That moment when a post on your FB page gains new life and helps fellow victims speak their truth. All the feels!
Over the weekend I had the privilege to watch this badge (which you can find with many others at End The Stigma) that I posted back in January gain new life. It was heartbreaking and encouraging all at once to see each share pop up in my notifications and read through some of the stories of fellow victims who used the post as a jumping off point to start conversations with their friends and family.
I had planned to publish an article detailing my own survivors story in April for Sexual Assult Awareness Month, but with this influx of new fans who so bravely shared their own stories I think publishing it now is appropriate as well.
***The following contains graphic depictions of sexual violence, reader discretion is advised***
I am a survivor of not only one, but two separate sexual assaults. I don’t know why the second event is seared on my memory, and the first passed with out hardly a memory at all. My therapist seems to think I was drugged the first time around, as the complete memories simply are not there. I remember before, I remember after, but the event itself is lost. Something happened in those few hours between 4am and 8am leaving the back door unlocked, my underwear strewn across the room, and the scent of a strange cologne on my sheets, but the details of exactly what are lost forever.
The second event I can still remember as if it had happened yesterday. I can remember the scent of the room, the color and pattern of the sheets, exactly what I was wearing, and exactly when it happened. I wasn’t always able to recall it so clearly. It met me mostly in flashbacks, and nightmares. Pieces and fragments of the entire memory lost in my trauma cycle.
These are the moments exactly as I remember them. It has been quite a long time and few details may be blurred, but that doesn’t discount the validity of what happened. Rape, is rape, is rape. I rejected my attacker’s advances and he continued on despite it. The how, why, or mechanics are pretty much irrelevant to all but those of us who have to live with them repeating in our heads.
I had fallen asleep in bed next to a close friend. The same situation had happened many times before with out consequence. We spent a lot of time together, and late nights often turned into early mornings when I was too tired to drive home. He was my mentor, my confidant, my hero. I admired him, but most of all I trusted him. We were comfortable with each other, familiar like the oldest friends. Our friendship was physical as far as hugs, sharing each other’s personal space, and playful bantering back and forth went, but we had remained platonic. There was no indication that it would change, and I was perfectly content with what we had. I was young, just starting to branch out on my own away from the watchful eyes of my parents, and painfully innocent. It genuinely never occurred to me that he could want something more from me, least of all anything sexual.
I’ve always been frowzy, and back in those days I was caught between wanting to flaunt my feminine sexuality and hide my ample figure under baggy shapeless clothes. There were days when I would venture out in a miniskirt and tank, but they were fleeting and far between. I didn’t even know what I wanted from myself, and especially not how to read/determine what others wanted from me. I don’t want to say that I walked right into a trap, or that he intentionally set me up to take advantage of me, but looking back on it now older and wiser I have to wonder… The person I innocently encountered through mutual friends, and the person who I grew so close to seemed to be two entirely different entities.
He was so dramatically different alone in his own home. As if he became a different person when outside of the imposing and constant eye of the public. It was both comforting and a little disconcerting as he began to open up to me. He had recently shared that life hadn’t been going very well for him in the months prior to our meeting and pursuant friendship. His mood swings were frequent, and he was often unstable at best. Watching the happy go lucky, confidant, often arrogant boy I had grown close to, become scared, insecure, and melancholy in the blink of an eye made my heart ache. I had experienced a few of these episodes prior to the attack. Even though some of them were intense and frightening it gave me a deeper appreciation for his struggle. He hid his strife and pain so well in the company of others, but one on one when everything was still he broke out of his shackles; the constraints of society. He became real, raw, and so completely human. I had never felt more intimately connected with anyone than I did with him in those moments spent soothing a tortured soul back into the quiet rhythm of stability. Watching him endure the prison of his run away emotions reminded me of myself. It was morbidly comforting to see that I wasn’t alone in my emotional suffering, even if the reasons we were suffering were different.
After we had fallen asleep I had my back turned to him as usual, having shed most of my clothes before climbing in his bed, I was left in nothing more than my tight fitting cotton tee shirt and plain cotton panties. I had worn the same thing many nights before with out thought or consequence, but that night as he rolled over putting his arm around me, he slid his hand across my chest to rest on my left breast. I was startled from my sleep. Things had happened so quickly, and without any discussion. I wasn’t even truly sure what was happening.
