This is part of a series on the first-hand experience of a survivor of sexual assault. The first part of this true story of survival can be found on AVA’s website at www.humboldtava.com.
The next few days I did not talk to anyone. I stayed at home, telling my parents and siblings I was not feeling well. Friends that called or came over were told I was sick. As far as everyone else around me thought, I was getting a bug or something going around and just needed to rest. One person that did not call was my friend and this made me think she was angry at me.
Two weeks later, I did have to get out of bed and get back to school. I was not in good shape, mentally or physically. I had not slept and found myself getting migraines for the first time in my life. When I closed my eyes to sleep I had nightmares I would wake crying from. I was jumpy from not sleeping and terrified of what my friend and her boyfriend might be thinking, and worse: saying, about me. Every waking moment the events kept running through my mind, replaying itself like it was stuck on a loop.
I analyzed every detail of what had happened. I tried to remember what it was I had done to make him think I wanted this. Was I too nice? Was I flirtatious? Didn’t I say no enough or loud enough? What did I do? I was sure I had to have been the one that made him think I was attracted to him in some way for him to have done this.
The first morning back at school, I ran straight into the bathroom and stayed until the bell rang, going to class late so I wouldn’t have to speak to anyone.
As I walked into class toward the seat next to my best friend, I noticed her looking at me and with a tiny smile. For the first time, I couldn’t read my best friends’ expression. I looked down and slid into my seat. Halfway through the class she slipped me a note that said, “Are you okay?”
Three little words. Three little words I’ve heard many times but this time had more meaning than ever. Her tiny smile, it was out of concern. I stared at these words for what seemed a long time, until I heard someone crying loudly. I looked up to see the class and teacher staring at me. I was the one crying. I grabbed my books and ran to the hallway, heading back to hide in the bathroom until class was over.
In the bathroom, locked safely in a stall, I reread these three words over and over and could not stop myself from crying. The weeks of trying to pretend I was had been exhausting. Smiling as though all was right in the world when nightmares flashed in my mind over and over, it was exhausting. I realized I could not really recall the past two weeks in detail or anything I had said or done, I had been in a fugue state.
Everything hit me at once like a slap in the face: the fear that my best friend hated me, that her boyfriend would do it again, that people would find out what happened and think it was my fault, the humiliation of it all that it was my body and I couldn’t even protect it. I felt humiliated and ashamed that I had done something to invite it. That someone had been able to violate me in such a personal and intrusive way that made me feel sick to my soul. It was then I first asked myself the question: how does the body continue to live when it feels like my soul has died?