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For the longest time, I have been afraid to tell people about some parts of my past. I have been afraid to attach my face to a story of sexual assault and abuse. I have been afraid of what my family will think of me, what my friends will think of me, what my future partners may think of me. I have been afraid of what they may make me feel obligated to do, such as taking legal action against the one who did me wrong. I have been afraid of the potential implications of admitting what happened to me.
But now, I have come to the realization that this means he is still winning. He may not know it, but as long as I am afraid of all of these things, he is winning. And it’s time that stopped.
When I was sixteen, I started dating this boy whom I naively thought would be my first and last love. I believed he and I would be together for the rest of our lives, getting married, getting a house, having kids, the whole nine yards. I had had a crush on him for as long as I could remember. Even when we moved out of the city when I was eleven and I started at a new school and made new friends, I never forgot about this boy. So, when we started dating, I was ecstatic. I told everyone about our little love story and I always got a response along the lines of “sell that shit to Disney”.
Disney wouldn’t want to buy this love story. No happy endings in this one.
September 19, 2013. That was the first time my boyfriend raped me.
If you are a survivor of rape, then you know how traumatizing it truly is. And I use the word survivor purposely; in that moment, yes, we were victims, but it’s how we choose to react to being a victim that matters. We can remain victims, like I did for the longest time. Or, we can be survivors. And the moment we become survivors, they stop winning. All of you who have shared your story and have begun to heal by saying the words “me too”, well, from this moment on, me too.
If you’re anything like me, or even if you aren’t, your life after being raped by a significant other may have looked something like this:
You start off in denial. How could it be rape? They’re your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner/husband/wife/etc. That can’t be rape. You’re just thinking of this wrong.
Then you start trying to rationalize and end up making excuses for them. You tell yourself you must have given them some sort of signal that said you wanted it. Or that you were already in too deep and couldn’t back out now. Who does that, right?
Next comes the point where you tell yourself that you can’t say no to them because that’s what you are there for. You are there to satisfy your partner and therefore you don’t get to say no. You get to paint on a smile and say “yes, dear”. Even if you don’t actually want to.
And eventually, after they’ve left you for someone else, you convince yourself that the only way to avoid those types of sexual encounters is to avoid relationships all together. So you put up your guard. You distance yourself from people. You stop talking to your friends. You hide from your family in your room. And any time you do go out, you are constantly in flight mode. You flinch whenever anyone touches you. You stand off to the side of the group so no one can look directly at you, avoiding this risk of someone catching your eye and realizing something is wrong. You’ve always got some excuse to leave at the drop of a dime.
This is what living life as a victim looks like. And it’s okay to go through this; however you process what happened to you, and however long it takes you, is valid.
But then it comes time to make a choice. You begin to recognize that all of this is living in a way that lets them keep winning. And you have to decide whether or not you are okay with that.
I am here to tell you that as soon as you decide that you are not okay with that, nothing else matters. Because now, you are the one winning. Now, you are a survivor.