While I had lost my virginity during my previous assault, I didn’t remember any of the specifics of intimacy. I had known my first attacker since childhood, but beyond acquaintance we never developed a close friendship. Perhaps that’s why it was so much easier to forget everything in relation to the first event. The second assault was quite different. As I lay there next to someone whom I had become resoundingly close to, with his hand touching me in such a personal place, everything was completely new. Physically I was not a virgin, but emotionally I was. It felt good, in a confusing dangerous way. I lay there waiting to see if he would realize what he was doing, or if he had merely rolled over in his sleep unaware of his actions. After a few moments of awkward waiting to see what was going to happen I gently removed his hand from my breast and managed to return to sleep if only momentarily before his hand found its way back. This time instead of just resting his hand on top of my shirt, he slowly worked his hand underneath. Starting gently on my back and slowly moving his way around again to my breast where he began to caress me. That startled me. It was one thing if he had accidentally rolled over unaware of his actions, but the caressing signaled a deeper, darker intent. Instead of waiting to see what happened next, I again removed his hand, this time a bit more forcefully hoping that he would get the message that I was not interested, but instead almost immediately after I tossed his hand away, he returned to grab me in a much more forceful way that before.
I tried to push his hand away yet again, but this time he completely refused. I struggled briefly before his hand left my breast and he forced it between my thighs running his fingers up and down my vagina before penetrating me. With that I gasped and arched my back trying to scoot away as he forcefully rolled me from my side onto my back, holding both of my arms above my head. He continued to roughly violate me with his hand not even bothering to remove my panties, merely pushing them to the side until there was a transition. No longer was he violating me with his hand, but instead had forcefully penetrated me.
It seared with a burning pain as he continued harder and faster. I yelped, struggling to free my arms and tried to use my feet to push myself away from him, while trying desperately to close my legs and end the painful penetration. I managed to scoot a few inches, my head becoming pressed uncomfortably into the headboard of the bed, my neck twisted at an uncomfortable forty five degrees. He then released my arms, as he grabbed my hips and pulled me back onto himself, using his arms for extra leverage making each thrust even more painful. I raised my arms, trying to push him away from me, off of me, but instead he pushed my arms away and leaned in putting his full body weight on top of me, giving me a forced kiss. I couldn’t breath, whether it was the weight of his body on top of mine, or the emotional weight of what was happening the kiss caused something to snap inside of me. I yelped again as tears began to run down my face and I fought harder finally succeeding in pushing him away as my knee connected with his rib cage.
Still trying to emotionally process what was happening, or had happened, to me instead of leaving the room and getting away I merely returned to my side of the bed, curled myself into the smallest, tightest ball I could manage and continued to sob. I had no idea where he had gone, or if he was still laying in bed next to me. The realization that he could still be in bed with me made me quickly stifle my sobs. It was quite a bit more difficult than I had anticipated, but eventually I was able to quiet my sobbing and fell into a fitful sleep.
By the time my alarm went off, the sun was high in the sky and my friend had disappeared. He was no longer in the bed beside me, and I couldn’t hear any tell tale signs that he was at home. It was a little odd that he had just left without telling me, but not completely unusual. As I stirred from sleep, and rolled over in the bed the events of the night before became blurry and distant as if they had all been just a bad or over exaggerated dream. I stared at the ceiling trying to process everything flying around in my head. The more I thought about it, the more I began to justify his actions. We were both single, spending a lot of time together, and intimate in every other sense of the word save for sexually. Would I have been hurt or betrayed if he had made a sexual advance toward me during the day? Was it only because it happened somewhere in the space between sleep and waking that it seemed so skewed and inappropriate? Inappropriate. When that thought crossed my mind, I sat up in bed and made my way into the bathroom looking at myself in the mirror.
My breasts were hardly shrouded through my tee shirt which exposed my navel and low cut panties. I stared a moment longer and then closed my eyes hanging my head in disgust. I might as well have climbed into his bed naked. After becoming so close, then throwing myself into his bed in such a suggestive outfit, to use the horrible cliche, I felt that I was asking for it. I felt that couldn’t blame him for acting on impulse the way he did. If I truly hadn’t some how wanted him to make a move, I should have slept in my own bed, or on the couch. Instead of taking action against him, I fell into the trap of victim blaming. It was all I knew, growing up in a society that places so much weight on women to bare the responsibility of crimes against them.
Not once did the word rape cross my mind in all of my mulling and evaluating as I stood in front of the mirror, with bloodshot eyes and a broken spirit. Even though now I can see what had happened was most certainly a violent rape, I instead chose to think of it as “previously undiscussed intimacy”. I shook my head, angry and frustrated more with myself than him as I quickly undressed and hopped in the shower. I was due to report to work and staring at myself in the mirror wasn’t going to pay my bills. As I lathered up up the loofa and began to run it over my body I winced encountering bruises that I had yet to notice. My lower back and both hips had light purple and blue marks. On my left hip I could clearly see the outline of his handprint, where each of his fingers and thumb had pressed into my flesh to keep me from squirming away.
