I’m a woman, in my 20’s and am from the American Midwest. I’m also currently in college and am going into the medical field. I’m a feminist, a scientist, a musician, a swing dancer, a dreamer, and a million other irrelevant things.
Oh yeah, and I’m a survivor of multiple sexual assaults.
So why am I making this blog? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure yet. I already have a journal. Maybe this’ll be a good way to organize my thoughts in one spot. Or better yet, maybe it can help you recover, help you help someone who is recovering, or allow you to better understand what life is like as a survivor.
Here goes nothing.
My Not-So-Brief Story (TLDR version at the bottom)
Trigger warning: descriptions of sexual assault.
Turning eighteen felt pretty good, as it does for most people. For me, it meant celebrating my biggest accomplishment to date: overcoming the depression brought on by my parents’ divorce which began the previous year. It meant starting a new life with my mom after watching her being verbally abused ever since I can remember. It was a time of growth for both of us.
It was also a time of fear. I was afraid my depression would come back. I was afraid that I would repeat my parents’ mistakes by either becoming my father or marrying someone like him. Mostly it was a time of determination, because I was doing everything in my power to make sure those fears wouldn’t become a reality even though the odds were against me in both respects. Because of my parents, I learned that respect is the most important thing in a relationship. I knew that because of what I saw my parents go through, I would demand respect in every relationship and show them the door if that didn’t happen.
Well… that didn’t quite go the way I planned.
Part I: N (2011)
When I turned eighteen I hadn’t been in a relationship for two years. I was craving one if the chance came along, but being single was never the end of the world for me. However, when the chance did appear I jumped on board with all the enthusiasm you would expect in a teenage girl. This opportunity came in the form of a nerdy, goofy guy I’d known in elementary school. We’ll call him “N”. We lost contact after graduating but he got back in touch with me the summer after I turned eighteen. From the beginning I had a hunch that he wasn’t just randomly reconnecting with me.
Little did I know, the reason for him contacting me wasn’t as innocent as it would seem. He’d broken up with his long-term girlfriend a few months prior and simply couldn’t bear the single life. All his friends were in relationships and so to end his misery, they thought it would be a good idea to set him up with me. It wasn’t until later that I realized he only wanted to be in a relationship for the physical aspect of it. It seems that he wanted to pick up right where he left off with his ex-girlfriend. I was nothing more than a replacement for her body.
Our first date consisted of “watching” two Star Wars movies in his basement. I actually did want to see them because I hadn’t since I was a child… but to be truthful, we didn’t actually watch them. He started tickling me very early on… which led to cuddling… which led to kissing. This was all consensual.
Almost right away he started French kissing me like a lizard. I was repulsed but said nothing. Eventually I convinced myself that I liked it. A little while later his hand drifted down my back. When it touched the top of my jeans, I lifted my hand to pull it away. Before I was even half way there he took his hand away and apologized. I was proud of myself for setting boundaries.
Our first date went well overall. I was overwhelmed and smiley from all the butterflies. All of our friends were thrilled for us. For the first week, he was pretty tame as far as I remember. However, right away I noticed that our personal connection was lacking. I really wanted us to get to know each other. My idea of the perfect relationship was and is two people who are best friends and just so happen to also be in love. He wasn’t very cooperative when I tried to get to know him. Those conversations never went anywhere. Still, I thought he was sweet and that soon enough we would get to know each other. He flattered me… said sweet things all the time. I gobbled it all up, cherishing every moment of the excitement of the blossoming of a new relationship. I didn’t get much time to savor it because he just wanted to jump ahead physically and had no interest in anything else, it seemed.
The first red flag came only a few days into our relationship. He was determined to find out what turned me on. Being that I hadn’t done more than kiss a guy before him, I had no idea. Plus, I had no interest talking about those types of things so early into a relationship. I prefer taking things slow and getting to know the person first. No rush.
