Today I want to share one girls unbelievable story of survival. She was brave enough to write her journey out for all of you to see. I want to thank her for reaching down deep and reliving her story so everyone who reads this can hopefully take something away from it. You are one in the very few of us that is telling your story. I promise you that the people who read this will walk away from their computer screens with more compassion towards this crime than they did when they sat down. You are an amazing woman and know that I am always here.
I NEVER SAW IT COMING
My story of rape and survival
I was a 22 year old drug addict and I was raped. For a long time I let myself believe that what happened in hotel room 314 was my fault and it’s a constant struggle to believe otherwise. Who I was… I grew up in the country where you left your doors unlocked and knew every one in your high school. I always knew there were dangerous people, I watched the news and was crazy about crime scene shows, all of which show rapists. I wasn't naïve per say but I definitely wasn't exercising any type of caution. For almost a year I had been with my girlfriend and we both had a serious problem, DRUGS. More specifically, methamphetamines, and everyday we would do the same thing over and over again. Make her son breakfast, take him to school, clean the kitchen, make her daughter breakfast, and clean the kitchen again. Go to the basement to smoke a bowl, geek out on our electronics, make her daughter lunch, and smoke another bowl while she eats in her high chair. Put her daughter in the bath, smoke another bowl, and call the dealer man. On occasion I would show up to my part time job at the local hardware store and I have to admit that happened mainly when I needed to make some “fast cash.”
I was living in what felt like a whole other universe, up for days to weeks at a time and I had lost all sense of what was real and imaginary. We had a house in a quiet neighborhood but at night it was filled with the most wanted and watched drug dealers in the city. Now I refer to them as scumbags but back then they were my friends, my life line.
It was the regular crowd of people at the house that night except for an older man I had never met before. He was a friend of a friend who had a good connection and his drugs were quality, so here he was. This was the first night in about a week that I had joined everyone to smoke. I had been feeling depressed about my life and my choices lately. Reality was catching up to me and that was a terrifying thought so I decided to get high. Like normal we sat in a circle all of us staring at the TV in the corner of the room, watching the camera’s that had been strategically placed in the back yard, front yard, driveway and front door. We never saw anything on those cameras except for other friends showing up, ironically. Most days my girlfriend and I would head in around 6 to shower and get fresh. On this particular day I chose to stay behind and smoke a little bit more. It was down to just me, one other girl and the guy I had never met. He looked harmless, drugged out of his mind maybe but harmless. So when he asked me for a ride down to the Extended Stay Inn to pick up some money he was owed, I said yes. On the way there we stopped at a gas station to get a drink, he went inside alone while I stayed in the car. When he came out he handed me my drink, which had already been opened, I didn’t think much about it or at all really before downing the whole thing.
When we got to the hotel he asked me to come upstairs to the room, he said I couldn’t wait in the car. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t stay in the car but I assumed it would just take a couple minutes to get the cash and leave. WRONG. We walked to the 3 floor of this hotel and at the top of the stairs he took a room key from his pocket. This I definitely found odd, “why did he already have a key?” Ignoring that tingle in the back of my mind I followed him into room 314 and was only semi shocked to see the place empty. I heard the door latch and the locks slide into place behind me and instantly that tingle was back. But within minutes I was extremely dizzy and confused, I couldn’t even stand, so he was gentlemanly enough to help me sit down on the bed. The last thing I remember was him standing between my legs holding my face in his hands, and he was staring at me with this blank look. That was when I realized I wasn’t just falling out because I was high, this was different, I had been drugged.
