(Disclaimer: I was never planning on fully writing a public blog about this, especially on this topic because I still feel as though to this day there are open wounds over it, and for me, I really hate writing on topics that have traumatized me that I don’t fully have closure on. I tried doing as much research as possible to make sure I was taking as valid as a stance as I could on this issue, and I know this blog is probably going to anger some, but I ask you not to read this with judgment. This is first and foremost for the girls and guys that have been through this too. It is taking a lot of me to post this, and honestly I don’t have the time to listen to critics when I’m emotionally pouring myself out through writing in this way. This is extremely personal for me, and I feel honestly terrified opening myself up this blatantly. I still don’t know a lot about this topic, as it is extremely sensitive and may carry different meaning to people who I don’t know. We all already are shown enough judgment in this world. All I ask is that you read with an open mind and an open heart.)
I don’t normally remember dates with the exception of birthdays and holidays, but I remember August 22nd, 2012. It will forever be engrained in my memory.
August 22nd, 2012 was the day that I was sexually assaulted.
Before this day, I had been very naïve and trusting of people; usually would walk home by myself all the way from Oakland to Shadyside without thinking anything of it, would be okay with passing out at a guy’s house if I knew him relatively well. Some more unknowledgeable people would say I was asking for it to happen to me. I was extremely lucky before August 22nd, because before then I really never had to worry about distrusting people. Usually I guess freshman year of college is supposed to be that time that you learn some street smarts, learn to not be stupid when it comes to people you don’t already know super well, especially when at parties. Yet, I had been dating someone most of my freshman year. I didn’t have to worry about being protective of myself, because he was in a fraternity and I spent most of my time at his fraternity parties instead of encountering new parties, new people, unknown faces. His brothers were polite and cordial to me while we were dating and even after, and I know would’ve never attempted something that awful towards me. Even after I had stopped hanging out there, I by good chance had gone to a CMU fraternity that one of my friends had known one of the brothers at and was once again, extremely fortunate to meet a group of nice guys that would drive me home if I was drunk or ended up missing the last bus and really took the time to make sure I was doing okay. I ended up spending the rest of my freshman year hanging out around them. Like I said, I was lucky. I was naïve. I wasn’t exactly dripping in innocence, but I really didn’t know my way around college because I never had had a chance to experience it all by myself before my sophomore year, before August 22nd.
Evil loves innocence. Evil loves naiveté. Evil loves both those things almost as much as it loves preying on it.
So when I got an invitation to a party that night from a guy I had met at one of my new friend’s houses, I really didn’t give much thought to it other than, “Oh, that sounds like fun!” because he clearly knew all of the new guy friends that I had made that seemed pretty trustworthy, and they were all involved in the same organization. Even if he kind of was an asshole and a little creepy, I, like I did with most people back then, gave him the benefit of the doubt. Especially because I really wanted to make new guy friends, since I was at an all girl’s school and never really got to beforehand. I wasn’t attracted to him at all, and was not intending for anything to ever happen with him. Since it was a Wednesday night, though, and only one of my other friends was willing to come out with me and it was already late, I told myself I would only take half-shots and would watch how much I was drinking because I wanted to make sure I could get a Port Authority bus home. I could handle my liquor decently well, and from drinking freshman year and having a bad blackout experience, could tell what my limit was. I told myself five half shots, nothing more, or three beers if there was any there.
I already should’ve been alert the second I got there. I was told I was coming to a huge party. There were only four people there. It was dead. We immediately were taken up to a bedroom. Red flag number two, although that was not processing in my mind at the time. I should’ve paid more attention to the fact that the pour filter was missing off of the bottle of liquor while I was drinking.
No matter how many warning signs I could’ve pointed out starting at the beginning of that evening, though, and no matter how intoxicated I was, that still did not give him the right to touch me. It took me over a year to realize that.