A few days after our first date he touched my butt for the first time as we were kissing even though I previously told him that it was off limits. It was technically sexual assault (definition: any unwanted, non-consensual sexual activity), but it’s hard to think of it that way even now. The thing is, once he did it I found that I liked it despite my expectations. I told him not to expect that to happen every time and not to cross any other lines. He apologized for going too far and said “it is good to know my boundaries :)” I was thrilled to be with a guy who apparently respected me. I also belittled my disappointment with him disrespecting my boundaries because I was afraid of it turning into a fight. I’ve always disliked conflict and my parents’ marriage only made matters worse. However, I saw all these things as minor problems that could be overcome without too much difficulty, so none of it worried me.
A week into our relationship, I wanted some time alone with him. I brought him to my favorite place. It was fairly ordinary – a bare hillside behind a cemetery that overlooked the swamp I lived by. (In fact, the picture at the top of my blog was taken from that spot). As far as I knew, I was the only one who ever went there. It had been my place of refuge when my parents were fighting, the place I ran to when I was confused or scared. It made me feel calm. After bringing him there that day, all of that was tainted.
I spread a blanket on the ground and soon he was on top of me, kissing me. I’ve always loved kissing and was excited because I’d never done it lying down before. But then things went south. (No pun intended). I don’t even remember how exactly it happened. All I know is that his hand must’ve ventured to my butt and then slid down until it was between my legs. He began massaging my vagina through my clothes. I was confused. I didn’t know what was going on. I wondered if he knew what he was doing. Was it on purpose?
I think it took me a few minutes to react. When I couldn’t take it any longer, I pulled his hand away. I remember it happening again a few minutes later. After some hesitation, I pulled his hand away a second time and held it tightly to my waist for a few seconds trying to communicate “Your hand belongs here.” It might’ve happened a third time. I’m not sure. It was all a blur. I never spoke up about it the whole time. I thought my actions were obvious enough and was uncomfortable discussing these things outright.
I wish I’d known that my safety and well-being are much more important than his feelings.
Honestly I felt a little bad for pulling his hand away too. I didn’t want to ruin the moment for him. I wish I’d known that my safety and well-being are much more important than his feelings. Overall, I just didn’t know how to react. So I didn’t. While we kissed, he also humped me which made me profoundly uncomfortable. I would’ve been content doing nothing but kissing for the first few months.
As we walked back to my car, I remember being very quiet. It was hard to focus on our conversation. I tried to act natural – like nothing had happened. We said our goodbyes and I didn’t mention how he made me feel.
The moment I got home, it really hit me. I felt violated, dirty. I vividly remembered the feeling of his fingers exploring me. My mind forced me to relive it over and over again. A little while later I got a text from him. “You are amazing <3” it said. It made me feel sick that he could say something like that about what was such a negative experience for me. I spent a long time thinking up my reply. I was so afraid of making him mad but I had to say something.
Me: “I really really really hate to say this but the truth is I didn’t enjoy that very much 😦 Lesson learned. Next time I’ll speak up when there are turn offs and/or you’re going too far. Unfortunately this time it was both and mostly the first one.” (Actually, it was mostly the second, but I didn’t want to upset him).
N: “That is totally understandable, I am really sorry, I will be better next time 😦 Sorry about that XD”
Me: “So the problem is your hands were getting waaaaay too adventurous (and you did it AGAIN after I pulled your hand away! ) and what you were doing with ur hips… it just made me nervous and I just didn’t like it. It sucked cuz I wanted to tell you to back off but I didn’t want to ruin it for you. So all that stuff kinda ruined it for me.”
N: “I know, I feel terrible, so I will never do that again, I like you too much to mess this up again :(”
Me: “Don’t feel terrible. We got it worked out and we both know what not to do so no need to worry 🙂 I like how easy that was 🙂 especially because just last night I was thinking that I really like how this is going so far :)”
N: “Yeah, and if I ever do anything that makes you uncomfortable, I need you to tell me, ok? :)”
Me: “Yup. Like I said, lesson learned.”
Later on that night he said: “Hi 🙂 by the way, I hope you can forgive me for what happened earlier :/”
Me: “Done. It was half my fault anyway for staying quiet”
I was trying so hard to avoid offending him that I downplayed everything. I’m sure he had no idea the damage he did. After that we never spoke of it again.
Also, let me make one thing clear here: sexual assault is never, under any circumstance, the survivor’s fault. I know that now. Silence does not mean yes. In fact, pulling his hands away was a very clear communication. He just chose to ignore it. This is the only time I ever even consider that what happened to me was even partially my fault. Later on I realized that he needs to ask before doing something like that, especially so early in a relationship.