I don’t know exactly how long I had been out or what all had happened but when I came too I was being raped. For another 3 hours I stayed in that hotel room, I tried to run once, had the door open but before I could stick my foot out into the hall he had his hand in my hair. A scream tore through me as he ripped chunks of my hair free and at that same time I saw the horrified look on the face of a housekeeper, just a couple doors down. He pulled me back in the room and continued on with his course of action. Of all the things to be running through your head at a time like this “I have to be at work at 12” was not at all what I had expected. I was begging and pleading for him to let me leave and after what felt like eternity he told me we were finished. I rushed to put my clothes on (I can still remember the exact outfit) and escape this hell but before I could he had me pinned against the door, pushing his weight into me he whispered “get on the ground and bark bitch, because I won.” After all this would you believe I still drove him back to my house and dropped him off, yeah me either. But that is exactly what I did and then headed of to work like nothing had happened. Just hours after clocking in I was confronted by the cashier, she wanted to know what caused the bruises on my face. I hadn’t even looked in the mirror yet, so to hear there were bruises was a shock. Right there in the middle of isle 11 I had a mental break down. My feet moved on their own accord, taking me out of the store and to my parent’s house. I slept and cried for hours before I had the courage to look in the mirror. What I saw horrified me, bruises covering my thighs, butt, stomach, arms, neck and face, bruises so deep and purple you could make out each finger and where it dug into my flesh. I showered until the water ran cold, I scrubbed my skin until it was raw and bleeding and I cried. For days I didn’t acknowledge what had happened, I couldn't it was to hard. Days later I went back to my girlfriends and there he was. All the shame and fear came rushing back to me as I stood there face to face with the man who ruined me. And then I left, just got in my car and drove. I told one person at a time about my attack and nobody ever heard the complete story.
I spent months in denial, at some point I had switched my addiction from meth to alcohol and I truly believed it was helping. I could spend every night happy and outgoing, as long as I was drunk, and the only time I wasn’t drunk was when I was asleep. To me my life was going just fine; in fact I felt it was getting better. I had quit doing meth; I was getting back in touch with my friends and family, putting effort into the renovation of my home and was managing to work a couple hours a week. But looking back I see that was my life spiraling out of control. Seven months later… I felt ready to become romantically involved (for the first time since...) it was with a long time friend that I trusted 100%; he and I had been intimate many years before. I had all these fairy tale ideas of how it would happen in my head, it would be passionate and fulfilling; unfortunately things didn’t go according to plan. Just 20 minutes into the physical part of things I panicked and shut myself in the bathroom. I had the water running full blast as hot as it would go, I couldn’t breathe, and all I could hear was him pounding on the door pleading with me to come out. I know now that what happened that night was called a flashback, even though my friend didn’t approach me in a violent or unwanted manor my mind went right back to that night in the hotel. I’m not sure how long I sat there in that bathroom but when I woke up the next day I was laying on his bed, alone.
Shame, regret, helplessness, fear; those were just some of the feelings that were swirling through my head the first time I told a guy I cared for about my attack. I knew the reaction wasn’t going to be easy; I sat there staring at the ceiling while telling him the details. He did the typical he-man thing and went into a complete rage. “How could you not have reported it? Why didn’t you fight back? Why didn’t you call me, I would have done something” To some of you those questions might seem appalling, but this guy and I went back several years. He knew me as the feisty hands on person I used to be. I couldn’t answer those questions for him though; I had asked myself the same ones over and over again. I left the safety of his couch to go make myself a drink before I could speak again. I looked at him over the rim of my vodka sprit and said “Because I was high, that’s why! Now let’s forget it ever happened and move on to some drinking!” He looked at me like I was crazy, but I guess he could sense the fact that I was about to break because he didn’t push the subject any further.
Just over a year after the attack I was still plagued by these awful thoughts and nightmares that seemed so real I'd wake up covered in sweat and crying. It was to hard to face the reality of the situation. I hated that I never tried to prosecute the man who raped me and although I told a few select people about my rape I hadn't attempted to seek any sort of help. Sure, I had changed a lot about myself in the time since my attack; I started a full time job working at a nice hotel, moved into my condo and even adopted 2 kittens, by all accounts I was doing fine. And that's how it would appear to anyone other than the person staring back at me from the mirror. I still couldn't stand to be touched my a man and this coming from the over sexed individual I was for many years before, I thought about my attacker for what seemed like 18 out of the 24 hours in a day. After so many nightmares I began to think he was following me, every tree branch blowing or leaf rustling made me jump out of my skin. I purchased pepper spray which stayed with me at all times, just walking to the car was "white-knuckle" experience for me. I kept a baseball bat by my front door and a hunting knife on my night stand, I had a ritual of double checking each window and door lock (4 deadbolts and a security door) every night before bed, and still I would lay there listening to every noise holding my breath and clutching the sheets at my side ready to spring up at any moment. Then one day I was scrolling through Facebook when I found a blog a friend of mine had posted. She talked about her rape case and how she was fighting like hell to overcome everything. It touched my heart in a way I'll never be able to fully explain. To read another woman's story and know that I wasn't the only one who had suffered so much was a breaking point for me. I decided right there that I was going to get help but first I was going to ask how. For days I thought about how I should word what I was going to say to her, how was I going to come out and say that "I need help" while still keeping some dignity. There is no way to plan how a conversation will go and this one couldn't have had a better outcome.
