Content Warning: this post discusses PTSD as a result of sexual assault
This is hard for me. This isn’t something I’ve told many people. This may come as a shock to some of my family and friends. But I need to tell my story.
The short of it is this: I was raped.
I’m not going to go into details about how it happened because those close to me will be able to connect it to who did it. I’m not going to disclose who did it because it will likely start a battle I am unwilling to fight. I didn’t press charges because I was told it wasn’t true. I didn’t get help because the people I confided in seemed to think it was not a big deal (a byproduct of rape culture, more on that in a bit).
My story is not about a monster in a dark alley. It’s about two people who knew each other very well when one took advantage of the other. This person violated my consent and then gaslighted me into thinking that I was crazy and awful for suggesting the event happened at all. That, coupled with the lack of support from others, is why I didn’t tell my story before.
So why now? Why am I sharing this story if I don’t want to come out and report this person or get justice? The simple answer is because it’s not about them. This is about me. This is about my healing.
Right after it happened I was in shock. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I didn’t want to believe it. I left my rapist under a haze of confusion. I didn’t tell anyone until a full week had passed.
When I finally told two friends that I thought I was raped, I could see the shock in their eyes. I could see the dark narrative their minds were telling them. But when I told them who it was their expressions softened. They weren’t completely relieved, but they were definitely less alarmed. Because rape culture tells us that only monsters can be rapists. It tells us that nice guys don’t do that, and people we know and like are incapable of such wickedness. So then it wasn’t rape, it was miscommunication.
This is the lie rape culture tells us. But it is a lie. Miscommunication in sex is when one person says, “I want you to move to the left,” and their partner still misses the mark leading to a subpar experience. Disregarding verbal and nonverbal no’s is not miscommunication, it is ignoring a lack of consent. And ignoring a lack of consent to continue doing what you want is assault. If the assault involves penetration, then it’s rape.
But nobody told me that. So while I knew that what this person did was wrong, and that I was significantly affected, I had nothing to call it. I had no way to make sense of it. When I confronted my rapist I was further traumatized by their explosive defense. I understand why they were defensive. I understand that as hard as it was for me to accept what had happened to me, it was hard for them to accept that they had done it. To this day I believe that they deny it was rape. Their words were, “What I did was definitely wrong. But it wasn’t rape.”
I felt guilty. I maintained contact with this person for sometime. Remember, we were close and I was told that it wasn’t rape. So what grounds did I have for severing ties? But the longer I kept in touch, the worse I became.
I know now that what I wanted was for them to admit it. I still do. Because for so long I was told that I was delusional and horrible. I don’t remember what led to me finally parting ways with them (an unfortunate side effect of a traumatized brain is memory loss and distortion), but one day I told them that I didn’t deserve the treatment I was getting. So I left.
I pored into articles about rape and stories from other victims. I learned that I wasn’t delusional at all, but a victim of the most common form of rape: acquaintance rape. I found stories so similar to mine that I realized I was not alone. But that didn’t change how alone I felt.
I needed help. I tried therapy through a broken mental health system and was unsuccessful in getting proper treatment. I still struggle with this today.
I have been diagnosed with PTSD by my psychiatrist because of my frequent nightmares, flashbacks, and how easily triggered I am. These symptoms worsen at times and taper off at others. I hope to reach a point where they are consistently infrequent. I know recovery will not be an easy process.
But I am trying. I know that opening up is an important step in recovery, and that is part of why I am writing this. I want to to be able to talk about this more openly and really process what happened. I am writing this for me, but it’s also for you.
I am sharing this story so that others can see my process. I hope that maybe it will resonate with someone and they will know that what happened to them was not their fault. If you have been raped or traumatized in any way I want you to know that however you are processing your trauma is okay. I don’t know if you or I will fully heal, but I do know that it will get better. It may sometimes feel like it’s getting worse, and that is normal as recovery can be full of ebbs and flows. But it will get better.
Thank you for reading this. If you want to share your story with me I am more than willing to listen (or, I suppose read). Don’t hesitate to reach out to me or anyone else you trust for help. I have included links to resources below.
Call 1-800-273-8255 now if you need to talk to someone ASAP