Trigger warning: sexual assault, suicide attempt
When I was 18, I was drugged and raped at an on-campus party. I can say the words now; I carry no shame. This was in the late nineties. I wasn’t a model victim. I had lots of sexual partners; I liked to go out and drink and dance; I smoked pot; and after my assault I didn’t tell anyone for several days until I had seen a doctor who confirmed that I had bruising and tearing consistent with rough sex or sexual assault.
When I confided to my roommate, she was dismissive. I hadn’t seemed upset after the party, if anything in the days since the party I had seemed quite happy. This became a common theme, and it didn’t take me long to learn that silence was the better choice.
I slowly withdrew from my life. I stopped going to class. I barely graduated from university, but I did manage to earn my degree, something that surprises me to this day. My personality changed. It was so slow that I didn’t even notice it myself. I drank more; I became angry. I stopped caring about my life and I started engaging in risky behaviors, including sex with strangers. I didn’t know then that hypersexuality is sometimes part of the aftermath of rape and trauma.
Three years after the assault I was living alone- I had become unbearable to be around. I was verbally abusive to anyone who tried to get close. I had few friends. I’d been abandoned by everyone I had disclosed my rape to. I had one friend say to my face that she and others thought it was a lie and I was seeking attention. I’d had enough. I went to bed with a bottle of wine and over 200 Tylenol. I can still remember crying as I passed out.
Thankfully I had one good friend. When she called and didn’t get an answer for to days, when she called work and realized I had been unreachable for two days, she came to my house. I was near death. I spent three weeks in the hospital. But I lived.
In 2001, there were a lot of things I didn’t know that I know now. It wasn’t my fault. Consent is not black and white- consenting to kissing doesn’t mean consent to penetration, especially after I was passed out. I was not alone.
After my suicide attempt, I started going to therapy. I stopped drinking. I started taking care of myself. And I began identifying as a feminist. Feminism’s response to sexual assault changed my life and encouraged me to be vocal in support of women’s rights and the rights of marginalized groups.
My story isn’t over yet. It’s just begun.