One minute I was out with my girlfriends at a popular college bar, the next I awoke in a dark room at a fraternity house. Numb. In shock. Frozen. Staring motionlessly into the face of a monster. His cold, determined eyes glanced into mine, and the words I wanted to scream and shout were sealed inside of my mouth.
The room was eerily dark and quiet as I searched for my dress. Alone. Dealing with disorientation, confusion, and fear, I didn't bother to look for my underwear. I just needed to get out as quickly as possible. Where he'd run off to when he was through, I had no idea.
I knew this boy. This coward. He had a reputation, yet a good one. He was glorified. He was known for having sex with lots of women, and for this, he was acclaimed by his fraternity. His victims, regarded as disgusting sluts. Now I was in on his little secret. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. If it wasn’t me that Wednesday night, it would’ve been some other.
I laughed it off the following afternoon, gossiping away and diminishing what had happened in the kitchen of my sorority house. These stories were so common, this was “normal.” Had I brought this upon myself? I buried the pain and memories for years until the flashbacks began. Why am I crying in the middle of 6th ave? This was 5 years ago. I didn’t understand what was happening, and I still hadn’t come to the realization that this was rape. Plainly.
Another cycle of suppression began until the flashbacks seeped their way into the middle of my most intimate moments. Why am I crying in the middle of sex with someone who loves me?
I slowly began to uncomfortably share what had happened. Still avoiding the word… Rape. Friends said things like, “we all do things we regret.” Ouch. This mentality is what perpetuates rape culture in college where being wasted 3-5 nights a week is acceptable and expected. You’re not getting hammered on game day? Who are you?
It wasn’t until I was in the middle of a scene in my acting class where unbeknownst to me, I could barely make eye contact with my scene partner. My guide and teacher, Terry, pointed out my behavior… "You’re afraid of intimacy". I stared at him and broke down. The pain, the story, the trauma were ready to break free. Another flashback. I abstractly shared the story of that dark night, and he was the first person to give me the word for my experience that I was so afraid to admit.
I am now 27. It has been about 7 years since I woke up in that room, yet the trauma still lives in me, and probably will forever. Some days I find it easy to talk about with other women, but other days, the thought of having to relive those moments by sharing my story brings me to tears and leaves me with a huge lump in my throat.
I am deeply grateful for my therapist, our weekly sessions, and for the blessing that I have this outlet.
I am deeply grateful for my mother, father and brother who held me and supported me so kindly and gracefully when I was ready to open up.
I am deeply grateful for my acting teacher and my classmates who so gently offered their presence, empathy and openness.
To every woman who is dealing with the pain, remember, you are never to blame. You are strong, you are worthy, and your voice matters.
To my numerous friends who have also experienced this, thank you for your support and courage. I wouldn’t be sharing my story if it weren’t for your bravery in opening up.
Some resources I have used and found:
-NYC Affordable Therapy: www.nipist.org
-RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)