Thawing Out

A year and a half ago, something terrible happened to me.
It’s not the first time I was sexually assaulted. Hell, it wasn’t even the first time I was raped but it was the one that really and truly bothered me.
With the others I was able to remove factors and protect myself. Build walls. With this one I would pretty much have to remove everybody I loved from my life, change all of my social life I’d been building for most of my adult life.
So, I did the only thing I knew how. The only reaction I had learned from childhood. I froze. Emotionally I shut it down.
I gave a stiff upper lip and kept going with life.
Sure it got to me from time to time. When I saw my rapist out on the town I’d panic. When I had to tell new partners I’d get upset. When it came close to the one year anniversary I struggled but for the most part, I kept it together.

Something has happened recently though. I’ve found a safe place. A truly safe place. Now I’m thawing out.
I’m feeling everything that most people would have felt right away. I’m feeling that now.
The constant panic. The need to hide from everything. The recurring nightmares and insomnia. All of it and more. Now. A year and a half later.

I’m scared all the time. If I have a moment when I’m not scared, I’m angry.
I’m scared I’ll lose friends over this. I’m scared I’ll lose that social base I love so dearly, the one which has become family.
I’m scared it will happen again, sometime down the road. I’m scared he’ll do it to another girl. I’m scared my silence this long means he already has.
I’m angry he did this to me. I’m angry he has memories of my body I don’t. I’m angry I’ve already lost friends and family over this. I’m angry I have panic so bad I miss work.
I’m angry that I get messages from people saying they wish they were brave enough to come out with their stories too, because that means there are so many more women out there with stories like mine and that is NOT ok.
I’m angry that I’ve always been so very strong and now, because of one night, one persons selfish decision, I feel weaker than I ever have before.

I’ve faced a screaming angry father when I was a child, I have over come addiction, I took on mental illness and I can’t make eye contact with an unknown male. I can’t use a bar bathroom without having a small panic attack.

This is my thawing out process. I’m told it’s normal. To me it’s terrifying.

What you took from me: An open letter to my rapist

***caution: entry may cause triggers***

Dear Rapist,

I know you don’t consider yourself a rapist but you are. I also know you don’t think about that night but rest assured I do. At one point or another, every single day, I think about you and I think about that night.
I think about what I don’t remember and what I’ve lost. 
You took so many things from me in one act, which you don’t even know you did. 
I hope one day you will know what you did but for now, I write.

My safety
On that night, the number one thing you took from me my safety. Now, I’m a firm believer that women should be able to go where they want, dress how they want, drink how they want and be safe. I’m also a realist and know that there are predatory douchebags waiting for the right opportunity to take advantage of a woman because they feel it is their douchebag given right. I didn’t put myself into one of those situations. 
I am a creature of habit. I went out for my birthday, surrounded myself with friends in a bar I had been to a thousand times before, dressed in a hideous 80’s prom, dress and yes, got black out drunk with a plan home. Here’s the thing…you are part of that social circle. You shouldn’t have been a problem. You should have been part of that safety net. You should have known that when I said I didn’t want to sleep with you, I actually meant it. 
Instead, you waited till I was (aformentioned) blackout birthday drunk and took advantage of the fact that I could no longer consent.
You took my safety away.
I can no longer call those outings safe. Places I’d gone for years are no longer truly safe. I had to work hard to make my normal, normal again, all because you took my normal away from me.

My normalcy
Weekends used to go: get the kids off to dads. Get ready to go out. Karaoke my face off, spend the day lounging in bed and schlepping around the house. Get ready to go out again. Karaoke my face off again. Spend the day lounging in bed again and schlepping around the house some more. Greet the kids from dads place.
It was wonderful. Relaxing. Routine. 
After you it took me months to even get back to karaoke let alone drink. When I do drink I only have a few. 
If I do indulge in more, its in a home. 
My weekend normalcy, how I enjoy myself around my friends has changed, even when you’re not around. 
My day-to-day normalcy has become managing triggers. Indulge my reading until I can’t anymore. Manage panic attacks on the bad days. Thrive on the good days. (The good days are becoming more often and I am truly blessed for that) Try to stay out of the dark recesses of my mind. Pick out good memories instead of dwell on the bad one. This has become my normalcy.
I am trying to survive. More than a year later I’m still finding myself in survival mode some days wondering when it will end. 

My Birthday
A day of celebration. I took the date off all social media because I couldn’t stand to have the slew of well wishers. I freaked out on my sister for trying to plan a surprise birthday party (in her defense, she was trying to take it back for me…trying to take it back from you). I told people not to visit from out of town. My world came to a halt this year on my birthday because of you. 
I am proud to announce that I salvaged it though. The man I was seeing took me to see my childhood campground and I asked friends to donate to Operation Christmas Child instead of buying me drinks. We gathered 7 boxes total. Your selfish act became my push to do better. 

My intimacy
I will never again know a romantic relationship where I don’t have to have a talk at some point and tell them what I’ve been through. I go on most days like it never happened but I need to tell them because there will be days where I don’t want to be touched. There will be times in bed where I will pull away. My romantic partners will forever get to deal with the baggage you have left with me. That isn’t fair to me or to them. One night of getting your rocks off is a life time of unpacking for me. 

My memories
You have memories of my body I don’t. Let me repeat that. My. Body.
I don’t remember anything you did with my very body. You do though. 
What I do remember though is waking up, next to somebody I had expressly told I did not want to have sex with, terrified and confused. 
I remember the hospital. I remember my mothers frantic concern. I don’t remember much of you at all though. Just rushing you out the door in the morning before the total system implosion started. 

You did give me a few things though, I’ll credit you with that.

Strength
They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I was plenty strong enough already thankyouverymuch, I didn’t need this lesson, but I got it anyway so here we are. I learned that I can get through this amazingly traumatizing experience and come out (mostly) on the other side.

Bravery
I’ve been told that my writing makes me brave. I don’t think so. I really don’t. In fact, I think my writing gives me a place to hide till I confront you properly, but maybe in a way it gives me a little bit of strength in that it lets me cope with what happens. 
More than my own bravery though, people have told me that it gives them bravery and strength and that is much more important. 
If one survivor reads this or It Happened To Me and identifies, and comes forward, than I have done so much more than I ever set out to do. 

Feminism
I always wanted equality and was something of an armchair feminist. Your actions lit a fire under my ass that has been damn near impossible to extinguish. It changed the way I look at the world. I am deeply ashamed to say but having my own safety stolen showed me how easy it is and how many women, all over the world are having theirs stolen in much grander ways, every day.
I read as much as I can every day till triggers stop me. I am raising my own boys in a way your parents obviously didn’t. I’m trying to start change from the bottom up.

I will never thank you for what you gave me because you took so very much more from me. You stole from me and you don’t even know it.
Yet