From Victim to Survivor: A True Story
This is part of a series on the first-hand experience of a survivor of sexual assault.
I thought things would go back to normal once my best friend, Susie*, and I were talking again, but they didn’t. I still could not sleep, I would break down in tears often, I got migraines frequently and could not concentrate on school, and I didn’t want to hang out with my friends or do anything. To top all of that off, the guy who had assaulted me had began following me around school.
Susie had tried to convince me to tell my parents what happened. I was terrified at the idea of anyone knowing what had happened. Now Joe* was cornering me at school when Susie wasn’t around. I told him to leave me alone but he acted like I was kidding. Didn’t he know how much he hurt me or care?
I hurried through the hallways to avoid him. One day I heard him behind me calling my name. I rushed to get away and he grabbed my arm. I screamed and ran to the bathroom, passing Susie in my frantic rush. Locked in the bathroom stall, I had my first panic attack.
That was my breaking point. I knew I couldn’t keep pretending nothing happened. That night I told my sister about the rape and she held my hand as I told my parents. My father called the police and they came to the house to take my statement. They explained the investigative process and suggest my parents talk to the school to keep Joe away from me or we could get a protection order.
Joe was arrested not long after that, and things escalated. His friends began harassing me at school. They would follow me yelling “rape!”, “slut” and “go kill yourself”, along with other slurs. The school wasn’t much help; they told me to ignore it but did nothing to stop it.
At this time, I was talking with the District Attorney who walked me through the court process. Telling more strangers such intimate details about the most horrible event in my life was humiliating and I felt like they were all judging me. I had to go to school every day and be bullied by Joe’s friends’; my friends would get into fight with his: it was a mess. Everyone at school knew what happened and either pitying me or stayed away. My family didn’t know how to talk to me. They avoided the subject completely and if I tried to talk about it they would tell me not to think about it.
Before I reported the rape, I was the only one suffering. Now my family and friends seem worried and stressed. I was feeling overwhelmed with all of it and starting thinking maybe I should kill myself.
The more I thought of suicide, the better I felt: this would solve all my problems. One day, I planned it out. I was going to take a bottle of prescription pills my mother had. Thinking about it, I was happier, talkative, and ready for school to be over so I could set my plan in motion.
The last class of the day, my teacher asked me to stay after class for a moment. She asked why I was suddenly so different and upbeat, if something had happened. I told her no, I was feeling better. She stared at me for a moment, and told me she was there for me and not to think that this horrible time would last forever. She told me I could get through it and I would be a stronger person for it and people cared about me. Somehow, she knew what I was planning and she had just saved my life.
*Names have been changed.
This column is not is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice or treatment.