Content Warning: r*pe, sexual assault, suicidal ideation, PTSD, anxiety, depression, death
I have been pretty sheltered my entire life. My parents were strict–I was home by 11 PM every night for 17 years, got good grades, and kept them proud. I talked to a couple boys here and there, went on dates, snuck around–things that a young teenage girl in high school would do, but all within my limits. However, after I graduated and went to a university far away from home, all of a sudden I had all the freedom in the world to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.
The first night at school, my roommate encouraged me to go to a party, considering she knew that I had not really been to many in high school. Her friend from home knew somebody who had a car, and, naturally, that friend of a friend took us in his car to this party. In the car was the driver, my roommate, me, and this one other boy. This boy was nothing special. He was attractive, yes, but not extraordinary or anything. He introduced himself as X (we’ll call him X), and proceeded to ride with us to the party from h*ll. Throughout the entire night, X and I were very clearly into one another–exchanging glances from across the room, purposely running into each other, whispering into each other’s ears in a room full of people, flashing lights, and loud music. After the party was over, we exchanged socials, and before I went to bed, I texted him asking if he wanted to get breakfast with me and my roommate the morning after.
The rest was history. We got breakfast that morning and were inseparable for a good while after that. We quickly became romantically involved and spent every waking moment together–sharing secrets during dorm room sleepovers, grocery shopping, partying, regretting the partying–we did all of it together. Inevitably, as someone not very exposed to the cruel world, I trusted him with my heart, soul, and body, and I became a college girl who had sex with a boy she had met a couple of weeks prior. I had never had sex before; he had. I didn’t know what I was doing; he did. At the time, I didn’t regret it—losing my virginity to someone I barely knew. I was content with what I had done, after all, it was a social construct anyway.
On October 2nd, 2022, I received a phone call informing me that my friend had died in a tragic car accident. In shock, I isolated myself from the world. I asked my roommate for space, stopped responding to texts from concerned friends, and I turned down getting lunch with X. He understood and allowed me some time and space to grieve, cry, and mourn. Two days later, I got a text from X asking if I wanted to get lunch after class. I said yes. We grabbed lunch and made it up to my dorm room, where he noticed that it was empty–my roommate was in class for another hour. He started initiating sexual advancements, to which I turned down given I was still grieving and was so obviously not in the mood. I told him that I had no protection in my room, and even if I did, I was not feeling up to it.
Next thing I know, I am on my bed, held down by my wrists, staring at the face of this teenage boy who was so kind to me the first time I found myself staring at him in this exact position. I asked him what he was doing, and though I don’t remember too much of the conversation, I remember clearly that I had said no. Not just once or twice, but three times. I said no three times–yet this boy stared at me and laughed as he did it anyway. After it was over, I was laying there in shock. I couldn’t work up the courage to say a word, so I graciously walked him out and said I would call him later. I walked my rapist out of my dorm room and said I would call him later.
As college relationships go, this one was short-lasting and fleeting. It only took a couple of weeks for him to find another girl to move onto and left me in the dust. I was in so much distress and anguish, not because of what had happened, but because I had continued seeing him after the fact. I continued hanging out with this boy, laughing with this boy, sleeping with this boy, after he had violated me in the worst sense of the word. I couldn’t bare to admit to myself what had happened, and therefore it didn’t occur to me that I had been raped until weeks after, until he left me. In the months following, I only told very few people–my closest friends and my roommate–who then became the closest of close friends to me; to this day, I have not told a single trusted adult in my life.
I became quiet, withdrawn, and lethargic. My roommate, my rock, was extremely understanding and protective of me during this period of time, and, looking back, she is the reason that I am still alive today. She noticed that this boy coincidentally appeared everywhere I went; he was, in other words, stalking me. As a once-independent girl who has never had an issue with eating by myself, I was afraid I would run into him in the dining hall, so I always came with my roommate. Eventually, I stopped going because he and his friends would openly take pictures of me and stare and point and laugh. The dining hall was no longer a place I felt safe, so I stopped going. I was afraid I would run into him at the gym, so I stopped going. I was afraid I would run into him on the way to class, so I stopped going. I spent my days in my dark room, sitting and thinking and rotting, and I was so terrified at how frighteningly hopeless I felt. I felt that everything had been stripped from me by this teenage boy I barely knew.
My birthday is around the holidays, so naturally I am always happiest during the November-December months. But, that year, I had decided that I was not going to make it past my 18th birthday. I was not going to open my birthday presents ten days before Christmas, and I was not going to be walking around looking at the Christmas lights with my mom and my sister. I was not going to be watching the New Year’s fireworks, I was not going to laugh with friends while ice skating, and I was never going to know what it was like being a legal adult. I had made up my mind. But days turned into weeks, and weeks passed, and I realized that the thing that happened became less heavy. “The thing that happened” became the thing that I accepted, grieved, and still grieve. But I was still here. And then my 18th birthday came around and so, what the h*ll, might as well make it to Christmas and the New Year. I channeled my energy back into friends and family and new hobbies; slowly, but surely, I made my reentrance back into this world that had been so cruel to me. I realized that this wretched world was not so wretched because it was the same place that my friends were in. My beautiful, supportive, loving friends, who cared for me and stood by me every single day I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
It has been almost a year since “the thing that happened” happened. I am exponentially happier, and though it is less heavy, it is still there. I am returning to the same university this fall, and I am terrified, knowing what is waiting for me there–who is waiting for me there. But I am not returning the same person, I am returning as a woman who knows more now. I know not to be so naive, but at the same time not to be so guarded. I know not to be so trusting, but at the same time, to not be afraid to trust. I have seen and experienced the ugliest of mankind but also the most beautiful. The thing that happened is something that haunts me in all aspects of life, and will continue to do so. But even with this dark cloud lingering over my existence, I know that I am still able to meet people and get to know people and learn to trust and love people. Above all, I know that there will be many difficulties that will be brought upon me because of this thing that happened. It’s not just a thing that happened, I am not afraid anymore to say that I was raped. I was raped, and I lived through it, and I know now that it was not my fault that it happened. It happened because mankind can be malevolent. But because it happened, it also showed me through my support system of friends and loved ones, that mankind can also be gentle.
I am okay now. I will continue trying to be okay.