There are only two things in life that scare me more than spiders and drowning – certain memories of my youth and the last two years of high school. I’m already dreading what I’m about to write – mostly because in order to do that you have to feel everything all over again which is terrifying – but nothing worth having comes without a risk and it’s time to stop hiding from this one.
I bite my lip when I’m nervous and right now my lip is raw like an open flesh wound. This happens every time my subconscious wants to release, but my conscious wants to run. I do like to cut through the bullshit though, so before I divulge all of the intimate details, I want to warn you this post is very dark, very real and extremely personal.
If you know anyone who has or is going through something similar please reach out to me. No one should ever do it alone.
When I was 17 years old and just starting to explore the inner most parts of myself and the limits of young adulthood, my boyfriend raped me. Now before your head goes from one completely dark place to another, let me dive a bit deeper into what brought me to this place that I’ve been unable to turn back from for 13 years. Up until about 5 years ago I have been unable to say that word. Rape. It’s a word that is so vile and comes with so much pain that it makes me want to throw up. I’m not talking about physical pain. This is the kind of pain that you can’t see, but it’s so deep within you that if you were to go digging like a surgeon looking for a bullet in your heart they would come up empty-handed multiple times before finally locating and removing it.
Society has taught us to hide from things that people don’t quite understand and the very first reaction is judgement. They judge the fact that it happened, they judge whether or not you’re lying, they judge how you must have put yourself in that situation somehow, they judge the fact that you even admit it, they judge that they don’t think they can look at you the same, they judge who they think you have now become. It’s uncomfortable for THEM, so naturally it’s a topic that shouldn’t be discussed. Pretending it doesn’t exist is easier. They don’t have a freaking clue what it’s like – to have their power, trust and body taken from them. No one in this entire world will ever fully understand what it is to be a rape victim unless they too have been a victim themselves and not a single person (male, female, child, animal or other) should EVER have to feel that they somehow caused this harm to happen, nor should anyone ever be shamed into remaining silent.
Your mental defenses go up and the first thing your body does is shut itself down. Your mind goes elsewhere. You detach from yourself in order to hide from what’s happening. Then you become a master at detachment. An expert of emptiness. All you have is a hole right where your heart used to be.
We met freshman year. We had no friends in common, no hobbies in common and he was the class clown. I was the complete opposite, a shy girl to most everyone (shocking I know, but back then I hadn’t stepped into who I truly was yet). I had a small number of friends, no school-related hobbies and a lot of other shit going on in my life that starts with my Excerpt: A Journey Without to Within – make sure to check that out on the homepage. We met in Astronomy. I was baffled when he would stare at me, when people would whisper that he liked me and the first time he ever asked me out. I didn’t understand why he would even be interested in a girl like me. I was so feverishly head over heels for him. It was puppy love from day one. He brought out a side of me that I used to be so fearful of showing. Admittedly he had a hand in creating who I am today, for good and bad. I started to meet new people, care more about my appearance and step into this new version of who I was becoming. I liked feeling wanted. I liked feeling invincible. I liked feeling accepted by my peers. I fell in love with all of it. Who wouldn’t? At such an impressionable age, all of those things are as important as trees are to oxygen and coming from the life I grew up in, I was always yearning to be accepted. That year was the first time I ever became that emotional over a boy – one minute we were in love and the next we were ready to kill each other. Don’t get me wrong though, I’ve been in love with love since I was a little girl. I would dream about my knight in shining armor who would come to save me from my life and we would be happily ever after. I’m a huge romantic and I don’t care who knows it. I’ve come to love this part of myself a lot more over the past few years.
We had a lot of firsts together. We also did a lot of stupid shit together. It wasn’t until Junior year that I started to feel like something wasn’t quite right. He came from a wealthy family – I came from completely the opposite. Now before you say that shouldn’t make any difference, let me tell you, your upbringing and how it affects you on a soul level are complex as all hell. You can be aware of it, but that doesn’t mean you can do much about it – it’s a part of your perspective, a piece of who you are. I wanted to have what they had. That is until I saw his dad hit his mom. He didn’t have a perfect life, none of us do.
