I am writing the following story because I want to let go of something that has made a deep impact in my life. Organizing my endlessly scattered thoughts works best for me when I write them out, so here it goes. It is no secret that I often speak my mind, but I suck at communicating about the really, really, deep things that torment me. I have gotten better but every day is still a struggle. Just to sort of set the stage, I will start off by saying that I am diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type 1 and Adult Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. My story of my experience plays a particularly important role in my mental health. It diminished my ability to communicate, to heal, to be strong and courageous for myself. It turned my entire world turned dark. I have been described as unpredictable, out of control, impossible to manage and crazy. I have been told that I am a monster, and my life is worthless. I have been told that I destroy everything I touch. I conditioned myself to shrink for others, to not upset or defy them. I stayed quiet and bottled everything inside. I smiled and said, “it’s okay”, when really, I just wanted to scream and beg for someone to make the pain stop. I accepted toxicity into my life because I believed that it is what I deserved. Every single person I have ever met knows a completely different version of me. The versions of myself constantly change, as is life. And as a result, I am a variation of factors. Yet, there are only 3 people who know me entirely. Every single secret. Every single insecurity, down to the last detail. Every single emotion, mood swing and trigger. Every single thought and opinion. Every single amount of excruciating emotional and mental pain. Every single trauma. Everything that has damaged me. These 3 people's influence on my decision to finally share my story with the world will be mentioned in my following story. I had held a secret inside of me for 7 years, one that I thought I would never be able to face. I denied it all these years, repressing it so far that I eventually did not think about it at all. All it took for me to finally accept the truth was seeing a stranger’s face in a bar, increasing self-awareness and the compassion, and understanding of very 3 important people. I have finally realized how important I am, not in a cocky way, but in the way that I matter. My story matters, my healing matters, my life truly does matter. I am not staying quiet about who I am and why I am the way I am anymore. And because of this moment of clarity, I am ready to speak about something that happened to me when I was 18. Something that I tried so hard to forget, but ultimately could not escape. This is my story about the night someone stole what was mine.
Imagine that you have built your own house. You make it your safe space and it is where you feel most comfortable. Sometimes you get overwhelmed by the responsibility, but no matter what, you love that house. You have learned to protect your safe space. You have prepared yourself for an intrusion, and while it may never happen, you at least know how to defend yourself in case the situation ever occurs. Now imagine, you are home alone one night. Someone knocks at your door and you open it to see a stranger, you are not naïve, but this person presents themselves as trustworthy. Before you can make an accurate assumption of who this person really is, they have knocked you unconscious. You wake up to see this person tearing apart your home. They are breaking your things, knocking your stuff over, yelling at you to shut up. And all you can do is lay there helplessly and watch as the stranger destroys your home. Before they leave you, they set their eyes on the one thing in your safe space that you love the most. You beg for them to not take it, but they flash a smile and take it anyways. Then, they leave you all alone. They have destroyed your home.
My body was my home and my safe space. My most loved possession was my humanity and my soul. And the stranger knocking at my door? That was my rapist.
I know the statistics; I always stay vigilant, and I know how to protect myself. The possibility of an assault on my body happening stayed in the back of my mind, but I still never thought it would happen to me. The only thing I do not remember from that night is what happened while I was blacked out. And I know that will probably make a lot of people already start rolling their eyes and doubting that I am telling the truth. But I do not need to convince anyone that what happened to me was real, I do not owe anyone that. I am not telling this story to get reassurance that what I went through was traumatic, I know it was traumatic. It is something that has been locked so far away, something that someone who has not experienced a traumatic experience like this could ever comprehend. I am writing about a topic that everyone would rather avoid, something that makes people too uncomfortable because they do not want to face the reality of how severe this issue is. I remember mostly everything from that night and the morning after. I remember the house we were at and who was there. I remember what I was wearing: a floral and flowy Pacsun top, patterned stockings, my favorite pair of black studded H&M shorts, and my trusty black leather Steve Madden combat boots. I remember playing drinking games, chain-smoking cigarettes, and laughing. I remember not thinking twice about bringing a person I barely knew to this party. The next thing that I remember is waking up in a bedroom. There was a step down into the room, the bed was in the left corner, the dresser was to the left of the door and there was a nightstand. I remember how the light from the window above me was shining onto me. As I shook off the slightly still drunken haze, the light that illuminated me made me notice something. He was in bed next to me, and my clothes were still on, but my shirt was backwards, and my pants were unzipped. Yes, I had gotten blackout drunk, and I do not remember what happened, but I knew something was not right. My thoughts immediately spiraled; did he violate me while I was unconscious? He seems so normal, could he have done that to me? What happened? I immediately jumped