I Never Spoke Out About My Rape … Until Right Now


I remember kicking it at a friend’s house while his parents were away. I remember him taking me to the master bedroom and forcing his mouth on me before I pushed him back and told him I didn’t want to make out. I remember him laughing and asking me, “Why not?” and shrugging my shoulders. I wasn’t prepared with an answer. I didn’t know I would be questioned, much less become a victim of sexual assault. There was a previously unknown pressure. It was different, but not scary. Not yet. He was four years older than me, but I had spent weeks talking to and hanging out with him. I believed he was a friend but so quickly he became a stranger. I didn’t understand his eagerness, his forcefulness, and the desperate necessity to feed a starving animal.

I remember taking a sip of my beer before he tried again. His hands began grabbing me — my neck, my breast, my stomach, my waist, and my thigh — all while I was squirming and flinching, wishing I was invisible. I pushed him off of me again and told him “No.” I said directly and clearly that I did not want to have sex, that I wasn’t ready, and that I was still trying to decide what he and I were. I remember feeling fearless, strong, and proud when I told him what I did not want. I did not think there was a reason to be afraid. I was naive. I was innocent. I was 14.

The next thing I remember is his heavy body on top of mine, thrusting. I knew instantly that I was in danger but I couldn’t move. My arms and legs were useless. I was defenseless. I couldn’t speak. It was as if I wasn’t in my body anymore. I couldn’t feel anything but I could hear the blankets rubbing against each other, the twin bed hitting the wall, his breath, and his groans. I heard pounding on the door and a friend yelling, “He’s raping her!” Her persistent yells and knocks bothered him because he was getting frustrated and it was affecting his pacing. He became more aggressive with my body, as if it was my fault that he was getting caught. There was violence in his hunger.

I remember his friend breaking down the bedroom door, pulling him off of me and covering me with his jacket. My friend came in, sat me up and immediately began to panic — yelling and crying. I couldn’t put the pieces of what was happening together but I remember feeling a critical need to escape.

The first time I realized what had happened to me was rape was thanks to my assaulter. As he pulled his pants up and left the room, he yelled, “If she says I raped her I am going to jump off the bridge. I am going to kill myself.”

The next couple of hours felt more like a scene from a movie than my actual life.  My friends tried to explain to me what happened and asked me up front if I wanted to call the police. Maybe it was a coping mechanism, maybe it was the drugs he put in my drink, but in those moments, I knew I was alive, but I didn’t feel like I was living. The night turned into early morning and as the sun rose, the pain began to settle in. A woman’s body is made to welcome pleasure when she wants it and her body will prepare itself to receive her partner. When it is not consensual our bodies are literally ripped apart.

It wasn’t until I got home and went to the bathroom that I fully realized what had been robbed from me. This man invaded my body against my will, forced himself inside of me, violently dominated me, took away my right to fight and took my virginity. I cried as the blood poured out of me. Then I got in the shower and tried to peel my skin off. I tried to wash it all off, to scrape it off, to get rid of the dirt, the trauma, the anger, the pain, the violence.

When you’ve been raped or sexually assaulted the most dangerous place to live in is in your own skin.

The weeks following my assault, I was a zombie. I couldn’t talk about it and I was constantly panicked. I cried a lot, but I worried a lot more. I was afraid that my family would be hurt. I was terrified that if my brothers found out they would actually kill him. I also had questions: What if I’m pregnant? What if he has HIV? I took myself to Planned Parenthood and got tested. When the results came back negative, I told myself I was ready to put it behind me, and I did. For a long time, I carried on.

But there was always a heaviness preventing me from being free.

Seventeen years later and I still haven’t come to terms with it. This is my first time really talking about it. This is my first time saying I was raped. For years, I felt it was unfair to label it as such because I didn’t experience the violence as clearly as other victims have. I had the unfortunate luck to go physically numb and comatose during it. “It might as well have never happened,” I told myself. Except it did, and no matter how many times I tried to brush it off it came back to haunt me. I didn’t know what the hauntings were back then. Now I know them as triggers and symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

There were men in my family I unreasonably began to doubt. I felt unsafe when anyone touched me. I didn’t like hugs. I couldn’t make eye contact with men passing me on the streets. I had panic attacks before two surgeries and asked if my mom could be in the room with me. I didn’t drink for a long time and even now, I am specific with who I drink and smoke with. When male bosses would promote me or share professional opportunities with me, I questioned them. I hated attention. I hated dressing up. I hated my body. I hated being pretty. I hated smiling.

While I know what happened was not my fault no matter what I was wearing, how I was looking at him, why I was drinking — the pain and the fear still belongs to me. I’ve told a few people here and there and even then, it was fraudulent. I spoke of strength and empowerment, of survival and resilience. I called it “what happened,” or “what that guy did.” There was a casual tone to my story.

The reality was that I wasn’t ready to be angry. I’m ready now. I know I’m not the only one. I know I’m one of millions.

I know some of us have skipped grief all together and become comfortable in survival mode because once you admit it, you have to accept the fact that a part of you has been permanently broken at the hands of another. This is why questions like: “Why didn’t you say anything before?” rob us of the time, tools, and help we need to heal. We have to trust that safety exists in a world that constantly reminds us we are prey. So when we decide to talk about it, we don’t do it for the sake of story time. We do it with the intention to help ourselves or help another.

But I can’t imagine doing it in a room full of strangers and cameras while being interrogated by other men. I can’t imagine knowing that despite my truth I may or may not be credible. I can’t imagine reliving my trauma on national television, knowing my assaulter is watching. I can’t imagine having to publicly detail my rape to prove why he should not be granted a lifetime seat at the most powerful court in the nation. And I can’t imagine both wishing I wasn’t alone and hoping I was the only one all at once.

There is courage in a woman’s quivering voice and terrified look as she relives her assault, her rape, or her abuse. In her distress, there is an urge for men to take accountability, to heal and help heal, and most importantly, to listen and believe her.

Some of us have held our horror stories in our hearts for decades. When we speak, it is not to bring down a man; it is to save a woman.

When a woman tells you she is a victim, she is not weak, fragile, sensitive, or emotional. She is a survivor becoming a hero.

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