That year we lost our virginity and I had never felt so connected to anyone before. I felt like a woman. I felt different. I felt alive. That is until it became an obsession. It wasn’t about the cute stuff anymore and boy does it make you act like an entirely different person. I don’t think I had ever been truly jealous before that. I turned into property. I wasn’t free to be me anymore, I was his. That’s the first time I ever saw the cage I would be living in for the next 13 years. Keep in mind that a majority of abuse is learned behavior. I think about how different things would be had it never happened. How different I would be. They say the strong are given the most challenging circumstances to overcome – I aim to be grateful that I’m one of the strong.
It started with my phone, which rolled then into who I could spend time with, that eventually turned into emotional and physical abuse. I was told that no one in this world would ever love me like he did, that I didn’t deserve it. I was too skinny, too flirty, too everything and not enough anything. This continued until prom when he grabbed my arm in a fit of rage in front of our principal. They asked me if I was okay and of course I told them I was fine, it wasn’t a big deal – because this happened more often than I’d like to admit, so it was normal right? Don’t EVER let logic convince your soul that you are being irrational. What you feel is real and it matters. Not too long after that night I broke up with my first love, my first boyfriend of almost 4 years, the guy who had a hand in creating what I had become. I wasn’t that invincible girl anymore. I was weak, tired, lonely and disgusted with myself. Where was I when all of this was happening? Why did I allow it to go on so long? Love, whether healthy or unhealthy, sane or insane, can make us do crazy things. Like allow someone to make you hate who you are so they can feel powerful. You want power? Put your life story on the internet for the entire universe to see. Own your baggage and your bullshit. Tell the world that you are all you’ll ever need and what people think of you is none of your damn business.
No, means fucking NO. Do you hear me? Does everyone hear me? Whether it’s a boyfriend, a stranger, a friend. Anything that happens after the word no has been uttered, is crossing the line. You have officially taken the other persons body, mind and heart away from them regardless of what you or anyone else thinks and nobody should ever have the right to do that to another person. I would put this into the same category as murdering someone – you take away their life.
I will admit, it was hard to stay away from him. I did my best to hide from him at school, to keep myself surrounded by people at all times and to avoid events where he might be. I wasn’t afraid of him necessarily, I was afraid that I would allow myself to let him lock me back in that damn cage that I escaped from. We started to talk again, but I tried to keep my distance. I think I made it a few months before we were back to hanging out with who became mutual friends only things were a million times more complicated and a crap load worse than before, but it would be in spurts because he was afraid he would lose me again so he played the role. From time to time I would openly see it and tell him he had to leave me alone. He started to call me obsessively, IM me and show up at my house at all hours of the night intoxicated screaming my name. To a degree I was fueled by his intensity and persistence. It was a highly twisted version of my knight in shining armor and it eventually became my demise.
It was a beautiful sunny day outside. Somehow he worked his way into my heart again. He knew he couldn’t come back to my house anymore. We decided to meet at the skate rink about 10 minutes away. I remember the moment he pulled in, my heart and mind were in such turmoil – they were fighting so loudly that I blocked them both out completely. We got out of our cars and walked towards the side of the building where there was a deck. After that I don’t remember a whole lot about anything except for the demands he made and the resistance I gave. It wouldn’t matter. I was so lost within myself at this point that I didn’t anticipate just how quickly it would escalate and you don’t think someone you trust, someone you loved would ever put you in that position. Maybe he wasn’t thinking much during what felt like years rolled into probably 10 minutes. Maybe he convinced himself that what was happening was okay because I was his. Maybe he doesn’t remember any of it because he doesn’t want to admit that he became a monster that day. I won’t ever know and it doesn’t make a bit of god damn difference. They say when you die your life flashes before you. I think a piece of me died that day because all I saw when I left my body was every moment that lead me to what was happening and just how much life I hadn’t lived yet. I told myself I would forever be tainted.