As time went on, it seems most of our conversations revolved around us telling each other how awesome we were and… him making constant innuendos. He loved talking about penises and bringing them up often in conversation for no good reason. I would politely call him out for saying inappropriate things and made it clear that I was uncomfortable with him talking like that. He constantly did it anyway.
This is also the time when he started pressuring me a lot. He would say that he respected my boundaries during these conversations and then go right back to trying to convince me to “expand my horizons.” Contradicting yourself much? He would always ask if I wanted to do these new things, but I also felt pressured because he asked so often. It was clear that he wanted to move faster but I simply had no interest in that. He wanted me to grab his butt, take his shirt off, kiss his chest, kiss me all over, make out while in swimsuits… Eventually I felt bad for saying no so many times. Relationships are all about compromise, right? So once in a while I would say yes to some of the less objectionable things he suggested. (There’s no consent if it was coerced, so this was sexual assault as well).
At this stage it didn’t even occur to me that this was abnormal. The pervasive stereotype that guys always want to have sex and are relentless had really sunk in. He was simply fulfilling my expectations. It took me a few months to realize that it wasn’t normal.
The next time he sexually assaulted me was when we went to watch the last Harry Potter movie in theaters with some friends two weeks after we started dating. He had his arm around me, his hand resting at my waist. Although I had made it abundantly clear that my chest was off limits, he began to rub the bottom of my breast with his thumb. A minute later I put my hand over his and held his thumb down as a way of saying “Cut it out.” When I took my hand away, thinking he got the message, he started doing it again. I don’t remember how I got him to stop and don’t recall saying anything. He was actually the first one to bring it up this time. It happened later on via text. As always, I downplayed everything because I didn’t want to make him feel bad.
N: “Sorry if I was rubbing your boobs too much 😦 and sorry if it made you uncomfortable :/”
Me: “Like I said, no big deal as long as you don’t do it again”
Around this time he began pressuring me more than ever. He asked repeatedly what my turn ons were, told me about his fantasies of having sex with me (which I told him I didn’t want to hear about) and gosh, he talked about his penis all the fucking time. It’s like he had to tell me every time he got an erection.
I’ve just gotta say this though, although I belittled my discomfort a lot of the time, I just need to put it out there that I was assertive sometimes. I’m proud to say that many times I did a great job standing up for myself and establishing my boundaries. I was never wishy-washy. If he asked me to do something, I either said yes or no. There was no in-between. Here’s a prime example (that’s a little more sassy than usual):
N: “Maybe you could get more comfortable wearing a bit less, I like the extra skin contact 🙂 it just makes you feel closer to someone with more skin contact 🙂 <3”
Me: “…or I could keep all my clothes on and you can just deal with that. You have a good point but still, no”
N: “Ok 🙂 that’s fine too, and I mean over a long time, and I don’t expect you to be naked at all hun :P”
Me: “You better not cuz that’s definitely not happening anytime soon. But thanks for being understanding :)”
N: “I really don’t want to mess this up, so we will definitely go at your pace :)”
Me: “Ok sounds good 🙂 but my pace is gonna be super slow, like it or not ;)”
N: “Well slow poke, I guess I will have to deal ;)”
Me: “Yep 😛 cuz even someone as amazing and hot as you can’t make me change my mind ;)”
The night before our one month anniversary is the memory that haunts me the most from our relationship. We were in the middle of making out when he suddenly grabs my breast. I shove him back (possibly knocking him over, I don’t know. It was dark) and go for the door. I speed walk down the hallway and he soon catches up to me. All I wanted was to get away from him. I couldn’t even look at him.
We barely talked for the rest of the night. I remember him sitting next to me, rubbing my hands as I looked away or fiddled with my bracelet. I remember physically cringing every time my brain forced me to relive that moment. I also remember him saying sorry over a hundred times, not that it meant anything. He was only sorry he didn’t get away with it. We talked about it a tiny bit after I got home. I made it clear that what he did was unacceptable, but I wanted so badly to put this in the past that I belittled it again.
