So every April for the past three years I participate in the ‘Red My Lips’ project. For those of you not familiar with ‘Red My Lips’ it’s an organization for sexual violence awareness and to stop victim blaming. I’ve written a couple of post before on my Facebook and Instagram about this topic, but this is my first post since I’ve started my blog. I’ve been trying to figure out what I wanted to write for months since this is such a personal and important cause to me. I’m reminded that the best writing comes from writing about what you know, so here’s my story.
Five years ago, I had gone away on a trip during my final semester in college. I had been on many trips before solo and with friends, out the city, out the state, even out the country. The part that made this trip so different was that when I arrived back in Pittsburgh there was a part of me that never made its way back home with me. The night I was raped changed my life forever. My whole outlook changed, I was no longer optimistic, happy and upbeat inside and out, I had become someone I hated looking in the mirror at. I was depressed, weak, angry, I felt like I let everyone around me down. All because my no was silenced. No one would ever know because I was so embarrassed I just faked a smile and acted like everything was okay. I felt like I died, but my body was forced to stay on this earth. That lasted till right before I was suppose to graduate, around 3 weeks before or so I sort of snapped out of it. I knew if I didn’t pull myself together, I wasn’t going to graduate and how was I going to explain that to my family. Yeah they did notice some differences in me, but they thought it was senioritis. I remember cutting all my hair off, just to see if I could feel anything. I remember hiding bottles of liquor that I use to drink, not to even get drunk and forget, but to numb the pain, so that I could sleep. At night my mind wondered, I replayed that night over and over and over again trying to figure out where I went wrong and how could I have changed the events that happened that night.
While most people were applying to jobs for post-grad and worrying about where they should go for their graduation dinners; I was getting tested in-between my internship and classes, paranoid that I caught an STD or someone would find out my secret. I decided to not press charges because I didn’t know the guy’s real name and I knew he was moving to a different state so the chances of me being able to find him without having to involve his friends and making everything public were slim. Plus since it occurred out-of-state, I would have to report the crime there and I didn’t have the money to go back and forth or the energy to be questioned why I didn’t report it sooner. At the time I thought who would believe me since people saw me flirting with and talking to the guy whose face would be forever engraved in my mind as the person who didn’t respect me enough as a human being to comply with my non-consent. My only regret about not reporting my rape was that I worried that it might happen to someone else; I still pray till this day that it didn’t happen again or that if it did they would be strong enough to report it. It’s passed my mind over the years since he was not remorseful and the only words he said to me afterwards were “I hope this doesn’t stop you from smiling”. I cringe every time someone says that to me to this day and it makes me want to throw up every time I hear it.
I remember that summer after I graduated I worked at a summer camp and sometimes we would work overnights. During the overnights, there was a guy who always brought in movies to stay awake. This one particular night we were watching this movie where the new neighbor in town raped the teenage girl next door one day he thought she was alone at home, but her autistic little brother witnessed it and told when then neighbor came over during one of their family functions. The girl couldn’t take it any longer and decided to commit suicide, even though her parents found her and got her to a hospital. She ended up in a coma and eventually died from brain damage. Watching that movie scared the fuck out of me! (Excuse my language) From that moment I knew I had to decide if I wanted to live or die because at that point I knew I was going down a slippery slope and even though I was scared to kill myself, I knew I would die way earlier than I planned on if I continued my reckless behavior. I decided I wanted to live.
While surviving sexual assault did change my life, I will not let it define me or break me. While I have gotten positive support from those I had chose to tell, I’ve also had friendships end after they told me I was to blame for it and I probably made it up for attention. I ended relationships because I felt like I was unworthy. I had an emotionally abusive relationship were he used “I love you” as a way to get me to stay since he knew I never thought a man would love me after being raped, I unconsciously looked at myself as damaged goods. I thought the only thing a man would ever want from me was my body and it seemed correct to me since many of them never wanted to commit or they disrespected me during our time together. It wasn’t until I went through a healing therapy group for women who were abused, raped, experienced tragedies and hearing their different stories and how they learned to cope, forgive, and reclaim their lives that I realized that I could do it too. Re-learning how to love you is a project and forgiveness is needed for yourself. The self-evaluation and healing projects we did made me realize I was still harboring a lot of anger that I projected on to others at times but more so placed on myself. The past five years haven’t been easy and I’m still a work in progress, but I can see my own personal growth. From how I look at myself, my relationships with men, my faith and rediscovering who I am as a person. I didn’t share my story for pity, but I share it for the person who’s going through the same thing and feeling like hope is gone or their story has ended. I hope that you realize you are the captain of your ship and your . can become a ; but you have to decide you want to live.