You stare at your body in the mirror that is placed across from you. You are void. “I do not want to do this with you. My friends are outside.” He places more pressure on your body. “I do not want to do this with you. My friends are outside. Please.” Your body is rejecting his. You place your hands on his chest, pushing his being away. But, you continue to hear his moans in your ear. They grow louder. “No. Stop. I do not want to do this with you.” He is atop of you. You remember the Rupi Kaur poem. “He held my shoulders down, like the handlebars of the first bicycle he ever rode.” You fall silent. You understand that your protests do not hold value. You are void. He finishes on your chest, and you rise. You stare at your body in the mirror that is across you. He quickly clothes himself. Even opens the door slightly. You explain, “I am not dressed,” with the energy left within you. You hear the voices of those closest to you. Their laughs. You see your underwear, halfway between your thighs, stained with blood. Your white bedspread stained by the same blood. Your blood. Your white bedspread, your underwear that you will wash again and again. That you will then shove, amidst sniffles, whimpers, into your dormitory garbage disposal. You hear the voices of those closest to you. You take a Kleenex to clean your chest. You put on the lavender dress that your mother had brought for you. That you cringe to wear again, in the future. You fix your hair. You reenter the party. You walk to pour yourself a drink.
“The rape will break you in half, but it will not end you.” You repeat that sentence, as if it were a prayer. Over and over. To remind yourself not of your victimhood, but of your survival. “The rape will break you in half, but it will not end you.”
Your dissolution starts slowly, part by part. It starts on your walk to the CVS on E Street, to buy Nutella that you had run out of. That you put a spoonful of in your morning oatmeal. To then see him, searching the same aisles. You grasp the hand of your friend, who tells you to breathe. That it will be OK. But, you are unable to breath. Your heart is pounding in your chest, loudly. Quickly. Your body is warm. You are sweating. The walk to your dormitory — it is marked by silence. A silence that you carry to your bedroom, where you stare at the dark blue carpet. Mindlessly, blankly. You start to cry. Softly at first, and it soon turns to become a wailing. A searching for air. A desperation to understand what is happening within you.
Shock — that is what you will learn, in the year after, as to why you methodically dressed yourself, rose, and walked to face the party. With no indication, physically nor mentally, of what had happened in the locked bedroom. “If only I had a bruise to show. A black eye.” Those thoughts become regular, even in their sickening nature, in the months following. You refuse to believe that you were raped. You had known the person. You had been intimate with the person before. You. Had. Known. The. Person.
The anger blossoms within you. But, to you, it remains puzzling. “Why am I angry?” You are irritable. You drink more. You drink a lot. You drink so much, that one night, you vomit blood to then stumble to your bed, to then hold your stomach as you fell involuntarily to sleep. You start to smoke, when you see that it provides even an ounce of relief from the pain. The pain that you cannot tie, in that place, to a tangible event. The pain that you then start to tie to yourself. You begin to self destruct. And, you drink and you cry so often, that for the people that you love, they are unable to discern how to help. Discern the person that you have become from the person that you once were.
“You are overreacting. You always, always overreact.” Mental abuse complicates it further. You hear your mother, your father, hounding in your ears as a child that what you may feel is either invalid or untrue. It questions, at the core, your sanity. You are rendered unable to trust yourself. Your thoughts. Your reactions. Then, yes, you are overreacting. And, besides, you had been intimate with the person before.
You lose interest. You cannot write. You cannot read. Books collect on your gray plastic drawer, books that friends offer to you. Books that you are unable to read. You sleep at 3 AM to wake up at 7 AM. You stare at the sunlight that peers through your window. The act of feeding yourself becomes an option. The course at 9 AM — you skip. The class at 11 AM — you skip. Community service once occupied a space, in your life. You hold a leadership position in a service organization that you once had devoted great interest to. An organization that you will begin to lie to. To miss their meetings, to become half-hearted in your commitment. You lose respect for yourself, in that. As they see you at that party that you probably should not be at, if you have an event to attend at 8 AM. As they see you drink. But, they do not see you care. You used to care. You are terribly lifeless.