up, shook him awake and told him I was taking him home. I do not know why I offered him a ride home, I was in shock and on autopilot. I was too disgusted to even look at him as he said goodbye. I went home and crawled into bed. It was eating me alive not knowing what happened. And then my phone pinged, “**** sent you a message”. I felt sick. How do I ask him if he violated me without sounding rude? Would he get angry at me for accusing him of it? How stupid would I be if I jumped to the worst conclusion, like always, and ended up potentially ruining someone’s life? I was blacked out so…was I sure anything even happened? I responded to his message with something along the lines of “what happened last night I was so fucked up lol”. Then he proceeded to tell me what happened. Everything stopped in that moment. One of my worst fears, something that women have been trained to avoid since childhood, was unfolding before my eyes. No matter how many times I told him I did not remember, he just kept giving me detail after detail about what he did to me and what I had done to him. It was like he was trying to convince me that we both partook in an amazing night full of lust and adventure. His night of pleasure and fun was the night a part of me died. Then, I blocked him. And after that, I blocked the memory. I convinced myself it did not happen. A little while after that night happened, Brock Turner became a media sensation. “Stanford swimmer this, and Stanford swimmer that”. So impressive, if you can look past the vile crime he committed against an unsuspecting, unconscious, and innocent woman. Everything became about Brock, and the person who he stole from became in the shuffle. It still makes my skin crawl to this day just thinking about it. He was found guilty of 3 felony crimes. Felonies. And the moment we had all been waiting for: his punishment. Judge Aaron Pensky sentenced Brock to six months in jail, followed up by three years’ probation. Brock got out in three months. Yes, this case did bring about new legislation in California, regarding prison terms for rapist’s whose victims were unconscious at the time of the attack, as well as including digital penetration in the definition of rape. And yes, Brock was ordered to register as a sex offender, but he and his parents continued to fight tooth and nail to prove an innocence that was nonexistent. Brock’s sentencing would officially “erase” the memory of my assault. His case reinforced my belief that even if something did happen to me, no one would ever believe me. I was black out drunk that night, I had been known to sleep with a lot of people, I wore shorts that were “too short”, I was flirty, I was a wild party girl. But I did not want this to happen to me. I am comfortable with my sexuality now; I like sex, it is meant to be enjoyed and I am allowed to like it. But I have sex with people I WANT to have sex with. I did not want to have sex with him. He ripped my feeling of safety out from under me. He made me feel used and dirty. He violated my sense of safety and humanity. I turned to heavier drug and alcohol abuse, I started cutting myself, I gave up on trying to be a good person, I just wanted to die. I did not care about my life anymore. At the time, I did not realize that it was not my fault. All these years, I had blamed myself for allowing this to happen to me. I did not realize that this would be yet another one of life’s lessons for me, and then one night, 7 years later, I walked into a bar and then I froze. There he was.
The flood gates flew wide open. I could not stop the memory from resurfacing, it was screaming at me to let it out. So, I finally caved, and I surrendered to my own mind. I felt every emotion just as strongly as I had the morning after my attack and the little time after, before the memory was locked away for good. Or so I thought. 7 years of silent suffering came pouring out. The brain is a fascinating thing. Every single person reacts to trauma differently, and your brain will literally make that trauma inaccessible to protect you. It is a coping mechanism. For me, my brain protected me by blacking out and blurring the memory, making it fuzzy and distant. It saved me from that immense pain. Until it finally had to come out. I told 3 very important people in my life. This was the moment I had feared and tried so hard to avoid. Admitting my deepest, darkest secret but being unsure they would still be able to love me back. That maybe, even though all 3 are amazing and supportive people, they would think I was lying. I was met with only compassion, love and understanding. These 3 people know who they are, and I am eternally grateful for the courage they gave me to not be ashamed of my rape anymore. I am not afraid to speak up now. I have been silenced and torn down, especially by men, my entire life. I have been terrified to speak up and defend myself, fearful that I may upset others. I have let people cross boundaries because I believed it was impolite to deny them. But I do not care anymore, I really do not. I am a human being, I have suffered, I have broken, I have lost myself. Now, I am finding myself again. I did not deserve this; no human being deserves this. Absolutely nothing justifies dehumanizing another human being for your own personal gain. A person who rapes is a person who has no regard for human life. There must be something so broken inside a person for them to look at someone and decide that they are going to take what they want. Consent is not a difficult concept; it is quite literally one of the easiest questions you can ask someone. And if you ask someone who is not conscious enough to understand the decision they are about to make, that is called rape. Believe me or do not believe me, it does not affect my determination to heal. My trauma is my trauma, it is mine to overcome, it is mine to use as a driving force for my passion to heal others and myself as well. I am not looking for sympathy. Rape culture is a disgusting trait of our society. I am not the only one this has happened to. In fact, here are some statistics of rape and assault just in America for you:
1. Rape – Women and Men:
- Nearly 18.3% of women and 1.4% of men have been raped at some point in their lives.
