When I was 15 years old, I was raped. My attacker wasn’t some stranger who abducted me. He wasn’t someone I feared. My attacker was my boyfriend. The first time he raped me, I felt damaged and confused. I was unsure about how I should feel, and I didn’t know where to turn. This was someone I knew. Was it still rape?
I went to a friend and told her what happened. When she told me that my boyfriend, my attacker couldn’t have meant to do it and that I wasn’t really raped, I believed her and questioned myself.
Was this rape? I couldn’t shake the feeling that what he’d done was wrong. I said, “No!”
I stayed in the relationship, but never again felt the same within it. Eventually our romantic relationship came to an end.
He raped me again. We were no longer together. Again, I said, “No,” and he raped me.
I thought to myself, this is my fault. I made this happen. I allowed him to be near me. I allowed myself to be in a situation that I should not have been in.
My guilt, my shame kept me silent. I didn’t seek help from anyone, and carried the heavy burden of my rape alone. What would people think if they knew? What would happen to my attacker? Would anyone believe me? Was it really rape? I could hear the voice of my friend telling me it wasn’t. I could hear the judgment from people who would blame me.
I diminished my own feelings and sacrificed my well-being out of fear. I blamed myself for what happened to me even though I knew deep within my soul that I was the one who was hurt. I was the victim. I said, “No.” I did nothing wrong.
Several years went by before I sought the help I so desperately needed in order to heal. Through that process I was able to find peace in my life. I was even able to confront my attacker and express to him that what he had done was wrong and had hurt me deeply. To my surprise he apologized and expressed true remorse.
Finally seeking help and confronting my attacker allowed me to put the pieces of my life back together. I was able to forgive not only myself, but him as well. Choosing to forgive him did not make me forget the pain he caused me, nor did it diminish how wrong he was for raping me. But it did clear the way for me to release the past and heal completely. I didn’t have to be held in the bondage of fear, shame, or regret any longer. I was free.
April is the month in which we recognize Sexual Assault Awareness, but it’s important to understand that our awareness must extend beyond the month of April. This story, while my own, doesn’t belong to me alone. This is the story of many girls, boys, women, and men who have suffered in silence. Often victims do not come forward because they are afraid, ashamed, or do not know where to turn to for help. They reach out to the wrong person, not knowing that real help does exist.
If I can be a voice of encouragement, a guiding light, or a beacon of hope to someone who is going through what I went through, please know this:
You are not alone. Even though I did not get the help I needed by reaching out to my friend, when I did reach out the right person, I was helped tremendously.
Your attack was not your fault. The feelings of guilt, shame, and fear while normal, aren’t warranted. You did nothing wrong; your attacker did.
It will get better. One day you will forgive yourself, and you will heal. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen. When it does, you will be free to live without the shadows of the past looming over you.
If you or someone you care about has been sexually assaulted and is in need of help, there are several resources available to assist you.
Contact the RAINN online hotline for help today.
Or call The National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656-HOPE (4673).
If you’re in immediate danger call 911.
Family members of someone who has been assaulted, start here.
Additional resources for health professionals can be found by visiting the National Sexual Violence Resource Center online at www.nsvrc.org or by calling 877.739.3895.
The Stone Foundation is a community of counseling professionals who are committed to helping you live your best life. If we can assist you in healing from sexual assault, please contact us at 410.296.2004 or visit www.thestonefoundation.com. We are here for you and want you to know that there is hope. You are not alone. Please know that this article deals with a very serious matter and is intended for general, educational purposes only. This article, and others like it, should not and are not meant to take the place of professional counseling services or medical care.
Erica Burns is Office Manager at The Stone Foundation. She has an Associate’s Degree in Practice Management and is committed to making your experience with TSF a great one. Her friendliness and professionalism are just a few qualities that endear her to the clients we serve. If you or someone you know could benefit from counseling services, call Erica. She will be happy to help you set up your first appointment.