Written By Laura Ostrow, CCASA Survivor Task Force member
(TW: Sexual Assault)
At this moment, one year ago, I was about to be raped. No, I wasn’t walking in an alley alone. No, I wasn’t wearing a short skirt. No, I wasn’t in a dangerous area.
I had no idea.
I was on the island of my dreams.
I was wearing jeans and a black tshirt, a shirt that I can’t wear to this day without thinking back to that night.
I was on a U.S Army Base. Safe.
Or so I thought.
Something happens when you feel invincible. You feel a deep sense of trust. Trust that people are good. Trust that people care. Trust that people truly don’t want to hurt another person. Until it happens to you. When it happens, your trust fades. Every person you meet, every man you take interest in, you pause and wonder what they are capable of.
At this moment, one year ago, I was about to be raped. I was flirting, drinking, and enjoying life. And then we went in the water. And he got aggressive. I pulled away. He kept coming back like a shark. I became uncomfortable with PDA. He suggested we go to mine. I thought, maybe I can just hook up with this guy quick, get it over with, so he will stop pressuring me, so he will stop coercing me. I can bring him back, and then just be done.
We walk to mine, as he tells me he’s a medic in the air force. He works with children. He’s a nice guy.
He’s a nice guy. Right?
That night, I realized what “nice” really means. It means entitlement. It means as long as you say the right things with your mouth, you can do what you want with my boy. It means that you think you know what lines you can edge on, so that maybe I don’t want it, but you’re going to try your hardest to pretend I do. It means you like that I’m in pain, it turns you on, and you keep going for hours. Nice means that you feel like I owe you. Nice means that because you flirted with me, now you have free reign of my body, no matter what I say.
At this moment, one year ago, my boundaries were about to be tested too far. My resolve was about to be taken from me. My strength, stored up to survive instead of fight. My “no’s” silenced by “nice” words, and my yelps of pain were about to be ignored. My excuses, reasons why I didn’t want to, were about to be washed away like the ocean waves that washed away my security and comfort that night. That washed away the earring he bit out of my ear as I pulled away, nervously giggling that I really didn’t want to do anything.
At this moment, one year ago, I was about to be silenced. I was about to be placated. I was about to be hushed. I was about to be told to just let it happen. I was about to be told that it would be done soon, we just had to “work together” to finish. I was about to be told that I liked it rough.
At this moment, one year ago, I was about be violated, quietly, slowly, but all at once.
At this moment, one year ago, I was about to be tricked. I was about to be manipulated. And I was about to be just a body to be used and abused.
At this moment, one year ago, I was about to have to say “that hurts” and “I don’t want to do that” over and over again, to be answered by “ok, we’ll stop”, but to no avail.
At this moment, one year ago, I was about to be raped. It took me one year to say “rape”. And I don’t say it with confidence. No. I say it with questions. Because it was “complicated” and “I could have done more” and “why didn’t I just shove him off” and all of the victim blaming questions we ask ourselves over and over, continuously subjecting ourselves to internal interrogation as to why we didn’t do better. Why we didn’t realize it.
At this moment, one year ago, my life was about to change.
At this moment, one year ago, I was singing karaoke with my friends, and a group of crazy hot men at the island bar. Laughing with abandon. Living my new life.
At this moment, one year ago, I was still in the before.
At this moment, now, I am in the after.
At this moment, now, I am crying for the first time in a year. I am not numb anymore.
At this moment, now, I struggle every minute with the shame, the memories, the guilt, the symptoms, the protective mechanisms, the destructive patterns.
But at this moment, now, I am alive. I am okay. And I am trying to be okay.
At this moment, one year ago, I was about to start the process of making sure this doesn’t happen to someone else by his hands. And at this moment, now, nothing has been done yet.
At this moment, one year ago, I was about to be questioned, prodded, and asked to describe in gory detail the exact events of the night about to happen to three strangers on the phone, which fingers went where, how many times he tried, how many times I said no to certain things he was trying to do, and if I said no to other things that he actually did, for them to decide if it’s worthy of continuing to trial. Because one wrong phrase or statement, that doesn’t quite make it sound like I was truly assaulted, make it sound like what it truly was, they wouldn’t proceed. I said no once. That’s enough.
At this moment, now, I am continuing. But it is still with me.
At this moment, now, I alter between small things triggering memories and moments from that night, and living my life.
At this moment, next year, I hope it takes up a smaller portion of my heart hostage. I hope I am a little bit freer. I hope I am not dealing with the fallout daily, fighting my brain to accept it, instead of cover it up with harmful self-hatred and actions.
At this moment, next year, I hope I have a little bit more peace than I do today. I hope it gets a little easier. I hope.
At this moment, now, I have no idea what future moments will be like. But I hope justice is involved.