After that day I would never be the same. I had no feeling, no emotion, no life left in me. Things became blurry. Nothing was real anymore, until I met the rock, but that’s a whole different story.
I wish I could say that after this experience, life went back to “normal” and I could pretend none of it had ever happened, but then that would be easy. Reflecting back on that quote I referred to about the strong being given the most challenging circumstances – the roller coaster continued. I couldn’t function properly so I dove into distractions: drugs, alcohol, depression and more boys. As you can imagine, my ex-boyfriend did not like any of it. He would destroy me in the hallways with friends who were much older by telling them lies about me – to the point where they confronted me to fight or threw trash in my face. He would drive by my work incessantly, call me from blocked numbers, find me when I was out with friends. It was like I couldn’t escape for a single second. I had to relive it every single time I saw his face. Eventually it became unbearable and he was starting to scare me. I became fearful of leaving work, fearful of spending time with friends in public, fearful of talking to anyone of the opposite sex. The final straw was when he threatened me with his car while walking home with a boy I was seeing at the time. I had to protect myself so I told my parents about everything except the rape, because how do you explain to your dad that you were abused when you know the first thing he would do is kill him, in turn ruining your entire family, giving him even more power. I would never let that happen. We immediately went to the police for a restraining order. Now here’s what I mean when I talked about society and their judgement, worse because they didn’t even know that piece of the story, but were still incessant on pushing me to feel that somehow I was exaggerating my fear. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel that your gut is wrong. It isn’t.
We proceeded with the restraining order and was granted a temporary immediately upon speaking with the police. However, in the process I lost a lot of my friends. Looking back on it now I understand that no one could fully grasp the concept of what I was going through so it was hard for them to provide any kind of support. People come in and out of our lives the way they are supposed to and I was grateful for the time we had, but they were not strong enough to be a part of my journey anymore. The entire process of actually going to court and speaking in front of a judge made me sick to my stomach, just like being in the same room as him waiting to be called in. Everyone is staring at you, judging you, thinking terrible things about you and in his case probably wishing for my death. That’s because how I felt wasn’t as important as how everybody else involved felt. The uncomfortability it created for others around me was more understood and more accepted. This torture went on for what I want to say feels like years in my own mind, but in reality only a few grueling hours. There were witnesses on both sides, only his never really witnessed anything, they were there to lie as they had been convinced I couldn’t be more than a liar myself. All of the actual witnesses beside the few that stood with me that day were too afraid to speak up and too afraid to admit that scary fucked up shit can happen to people they know. Only furthering my lonely existence that was created by a peer and perpetually exacerbated by all of my other peers. The verdict was finally determined and for a moment I felt heard. He was guilty and the restraining order was granted.
After that things continued to climb that coaster ramp for just a few more clicks before the fall. The school didn’t want to deal with any of it and his parents had unreasonably argued to the faculty that he was a better student than me, more involved and having more to “lose” because at that point I had already lost everything so I was now irrelevant. They decided it best to force me to graduate early. That was the second to last time I brought myself to face my graduating class beside the senior dinner dance which was a disaster and the afternoon I walked for my diploma. That is until 2015 when I mistakenly made the decision to insert myself back into all of it at my 10 year reunion.
I’ll admit, it took me a very very long time to get to this place. Everything happens for a reason and I tell myself that every single day. Maybe I wouldn’t be here writing about all of this if I hadn’t gone to that reunion. Maybe I would still be hiding from myself and the truth. All of this shit upon shit upon shit has brought me to this exact moment in this exact room with this exact head space and heart space where the cage door is finally wide the fuck open. Today is the day I walk right out of it, into the future that I am destined for. No more hiding, no more lies, no more emptiness. Living your truth will set you free.
So to all my fellow soul family out there who’s ever been a victim – of anything – stop running from it. Sit down with your bad self and work through it, write through it, paint through it, scream through it. Whatever you need to do to get you to the other side where you are whole again and your being is your own – that’s where you belong and only you can take that power back. Be patient with yourself, but do choose healing. Today is the first day of the rest of your life and you deserve to live it out loud.