Where to even begin? I have a story that isn’t unheard of. In fact it’s quite common. Statistics say it’s so common that 1 in 5 American women have a similar story. Well, I think that’s wrong. I say more women have a story like mine. Many girls are so afraid, so paralyzed to share their own story. They think it isn’t valuable just because it’s so common.
Guess what? Just because our stories are common doesn’t make them uniform; each one is unique. Each one is worth hearing.
Let’s talk about a topic that many people tend to think only happens “out there.” Not in their neighborhood, not in their city, not in their club or social group. Let’s talk about a topic that some people get really uncomfortable talking about.
Before anything else I’d like to apologize to those who are reading this who have been raped or know someone who has been. I’m very sorry that this world is so sick for having you experience such torment. The aftermath is no fun either; I’m right there with you.
After uncovering what had happened to me in the spring of 2014, it seemed that many people were in such shock and rightfully so. However, it seemed like I got a lot of
“How terrible. I’m so sorry it had to happen to a girl like you. But you’re a good girl.”
Honestly, I was pretty shocked myself. It wasn’t what those people said that had an effect on me—it was my own mind.
If I’ve learned one thing in the past year it’s been that there are no specific types people who are raped or commit the raping. It can happen to anyone and anyone can easily lose their way and go against another’s will. Rapists don’t always hide in sketchy vans or have creepy mustaches or look like Dwight Shrute. They can be anyone.
Shoot—I’ve heard of boyfriends and even husbands raping their own partners. It happens every day.
Well one of them I know nothing about other than his first name. I’d rather keep it that way to be honest. The other one? Yeah, after confronting him about 6 months later, he responded with “Ali you know I’m not that kind of guy.” No. Don’t even go there with me. Oh sure, he claimed he was religious and sang his Sunday gospel hymns.
Sure, he had a whole bunch of friends who could back him up, some of whom were mutual friends and acquaintances. And sure, he had his on and off girlfriend. And one time I ended up on the same bus with her on campus, I bit my tongue so hard that I almost bit it off. From the outside, he seemed like a decent guy. But, as I said before, there is no defining category for a rapist.
By now you’re probably wondering why I’m giving this information. Well, I want to use my horrific experience to shed light on the fact that there is no such thing as a “textbook rapist.” You don’t need to be “that kind of guy” or even “that kind of girl” for that matter to go against someone’s will.
As for me? I bet none of my classmates looked at me and thought, “she looks like someone who was raped. If she hasn’t been by now then she has it coming to her.”
In the Fall of 2014, the few who noticed me probably knew there was something wrong because I wasn’t exactly chirpy. I always thought I was “smarter than that.” I was raised in a good Christian family and I had higher standards for myself. I even had an abstinence ring. I was active and social and popular. That didn’t make me exempt from going through what I did.
I’ll bet that I’m not the only one you know who has been violated, whether you know it or not.
The entire fall semester my depression took a whole ‘nother toll on me. I soon realized that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) wasn’t just something war veterans had to deal with; it was something I was beginning to deal with on a daily basis as well.
The depression and PTSD turned me into a completely different person. I wasn’t myself, in fact I didn’t even know who I was. I couldn’t focus in class. I was afraid of people. I didn’t like talking. I thought I made everyone uncomfortable around me. I had no self-confidence, self-value or self-drive. I was lonely, and cold and I was so extremely broken.
I was broken, in my view, beyond repair. There were restless nights that turned into afternoons and I still had not gotten out of my bed. I felt like I was always on the verge of tears, because I was on the verge of tears literally 24-7.
I was lifeless. And to be completely honest, I really didn’t see any hope in my life and wished for a one-way ticket to heaven.
I thought my entire track record was out in the open. I was paranoid that I was exposed to everyone, exposed in new ways I had no clue how to begin to handle. I was in such an emotional whirlwind that there were days when I couldn’t pull myself together enough to go I class. I couldn’t do anything. It was crippling. And I’ve never experienced anything like it. And honestly I wouldn’t even wish it on my worst enemy.