One half shot, two, three, four. Okay, I was good for a little bit. However, I started feeling really off all of a sudden. Weird. It wasn’t even so much that the room was spinning like it normally would when I was drunk. I was starting to see in glimpses. I sat down on the bed since it was close by and next thing I knew, I was lying down and my friend that came with me was trying to get me to get up so we could go and catch a bus. I tried to lift my arms to get up and started panicking because I couldn’t move a single part of my body. I tried lifting my arm, and it felt like a heavy weight. I couldn’t get it up off of the bed, let alone lift myself up and start walking around. My vision was blacking in and out, and all I remember was mumbling to her “I’ll be okay.” Speaking was a struggle, I could barely let words escape my lips, and I just figured I would fall asleep and wake up the next morning and leave, like I had once or twice beforehand when I couldn’t catch a bus home and had to stay at my friends houses. They never tried anything, so I was thinking the same thing would happen here.
I was so wrong. That night, evil met my life once again. And it met me to harm me.
I don’t remember much else from that point on except for in glimpses. I kept telling him, with whatever strength I could muster to speak at that point, to stop, that this wasn’t who I was to do something like this, and “no, please” repeatedly. The last thing I remember is him saying, “I just want to make you feel good!” and I said, “No.”
By the time I woke up, I was extremely confused and in so much pain.
Let me tell you, waking up one morning and not knowing whether you were just raped or not is one of the most terrifying feelings in the world. I would never wish it upon someone else.
I remember waking up with barely any recollection of the night before except for what I just shared. The guy turned over and looked at me and smirked. I immediately got up and started dressing myself so I could get out of there as quickly as possible. “Why don’t you stay? I didn’t even get what I wanted last night”, the guy said as he continued to smirk at me. At that moment, I felt a completely new wave of disgust as I had never felt before come over me. I said goodbye, and ran out of that house as quickly as I could.
I ended up walking home because no PAT buses were coming. I was in a way happy that it was so early in the morning, because it meant no cars were out if any, no one could see me amidst my shame and anger and didn’t have to watch me doubling over from crying so hard. I probably had to stop at least five or six times, sink down to the ground and let myself really let the tears flow. I hated him. I didn’t know what I hated him for more, though. For violating me or for making me so publicly vulnerable.
As soon as I got back to my apartment at school, after I showered, I sat in the tiny hallway of my apartment, I sat on the floor of my room, both in the same position of hugging my legs to my chest as if to cocoon myself off from the rest of the world, and I cried. I thought showering was just going to make the shame and guilt I felt drip off of my body, but it never did. I still felt so unbelievably broken, and incredibly numb. My roommates asked me what was wrong, and I told them what had happened. One of them started screaming at me, calling me an idiot for letting myself get into that kind of a situation, that I was too naïve for my own good. It was the last thing I needed to hear at the time, and she eventually calmed down. I know she freaked out because she was frustrated and because she, to an extent, cared. Still, I feel like it was her yelling at me that really made me feel like what had happened was just me being overdramatic and stupid, and that I just would have to move on like normal. She was what made it so hard to tell my parents, because I was scared of getting the same reaction. The other one was calmer about it and told me I needed to call the police and do a rape kit immediately. Eventually, they both agreed. I resisted immediately with phrases like “It was my fault...” “I shouldn’t have done this....” “I had been drinking....” “It really wasn’t a big deal...” even though I knew it was a lot worse than I was making it out to be. I just thought if I shut myself out to what happened, it would eventually go away. I didn’t want to feel anything anymore.
Even after having an ambulance take me to the hospital, having needles prodded in me and a rape kit examination done that was almost as violating as the actual event itself that preceded it, I still refused to deal with and continue to acknowledge the fact that I had been assaulted. I think the last thing I was genuinely upset about was that I was taking up a hospital bed when there were people dying in the room next to me. I felt guilty. I was occupying a hospital room, making all these doctors and nurses poke at and examine my body, having two police officers question me when they could’ve been taking care of obliterating some crime that was way more important, all because I had thought I had maybe been raped. I went on with life like normal, even though there were freak-outs here and there, especially when I was drunk, that made people realize I was far from okay. My favorite dress and my clothes and my DNA were all compartmentalized in a rape kit sitting to rot away in a police station, and it bothered me, but I never did anything about it. I was either extremely emotional in flashes of anger and sadness or felt extremely numb. I was quite literally going crazy. My roommate would be yelling at me in anger over something, and I would just look at her blankly, wondering why I couldn’t process a reaction to it. After those things happened, I finally had admitted what had happened to me, although I never actually dealt with it. And even then, I wasn’t honest to everyone over it...which was okay, to an extent. Not everybody needs to know my business.
