The Amplify Project
April 20, 2017
Trigger Warning: Explicit descriptions of sexual assault and/or rape.
For a long time, I lived my days in numbers. Four hours since I last cried, two more classes to get through before I have to walk past him on my way home, four more counseling sessions until I have to start paying for my treatment. Nine hours in the hospital and at the police station that fateful Saturday morning.
When I went to the hospital that day, I never could have anticipated feeling even more violated and run-down than I already felt.
I was charged $3,000 for a hospital visit where I received no actual medical assistance, but was essentially charged for breathing the air inside of a stuffy exam room.
For five hours I sat there, only to be transported to a different hospital (another debt) for the actual physical exam.
As helpful as the medical professionals, first responders and lead investigators on my case were, I wish that they had been more careful or sensitive with their words.
It’s crazy that we always say “don’t blame the victim,” yet only three times during those brutally painful months following my assault was I ever told, “This shouldn’t have happened to you.”
They never tell you how these people will pick and probe you for the explicit details of the worst moments of your life, but then tell you to keep going so they can get what they need.
“They’re going to point it out, but you know what message bringing him back to your apartment sends, right?” No, I guess I don’t since I had explicitly said, “I’m not having sex with you.” No, I didn’t change my mind and no, you can’t determine that I did “based on my body language,” because in no way does me freezing and going mute qualify as consent.
For months, I was mad at myself because I was convinced it was my fault.
No matter how many times someone says, “You didn’t deserve this,” no one can convince you that it’s true because they don’t know the thoughts filtering through your head.
I became everything I had fought against. I plastered on a smile to make it seem like I wasn’t as affected as I was. As a 20-year-old girl I was unable to sleep in a room by myself.
Even the thought of going to sleep on that side of the bed brought me to tears. Like clockwork, I was braving a nightmare that would leave my heart pumping and my face sweating like it had done every night since.
The worst part was knowing my reality wasn’t a dream and it wasn’t some – thing that I could wake up from. I tried my hardest to trust the people and institution that claimed to support me, but they continued to fail me.
Given how I was treated and the way that the process progressed, I started to question everything.
Maybe I should just drop it, or maybe if I hadn’t sought out help in the first place I wouldn’t have these medical bills piling up or have to see the looks of pity thrown my way daily.
Maybe I would be over it by now, and maybe it would have been easier if I had never said anything. Maybe I’ll never know how to handle the ignorant comments or seemingly innocent questions people ask.
Do I laugh when someone makes a joke about rape or assault?
When I go to the doctor and they ask me how many sexual partners I’ve had, or when a guy I am dating asks what my “number” is, does he count?
They say that time heals all wounds, but I can honestly say that I don’t think that’s the case and it’s not a permanent bandage for trauma.
Time lessens the brunt of the pain, but it’ll always be there.
It’s been more than a year since my life crumbled, but I still struggle with saying, “I was raped,” and instead find some bullsh*t, beat-around-the-bush way of getting it out.
I’m happy to say that it does get easier in some ways: it’s a day-today battle, but I have more good days than bad and it’s not on the forefront of my mind at all times.
I’ve adopted the “fake it ‘til you make it” mentality and it was my saving grace because I could pretend to be strong until I actually was.
I fought like hell to put it behind me so that instead of counting everything and ruminating on the bad, I can just try to make things count.
This story was submitted anonymously by a sexual assault survivor at Santa Clara through The Amplify Project. If you are interested in sharing your story, reach out to Emma Hyndman at amplifysurvivors@gmail. com or visit amplifyproject. wordpress.com.