This is a story that I have never told
I gotta get this off my chest to let it go
I need to take back the light inside you stole
You’re a criminal
And you steal like you’re a pro
All the pain and the truth
I wear like a battle wound
So ashamed, so confused
I was broken and bruised
you know how you hear a song over and over again for years and yet you never really hear it? And then one day you hear it … like in your soul…. yea, that’s this song. I heard it for years but never really understood it….until it struck a chord on the still fresh wounds of my soul.
i’ve debated sharing my story on a public platform, but I feel like it is a very important step not just in my own healing and recovery process – but also because it is a very important step in fighting the victim blaming stigma associated with sexual assault.
whoa. let’s back it up a bit.
i’m about to get uncomfortably vulnerable and if you’re triggered by stories of sexual assault feel free to click away.
it was March of this past year. if i’m being honest i wasn’t in a very healthy place. i was about to turn 30 and my marriage was falling apart in front of me and i had no idea. i lived in a constant state of intense anxiety that often led me to overuse alcohol as a coping mechanism. my ex had planned a trip to the dominican republic as a spring break/birthday family trip. we had debated cancelling the trip since our relationship was in such a fragile place, but we didn’t want to break our daughter’s heart and i (not so) secretly hoped getting away for a bit would help us reconnect and figure things out. so we went. i was a little nervous about the fact that we were going to an all inclusive resort and i had some issues with alcohol, but i swore i was going to do it right that time. we had lots of difficult conversations on that trip, but came to what i saw as some kind of understanding and for the first time in a long time felt a speck of happiness and hope.
so, i let my guard down.
and i drank more than i intended to. for a second it felt like we were connecting again, like maybe we were going to make it… i could breathe again and i just let loose. i was sitting at the swim up bar and talking with the bartender and the people around me, some young spanish speaking guy began talking to me and i used my rusty spanish to converse with him. of course, i was naturally flirtatious. my ex was talking to people on the other side of the pool. i got a refill of my drink and that is the last thing i remember for awhile.
i have flashes of memories from this point on… memories that are vivid and filled with feelings. i don’t know how i got to the public bathroom in the lobby, but i remember being in there with the spanish speaking guy from the bar. things happened – things i didn’t consent to. i remember the feeling of being terrified. i’m not sure how i got back to the room, but i did. there is a lot about the night that doesn’t add up, so much so i will always wonder if i was drugged. the rest of the night was a blur of extreme emotional outbursts and other things i’m not proud of. my initial reaction was one of self-loathing. i blamed myself. i knew i was taken advantage of but the thought echoing through my head was
… but i should have known better….
surely i said/did/wore something that brought this on. i should have saw in coming. i should have been able to stop it. i felt so ashamed, so dirty and used. and on top of that there were layers of guilt, shame, self-loathing, and so many negative feelings.
i woke up in the middle of the night feeling sick. my legs didn’t work right so i laid on the bathroom floor. eventually i made my way to the shower and turned the water as hot as it would go and just laid on the floor of the shower in some foreign hotel room crying hysterically for an hour… trying to wash away the dirty feeling in my soul. but i couldn’t.
i had often thought of how i would handle something like this happening to me. i’m a fairly confident, strong, intelligent woman. i pictured picking myself up and marching straight to the police and making an eloquently stated report. but i didn’t. i was told it was my decision, that clearly i wanted it regardless of the fact that i was clearly not coherent enough to consent. not remembering a lot of the evening made me feel like maybe that was true, maybe i didn’t say no. maybe i was being too flirtatious. being in a foreign country on a short trip made going to the authorities more difficult and there was no way to prove anything.
it took me awhile to talk to anyone besides my doctor about this experience out of the guilt and shame and embarrassment. i’ve gotten help and worked through a lot of the issues and i understand that it wasn’t my fault and i was taken advantage of. but i still have flashbacks and sometimes struggle with owning my own sexuality because of this experience. it is one moment that will change your life forever.
please. please. please. if someone discloses any kind of feeling of being sexually violated – don’t dismiss it. validate it. listen. empathize. know that it takes a hell of a lot of courage and vulnerability to disclose this type of thing. check out RAINN for more resources on how to get help or help someone you know who has experienced sexual assault.
remember, life goes on. it gets better. you can overcome. this doesn’t define you. you are a warrior.