For a moment I stared at the marks on my skin as emotion began to overwhelm me once again. Something about seeing the evidence of the violence shook me to the core. I dropped the loofa, and grabbed one side of the shower to steady myself, as I moved my other hand to my lower pelvis pausing before I gently touched myself in a further examination of the damage. The moment my fingers touched the sensitive skin of my labia I winced almost doubling over in pain. My genitals in their entirety were bruised and swollen, my vagina raw and so swollen that I couldn’t actually tell how extensive the damage really was. The inside of my thighs were also beginning to turn a light shade of purple brown sensitive to the touch. At that moment I collapsed to the bottom of the tub. I could emotionally deny what had happened between us, but I couldn’t escape the physical evidence.
I began to sob once again sitting there watching the water run down the shower drain as I curled up as tight as possible while sitting on my knees. It was then that I also noticed bruises on my wrists, which made my sobs even more intense. What did it all mean? Where did I go from here? I couldn’t run away. We were friends, but more than that he was my closest friend. My best friend. The only whom I could tell all my secrets to with out fear of judgement or retribution. Where could I go now? Who could I turn to now that HE had hurt me? Even then as I was still struggling to comprehend what had happened I was sitting in HIS shower, with HIS scent lingering and wafting through the steam slowly filling the room, HIS hair lingering around the shower drain.
That’s when the panic began. My heart began racing as my head began to spin, nausea and the inability to breath caught me off guard. I closed my eyes, the only thing I could think of to do as the water slowly began to fade from warm to cold. I was numb. Physically and emotional, numb sitting there in the darkness overwhelmed by reality and the trauma I had experienced.
As the water lost it’s last trace of warmth, my head stopped spinning and I opened my eyes. I stared at the drain a few moments more before I was finally able to pull myself off of the bottom of the tub. The panic had passed and I had decided that there was nothing that could be done. What had happened was now in the past and I was determined not to let it destroy me. I had to get to work. So I climbed out of the shower, quickly dried myself, found my uniform, dressed and left not sure if I would ever return to that place again.
As I continued on with my day, steadfast and determined the memories began to fade. My mind was occupied with the present, circumstances at work, and everything else in between. The overwhelming emotions began to subside the less and less I thought of the event. A few things remained, his hand on my breast, the kiss, his hand between my legs, but the violence and depravity of his willful disregard of my humanity faded into oblivion. So much so that when he called me later that evening and invited me to come over I happily agreed.
I had been working the late shift so by the time I arrived at his apartment the lights were low and he was getting ready for bed. The door was unlocked and I walked in just as I had so many nights previously. I called his name, and he replied from the bedroom. I balked slightly at meeting him in the bedroom and my heart began to race once again, a feeling of apprehension building in the pit of my stomach. It lasted only a moment as I made my way through the apartment and into the bedroom. He was laying on the bed, with the saddest most distressed look on his face I had ever seen. He patted the empty spot beside him motioning for me to join him. I kicked off my shoes and did just that.
As I crawled in beside him he took a deep breath before spitting out a rushed and frantic apology as he stared straight ahead, either not wanting to or unable to make eye contact.
“About last night. I’m really sorry.” he said nervously.
I tensed up nervous with anticipation, and replied: “What do you mean?” It was quite possibly the dumbest reply ever to an attempted apology/confession but in the overwhelming situation my mind was racing so fast and furious it didn’t occur to me the what the apology was actually for. I had spent the entire day trying to repress and forget the memories of the night before, building up my courage to see him again, then this apology was thrown into my lap.
He paused, taking a few breaths, working up his own courage to continue and eventually said: “Last night, I got really intimate and… I… well… I thought you were someone else, and that you wanted to sleep with me, but you weren’t. You weren’t her and… you were crying. I mean… I’m really sorry, are you okay?” He stammered, finally turning his attention toward me, a look of grief, remorse, and a tiny bit of fear spread across his face.
I sat there momentarily trying to figure out if I was actually okay, or how to respond to his question accurately if I wasn’t. The moment passed briefly before I scooted over closer to him and answered: “I’m here, back in bed next to you aren’t I? If I wasn’t okay I wouldn’t be here.”
He looked at me searching my face for the truth, before he once again began to stammer: “Are you sure, because I mean… I never would have forced you to do anything if you didn’t want to. I mean… you didn’t really protest so… You… you like me. You wanted to sleep with me the first time you came to bed with me, didn’t you?” He said trying to justify his actions more to himself than to me.
