march 12 2018.
a day that, until a few months ago, i didn’t even realize was important to me. but after months of healing, conversation, and growth, i am able to come out and publicly say that i was raped.
if your first thoughts were ‘what was she wearing?’ ‘what was she doing?’ ‘was she drinking?’ then you are part of the reason it took me a year to even admit that i was raped. if you are one of those people, i beg you to keep reading so your misunderstanding won’t continue to perpetuate destructive stigmas.
i won’t go into details on who he was, where we were, etc. it doesn’t matter. all you need to know is that i knew and trusted him, established my boundaries, and was violated in a way that is punishable by law.
i bet you have some questions.
why didn’t i tell anyone immediately?
first and foremost, i was deeply ashamed. i knew something had gone on that night that left me broken and disgusted, but i couldn’t figure out why. i had told a friend the next day about what happened, and his response was ‘cameron, you were just raped. you need to tell the police.’ i was incredulous! i could not have been raped. i was sober. i was wearing pajamas. i knew the guy. (can you see where society plays a role in this painful, demoralizing, completely incorect line of thinking?? i’m looking at you, donald trump)
in order to avoid the horror of knowing i was raped, i convinced myself i wasn’t. i found every single possible way to shift the blame on me. i should’ve, could’ve, didn’t.
i was ashamed that i let it get to that point. i was ashamed of what i did and didn’t do.
what happened as a consequence?
nothing good. i became hypersexual – you can look up the term on your own. my self-esteem, down to the very core of my being, had been defiled in a way i couldn’t even comprehend. as a result, i did things that caused even more self-loathing and distress; but this time i knew i was 100% to blame.
how did it affect my romantic relationships?
without knowing it, i began to objectify myself. words like obligation, duty, requirement. it makes me sick to my stomach to think about the mindset i was in.
when i told my boyfriend of 8 months about that night and my relationships after, he was beside himself. but not for the reasons you might think. he forgave me, he said. when he did, i was relieved.
forgave me? pardon my french, but are you fucking kidding me? i had all of my value, worth, and dignity ripped from me by someone i trusted. i was shown that my wants, feelings, and emotions were unimportant, irrelevant and nothing compared to the feelings of the man that raped me. and i was being forgiven for that? what kind of message do you think that sends to an already broken girl?
how did it affect my daily life?
i went to physical therapy once a week for my knees. both of the doctors were women, so no problem there. but when i went in for an appointment on one random day, my heart dropped when i saw a man working with my doctor. she introduced him as a doctorate student, he was super nice. close to my age, we had a lot to talk about.
there’s a part of my physical therapy sessions that involves the doctor using tools to massage the muscles around my knees. it feels great. i didn’t think much of it when the doctor asked her shadowing student to do it instead. things were going fine until, out of nowhere, i made eye contact with him and almost lost it. i had to consciously stop myself from stomping on his face out of fear. i was a crazy person! here was a friendly medial professional performing a non-invasive procedure, and i couldn’t stop myself from panicking.
i became terrified. it was a slowly fermenting terror, but it was there. when i moved to seattle it became a lot more common to be followed by men on the street.
there was one in particular – i had parked in a parking lot adjacent to the dog store. when i got out of my car, i saw a man see me. as i started walking toward the road (to get to the store), he hid behind a parking meter – one that i had to walk by in order to get to my destination. when i passed him, he followed me so closely I could hear him breathing. i kept my eyes forward and walked briskly into the store, praying he wouldn’t follow me inside. he didn’t. but the effect was still the same.
i called my dad when i got back to the car and i was in tears. i was furious. this man knew i was terrified and got some sort of pleasure knowing he had that power over me. the same kind of power was held the night i was raped.
i started carrying a knife around. a big one. but as the weeks went by i was beginning to scare myself. i had this deep, boiling rage building. i was afraid that a man would come after me again. but i wasn’t afraid he’d hurt me. i was afraid i would have to use my knife and wouldn’t stop until he was dead.
that’s what it turned me into. i was so angry, so broken, so hurt, that i knew deep in my heart that i could kill a man.
so how did i start to heal?
i took a self defense class that changed my life. that’s such a cliche phrase, but that’s exactly what it did. the staff were all sexual assault survivors, and the class was focused on inner worth and healing. i no longer carry my knife everywhere i go.
i told my therapist. i didn’t use the ‘r’ word because i was terrified of invalidation. i was horrified at the thought that she might just say ‘that was just a bad night’. but when i told her the details, she validated every feeling i had. she had me do research to prove to myself that i had not given consent, i had given the opposite of consent, and that i was raped. she helped me navigate the awful, confusing muddle of emotions that came with that realization. she lead me through my anger, sadness, disgust, and fear.
therapy was not easy. i relived that night 24/7. i felt the disgust, shame, fear, and anger every single day. i dreamed about it, i thought about it in class, i thought about it when i was with my friends. therapy made me relive the trauma – but this time i was seeing myself as a victim, not as someone to blame.
i told some friends. they were mortified, furious, and heartbroken. not a single one of them asked about what i was wearing, where we were, or any other ridiculous, unimportant detail.
i finally, tentatively told my parents. i sat them down and made them promise to not ask questions, made them promise to not blame themselves, made them promise to just stand by me in this process. and they did just that.
i told the guy i had been dating (my current, amazing boyfriend). he told me he was so sorry i had been hurt, he was proud of me for healing. he told me that my past and the decisions i made in no way affected how he saw me, and all that mattered was where i was now. compare that to the first man i told.
why didn’t i tell the police?
my dad, understandably, really wanted me to tell the authorities. but i chose not to. you may agree or disagree, but the choice was and is mine alone.
the thought of telling a room full of men what happened that night makes me sick to my stomach. i know, unfortunately, that there will be people in the courtroom that think what happened is somehow my fault. and that is not worth it.
the thought of being in a room with the man that did this, having to see his face and hear his excuses, makes me nauseous.
that night is over. i want to keep it that way.
in the end
i suffered, i fought, and i healed. i am now stronger and more kind (to myself and others) than i ever was before. i forgave.
i won’t say i’m better because it happened. i’d be glad if it didn’t. but i no longer see myself as a victim. i see myself as a survivor. and now i am armed with the experience, education, and strength to advocate for the thousands of others who have experienced it too.