A Survivor's Story

This is part of a series on the first-hand experience of a survivor of sexual assault. Please read next month’s AVA column for the rest of the continuing story.

I was only 14 years old when I was sexually assaulted. I lived in a small town, I was a junior in high school, and the guy…..well, and he was my best friends’ boyfriend.

In all these years that have passed since, there’s not a day that it hasn’t crossed through my mind. The memory of the night and hanging out with friends and having a good time after a high school football game all passes through my mind everyday. Some days it lingers and I remember sights and sounds and smells. I can still remember to this day what I was wearing, where we were, the conversation, everything. I used to block it out because it was too painful. I’ve learned enough about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to know that until you can relive the assault in its entirety, you cannot begin to heal.

In the years that have passed, I have forced myself to relive all the seconds of that night. It took me years to recall the entire night. Not that I didn’t remember, but my brain would NOT let me remember and go through the most painful parts. See, that’s what happens with PTSD, or Rape Trauma Syndrome as some therapists might call my case, I could not relive that night at once. It did take me years to get to the point where I could remember the night, in detail, in entirety without skipping over parts. In fact, it’s been almost 20 years and I have only just gotten there.

What I went through, that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. In a small town, scared to death of telling anyone, I didn’t. It took me weeks to report the assault; it was my best friend who encouraged me to report it. You see, she was there that night when the assault took place. The person who assaulted me, that was my best friends’ boyfriend at the time.

So then this ‘incident’ happens. The moment that was to change my life forever in ways that I don’t think I can put into words here. I didn’t report it right away. For one thing, I was in high school and I lived in a small town. The guy, he was a sports star at my high school, I was your average Jane and the last thing I wanted to do was draw attention to myself or upset my best friend.

My friend, being present at the assault, she witnessed it and was able to get me out of there eventually. I was yelling and screaming for help and she came through the door and saved me. She charged in the door and got me out of there and dragged me to the nearest payphone to call her sister for a ride home. Afterwards, we didn’t talk about it. On the way to the phone and waiting for her sister, we didn’t speak about it. I didn’t know what to say. I was in shock, she was silent. I thought she was mad at me because it was her boyfriend. I didn’t know how to tell her that I didn’t “like” her boyfriend, that he had hurt me, that I was scared and in pain. For the first time, I found myself unable to speak to my best friend.

My mind kept running through the events of the night, she had heard my cries for help, knew it wasn’t a joke, and came in and helped me. Is she mad at me? Is she mad at him? Why did he do this to me? Why did he do this to her? WHY did he do this at all?