I think this one affected me the most because there was no doubt that he did it on purpose. He blatantly stepped over my lines and wasn’t as good of a person as I wanted to believe. I had no choice but to finally face that. Before then I’d been too uncomfortable to tell anyone what was happening with N, but what happened disturbed me so much that I told my mom and best friend.
He continued pressuring me to change my boundaries and made me uncomfortable a few more times, but that was one of the last times he assaulted me. From then on, he was more subtle about it.
When the school year started he was suddenly too busy to hang out. It happened slowly, but I finally started realizing that I wasn’t in a healthy relationship. After a few weeks of contemplating, I finally decided I didn’t want to be his girlfriend anymore.
One problem: I couldn’t find the opportunity to see him. We hadn’t hung out in a month. I’d stopped initiating dates as an experiment. (Immature, I know). I was sick of feeling that this relationship was one-sided and that I was the only one invested in it. As the homecoming dance was drawing closer, I knew I had to do something. What if he asked me to homecoming and then I broke up with him? He hadn’t treated me well but I still didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
One night, when I couldn’t take it anymore, I called him. He didn’t answer. When he finally texted me back, we got into an argument because he refused to call me. I already hated that this wasn’t happening in person so I was stubborn that it couldn’t happen over text. Finally I had no choice but to give in. During that time he figured out that I was going to break up with him. He guessed it was because we hadn’t seen each other in a month. The reasons I cited were that I needed a friendship first and foremost, it seems like he’s only interested in getting physical with me, the relationship is one-sided and finally, the boundary issues.
What haunts me to this day is that he said “This isn’t my fault.”
The relationship lasted three months. I never mourned the loss of it. I was glad to be rid of him. In the following months, it hit me more and more how horribly he’d treated me. I began to realize that he had no respect for me. It baffled me that he could knowingly step across my lines and pressure me relentlessly, all the while insisting that he “respected me.” I couldn’t understand how someone could take advantage of my naivety and forgiving nature. Once in a while I would have flashbacks to him violating me and would flinch. I tried to put it all behind me. It could’ve been worse, right?
(Note: N sexually assaulted me about 20 times, but I only highlighted the instances that were most traumatic to me.)
Congrats, reader, for making it this far. Here is a picture of a kitten to lighten the mood.
Part II: P (2012)
A few months later I set my sights on a guy I’d known since my freshman year of high school. For the first time, I pursued a guy (which was a blast, I must say). We went to the winter dance together and a month later we were dating. After being with someone like N, “P” struck a sharp contrast and I was thankful every day for being with someone who couldn’t be more different. I deeply admired his drive, opinionated personality, traditional values and intelligence. He was a gentleman and made it his number one priority to respect me.
Too bad he didn’t know how to follow through with that goal.
From the beginning I was very strict about my boundaries. I made it clear that crossing them would result in a one-way ticket out of my life and warned him that second base in particular was off limits until I made it clear that I was ready. I knew that it would send me running for the hills after what happened with N. P and I talked about our boundaries often, although it was hard because we were both found it awkward.
Everything was going perfectly until the summer. I said it would make it clear when he could touch my breasts, but he wasn’t sure what that would look like. He was uncomfortable talking about it, so he never asked. One night as we were kissing, he slid his hand up my waist and his thumb passed over the side of my breast. I jumped back, startled. Flashbacks. Fear so intense that thinking was impossible. Was he just another N in disguise? We talked for a moment and then I started walking away. I just needed to get out of there. He stopped me by wrapping his arms around my chest, up by my collarbone. I flinched.
We talked for about an hour after that. I’m not even sure what it was about. I stood a solid fifteen feet away from him and could barely force myself to look him in the eye. I was so confused. I didn’t understand why this was happening. I thought P was a good guy, that he respected me. If I couldn’t trust him, could I trust anyone to respect me? At one point he asked if something like this had happened to me before. I paused, looking away, and then said yes. Until the next day when we cleared it up, he thought that meant I’d been raped.
When I got back home, he sent me a long text. He clearly knew that what he did was wrong, took all the blame and wanted to do everything in his power to make this right and regain my trust if possible. P made it clear that if I needed space he would give it to me and totally understood if I wanted to break up with him. He also mentioned that he wasn’t saying anything to manipulate me, that he was being sincere. I didn’t break up with him because he handled the situation so well. However, I made it clear that another slip up would not be tolerated. The next day we talked things through. I told him a little bit about N so he would understand why this is such a big deal to me.
