Warning - For those who have been abused - this may cause triggers!
As I sit and listen to the rain fall outside, I think thiswould be a good day to share my own personal story. It was raining the night that it happened, that is one thing that I remember clearly. A lot of the other details are still a blur, 10 years later. It happened when I was living in Florida. My college roommate came to visit me and we were staying in Orlando for the weekend. We decided to go to Pleasure Island and soon after we got there, two men came over and were hanging out with us. One expressed a definite interest in me and we basically hung out all night. His name was Ryan. As the night went on, he got progressively more physical with me. I was responding to him and letting him fondle me, kiss me etc which was very out of character for me to do with someone I just met. I remember telling my friend for drinking one beer (I was driving so I was only drinking Coke once we met them which he was bringing to me by the gallon it seemed) that I was feeling like I was drunk. She said that she had never seen me act like this, but we both laughed it off.
They kept asking us if they could stay at our hotel room, which we kept saying no. Then – which is still kind of a blur – they managed to pass their car keys on to another friend that was with them and manipulated us into taking them home. They were golf pros on the PGA tour and lived about 25 minutes outside of Orlando. I drove them home and remember really having a hard time focusing. He was all over me a this point and I all wanted to do was go to sleep. I barely made it to their condo. My friend seemed to be into the other guy and when we got there, she wanted to go in and see the condo. So we went in. The guy I was with insisted on taking me up to his room to see his golf trophies. A little part of me was screaming not to do it, but I went anyway. At that time, I had no idea why. I fell asleep on the bed and then the next thing I knew I was downstairs ready to leave. Getting up the next morning, I found blood in my panties and showered for a long time in very hot water and still not feeling clean, but not knowing why. There was a big hole in my memory of that night and this is how I remembered the night for over a year after it happened.
Soon afterward that night, I moved back to my home state of Michigan. I had to find a job, but had no ambition to do so. I was living with my parents and made my bedroom a haven to shut myself out from the world. I got a job at a local department store that was well beneath my job skill level, but it was mindless and that was what I wanted then. I still had no idea why I felt like this, and at that point, did not really care.
Everything changed the night I decided to take one of my co-workers out dancing for her 21st birthday. We were out on the dance floor and this guy innocently came over to dance with me. All of the sudden…I was filled with terror. The memories all came back and the holes from that night filled in via flashbacks. I grabbed my friend and ran out of the club. She had no idea what was happening, but followed me seeing the fear in my eyes.
It came back that when I had fallen asleep on the bed, Ryan had taken off my shirt, and got undressed himself. He forced me by gripping my hand to touch and rub him. Then he climbed on top of me and raped me. Somehow, I had managed to push him off of me before he “finished” and grabbed my clothes and said I was leaving. As we walked down the stairs, he told his buddy he had “blue balls” and he was mad. We sat downstairs waiting for my friend so I could go and he kept asking me why I didn’t tell him it was my first time (I was a virgin when this happened.) I was in such shock I just stared at him and he sat and spit ice cubes at me until my friend came down the stairs. The holes made sense now…
I then started on my road to recovery. After sharing the story with my Mom and sister, I knew I needed to get help. I had heard about RAINN from a public service announcement on TV and found their hotline number, 800-656-HOPE. I called and spoke with a counselor who was very understanding. She referred me to Turning Point, a local counseling center that specialized in sexual assault. There I met Debra who helped me get though the first phase of the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder I was now dealing with.
I was doing ok…holding it together…and I started dating. I met a couple of guys who “couldn’t handle my issues” and was getting discouraged. Then I met James. James grew up in an abusive household and was one of those people who loved to help fix others as a way of dealing with his own issues. We fell in love and decided to get married very quickly after we met. In retrospect, I was in no way in the mental state to make this kind of decision, but he made me feel good and cared for and that was all I wanted then. As the wedding grew closer, my PTSD symptoms increased. The idea of being someone's wife was pushing me to get better and all the feelings of fear and depression were coming to the surface. It got so that I could not sleep at night for the dark terrified me. I was having issues at work because of the lack of focus and sleep. I was very depressed and just wanted to sit in a ball in my bed. I had lost my self-esteem and felt like a fool for letting it happen to me. I cried over everything, did not want to leave the house, was constantly in a state of fear and when I did sleep, I had constant nightmares. I ended up going to see a psychiatrist and a therapist associated with him. In his diagnosis, he felt I had been given a Date Rape drug in my drinks which explained my strange behavior and falling asleep and blocking out what happened for so long. I had to take a leave of absence from work and went on anti-depression medication. I started to journal and work thru my feelings of fear and despair. I began to accept what had happened to me just happened, that it could have happened to anyone and began to regain my self worth. I also began to deal with my fear and understand that while fear protects you, I could not let it control me. I also let myself feel the rage I had for Ryan and what he took from me. I am not an angry person and had never truly felt hate before for someone. That was a hard emotion to deal with and then let go of, but I needed to feel it completely, before I could set it free.
Just before the wedding, which even though both of us questioned whether we should postpone due to what I was dealing with, I went back to work and was functioning. Just after the wedding, I participated in Turning Point's "Take Back the Night" march and was asked by Debra to be one of the people to carry the banner in front of the march. I also did a reading and in one of my first moments of triumph, spoke about my story at the "Survivor Speak Out" after the march. After about a year after the wedding, I was off my medication, and getting back to the person I was before the rape with a new awareness of the strength I had in myself. I was very proud of what I had overcome. Unfortunately, my husband didn’t see it quite like that. My need for him had changed and now I was better and able to take care of myself, it changed our relationship. Soon after, because of this and other issues, we divorced. Although now I look back and see that we should have never gotten married and there are things he did and said that hurt me greatly, I will always be grateful to him for standing by me thru my recovery.
About a year and a half after the divorce, I met Tom. We hit it off from the beginning and a part of me was scared to share my story with him because of previous responses from other men I had dated. I didn’t want to tell him too soon and scare him off, but I didn’t want to wait too long and have him feel I didn’t trust him. So, I prayed to God to help me see when it was the best time to share it. After knowing him for about 3 weeks, on our third date, we were sitting and having one of our marathon “getting to know you” conversations. He started talking to me about his martial arts experiences and how he taught self-defense and rape prevention at the university he went to. He also shared with me a story about a friend of his who had been sexual assaulted coming home from the grocery store and another who had been date raped, and how he felt about it. It was written all over my face that this was something that had touched me and barring God throwing a literal brick at me that said TELL HIM NOW, I knew this was my chance to bring it up. He listened and gave me a hug and we moved on to the next subject – exactly the reaction I needed. I was beyond needing pity or sympathy. Tom recognized I am at the point where being raped is a part of my life, but just that now…a part of my life, but it does not define me. I am no longer a victim, but a survivor.
Now together with Tom, who is now my wonderful husband, I am here to say that it is not the end if something like this happens to you. If “Women For Hope” helps one woman know she is not alone and there is hope and happiness after the rain, it will be a success. If you have any questions or just want to talk, you can email me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be there to listen, talk or whatever you need. Thanks for reading my story….
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