Trigger Warning: Descriptions survivor.” of sexual assault and/or rape.
I never really thought about rape until it happened to me. Before then, I thought rape was the experience you saw on TV: you would immediately realize you were raped, you’d blame yourself, you’d fluctuate between anger and depression, you’d at least want to pursue legal consequences and you’d seek out professional help.
I was raped in my sophomore year of high school. But I only realized I was raped four months after it occurred. I remembered how he left me there alone and in pain, how I eventually dressed myself and carried on with my day. Truthfully, I felt as if nothing bad had happened.
It was like I had immediately forgotten what had taken place only moments ago. The word “rape” never even crossed my mind. Everything I thought I knew about how survivors dealt with rape I never experienced, so I began to believe there was something wrong with me.
I never resented him. I allowed our relationship to continue after the rape, even after I had realized what he had done to me. I couldn’t come up with a sensible reason why I still lusted after my rapist. I knew this wasn’t the way I was “supposed” to feel or act, but something inside of me set aside the genuine fear I felt and replaced it with desire.
Although I never blamed myself for being raped, I blamed myself for not being “the right kind” of rape survivor. I couldn’t fathom how I could continue having sex with my rapist without any external pressure, so I began to hate myself.
Soon after, I attempted to demonize him. I thought if I could convince others he was a monster, maybe I could convince myself. But that never stopped me from pursuing him.
The confusion and self-hatred I felt took me to my breaking point. I cracked in front of my high school advisor two years after I was raped, spurting out what had happened, his name, everything except the relationship I had kept with him. Even in the midsts of hysteria, I was too ashamed to say it outloud.
I was forced to talk to the school and my parents, and was eventually forced into therapy. As I developed a relationship with my therapist, I began to open up more about what I felt. First, I admitted to the sexual desire I felt for my rapist and that I was keeping in contact with him. Then months later, I told my therapist about our most recent hookup. By this time, I trusted my therapist completely, yet I couldn’t help but feel nervous and ashamed when I admitted this out loud.
I remember the exact moment my therapist had told me it was completely normal to feel and act the way I did. I remember a weight being taken off of me, feeling a relief I had not felt in years. My experience was validated and I believed my therapist when he told me I wasn’t crazy; this way of coping wasn’t just happening to me.
Since this moment with my therapist, I’ve gained back an immense amount of confidence in myself and in telling my story to others. But even now, I can’t shake the fear of being misunderstood. There were times that my friends couldn’t comprehend how I could continue to sleep with my rapist. Some of my closest friends told me I was lying. And there’s a part of me that can’t blame them; nobody talks about this messy and confusing aspect of coping.
My biggest fear isn’t being misunderstood by my friends, it’s being misunderstood by other survivors. Whenever I think about speaking about my experience, I fear that it will sound like I’m sympathizing with my rapist or that I’m trying to make excuses for him, even though that’s the last thing I intend to do.
I want to be truthful and tell my story for what it is, but I’m terrified of other survivors’ judgements. However, I know there are other survivors out there that are going through the same experiences as I did. All I needed at the time was someone to tell me that my feelings and actions are natural and legitimate, so I try and push past this fear of being misinterpreted.
If there’s one message I could send to any survivor of sexual assault, it’s this: no matter how complicated the situation is, you are valid and you are not alone. Your story is not just one event, it’s all of the various factors surrounding you. There is not a “right” way to be a survivor and you deserve to be treated with respect and you deserve to treat yourself with respect. We all heal differently and we are all entitled to heal in whatever ways we can.
This story was submitted anonymously by a survivor at Santa Clara. If you are interested in sharing your story, reach out to Emma Hyndman at firstname.lastname@example.org
Articles in the Opinion section represent the views of the individual authors only and not the views of The Santa Clara or Santa Clara University