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It's Not Your Place to Decide If My Sexual Assault Was 'Anything Big'

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Almost two years ago I went over to a house on the island. I thought he was someone I could trust. He moved my couch into my apartment for me. He went to my school. He was supposed to be a friend. They say you have three options: fight, flight, or freeze. I could have fought him, I could have left, but I just froze. I remember Spider-Man was on. I remember watching the TV from the futon looking at Emma Stone. I remember finally leaving but not wanting to go home. I drove around trying to find someone who was awake. Someone who I could talk to. When I finally made it home, I remember showering three times because I still didn’t feel clean after each shower.

• What is PTSD?

When I started to tell my friends about the night, I tried to brush it off. Like it was nothing. It was my fault for just not being ready for it or not enjoying it. It wasn’t until weeks later when I was finally able to say it wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t OK.

I had started counseling that same month because my grandmother had passed away. It took me three visits to my counselor and multiple visits to the health center to finally get out what happened. The week that followed was the worst week of my life. I couldn’t sleep, anytime I ate I threw up, I spent those days in a constant panic. I remember my chest being tight and clenching my jaw just to make it through the day. When I wasn’t in class I was at the health center because I didn’t want to be alone. and that was the only place I could sleep. When my sister finally came up to stay with me, I was able to make it to my classes again. I started keeping food down. I opened up to my counselor. And then we had spring break.

I remember talking to a male friend about it after the fact. He brushed it off saying that what happened was nothing. That the guy probably didn’t even think about it as anything big. But that’s not what I went through. I didn’t experience “nothing.”

I stopped trying to talk to my friends about it because I didn’t want to be shamed. I didn’t want to report it because I didn’t want to go through the experience again. Telling strangers in a room what I had gone through and waiting to see if they felt it deserved action. I didn’t want to ever see him again. I didn’t want to tell him what he had put me through. I wanted to shut it all into a box and pretend everything hadn’t changed.

I went to counseling, I practiced my breathing, I did yoga, and I tried to make it through every panic attack that came my way. A few months later I was able to go to the parking lot where he worked. The next year I was able to make it into the restaurant. My heart still stops when I think I see him somewhere. I go back into fight, flight, or freeze. But time does heal. And eventually, I was able to talk about it. It still takes time for me to get it out. I’m learning to speak up when I get uncomfortable in a situation where I feel I may start to panic. I’m learning to not to accept any shit from men who think they deserve anything from me. I’m still healing. And I’m learning that’s OK.

Don’t minimize someone’s journey because it doesn’t fit with your idea of violation. You’re not too sensitive. You’re not overreacting. If it hurts you, it hurts you.

Getty image by stock-eye

Originally published: June 27, 2019
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