I wasn’t really sure how to respond, still to this day, if I were placed in the situation again I don’t know how I would respond. All in all what happened was rape, but was is really? He wasn’t completely lucid mistaking me for another woman as far as I could tell, and he appeared to have great remorse for what had happened. If I hadn’t made the choice to spend the night sleeping in his bed it never would have happened, so was he really the one who should bare the brunt of the blame, or was I? At that point in my life, I felt the blame fall squarely on myself, even though I had rejected his advances by pushing him away that night, and there had never been any discussion of sexual intimacy before hand.
After a few awkward moments of silence I said, “Well no, but I was in your bed and we never really discussed where our relationship was going so… it’s okay. I mean I don’t DISLIKE you, but I shouldn’t have been half naked in your bed if I didn’t want to give you the wrong impression.”
In that moment, that was exactly how I felt. I felt that instead of holding him accountable for his actions, I should instead blame myself. It was easier to accept the blame and fall into self loathing, further removing the event from my mind, blurring and repressing more and more as each fleeting moment passed.
He looked at me with the most sincere look I have ever seen from anyone, and said, “Well, I’m truly sorry, and it will never happen again. Can I have a hug?”
I obliged and he held me in silence restoring my sense of security until I fell asleep, once again in his bed.
Our friendship continued despite the attack, eventually blossoming into a dysfunctional romantic relationship. Through out our time together the sex was frequent and often rough, some falling into what I believed at the time was the “grey area” of consent. None of the other events were nearly as violent nor dehumanizing as the first, but damaging just the same. He was my first recurrent sexual partner. The only relationship I knew was ours. It never occurred to me that something was wrong. It was all what I had perceived as normal, grew accustomed to, and even enjoyed.
While I was completely unaware, he knew what had happened was wrong and he often brought it up in conversation. He would constantly question my motives for staying with him, and had completely convinced himself that the love I felt toward him could not be genuine. As much as he kept bringing it up, I never remembered the most violent rape as being our first sexual experience. Some things remained about that night. His hand on my breast, the kiss, his hand between my thighs, and the apology the next day but for whatever reason my memory recall stopped there. Whenever he referenced the first time we slept together a calm, tender, albeit incredibly awkward moment always came to mind.
When discussing the discrepancy in our memories became an issue, he often chose not to argue with me. The one time he pressed the issue I became greatly upset, firmly rooted in my denial. We never argued about it again, yet he continued to bring it up. Perhaps he was hoping that I would figure it out on my own, or perhaps he was protecting himself and his guilty conscious, either way I went on in blissful ignorance for many years even after our relationship ended and life took us in different directions.
It was only after I began treatment to address PTSD for reasons completely unrelated to him or rape that the real memories began to surface and the dissociation began to fade. I can remember exactly what I was doing when the full memory of the assault broke through to my conscious mind. My current husband and I had just moved into our first home with our young daughter. I was unpacking some boxes and found my old CD binder. I popped in a CD that my attacker had given me toward the end of our relationship. I hadn’t listened to it in years, but it was some what significant and nostalgic. As I listened closely to the lyrics I really hadn’t paid attention to before, everything about the relationship began to run through my head. I remembered where we had our fist date, the circumstances that lead to us briefly living together, a few of our worst arguments; then suddenly as I was mulling over the memory of how our sexual relationship began, it hit me. I remembered his hand on my breast, I remembered his hand in between my legs; then instead of skipping like a broken record straight to the kiss I remembered the distinct transition from his hand to the forceful penetration of his penis, I remembered fighting, trying to get away, my head being smashed against the headboard. I almost started screaming as tears erupted from the bottom of my heart. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak, all I could do was sit there and cry. My husband at work, and my daughter sleeping soundly in her crib.
I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t know who to tell, or if I should tell anyone. I was still in the early stages of my marriage relationship with my husband and talking about the relationship I shared with my attacker before had caused unnecessary stress between us. I didn’t know what else to do except write everything I remembered down in an attempt to heal wounds that I had been ignoring since the end of the relationship. Which is exactly what I did, in addition to seeking professional help.
The first time I wrote everything down, I had intended to publish it on my personal blog, which my attacker’s wife had found and been following for sometime. The way I met her and reasons she is still following my blog are a tale in themselves, but it’s not appropriate to share here. What’s important is that she was following, and before I began publishing the ugliness of what happened between myself and her husband I decided to contact her, allowing her to make the choice to continue or stop reading. Instead of avoiding conflict, I think it only inflamed it. Where she had only been following before, soon he and several of their friends were watching every step I made for the duration of my recovery. It took me two years before I felt comfortable enough to pen the words written here, and my attacker tried every trick in the book to get me to remain silent, barely stopping just short of physical violence.