You avoid the person. You are careful, when you approach the street that he lives on. You are alert. You do not want to be unaware. Yet, if you happen to see him in that hypersensitive state, the reaction will be more or less the same to the one that will occur in your lack of attention. You fold so greatly into yourself, and you seek, ultimately, to be nonexistent. You then start to abandon. You abandon your position in the organization. You abandon your part time job. You abandon courses and coursework. You even abandon caring for yourself. You believe that if you do not hold a defined commitment that requires you to be at X place at Y time, then you will be relieved of the expectations that you had once set for yourself. But, the free time transforms to carry an unbearable weight. You now have the time to drink. You now have the time to smoke. You now have the time to be lifeless.
You see men, in this time, romantically. But, you become triggered, in their presence.
“Our bodies touched by all the wrong people that even in a bed full of safety, we are afraid.”
But, as you yourself do not understand the root of the pain, you are unable to convey, to process the fear that lingers in each interaction. The inability to trust presents itself as thoroughly rooted, and each relationship fades as quickly as it begins.
You see the person, at a party. You are on your fifth drink. You decide that you must not overreact. You must act normal. You walk to the kitchen to pour yourself yet another drink, and you speak to the person that stands besides him. He intervenes in the conversation, touching your shoulder as he makes a remark. You are revolted. You are scared. You are filled by anger. Rage. “You are pathetic, and that is all you will ever be” — you manage to utter that sentence. To him. It does not provide relief or catharsis. It creates tremendous pain. You are asked by friend after friend — “Why. What made you say that to him? In that setting? Why?” And, you do not retain an answer. You remain in your room, for that week. You do not wish to be seen. You are overcome by a tremendous bout of shame. While you also had friends that expressed their support in your action, you cannot muster that same support for yourself.
It would not be until you sat by Fia at Slipstream, sipping on a dark chocolate mocha, that you would blatantly face the reality that you worked tirelessly to avoid. You sit, explaining to her what had happened with him, how extreme, how out of place your reaction had been, how you do not bear resemblance to the person that you see yourself as. She glanced upward from her plate of toast with avocado and goat cheese to say, “PTSD among sexual assault survivors is incredibly real but often overlooked. You are quite normal, in how you responded.” And, you remember smiling. Sexual assault. That is an overreaction. That has to be.
You walk into the office hours, later that night, of ‘Students Against Sexual Assault.’ You restate the story, you restate your reaction, and you restate the conviction that you felt that you had, in fact, overreacted. The student representative explains, “I am about to provide the definition of sexual assault. Based on that definition, you need to determine, whether you think that what has happened to you is sexual assault.” You start to sob. You are breathless. You cannot articulate a response — only a mere nod. You learn then that it is normal for a survivor to take one to two years, before he or she comes to speak of their assault, if they had known their assailant. That it is normal. That it is not an overreaction. That the initial lack of reaction, that the self destruction, that the self hate and self blame — all of it had been studied to constitute a normal response to sexual assault. To rape. You were so incredibly human, in how you had reacted. You become so incredibly overwhelmed, in learning that. You are dislocated.
“Maybe he is just someone who likes it rough.” You hear someone respond, when you start to speak openly of the assault. And, you become silent. It provides justification to the months that you spent in silence. You realize then, why silence felt more comfortable. And, you begin to question again. You begin to hate again. You begin to blame again. As the perpetrator is extended an understanding that is not afforded to you.
“Should I present the underwear? If I present the underwear, will people believe that I was raped? Will I believe it for myself, if I saw again my stained underwear, that I was raped? But, presenting your underwear — how deeply unstable can you be.”
Your dissolution starts, when a person claims your body as their own. Your agency as their own. It starts, when your humanity is denied. Ignored. It starts, when you find yourself validating a pain that in and of itself does not need to be validated. Does not need proof to make legitimate. That in and of itself is a grave violation of the self, a being.
Sometimes it feels like someone else is wearing my body.
Disclaimer: This post was originally published on the author’s blog here.