But Why Now?

I am not a victim of rape.

I am a survivor.

If you're curious, there is a big difference between the two:  A difference in mentality, understanding, and attitude. It's the difference between mourning and understanding…denial and acceptance…anger and forgiveness.

No. I am not a victim. I am a survivor.

I've been strolling through my Facebook newsfeed for a few days now in light of the recent accusations against a certain presidential candidate, and the language used regarding the topic of sexual assault from the men in my life (and some of the women) has been shocking. Even frightening. Questions have cropped up like "Why now?" "Why three weeks before voting?"... and comments like "If it was that big of a deal, they would have stepped up sooner...."

If it was that big of a deal. Why now? Why did they wait? To them, it all seems so suspicious.

I won't make this political. I'm sick of politics. This isn't about him. I'm sick of this election. Aren't you? But I can't take these questions anymore. I can't stand the ignorance. The language. Because why now?

I've harbored my secret, my darkness for fourteen years. My parents and family don't know I was raped. This was a secret from them that I was going to take to the grave. Only a handful of friends know. A few members in my community. A few ex-lovers. They know because they needed to know--because my story could influence how they treated me and how they lived their lives in the future. My story could inspire, and my lessons learned could teach.

So I'm sorry Mom, Dad... but I can't protect you anymore from my darkness.

You need to know.

This is my "Why now."

When I was sixteen, I decided to start dating a friend. He was my very best friend. A person I knew I could trust. A person I would run to when my other boyfriends had done me wrong. He loved me. So why not? After all, a girl really only wants to be loved.

I was home schooled at the time, and so was he. He lived in a somewhat abusive household, so he started to live with us for a little while. We had all the time in the world that we wanted together. It was a teenager's paradise.

It only took a few days for his "love" to manifest itself. At first I enjoyed it. Really, only at first. But then I didn't want to have sex anymore. We weren't using protection. I wasn't on birth control. I didn't want to get pregnant. But my "no's" went unheeded. He turned them into yeses by telling me to "just let it happen" and "you'll get used to it." These phrases would later become my triggers. 

Over the course of three months, I would learn to get used to him sneaking into my room at night and waking me up for sex. I would learn to get used to just fading away into my mind and forgetting what was happening. I would learn to just accept that he was going to do whatever he wanted and it was better to let it happen than to argue. When we were walking or standing, he would purposefully hold me in a way that would make me uncomfortable. He would keep me off balance. It's how he showed me that I no longer had control over my body. It was his now. Not mine.

My mom had no idea what was happening, and I was too scared to tell her. You see, I was more afraid of confessing to my mom that I was having sex than I was afraid of being raped. I could handle the rape. I could contain the secret. I could handle the stress until... one night I couldn't. It was a night when he was staying at his own house and I was alone. I woke up in the middle of this night terrified. I couldn't move my body. My mind was awake, but there was a thousand-pound weight resting on me. I was paralyzed. Then it lifted. I stood up to walk to the bathroom, but fell in the hallway because I lost my hearing. Everything had gone silent for I don't know how long, and then a piercing ringing split through my head. I was left with the worst migraine I've ever experienced in my life. I crawled to my mom's room and woke her up. I was sick. Something was wrong. I was scared.

Just being in her room helped me relax. I felt safe. It wasn't until the next morning that she asked me if it was possible I could be pregnant. I solemnly nodded my head in the affirmative. I know now that these are not symptoms of pregnancy and she knew it, too. I know now that she used that night to find out what I was doing with him. From that day forward, he didn't come over. She set that boundary. She saved my life and she didn't even know it.

With him at a distance, I was able to let the fog of control lift and build the necessary strength to break up with him. When I called him, he threatened me.

"I'll kill myself if you break up with me. I can't live without you." He said through tears. Desperate, he came to where I was staying and begged in the driveway for me to take him back.

I did. I was sixteen. I couldn't have someone’s death on my shoulders.

But nothing changed. It all went back to the way it was, and so it all continued like nothing even happened. It wasn't until a friend of mine showed me that sex could be fun, feel good, and that I had a choice in the matter that I developed enough strength (and anger) to stand up to him. When he threatened to take his own life again, I stood firmly defiant and said, "Go ahead." It was the most profound experience of my life.

In that moment I learned an incredibly important lesson that I still carry with me today: My life is more important. My life is more important to me than any other life on this planet. And at the time, I needed to save it. This grew into many more lessons as I healed and came to accept what had happened to me. As I learned to forgive and move on, I discovered that I couldn't hold the actions of one man against men as a whole. I've become more confident, defiant, and strong because of a sixteen-year-old boy who wouldn't take "no" for an answer. I was eventually able to own my triggers and own this experience rather than allow it to own me. And I'm at peace with it. I do not feel regret or pain and, if given the chance to go back in time to stop it, I'd turn it down. I wouldn't be who I am without this experience, and I really love who I am as a woman and a person.

I was one of the lucky ones, though. I was able to make a healthy transition from victim to survivor and I was able to do it safely. So many others aren’t as blessed. So many others self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to hide from the pain of their internal torture, to fill a void left behind by a monster. So many others become reclusive and are no longer able to build trust. Their life ends the day of their violation.

I cannot judge others by my own experience and neither can you. We each react to adversity, even the same event, differently. Who are we to determine how another should handle their pain? Who are we to proclaim to know better? What right do we have over another human being to prescribe a method of coping? We are no one and we have no right. Even someone like me, one of the lucky ones.

And yet... As I type this, I want to throw up. My hands and my arms are shaking. My heart is pumping. And I am sweating. It's been fourteen years; I've healed. I've forgiven. I've moved on. But I'm about to hit "publish" and let the entire world see my darkness. I'm about to come out of the rape closet to my parents. But I need to do this. I need to say something now. Because it no longer just affects me. It is my responsibility to share because then maybe others who haven't been through what I've been through will better understand. And maybe the dialogue will change.

That's why now.




Edit: It should be noted that before posting this, out of respect for both parents they were informed and the topic discussed.