There was this girl once who had been sexually assaulted by someone she knew. This girl hid from it for a very long time. She pushed it down, down, down so that it did not exist and the memory was just a dream. She forgot though, that reality has a way of making itself apparent to her.
And so one day it all came back to her and she remembered. She remembered every agonizing detail, and she could no longer push it down, down, down. She could no longer pretend this big black memory did not exist in the outskirts of her mind, sneaking up on her when she least expected it: at night in her dreams; in the morning during class; in the space between afternoon and evening when the swathes of time twisted into morphed dreams of what had happened, could happen, would happen.
But this was manageable. Memories were just that, and thoughts just there. What was not manageable, however, was the aftermath: how she would see her actions being guided by an invisible hand of oppression and fear. Everything she did, it seemed, was somehow linked to that one event — that one memory. Nothing made sense to her, because she thought memories were just that and thoughts just there. But was her personality being determined by these memories and thoughts? Was she her assault? Was that her identity for the rest of her life — someone who had been assaulted? Was she that and nothing else?
Well, she didn’t want any of it.
And so this girl fought with every ounce of strength she had. She refused to let this story become her story. She refused to tell anyone — words can’t be taken back you see — they hang in the air and they cling to you, printed on your skin as your story, and this wasn’t her story. It couldn’t be. And so this girl tried to escape, but there was nowhere to run — she forgot she couldn’t run from what was inside, and her inside was eating her until she felt twisted and chewed up and not there.
She couldn’t run from it anymore. She couldn’t run from it when it affected every sphere of her life. She couldn’t run from it when it affected her relationships, her friendships, her interactions. She couldn’t run from it when it manifested itself in her highs and her lows. She couldn’t run from it when it sneaked up on her in the form of voices in her head, “Worthless. Dirty. Unlovable.”
She couldn’t run from it anymore when she was so tired of running all the time.
And so one day she stopped and let the thoughts consume her.
“... your fault”
“... you deserved it”
“Others have it so much worse”
“... that’s why he left you”
“... damaged. Broken Weak. FILTHY. FILTHY. FILTHY.”
Wave after wave of thoughts and voices consumed her mind, resonating in her brain, echoing people whose strange faces she did not recognize and mimicking the faces of those she did. Instead of kind words though, their faces twisted into cruel aberrations, accusing her of lying, of being weak, of making it up.
This girl was trapped in her own mind, and she could not escape. Suddenly she started to see connections that did not exist. If she had not been assaulted, this wouldn’t have happened, that wouldn’t have happened, she would have been happier and better, she would not be her. Round and round and round her thoughts whirled, swishing around in a pool of grey and red. She tried to grasp something, anything that wasn’t in such a state of flux, but she did not succeed. Everything was changing and moving and she couldn’t make sense of anything.
That, you see, was the problem.
The confusion. The murky depths of brown water that washed over her mind as she struggled to piece it all together. She just didn’t understand. She didn’t understand why it had happened to her. She didn’t understand why she had to live with something that was not her fault. She did not understand how someone she loved and trusted could betray her so easily. She just didn’t understand how someone could take away something that was hers so easily without stopping to ask nicely, kindly or even rudely — or even cruelly. She wanted a reason, an explanation for why he did what he did. She wanted to go up to him, look him in the eyes and ask him,
“Why? Why? WHY?”
She could not understand how unfair it was. Unfairness, you see, was not symmetrical. It was without reason and it was arbitrary. It was dished out at random, and there was no explanation for who it chose to hit. There was no logic in its asymmetry. There was no rhyme and no pattern, and this drove the girl crazy. She saw in the unfairness, a map of the world and how it would turn out for the rest of her life. For the first time in her life, she was scared, because she saw a question that could not be answered.
She saw in his betrayal a reflection of humans. Others would soon follow suit. And so she planned her life accordingly, waiting for others to break her trust. Some did, some didn’t, and she is still waiting. She does not have answers. Maybe she will never get them.
This girl does not claim to have gotten any closer to a sort of acceptance you see in books. She still struggles to contain her thoughts and she still spirals into a murky unbreakable zone of grey wounds. But she just thought that perhaps for once, just for once, she could tell her story — because for better or for worse, it was her story after all.
On-campus resources: The Counseling Center can be reached at (410) 516-8278 during normal business hours. The Sexual Assault Resource Unit can be reached at all hours on its Peer Crisis Hotline (410) 516-7887.