(Content note for sexual abuse and sexual assault)
This might be the first time I’ve ever had to give a content note for a post, but September through October my PTSD is worse than other times due to flashback memories of past abuse and assault. With all that’s been going on with Donald Trump and things he has said about and done to women, I felt like it was finally time to tell my story. I’m tired of being silent, and I’m tired of men telling me my experience isn’t valid simply because they don’t want to be held accountable. Or that it’s “just words,” or that I “wanted” what happened to me.
I was 18 when I had my first boyfriend. He was kind at first and one of the smartest people that I know to this day. We met while working at a Christian summer camp. Our relationship lasted for two years and ended when I was 20 years old. It started out great, like most relationships do, with both people in the relationship putting their best foot forward and keeping their rose colored glasses on.
When I look back at the relationship, I realize so many red flags that I missed leading up to the assault. But that doesn’t make it my fault for it happening. The fault for rape is the rapist not the victim. I never would have seen it coming because I trusted him implicitly. We were in a long distance relationship. He went to a college in Illinois (that will not be named here for anonymity and my own protection), and I went to a small school in North Carolina.
We didn’t see each other much; however, when we were together, he monopolized my time and I felt isolated from everyone else in my life. I assumed, “this is how it’s supposed to be when you’re in love. That person’s supposed to become your world, I guess.” My gut told me something differently, yet my experience up to that point was that this was ok. In the second year of the relationship, I felt that my boyfriend was controlling so much of my life. My world revolved around when he would call–even if it meant losing sleep. Lots of sleep–waiting for him to get off work. I always had to adjust my schedule, because he was never “flexible” enough to adjust to mine. Then…he invited me to visit him in Illinois for four days–he would buy the plane tickets ensuring that I could come even though I couldn’t afford it at the time. I was also working full-time, and at home studying online for a semester.
My parents and I were not on good terms, and my dad recommended that I not go. My boyfriend insisted it would be ok, and that I could make my own decision. Over all, nothing seemed amiss. It didn’t feel right but I couldn’t figure out why.
He picked me up at the airport on Thursday, September 15, 2011. Yes, I remember the date, because my life completely changed after those four days. on Saturday, September 17, we were walking back to his apartment in student housing after going out for a late lunch with a couple of his friends. He decided to go the back way into the apartment complex where there were fewer people. We were walking through the hallway and no one was around when he began kissing me. This was without my consent–but consent was a word and concept I would learn much, much later. Shortly after that he had me backed against the wall, still kissing me, and I couldn’t move. Both because I froze and because he held my arms down. After this point, I felt like I wasn’t even in my body but was watching what happened with horror. I forgot the events of the rest of the day and didn’t remember the assault until I broke up with him a month later.
“Locker room” talk should NEVER include sexual assault. Because the victims of assault are real people like me who still suffer the consequences of those words turning into actions. It took this assault 5 years ago for me to remember being molested by my neighbor when I was 4. It was my first time truly remembering the things that man did to me. I still have repressed memories that normally come back in the form of nightmares or flashbacks–the re-experiencing of memories/events that were traumatic. These are things no woman should have to go through, and yet it is common place. Statistically speaking, one in four women will experience sexual abuse in their lives. For me, it’s too late to change what happened to me, but I hope by writing about my experience that it will help others.
It does get better. The flashbacks eventually become fewer and the nightmares eventually don’t come every night. Just know that you are loved and you are worthy of respect and dignity. You don’t deserve to have a presidential nominee defend his actions and make sexual assault ok. It’s not right and it’s not normal. You are not alone. It was not your fault.