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. He let me know he didn’t want a relationship with me.
When he said he didn’t think prostitutes were that bad, my eyes widened. That’s when I should’ve run. But I stayed.
He manipulated me to get in my room and stay the night. I told him I was a virgin and not ready to have sex. He didn’t care.
Before I knew it, he was on top of me. What was I to do? Who could I call? I didn’t know the emergency phone number of the country I was living in. I couldn’t speak the language to talk to the operator. I submitted … just wanted him gone … then I would figure it out.
After he left that morning, I sat still with my thoughts. What had just happened? Why did I still feel attached to this guy? I 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 found me at the doctor with my legs up in stirrups, a friend translating for me. Yep, he had given me an STD. I told him I had to pay out of pocket for the doctor’s visit, but he didn’t respond.
After a month, I couldn’t take it being alone in a foreign country dealing with the aftermath and all my emotions. I went home to my dad’s house, where my family embraced me warmly. I was safe. I was home.
I hadn’t had my period in 2 months, but I was home so I told myself it would be fine. I took a pregnancy test – thankfully negative – but I angrily messaged my perpetrator anyway. I asked 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 for the 6 months post-virginity-loss. I told a few friends what had happened but never used the word rape. I just said it wasn’t a great experience. I felt heartbroken about it all but didn’t know how to categorize it.
I got my confidence back going to graduate school, traveling the world, and slowly – with distance – dating again. When 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. It took months, but I’ve learned to retell the story to myself.
When I looked back at that night, I used to blame myself for not picking up on the cues. I was deeply ashamed of losing something that I had been taught was so valuable. I had kissed him, I’d been drinking, I let him come over – I blamed myself because of all these things. For many years, I took responsibility for the situation and told myself that I was unworthy of real, pure love.
As I talk to more women, I see how many of us tell ourselves this story. The names, places, and events vary, but the story remains the same. We take on the shame, the responsibility, and the blame for events that don’t belong to us that way.
Yes, a horrible thing happened to us, but that doesn’t say anything about who we are. We are still worthy of the purest most real love, and we are 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 allowed to call it what it is – rape.