From then on he always tried to make sure he knew exactly what my boundaries were. In regards to the physical part of our relationship, I was utterly in charge of what we did and didn’t do. A lot of it is because he was always ready for new steps long before I was. I know now that it’s not the way things should be, but I needed it at the time. I needed to know that my lines would be respected. Eventually I was able to forgive him because he tried to learn from his mistake. The only hiccup was the first time I allowed him to touch my chest. I had to concentrate to stop myself from flinching and keep the flashbacks at bay.
He did sexually assault me about ten other times during the relationship, which I didn’t realize until years later because it wasn’t very traumatic.
Like many others, college led to the demise of our relationship. However, sad as I was to lose a gem like him, the opportunities of a single college woman was a thrilling prospect. Finally I had the confidence to flirt to my heart’s content without fear of rejection. Not much came of it, but I liked the freedom to pursue men at my leisure.
Part III: Z (2013)
One of the first men I set my sights on was “Z”. From the beginning I found him fascinating. He loved learning about other cultures and religions, cooked Greek food, composed music, was very philosophical… yet something about him made me nervous. I realized that he reminded me of my dad. He was very intriguing on paper, but in person it seems like he’s hiding something. Both of them are gentlemen, perfectionists and act very proper. They use cleaning and organizing as a way of unwinding.
Over winter break I decided not to pursue him. Something just didn’t feel right. When school started up again, I changed my mind. I knew that these superficial similarities don’t mean they have a lot in common on a deeper level. I shouldn’t judge him like that… even though it still made me nervous in the back of my mind.
It turns out, maybe I was onto something.
At the end of the first week of classes we went on our first unofficial date. Late that night we shared our first kiss. Afterward we lay next to each other and suddenly his hand slid from my stomach to my chest. I pulled it off and then clasped my hands at my collarbone, covering myself. This time, I was more angry than scared. I couldn’t believe it was happening again. I mean, just yesterday we were both saying that we love taking the physical part of a relationship slowly. A few silent minutes passed, and then he decided it was time to go.
Less than a half hour later he texted me, apologizing for making me uncomfortable and asking me not to hesitate to let him know. He took full responsibility, gave me the space I needed and did everything he could to make things right. I was impressed with how well he handled the situation. Days later he was still telling me that he couldn’t forgive himself for what he did. I was glad that he recognized the severity of his actions. The problem is that he assumed that we were suddenly a couple before I could even decide if that’s what I still wanted. A week later I told him that I couldn’t recover after such a rough start.
Part IV: Healing
Stage 1: Lack of Trust (2011-2013)
My experiences with sexual assault didn’t affect me much until I started dating. One of my first boyfriends (N) sexually assaulted me many times during our relationship in 2011. It took me longer than I would’ve liked to realize that he didn’t mean it when he apologized and that he didn’t respect me.
Naturally, I didn’t want to be treated that way ever again. Although sexual assault is never the survivor’s fault, I still sought out to prevent it from happening again. When I dated P a year later, I tried to be very clear about my boundaries and the fact that crossing them would not be tolerated. I was basically in control of the physical side of the relationship. Of course that’s not the smartest thing to do, but I needed it at the time. Someone I trusted had violated me, so I was simply trying to protect myself by ruling my body with an iron fist.
It didn’t work.
A few months later (in 2013), I was romantically involved with someone else (Z) who sexually assaulted me. Soon after, I was dating someone else (T) – who I just realized I’ve never spoken about in this blog before. Anyway, I dated T for three months. We took things slow, but I still made it clear at the beginning of the relationship that my boundaries had to be respected. Frankly, I think that intimidated him quite a bit. It may be the reason that it took him so long to kiss me for the first time.
Side note: From 2011 until 2013, any statement along the lines of “I respect you” had completely lost meaning to me. My exes said that to me and many of them ended up assaulting me anyway. So those words meant little to me unless they followed through with their actions.