The lies I believed brought me to my knees. I believed I had zero worth, I believed I would forever be alone and that no one would want me because I was damaged goods. I believed I didn’t have a single good quality. The truth had been put into the shredder and I bought into every lie. There were days I would stare into the mirror. Just stare at myself. But I never saw anything. My reflection simply blended into the khaki walls behind me.
All I wanted was someone to talk to, someone who understood and who could tell me that it gets better. I needed someone to tell me that the self-blame eventually goes away. I had no one. It’s not like I could post a PSA on Facebook asking who had been raped so that we could talk. I had only told a few close friends and my parents and sister.
I couldn’t just put myself out there like that. That was too scary. What if people thought I was lying? What if people thought I was “asking for it?” No. Don’t even go there. Guess what I had on the night I was raped? A 3 quarter length blouse, black skinnies and black booties. Don’t tell me I had too much skin showing. Don’t tell me I had too much makeup or jewelry on. I didn’t. I hadn’t brushed my hair in 2 weeks for crying out loud.
My frustration reached a new level when it seemed I was alone in this recovery. As close as I am with my mom, talking to her didn’t cut it because she had not been through what I had gone through. I needed desperately someone who knew exactly how I was feeling and what I was enduring.
Hopefully you can get a decent enough mental image and idea of the state I was in during the fall of 2014. So let’s fast forward. Let’s skip through the nights when I slept with weapons because I was afraid of intruders; the phone calls my mom had to deal with; the sadness that followed me; the constant triggers and fear and shame and guilt. Let’s fast forward to January 2015.
One night I laid in bed and just started writing everything I wanted to tell the world. I was done hiding. I was done holding everything inside. No more skeletons in my closet. I had reached a level of healing where I wasn’t crippled by fear or guilt or shame or blame or lies anymore.
I could function and I continue to function to this day, in fact I’m really happy. It was a miracle. It IS a miracle. I felt as if God was pushing me to share my story finally and take that step so that I could reflect His glory.
Honestly, at the time I didn’t really have any expectations when I first posted my story on my Facebook profile. I figured people would read it and go about their daily lives. Wrong. You wouldn’t believe the amount of young women who directly messaged me saying “Hey it happened to me too. Thank you for being bold and sharing your story because I still cannot.”
In fact, a friend shared my post with another friend who went through a similar situation. Her friend messaged me saying I had inspired her to take that bold step to share her testimony of the night she was also raped. It’s THAT common, guys.
Sure I still have flashbacks and I still hurt some. A shattering like that takes some time to find and put all the pieces back together. But now I have hope and motivation and I’m able to find joy throughout my days. I am living proof that God loves us and performs miracles.
I look at what happened to me as being a great starting place to spring forward. And for the two who did me wrong? I’m trying. I’m really trying to genuinely forgive them and love them because that’s what Christ has done for me. So why can’t I do that? There is no reason for me not to eventually forgive them. Christ has forgiven me for all of my sins, so the least I can do is forgive the ones who have harmed me.
A part of me being very vulnerable about being raped is that I simply want to be someone who other victims can talk to and go along the journey of restoration with. That’s the one thing I needed and wanted in the beginning of my process. So, I want to be that that for someone else. And I want anyone and everyone to see the miraculous transformation that God has brought in my life. None of that’s me. That’s all Him. I shouldn’t get any of this credit. This kind of healing can’t be done by humans alone. We need the supernatural. And supernatural is the Lord.
The wonderful thing is that the Lord has this amazing redeeming love. He doesn’t hold any of our past against us or over our heads.
We are not defined by our past; we are His and nothing can take that away from us.
For those of you who are reading this and have been in my shoes: don’t be afraid to tell your story. You will be surprised at the support and love you’ll receive. Silence is restriction sometimes. This is one of those times. Speak out. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself.
We are all in this together. You are not alone.
I may not have had enough strength to fight back that night, but I am now. I’m stronger and I’m fighting back.