What really bothered me the most was that a detective and two police officers stopped by my apartment to take a statement and were interested in furthering on the investigation upon finding out that there was stuff in my system that night that wasn’t supposed to be there, which would explain why I felt completely paralyzed for a good while and was feeling so off. I hesitate to say that to people; because I do not want people thinking that it was the person who assaulted me who gave me that. There were other people there too. That, however, does not excuse my assaulter from touching me when I said, “no.”
A detective took interest in my case. Yet, not wanting to deal with it, I threw his card away, and I never called him back. I kept somehow putting the blame back on myself.
I never called him back. I didn’t even want to help myself it seemed like. That still haunts me to this day, and even though I have the option to have my kit brought out, I don’t think I’d ever want to for personal reasons. I could never wear that dress again without it bringing up painful memories.
I think the first moment of reality that really made me start finally dealing with what happened, besides me instigating fights with all these kinds of people when I was drunk that I normally would never snap so badly at and having to apologize for it and them still hating me and thinking I was crazy, was having finally been forced to tell my family what happened.
I still remember when my mom called me and asked me why she had gotten a large hospital bill for an ambulance. I lied and told her I thought I had had appendicitis--anything to keep them from knowing the truth. She had called UPMC and asked why she had received this bill and what it was for. The lady on the phone told my mom, “You really need to talk to your daughter.”
I sat in the student lounge of my apartment tower that night, and finally told my mom and dad every detail of what had happened, from going to the party, having my clothes taken off, the hospital, all of it. It was the first time my parents have all conference called me all at once, and I was sobbing while I was telling them everything, completely broken down from lying to them. I could hear them sobbing from their respective lines of the phone as well. I had never heard my Dad cry before that day. It broke my heart even more, knowing that I broke their heart. As soon as I got off the phone with them, my sister texted me asking if everything okay, because all she could see was my mom sitting on our back porch, sobbing and looking out at the lake in our backyard. This kid managed to not only break me, but also my family.
The next months were back on a winding road of self-hatred. I kept thinking I was stupid for letting happen what happened that one night. That’s what evil wants, as I’ve learned. It wants to make you blame yourself and to make you feel like a fool for having trusted someone else. And it’s not even as though this guy is evil. It does not mean he is underserving of being forgiven or loved, it just means he needs to recognize that what he did was not okay. He was acting along with tendencies of evil strewn into his intentions. I thought people didn’t want to date me and they only wanted to have sex with me, so that’s what I did. Yet, I was still freaked out about having people touch me at all and would always end up leaving right away, or just end up completely cutting off the people I would talk to from my life because I didn’t know how to deal with my feelings, if I really even had any at this point. My guy friends I don’t think understand this sometimes, but I still really get anxious and upset when they do something as simple as lay their head on my lap, or put their arm around my waist, or hold my hand. I hate sharing a bed with others (there are a few exceptions to this) because any physical contact freaks me out. If I was talking to a guy, I made him go over leaps and bounds for me to make sure I could trust him, even if it was just to let him in as a best friend. I was beyond scared of getting hurt even more, so I always made sure I had the upper hand when it came to talking to people. I never cried in public at this point anymore, and I tried more than anything to not show emotion. I really was hurting, there was a lot of inner battle with myself and there continues to be even if I don’t show it.
I started going to counseling at my family and professor who I had opened up to’s insistence, and I can gladly say I’m feeling better and have been for a while now. I’m always going to be healing, though. While at the Jubilee Conference this past weekend, speaker Dave Allender, a counselor and victim of abuse himself, tackled the question of how long does it take to ruin a child/person’s innocence. I spent a good amount of both of his presentations choking down sobs that were fighting to come out. He finally said to me the things I had been waiting to hear for over a year now, even if I didn’t know what I needed to hear beforehand. It was the amount of finality and definite closure I needed to start writing on this topic. He told us a heartbreaking story of a client who, after 29 years, still has to see him because of one incident where her grandfather put a hand on her breast for a minute. That is not what causes all of her problems and pain, but it is a strong root for it, as he told us. It only takes seconds to ruin someone’s life like that. Seconds. Some people lose their souls, their lives, and their hearts to evil over a matter of something that happened years ago to them, for only a few seconds, and it’s all because of this idea that if we scream, no one will hear us. If we don’t, all of a sudden the abuse perpetrated on us is now our fault. You kind of get a sense of “Why bother?” after a while, and it’s this cynicism of “Yeah, I was abused,” and being so nonchalant about it that really makes going through it so much worse nowadays. We don’t need to downplay what has happened to us or become detached from the situation altogether. It’s not supposed to be like that.