In the fall of 2013, I started dating A (who I’m with to this day). I’m not sure why, but I believed him when he said he respected me and would never hurt me. I trusted him even though I didn’t know him all that well when we started dating. And he never once let me down.
Now, if I started dating again, I might relapse into this stage of not trusting a boyfriend (or girlfriend… it could happen) until they’ve proven that they’re trustworthy. But if I’m being honest, I don’t foresee myself ever being single again. Fingers crossed.
Stage 2: Dealing with Triggers (2013-2015)
A few months after Z sexually assaulted me (spring 2013), I realized that all these experiences with my ex-boyfriends qualify as sexual assault. Until then I hadn’t realized that it encompasses much more than rape. It was difficult at first to apply that label to something that doesn’t fit the violent connotation. Still, I knew it was true. That’s when my healing process began.
As you may remember, I started dating “A” in fall 2013, a guy who truly understands how to respect me. His open communication made it all the easier to express my boundaries in plain detail and even to tell him about my past within a month of dating. I quickly grew because of him, realizing that I’m much too guarded about my past. I have nothing to be ashamed of and can’t help people if I don’t speak up about my past. Since my first sexual assault, they have affected every single relationship I’ve had. With time I became less strict until I was finally able to let our physical relationship be a dialogue. A’s openness is what enabled me to do that.
Unfortunately, the time Z sexually assaulted me in the beginning of that year had been my breaking point. Symptoms of PTSD started to kick in a few months after. Since my chest had been touched so many times without my consent, I had a strong association between my chest being touched and fear. It was my knee jerk response. At first I would just tense up when people’s hands would get too close for comfort during a backrub or hug. Then things got worse.
Being that we were in a relationship, that made it a little more likely that A could accidentally trigger me. It happened regularly. I would get nervous and tense, but as time went on it took longer and longer to calm myself down and remind myself that I was safe. Eventually a trigger would send me into the same emotional state I was in during the assaults. I was so scared that I couldn’t think. I could barely move. One time I even had a panic attack. Seeing me like this tore A up. It was difficult enough to calm myself down, but then I had to help him through it too. I reminded him that it’s not his fault. We were only paying the consequences for what other men have done to me.
Slowly, over the next few years, I learned to control these triggers to some extent. I found some phrases that would bring me back to the present. I would breathe deeply and remind myself that I was safe and that no one was trying to hurt me. A also helped by resting his hand on my ribs as we watched movies. I thought it would help break that negative association if I had some neutral experiences with being touched there. (This is called exposure therapy). A little over a year after my last assault, my triggers were few and far between as well as easier to manage. Triggers affect my life to this day, but they’re not nearly as disruptive as they used to be.
Some posts about triggers that I’m particularly proud of or are interesting parts of my journey of include:
Triggered for an Entire Day
Conquering One of My Triggers
How to Cope with Triggers
Swing Dancing as Exposure Therapy
Trigger Coping Mechanisms
Everything You Ever Needed to Know About My Triggers… And More
How Triggers Affect My Life
Another person who significantly helped me learn to deal with triggers and also process what happened to me was my therapist who I went to from fall 2013 to spring 2016. My situation could’ve been a lot worse, but I knew that I still needed help. It’s a lot easier to deal with these problems when they’re fresh (and it doesn’t cost anything because I was a college student), rather than realizing twenty years down the road that I have trust issues or something. It was incredibly helpful to have someone to routinely have unfiltered conversations about where I stand, my ups my downs… anything. I was already doing so well that at first my therapist didn’t even know what I needed help with. In the first meeting, as I told him about my past, he thought of a list of problems I would likely have as a result of my experiences. I didn’t fit his expectations. Because of me, he learned that not everyone fits the mold. My progress was rapid, but things didn’t become perfect overnight.
In the fall of 2013, I also joined a campus organization whose goals were to prevent sexual assault, raise awareness and support survivors. It was cathartic to be a part of a group of people so dedicated to preventing this from happening to anyone else. Learning about sexual assault and other feminist issues enabled me to better understand and process my own experiences. I even told my story at Take Back the Night. It was scary, but I knew it would help me move forward. I was on the executive board for one year, during which time I helped organize many events on campus that I’m proud of. They include a consent workshop, an event about how to support survivors and a panel on how sexual assault affects people in various marginalized communities.
