I knew something was different about this pain because I felt too ashamed to tell anyone about it. All my life, I’ve been just about the most open person on the planet. Through personal struggles with depression and self harm, my parent’s divorce, and my childhood abuse, I typically presented my baggage as a shining badge of what I’d survived through. So naturally, I was confused when I felt this new type of pain, the type that I couldn't bear to talk, much less think, about. It was a completely new sensation to me. And that’s how I very first new that something was different about this newfound situation.

I was first sexually assaulted almost 5 years ago, at the age of 15, before I had even learned what sexual assault was defined as.

I had a best friend my freshman year of high school whose house I was almost constantly at. My friend had a brother, and every time I was at her house, this brother would relentlessly come up behind me and slap my butt as hard as he could, grab my boobs and hold them until I forced him off, or grab my hand while I wasn't paying attention and force it down his pants, etc, all the while making comments about my body, and how it looked, and what he would do to it if he had the chance. No amount of my begging for him to stop, trying to avoid and stay away from him, or stern warnings from me could end it.

I didn't realize that he was in the wrong for any of this at the time, I just knew I stopped wanting to go to her house after the very first incident. Every time I walked in the door, I was met with an anxiety attack, and every time I saw her brother I felt sick to my stomach. I was actually clueless at to why I could be feeling this way at her house, blind to the idea that anything bad had happened to me. But in the end, the sick, anxious feeling that overwhelmed me every time I went over was too much, and I eventually stopped talking to her altogether.

The next assault occurred my senior year of high school with a close friend of mine who I had ended up truly falling in love with. The love blinded me to the red flags he came bearing all over, and when our relationship became a sexual, friends-with-benefits type situation, I was excited. He was the first boy who I’d gone beyond kissing with, and I innocently believed that our newfound intimate relationship meant that he cared about me and wanted to be with me. I couldn't have been more wrong.

He quickly ditched me for a less emotionally attached option, and I was heartbroken.

The final time we hooked up was after he had cut me off. We had run into each other at a friends house and ended up in a room together by ourselves. He came onto me. I didn't want it, and I told him so many times. But he was persistent, as he always had been, and told me to just “be quiet and keep going.” I didn't get off of him and walk away like I should have. But I felt trapped by the fear that his anger would get the best of him if I stopped giving him what he wanted. When the time came that he wanted a blowjob, I immediately told him no. But instead, he grabbed me by the throat with one hand, using his other hand on the back of my neck to force me down on him. I managed to whimper out a “stop” as he pulled me down, but to no avail. He told me to “just take it.” The moment it went in my mouth, I vomited. He shoved me off of and away from him in disgust. I ran crying to the bathroom and locked myself in. When I came out twenty minutes later, he gave me a dirty glare and didn't say a word to me. We didn't talk again after that (until he drunkenly called me one night over a year later to try to apologize).

Still, I didn't understand the meaning of sexual assault or rape. I walked out of the house that day telling myself that it couldn't have been rape because it hadn't been forced vaginal sex, but forced oral. One can imagine my confusion when, for months after, I couldn't get myself to eat, my period stopped coming, my chronic depression enveloped me and I became suicidal, and the nightmares of being raped or killed by this boy were constant along with the vivid flashbacks. The process of accepting that I was raped has been long and difficult and I am still in the midst of it. I struggled to let myself believe that “it counted” as rape when I knew that so many had experienced worse. I developed a fear of all males and relationships almost immediately, and it became intensified to the point where something as simple as sitting next to an older man on an airplane would give me a panic attack. I believed that every male was capable and willing to hurt me like my so-called friend had. I felt unsafe everywhere I went.

The last assault happened over this last summer. Some friends and I had been drinking at another friend’s house. Another boy who I considered one of my good friends at the time took advantage of my drunken confusion and took me upstairs into a dark room with him after I told him that I wanted to stay downstairs, that I didn't want to go anywhere with him. He took my clothes off and when I argued, he told me to be quiet and trust him. Regardless of my many verbal attempts to get him off of me, he insisted and persuaded further, and I became convinced that he wouldn't let me out of the room until he got what he wanted from me. I told him I would not have sex with him no matter what, but he didn't like that either. He became increasingly demanding and aggressive, and I began thinking that my best option to get out of the room quickly would be to simply give him what he wanted and shut up. He fingered me as I laid drunk and limp on the bed, fading in and out of consciousness. At one point he climbed on top of me, shoved himself in my face, and angrily instructed me to “put it in my mouth.” At another point, I awoke to the feeling of him putting himself into me, even after I had explicitly told him “no sex” multiple times. It was at this point where I began to physically try to get away, and not long after that my friends walked in on the situation and immediately had him removed from the room, and helped my sobbing, naked mess get clothes on and calm down enough to tell them what happened.

The healing process from that has been much like the healing process of the one previous. The nightmares and flashbacks have been vivid and relentless at times, and I’m positive that I haven't finished dealing all the way with any of these assaults, especially not the most recent one. I do believe that healing will come with time, a good support system, and my continued faith in God along with lots of prayer. I do see the light at the end of the tunnel, and although some days it feels farther than others, I know it is right around the corner. I believe that circumstances like these, no matter how horrible, cannot be for nothing, that light can be found in even the darkest of holes, and beautiful flowers can be born up out of ashes, as cliché as it sounds. In the end, I know that nothing can make what happened to me right, but that doesn't mean that God can't find way to make something good out of it. 

The pain from these traumas has been like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Not better or worse, it is just so unexplainably different, almost scarier and more unpredictable. I find that the more I talk about it, the more I am able to accept it and the less I feel ashamed of it, and the easier it becomes to make it a part of my story, and add it to my little list of trials that, with the help of God, I can and will get through and turn into blessings. And that’s my truth.