I pressed on and continued writing and publishing various memories between us including the account of the assault enduring their harassment until this past summer. As I was finally reaching a place of closure on the horror show that was the relationship with my rapist, I wrote a very defiant post detailing how I felt about their treatment of me during my recovery, and attempt to emotionally manipulate me. It ended with a very long comment from her, and the first ever comment from my attacker on my public writing. In his comment he finally confessed his true desire for me was purely lust. I was a sex object to him, nothing more. While he denied the assault it self, he confirmed every other abusive aspect of our relationship. In addition to that he also denied the existence of any sort of sleep disturbances. It was then that another revelation smacked me awake from my post trauma stupor. The story he told me about mistaking me for someone else the night of the assault was just that. A story, to keep me around for his sick sexual fantasy. It took me several days to come to terms with that, especially since I’d spent the better part of my recovery defending him based on the fact the most violent acts only occurred between us at night after I had fallen asleep. Once I came to terms with it, and after several vaguely threatening emails from him, despite my repeated request that he not contact me further, I went to the police.
3,894 days after the assault, 1,825 days since the end of the relationship, and 1,095 days since the memory returned to my conscious mind. In the United States the statue of limitations vary from state to state, crime to crime. Where we were when the attack took place has a statute of 20 years. I got lucky. Showing up to file my report was one of the most panic inducing things I’ve ever done. I showed up at the local police station and told the officer that I needed to report a nearly 11 year old rape. He was very kind, and encouraged me to stay, but he was honest and up front. After so much time had passed, with out any physical evidence it was really up to the prosecutor to determine if the case would move forward or not.
Every officer I spoke to was very kind, and encouraged me to pursue the full extend of the law. I submitted copies of everything I had written about the assault, as well as an official statement, all of the contact I had between myself and my attacker, plus everything I’ve written here and that was that. I was told a detective would contact me, warned again that nothing much was likely to come of it with out hard physical evidence, and sent on my way. It was three weeks before I heard from the detective. By that point I had assumed that seeing the date of the crime, my report had been filed or tossed aside to make way for more current crimes. It was something I was prepared for as I took the step to make my report, and I felt comfortable simply knowing that I had done the right thing even if it was too late for my attacker to see justice. Until I got a phone call from the detective that is. I missed him the first time, and another week went by before we were able to reconnect. One month after I filed my report, the detective the next step of gathering a statement from my attacker.
Thankfully, because the police were now involved the immediate fall out from my attacker and his wife was minimal. Where they had previously contacted me directly, or posted things here they left it alone even as they still continue to visit the site daily. It was the best, most liberating, feeling I’ve ever had. The weight has been lifted off of me, the memory is just a memory now, not a flashback or overwhelming experience. The fact that my attacker is still following my blog, no longer bothers me. Whatever he might say, as crude, abusive, or threatening as it might be no longer bothers me. Even on my worst days when the PTSD I inherited kicks in and starts shuffling through all of the various traumas in my life. His part no longer bothers me.
What does bother me is seeing so many other women, or even men, suffer in silence because of the shame associated with speaking out about sexual crimes. Even as a victim myself, I wasted so much time trying to rationalize and justify what happened as something other than rape, because it’s easier to talk about. “He threw me across the room into a dresser” is so much easier to say than “he raped me.” I still physically choke on the word: rape. I have a very hard time saying it out loud without tears and heart racing full of panic. That is exactly why we need to talk about it.
Even in the current climate, where the circus that was the United States 2016 election, continues to bring sexual assault to the forefront of discussion, victims will cry out momentarily only to slip back into silence shortly after. Personally, the more I thought about it, the more I wondered why I didn’t hesitate to fight back during the act of the assault itself, but stopped fighting when it came to speaking out. I’ve been through a lot in my nearly 30 years, enough that I’m more comfortable facing adversity than with out it. I’m a fighter, I’m a survivor. I’m not going to remain silent about this anymore. I will take any and every opportunity to share my story. Not out of hatred, or jealousy, or revenge, attention seeking, or any other excuse that is tossed around as victim blaming or shaming. I’m never going to stop talking about it because it matters. It needs to be said.
I’m Kelli, I’m 29 and I was raped by a man whom I later fell in love, and entered a consensual sexual relationship with. The memories were repressed for five years after the attack itself, I chose to remain silent for two years after they resurfaced, and waited an additional year after first speaking out to make my report to law enforcement. I will remain silent no more.