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.”