me into wanting. You used me and my insistent need to help people. You stole my medications and sold them. You cheated on me. You lied about attending school. Lied about where you were that night you when you said you were with your cousin. You lied when you said your cousins hacked your bank account. You lied about that girl hacking your Facebook. Those lies you told me were just too damn convenient. You knew what you were doing the first time you saw me, and you knew what you were doing when you tried to contact me after the police got involved. I will not allow it.

You stole my innocence and my sanity. You stole my will to live and the air from my lungs that I needed to survive. You haunted my thoughts EVERY SINGLE DAY for 9 months.  You gave me lies, deceit, manipulation, anxiety, depression, sleepless nights, nightmares, and fear. I found in myself the strength I’ve never seen before. The strength to live one more day in the apartment you broke the doors and bruised me in. The strength to sleep one more night in the bed you raped me in. I found in my self the strength to say, “the lowest part in my life will NOT define who I am today or tomorrow.” I will not allow a lying, manipulative, controlling rapist to decide my worth, to dictate that I am worthless, to make me live in fear, to make me unhappy, and dwell in the past. I am reclaiming my life from the hell you gave me.

I am officially moving away from this chapter in my life to a new city, state, job, and life. You are now and forever in my past. You did not help me get where I am at to day. I got where I am today because of a fight I found within myself that I didn’t know was there. And with that, I say goodbye. Goodbye to Huntsville, to the detective that ignored my pleas, to the apartment that reminded me everyday of your rape, to this life, and to you. Goodbye forever.

Hello a new beginning.