This is going to be tough for me to share. I know this topic is an uncomfortable one. We, as a society, like to bury it deep – but for those who have experienced it, it is raw. It sits on the surface and weighs you down.
RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) has gathered these statistics:
- Under the age of 18: 44%
- Under the age of 30: 88%
- Another assault occurs every 107 seconds
- Average total of assault victims per year: 293,000
- 68% of sexual assaults are not reported to police
- 98% of rapists will never spend a day in jail
- 4/5 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim
- 47% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance
This semester, I met four others who have been victims of rape/sexual assault. I heard multiple stories of other victims. After spending years thinking I was alone, my eyes were opened to the reality of this situation. There are so many others that are struggling with this – that are either suffering in silence or fighting to be heard.
I know that if you haven’t been a victim, this may feel distant to you. For me, though, it is personal. For my friends, it is personal. I was assaulted by a close friend in my junior year of high school. I did not realize what was happening until it was too late, and in the months and years to follow, I became obsessed with the idea that it was my fault. I viewed myself as damaged goods. I convinced myself that I was no longer capable of being loved. Ashamed, I shared this with only two friends. I tried to bury it. Even if I had tried to report it, there was no evidence, no witness. I couldn’t bring myself to speak up anyway because he had been my friend. I wanted to forgive him – to protect him from what could destroy his entire life. He even later apologized. Somehow, I have found it in myself to forgive him, but the damage is done; I can’t forget.
I don’t know if I took the right approach to the situation. I may not ever know if there was something more to be done. I do know that it still haunts me. I have nightmares. There are waking moments when I relive it. There are things that trigger panic attacks. I’ve learned to manage these things, but they still impact me in my every day interactions.
I want to speak to those who have been victims. I just want to tell you that it is not your fault. Even if you just laid there – even if you couldn’t fight back – this was in no way your fault. Don’t let yourself believe the lie that you could have prevented this. It happened, and now you’re picking up the pieces. You may feel damaged – in fact, I’m sure you do. You may be dealing with fallout that you don’t understand. It’s not uncommon to fear intimacy or even just simple physical touch. It’s okay, you know, to be scared. I understand. You don’t have to do anything you’re not ready to. However, if you haven’t already sought some form of help, I would encourage you to do so. You can’t let this consume you. Be strong, even if that just means telling a friend. Don’t let your attacker win. Heal, and move forward, because this does not define you.
It took me two years to even begin to understand that. It’s okay if you can’t believe it overnight – just keep working toward it. Keep fighting your fight, and if you need help, ask for it. You are a survivor – just like me, and just like my friends. Please, keep your head up and remember that you are so much more than the world would have you believe.
Head above water, my dear. You are worth more than you know.