My Story Should Matter Too.

The men who raped me took away a part of myself that I will never be able to get back. Sometimes I look back at the beginning of college and see this happy girl. I tell my old stories, laughing about how it always felt safe to walk back to my dorm late at night, or how my friends and I used to get into the craziest shenanigans at parties. Souped up on alcohol, we’d run down the streets singing and dancing; we’d throw glitter in the air at parties, much to the chagrin of whomever’s house we were in. I remember that girl, but I also remember that she was taken away from me during my sophomore year.

I remember how, the first time, I didn’t call it rape because I was drunk. How I told him no, to please wait until morning, but how I woke up in pain with him inside of me. It was my fault, I told myself, for putting myself in that situation.

I remember the second time, how I was sober. How we sat on the rooftop of my building and drank Sprite out of wine glasses, like we were fancy or something. We drew pictures and made up poems. I remember my shirt; it was orange and it had the words, “Life is beautiful” written across the front of it. I could never wear that shirt again after that; I have never been able to wear something orange since. It sounds stupid, typing it out, like such a miniscule detail — but it takes me right back.

He kissed me. He picked me up and carried me to the bedroom. I said no. I said stop. I said I was on my period. He didn’t care. I said no so many times that it felt like the only word I knew. He pressed his shoulder into my mouth while he had sex with me; I was afraid I was going to suffocate like that.

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When he found me walking home from a party weeks later, drunk from alcohol and trying to forget, he raped me again. It was the first time I totally blacked out sex, something that I have continued to do over the last 6 years since it happened. I am only recently relearning to associate sex with pleasure, rather than a way to escape. But although I don’t remember the sex, I remember the plastic beaded necklaces in various colors next to the bed. The empty pizza box that I threw up on. The clink of someone doing dishes in the sink.

It wasn’t sex. It was brutalization. I was not a person; I was a thing. When I sobered up and drove myself to the hospital at 3am, I was so swollen that the doctors couldn’t use a speculum on me.

I convinced myself that it was my fault. It ate me up inside. I drank. I drank heavily. And I fucked. Sex became this sense of power; I could do it, I could have it, and nobody could take that away from me. If I had sex with them first, they couldn’t hurt me. My friends wondered what was wrong with me, snickering behind my back that I was acting like a slut. My sorority sisters thought I drank too much. They talked about how I was an embarrassment. But nothing changes when you come forward with your story. The first person I told just laughed and said,

“What did you expect with the way you act?”

As if my expectations of owning the rights to my body were ridiculous.

As if my expectations of “no” meaning “no” were ridiculous.

I was told that, because of how I acted or dressed or because of the fact that I drank, my story wouldn’t be believed. To report it would mean a farcical examination of what happened, concluding with, “There isn’t enough evidence.”

There are instances of sexual violence since college that have occurred, and it is sick that I am meant to feel happy that they didn’t evolve into rape. The man I met on Tinder who punched me in the face when I said I didn’t want to sleep with him. The man who kept trying to grope me as I waited to meet my friends outside of a club, and only stopped when another man stepped in. The man who tried to follow me into the bar bathroom and assault me. The men who continue to nag and push and needle for sex or blowjobs after I said no.

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I am grateful for the friends that stepped up when I was down, for the doctors who watched over me, for the men and women who showed me how to trust again in college, and for my boyfriend that is forever patient with me when my nightmares keep me from sleeping.

But it sickens me that my story is almost par for the course nowadays, that so many of my friends, family, acquaintances, and the strangers that I meet can share the same type. Men and women are sexually assaulted and raped daily, and the world seems more likely to ask what we did to deserve it than condemn the people who are responsible for it.

Some days, I am a survivor. Some days, I am a victim. It took me 5 and a half years to be able to even share my story with my therapist, and more than that to admit that I was angry at the person in college who hurt me.

And every day, it is a struggle to hear people ask, “Well, why didn’t you report?”

I was scared. I felt broken. I still feel broken. I am afraid of opening myself up to criticism. I am afraid of being told that it was my fault. I am afraid of having my life pulled apart.

I have been afraid since 2012. But with modern society happening the way that it is, and with these issues being such a prevalent part of modern discourse, it is also now my job to share that story.

Because I want everybody — man, woman, young, old, Republican, Democrat — who has gone through this to know that you are not alone.

My story matters. And your story does too.