I was 22, living in a foreign country, alone, a virgin. My worldview had been tiny before- I believed all people were out for my good and that nobody would purposefully harm me. We had hung out one time before- and looking back there were signs- but I was just ecstatic to have a friend. When he said he didn’t think prostitutes were that bad, my eyes widened, and that’s when I should’ve ran. But I stayed and he manipulated me to get in my room and stay the night. I had told him I was a virgin and not ready to have sex but he didn’t really care. Before I knew it, he was on top of me and I just submitted. What was I to do? Who could I call? I didn’t even know the emergency phone number of this country I was living in- nonetheless- couldn’t even speak the language to talk to the operator. I just wanted him gone and then I would figure it out. As he left that morning, I sat still with my thoughts. What had just happened? And why do I still feel attached to this guy? He let me know he didn’t want a relationship with me, so I just stalked his facebook and wondered why I wasn’t good enough. I had given him this precious gift and he didn’t care.
A few weeks later I found myself at the doctor with my sweet friend Liz translating as my legs were up in stirrups. Yep, he had given me an STD. I told him I had to pay out of pocket for the doctor’s visit, and he didn’t even respond.
After about a month, I couldn’t take it being so alone in this country, dealing with the aftermaths of my emotions. I went home to my dad’s house and I remember the warm embrace of family. I was safe. I was home. I hadn’t had my period in 2 months, but it will be fine. I was home. I took a pregnancy test and thankfully it was negative- but I angrily messaged my perpetrator and asked him what would he have done if I was pregnant? Why did he invite himself, unprotected, into my body when I specifically asked him not to?
Life was weird the 6 months post virginity loss. I told a few friends what had happened but never used the word rape. Just said it wasn’t a great experience. I still felt heartbroken about it all but didn’t know how to categorize it.
I found my confidence back through graduate school, traveling the world, and slowly- with distance- dating again. Whenever I met my future husband, and we started talking about marriage, I knew I had to face the demons of my past. I signed up for therapy and through months of therapy I’ve learned to retell the story to myself.
I used to look back at that night as one full of shame. I blamed myself for not picking up on the cues, and I felt immense shame for losing something that I had been taught was so valuable. I had kissed him, I was drinking, I had let him stay over- these are all things that made me blame myself for the events. For so many years, I took responsibility for the situation and because of that I told the story to myself that I was unworthy of real, pure love.
This horrible thing happened to us, yes. But that doesn’t say anything about who we are. We are still worthy of the most pure and real love. We are still allowed to live free from shame, blame, and regret. We have the ability to forgive our trespassers, not because they deserve it, but because we love ourselves enough to quit carrying around this baggage. And most of all, we are allowed to forgive ourselves for what we didn’t know, for who we used to be, and for the stories we’ve told ourselves. We are also, boldly, allowed to call it rape.