Is it my fault?
It was 18 days after my 15th birthday. It was a day like every other: I had no reason to believe that day would be any different.
It started out normal enough. I was watching TV when he came to my house. He was my neighbor, my best friend. I let him in. We talked, we decided to go to his house. His video game console trumped mine -- it was an obvious choice.
We played a game for a while... and then things got weird. We were kissing. Wait a minute.... how did that happen? We're just friends!
I tried to leave but he blocked me. He locked the door and pushed me back on the bed. My protests were ignored. My pleading was ignored. I gave up. Maybe I should thank him. Surely it's better to lose your virginity to your best friend than some random guy at a party in a state of drunkenness? He told me I looked ugly when I cried. When it's over, he still wouldn't let me leave. He plays the video game again and I try for the door but he pelts TV remote at my head. It misses me, but it is a clear warning I don't have permission to leave. I hug my knees on the floor. The waiting is torture.
After what seems like hours he's back for a second round and this time I decide to fight. He won't have me this time! Surely he'll think I'm too much effort and leave me alone? After the dislocated hip, the punches in the face and the choking, I once again give up. I am defeated.
My parents were on vacation. It was just my older brother and me at home. I lied to my friends and family. "I got hit in the face with a soccerball at practice," I say. I worked really hard to come up with that excuse and was quite chuffed with myself for thinking of it. It was met with uncertainty. But I didn't cave to their questions and the more I told the lie the more I believed it myself. I shut myself off from everyone; I was my only company.
My grades dropped, I started cutting myself, drinking and doing drugs every day. I became a walking cliche - a poster girl for teenage angst. My anorexia started not too long after and things deteriorated until I landed myself in hospital. The doctors told me I was lucky I was still alive. I saw it as unlucky to still be alive. After a few weeks in the hospital I was allowed to go home.
I alternated between periods of denial and despair. There's no way that could have happened! I must have made it up!" then "How can I live with myself? I'm disgusting, no one will ever love me." The betrayal I felt was driving me to consider suicide. There was not a single person in the world that I trusted, not even myself.
It's been 9 years since that day.
I've somehow managed to keep myself alive and functioning (although sometimes, only barely) and for that I'm very proud of myself. The flashbacks and nightmares have lessened. I've learned to avoid things that trigger me. The anniversary is very hard. My depression is almost constant but some days are worse than others. I don't think my eating disorder will ever go away but it is not as bad as it used to be. I have a fantastic boyfriend who is very patient and understanding. Although how could he ever understand that I find the suggestion of sexual contact repulsive and nauseating? He doesn't know the details of what happened that day. No one does. The self-hatred I felt for myself stopped me from seeking help. I didn't think I deserved help, that I deserved to be hurt. On my boyfriend's insistence I finally got myself into therapy and am now trying to unravel this whole mess.
It's been hard trying to find my voice after so long. I still have a long way to go.
The reason I am writing this is two-fold. For one, I hope this will be cathartic for me, to finally speak the words I've had difficulty with for so long. The second is to maybe offer some hope to other survivors of rape and sexual assault. It does get better, but time can only do so much healing. Without support - from family, friends or professionals - problems will linger. Don't wait to hit rock bottom before seeking help. It is possible to recover from sexual assault.
I'm looking forward to the day when I can say my journey out of the Hell of sexual assault is finally over.