Dan Allender continued by saying that the numbness and the ambivalence people like me have shown towards dealing with being assaulted was a problem with the hookup culture and with our generation nowadays—we seem to shy away from emotion, make it off to the world that the less you care, the stronger you are. We can’t name our abuse and we instead use filler words to lessen its impact or what it actually was. This quote from American Horror Story, of all shows, really sums it up after one of the characters also was sexually assaulted.
“I am a millennial. Generation Y; born between the birth of AIDS and 9/11, give or take. They call us the global generation. We are known for our entitlement and narcissism. Some say its because we’re the first generation where every kid gets a trophy just for showing up. Others think it’s because social media allows us to post when we fart or have a sandwich for the entire world to see. But it seems our one defining trait is a numbness to the world. An indifference to suffering.
.... We think that pain is the worst feeling. It isn’t. How could anything be worse than this eternal silence inside of me?”
I felt that for months, and I still feel that way sometimes. However, as Dan pointed out, when Jesus first died on the cross, death wasn’t over for him, if you believe in Christianity. Why would we think that once assault happens, it’s just over for us? If anything, the more we ignore it, the deeper the scars grow. The more we hurt. The worse it gets. At a couple points when I was opening up to people they told me to stop talking about it, to not continue my story, either because it was hurting them so much to hear it or they were still angry at me for the way I was acting because of it. That’s not okay though. This is something that does need to get talked about until we stop hurting each other like this. It happens and we should never shove off something bad that happened to someone, no matter how angry you might be at that person or how badly you want to judge him or her. If someone takes the time to open up to you about something that they have a hard time talking to him or her, be there. Listen. Let them finish their story or what they want to tell you of it. Don’t be naïve to assume some people have been hurt while others haven’t. Be there for them, and love them. They chose to lean on you for a reason.
I may be broken, but I am tired of being weak. I was told to have the courage to name my story. Well, here is a big part of it. My name is Alexia and I was assaulted. I was told yesterday while at this conference that it was still okay to be a Christian despite this thing that happened to me, because I can’t know God without knowing darkness. “If you step into His heart, you will find his war with darkness.” Since darkness has found me, since evil has beaten me down, I am now at war with it too, and always will be. Once it finds you, once it finds a way to creep into your existence and try to separate your heart from your soul, it will never leave, so we always have to keep fighting it off. As another speaker at Jubilee, Bethany Hoang said, “There is no darkness that can overcome me, and even the gates of Hell don’t stand a chance.”
One of Dave’s finishing lines was, “Don’t let evil deprive your heart of tenderness because you’ve come to say, ‘whatever’ about something that happened to you.” Well, don’t. He’s right. How you address your heartache is going to show how you will continue to act towards others in the future. Don’t ever give pain that kind of satisfaction, and don’t let it own you. Once something bad happens to you, every day is going to be a battle from that day forward. Wake up and play. He continued to say, “The best way to play is to hate evil.” Carry an invisible sword with you wherever you go, protect your heart and your existence, but don’t let it harden, and tell yourself that you are no longer afraid of your own shame. What happened to you is not your fault; don’t let it take ownership of you.
I will not let my heart be deprived. I will not let evil own me. I decided to start being strong again, but not in the cold, closed off, mean sense. I decided to be strong by learning to open myself back up to people again. I will try to keep myself safe, but to also start fighting for the other people who cannot yet fight for themselves (it’s okay, it takes a while sometimes, it took me almost two years).
At the end of the day, you embody a lot more strength than you know. Use it. Embody it. Don’t let someone else’s hurt destroy you. You are better than that.
We are better than that.