I logged onto Facebook during my lunch break and pulled up her message screen, I typed up a short paragraph explaining the basics. I had been raped, never sought help and was suffering from some pretty brutal panic attacks and nightmares. Within minutes she had responded, she explained to me that not all victims seek help immediately but it doesn't me that their doomed. She told me that what I was about to do was going to be one of the hardest things I'd ever have to do, and she was right. Facing your attack means facing all those disgusting feelings it caused in the first place, it means coming to terms with the fact that you will never be the same but that doe not mean you are bad or worse in any way it just means that you'll be a little different. Before we signed off from that first chat she told me that she was free 24 hours a day any day if I needed to talk or just needed someone to be there. I hadn't seen or spoken to this particular friend in years, not since high school really, but she gave me a shoulder to cry on hypothetically speaking.
For the next couple weeks we carried on simple conversations, it was always a welcome surprise to be online when my message board would pop up with a little cheery message from her. It took a while but she finally made me feel comfortable enough with myself that I could attend an anonymous support group. The first meeting was so overwhelming, I sat in the back silently weeping into my crumpled Kleenex as woman after woman took the spot light to talk about their own attacks. I left halfway through the session, it was to much to handle. In that moment listening to those other women I realized all over again I was here because I was raped. I told my friend the next day that I had made it to a group meeting but that I didn't speak and I couldn't even stay the whole time, it was just to hard. She didn't judge me like I was afraid she would she just simply told me that "each time I go it will get easier and easier the main thing is that you have to keep going." So I did I kept going to my anonymous meetings and every week it got a little bit easier.
I have been attending the same support group for months and even though in the beginning I felt like I was never going to be able to move on I feel now like I have made baby steps of progress. The first time I tried to tell my personal story I chocked on my words and ran out of the room crying, the second time I made it a little farther along before I ran from the room, I tried several times before I was able to get through my whole experience without leaping from the spot light. The amount of relief that washed over me when I had spoken my last word though was unbelievable, it felt like a ton of bricks had been lifted from my shoulders ( sorry for the awful cliché's.) When I looked up at the faces in front of me I couldn't have imagined the sincerity and kindness I saw staring back, not only did these women share the same type of sexual assault as me but they were sharing the same recovery as me too. But now they all knew my story just like I knew theirs.
Since that first day after my attack I have grown so much as a person. I will not lie and say that I never think of my attacker because I do, I will not tell you that I don't look at every man on the street like he's a rapist because in fact I still do this too, however I'm trying to come to terms with this reaction. I won't sit here and write that my life is full of all wonderful days with happiness and sunshine because some days I still cry, I still have nightmares and I still have panic attacks. Everyday I am getting stronger and I have a lot of people to thank for that. My family and friends who stood by me when I eventually came out with the truth, the ladies in my support group who listened to me cry for hours from the back of the room, to the police officer who pulled me over and didn't judge me for only rolling my window down an inch, and last but not least I would like to thank Michelle with Safe & Sound Refuge for helping me seek the help that I needed. I know for a fact I wouldn't be standing here today smiling if it wasn't for your generosity and encouragement. This is a life long struggle and I hope that at least one person will read this and either have a changed opinion of rape or give a woman the courage to seek help.
If there is one thing I have learned through this whole experience it is that you cannot go through this alone, even if you have just one friend who is always there to hold your hand, it’s absolutely imperative that you have a support system. At first it will be the hardest thing you've ever done to reach out for help, but trust me you will find it.