In 2014, I felt like I had worked hard during the previous months and that I made all the progress I could for the time being. That summer I put things on the backburner. It took a little while to get things off my mind, but a few months later I wasn’t often thinking about my assaults anymore. They were a passing thought. As time goes on, my assaults have become less and less relevant overall. They are an integral part of who I am, but they do not define me.
Late 2014 is when I finally sat my mom down and told her everything. To this day (2017) she remains the only person in my immediate family who knows that I’m a survivor. I’m pretty nervous to tell my dad and brother. She believed me and was understanding and supportive. She hasn’t always been perfect in supporting me, but she tries her best and learns from her mistakes.
Stage 3: Trying to Forgive (2016)
In 2016, a thought that consumed my mind more than ever before was the idea of forgiving the people who had sexually assaulted me. It wasn’t very difficult to forgive P and Z since they understood immediately that what they did was wrong. However, N was a different story.
I’d gotten very tired of holding onto anger toward N. One problem: I had no idea how to forgive him. Honestly, I still haven’t but my anger toward him has lessened. I think one thing that helped was when a friend told me a story about someone who purposely inflicted deep pain on her. She forgave him and wishes him well. She made me realize that compassion may be the key to forgiveness.
Also, this is the year I started this blog!
Stage 4: Trying to accept and considering going public (2016-2017)
At this point in time, my biggest struggle is trying to accept my “new normal.” I still remember what it’s like not to have symptoms of mental illness – and I dearly miss that. However, I won’t ever be happy or at peace if I keep on wishing for something that will never be. PTSD symptoms will likely stick with me for the rest of my life. And I need to learn to be okay with that.
I’ve also been contemplating going public more and more. I even wrote a draft of what I’d say if I do go public in a Facebook post, if you’re interested. I was fairly open on my campus because people were very accepting, but off campus my status as a survivor was a near secret. I’m tired of hiding the truth from people and hiding such a big part of who I am. I’m nervous about people saying inconsiderate things, wrongly judging me or treating me differently once I come out, but I might just suck it up and do it anyway. After all, I have nothing to be ashamed of.
With each day the distance grows and it’s easier to put this behind me. My experiences are becoming less and less relevant to my life. Of course, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. It comes in waves. Some days I can go through without a single thought of my past and on others, the memories threaten to consume me. Still I have faith that someday this will just be another part of my past that holds little weight on the present. Naturally what happened will always affect me in some way, but I’m determined to make the ratio of good to bad very high. It’s a slow process and I still have much to learn, but I’m well on my way.
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This post actually doesn’t list all the times I’ve been sexually assaulted — just the times that affected me the most. A quick summary of all the times I’ve been sexually assaulted can be found below.
TLDR version/ list of the times I’ve been sexually assaulted:
- A boy in my daycare touched my inappropriately when I was six years old or less. I have no memory of this.
- Two boys in my brother’s boy scout troupe coerced me into taking off my shirt in front of them when I was less than ten years old. (Story here)
- When we were playing tag, a boy tagged my chest purposely. I was around ten years old.
- When I was 18 (in 2011), I dated N who sexually assaulted me about 20 times and pressured me to “expand my boundaries.” This affected me the most because he had no remorse.*
- At the age of 18/19 (in 2012) I dated P who was respectful overall. He sexually assaulted me about ten times, most notably when he touched my chest without my consent because he was uncomfortable asking for permission. Catholic upbringing. Can I get an amen? He learned from it and we dated until I was in college.*
- When I was 19 (in 2013), I went on an unofficial date with Z who touched my chest at the end of the night. He understood that what he did was wrong, but I no longer felt safe with him so I broke up with him.*
- That was my breaking point. I now had a strong association between my chest being touched and fear. I began developing symptoms of PTSD which were not severe enough for a diagnosis. Since then, I’ve been working my ass off to deal with the triggers and heal from what’s happened to me.*
- Three months after Z sexually assaulted me, I realized that what he and my other exes did is considered sexual assault.
- At the age of 23 (in 2016) I was sexually assaulted while swing dancing when an acquaintance brushed his hand across my chest. (Story here)
* I go into more detail about these experiences in the post above.