- More than 51.1% of female victims of rape reported being raped by an intimate partner and 40.8% by an acquaintance. For male victims, more than 52.4% reported being raped by an acquaintance and 15.1% by a stranger.
- About 79.6% of female victims of rape experienced their first rape before the age of 25. 42.2% experienced their first rape before age 18.
- More than 27.8% of male victims experienced their first rape before age 10.
2. Rape/Sexual Violence – Women and Men in Communities of Color:
- The likelihood of a person experiencing interpersonal violence (sexual and relationship violence, and stalking) increases if that person is Black, Brown, or Native. 3.5 in 10 White, non-Hispanic women reported victimization in their lifetime. That rate increased to 4 in 10 for Native, Black, and Hispanic women and 5 in 10 women who identified as multiracial.
- 2.5 in 10 White, non-Hispanic men, reported victimization. 4 in 10 Native men, 3.5 in 10 Black men, 3 in 10 Hispanic men and 4 in 10 men who identified as multiracial, identified a history of violent victimization during their lifetimes.
- Over 53% of all African American participants in a study indicated rape victimization. 44% reported sexual coercion within their lifetime, and approximately 42% reported both. Sexual violence victimization rates in communities of color are much, much higher than the overall national average.
(Racism & Sexual Violence: What's the Connection? (pcar.org))
3. Rape/Sexual and Physical Violence in LGBTQ+ Community:
- 44% of lesbians and 61% of bisexual women experience rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner. (The rate for straight women is 35%).
- 26% of gay men and 37% of bisexual men experience rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner. (The rate for straight men is 29%).
4. Rape/Sexual Violence in Transgender and Transgender POC Community (based upon a 2015 national study):
- 64% of transgender people are sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
- Among people of color, American Indian (65%), multiracial (59%), Middle Eastern (58%), and Black (53%), reported to be most likely to have been sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
- 85% of LGBTQ+ survivors were denied services after their attacks because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- 17% of transgender people that had stayed at homeless shelters in the past year were sexually assaulted because they were transgender.
(Sexual Assault and the LGBTQ Community - HRC)
5. Extra Statistics:
- Transgender people of color are 1.8 times more likely to experience sexual violence.
- People with a disability are 2 times more likely to be a victim of sexual assault or rape.
- 21% of transgender or gender nonconforming students reported being sexually assaulted while attending college.
- 1 in 7 military service members have experienced an assault carried out by someone in their chain of command.
- 5,900 is the average yearly number of Native American children ages 12 and older who reported being sexually assaulted.
- 94% of women experience symptoms of PTSD during the 2 weeks directly after being raped.
- 7 in 10 rapes committed are by someone the victim knows.
- 93% of child sexual abuse perpetrators know their victim.
- 80,600 is the estimated yearly number of inmates who experience sexual violence in prison or jail.
(30 Alarming Statistics That Show The Reality Of Sexual Violence In America | HuffPost)
And all these statistics…they are only based on what is reported. These predators destroy lives, and 99% of them end up walking free. These numbers probably make you uncomfortable, right? Maybe you skipped over them entirely. You know why these statistics are a hard pill to swallow? Because it makes it real. It opens your eyes to the prevalence of rape and sexual assault that runs rampant throughout our society. It reveals to you that predators lurk in every corner, it is not just “stranger danger” anymore, it is usually the people you would least suspect. They are everywhere, strongly ingrained into every facet of society. Their hunting grounds are everywhere. They are fueled by their own sick needs, not caring who or what they destroy in their path. They commit these heinous acts and then go about their lives as if nothing happened. Meanwhile, the victims of rape, sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexual violence, etc. are the ones left to suffer. Left behind to pick up the pieces and try to attempt to find any sort of normalcy in their lives after the fact. Their lives go on, while ours freeze in time. We are the ones that must carry around that pain, guilt, destruction and shame. The survivors are the ones who pay the price. I have an incredibly long way to go on my healing journey, as a lot of us do, but our transformation from victim to survivor is possible when we finally tell the truth to ourselves. As cliché as it is, the truth really does set you free. Allow yourself to heal. Time does not make things better; you make things better. You will never truly forget an assault against you, but you can learn to cope with it. Your life is yours, and yours only. So, there is my story. It is weird and uncomfortable and sad and kind of embarrassing for me. But the reality of it is, it is just something that happened to me, and now I am a better person for it. I realized that I could use it to my advantage. I believe that by sharing my story, I am taking bravery to a whole new level. I am not bound by my shame and my fear anymore. It is time to shift the focus onto survivors, what are we going to do to make build a stronger community of support and understanding? How are we going to get to the root of the problem in order to evolve support systems, laws, and advocacy for victims? I am beginning to navigate this new area of stronger advocacy through the telling of my story. To show even just one person, that I see them, and I understand. I have suffered in silence long enough, and I will not allow one person’s wrong decision to dictate my life anymore. I am a survivor. He destroyed my home and now I am rebuilding it, a hundred times better than before.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I am going to put descriptions and links to organizations dedicated to helping survivors of rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual violence, etc. below. I tried my best to include every group of people that are affected by rape and sexual assault trauma in the lists of statistics and support organizations. This is just a condensed list of available organizations so I will also put the link to the website with the full list of organizations at the bottom of the list so people may access the the full site if need be. The organizations go as followed:
1. National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-HOPE.
- Operated by RAINN. They serve those who have been affected by sexual violence.
2. Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence: For Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander survivors.
- National resource on domestic violence, sexual violence, trafficking, and other forms of gender-based violence in Asian and Pacific Islander communities.
3. The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community: They work to respond to and end domestic, sexual and community violence.
4. National Child Abuse Hotline: 800-422-4453.
- They can provide local referrals for services. They are connected to a language line that can provide services in over 140 languages.
5. Exploited Children: 800-THE-LOST.
- This line can be used to communicate info to authorities about child porn or child sex trafficking.
6. End Rape on Campus: An advocacy organization dedicated to assisting students file Title IX complaints.
7. Pathways to Safety International: A center that serves abused Americans in both civilian and military populations overseas.
- They provide domestic violence advocacy, safety planning and case management.
- They also assist victims with relocation, emergency funds for housing and childcare and funds for payment of legal fees.
8. National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center: 844-762-8483.
- They operate through policy advocacy and direct service provision.
- They support survivors of violence in crisis and facilitates local resource connection.
9. National [email protected] Network: National resource center that supports prevention and intervention efforts across the country to end domestic and dating violence in Latinx communities.
- They do their work through research, policy advocacy, and training service providers on the needs of Latinx survivors of violence.
10. The Network La Red: 617-742-4911.
- They provide emotional support, info, and safety planning for lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and/or trans people. As well as people in the BDSM or Polyamorous communities who are being abused or have been abused by a partner.
11. The Trevor Project: 866-488-7386.
- They are a help and suicide prevention line for LGBTQ youth.
12. FORGE: They are the Transgender Sexual Violence Project.
- They provide services and publish research for trans people experiencing violence and their loved ones.
13. National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network: They are a network of mental health professionals who identify as queer or trans therapists of color and seek to support their community through increased access to mental health services.
- They also operate the Mental Health Fund, which can support survivors in getting care they may otherwise be unable to afford.
14. 1in6: They provide educational info and resources for men who have been sexually abused or assaulted.
- You can message with a trained advocate through the national helpline for men, available 24/7.
15. Deaf Abused Women’s Network: 202-559-5366.
- They provide legal, medical, system advocacy and survivor support services.
16. CAVANET: They address violence against women, human rights, genocide, and crime victims with disabilities.
17. Hope Exists After Rape Trauma: They provide hope for victims of sexual assault through provision of essential and therapeutic support, by affecting positive change in laws influencing their lives, and by educating both the public and professionals committed to serving victims.
18. National Alliance on Mental Health: 888-950-NAMI.
-They provide info and referral services.
Link to full list: National Resources for Sexual Assault Survivors and their Loved Ones | RAINN