I was raped. It was a long time ago now, but it’s still relevant. I was only 14. A friend of mine begged me to go to a party with her. I didn’t want to go. I felt sick about it. She wouldn’t take no for an answer, and I was weak. I finally agreed to go. I had to lie to my mom about it. I pretended I was spending the night at another friend’s house. I shouldn’t have gone to that party.
It was the first time I’d be drunk. Well, except the week before when I tried everclear for the first time. I only had a little bit, but enough to make it seem ok that my soon to be rapist kissed me. I didn’t feel drunk, just a buzz maybe.
Back to the party. I don’t remember what I drank, all I know is I was very drunk. I knocked over a table filled with glass and then began picking up the pieces with my bare hands. I was covered in small cuts. This guy decided to take me away from the party and the glass. He took me into a weird crawl space type area where I proceeded to vomit. He took off my clothes and caressed my body. I was paralyzed. I told him to stop, but he wouldn’t. Eventually he began fingering me and it hurt so bad. I told him to stop again, but he refused. He tried to put his dick inside, but I was so tight it wouldn’t go in. I’m not sure if part of it went in, or if he had to stop because of the road block. I told myself it never went in. That I was still a virgin. A good girl. People poked their heads in to make sure I was alright, but they never rescued me. My “friend” later told me that several people were talking about taking turns being with me, luckily that never panned out.
The next day I felt ashamed and embarrassed. I didn’t really know what happened, and I wanted to forget about the whole thing. Within days I became horribly sick, with a high fever and hallucinations. I think part of my soul left my body. I was damaged. I was sick to the core.
I had to continue seeing my rapist at school. I couldn’t avoid him. I couldn’t look at him. I hated him. I hated what he had done to me.
Not long after this, I got into drugs. I become a party girl. I drowned my shame and guilt in weed and all sorts of other drugs I’d experimented with. I dropped out of softball and started hanging out with “freaks” and outcasts. I changed.
Over the years I dealt with my rape in all sorts of ways, for one I never called it rape. I said I didn’t know what happened, but that I had been taken advantage of. I’d tell my story at parties to strangers, that became my therapy. Eventually I stopped talking about it all together.
Then, last year there was a very high profile rape case. The Steubenville rape case. It reminded me of my own story. It finally gave me the courage to call what happened to me “rape” – that’s what it was, after all.
I began to have dreams about running into my rapist in real life. I dreamed about telling him off, and telling his girlfriend what he’d done to me. I felt like an encounter was imminent. It was. On April 14, just two weeks before I was hospitalized, there he was. In my Facebook newsfeed. He had posted a story about rape on his own wall, and a mutual friend shared it. When I saw this, I felt weak. I wanted to vomit. How could he post this anti-rape article on his own wall, when he was in fact a rapist.
I called him out. In public, for everyone to see. I wrote a comment and said that he was guilty of the same thing and that it was shameful that he would post that. He commented back. And then it started – a string of Facebook messages. What transpired was a beautiful exchange that changed me forever. I’m sharing this conversation in hopes that it will inspire someone else to forgive.
I feel a genuine sense of love for this man. The experience made me realize the duality of life. What I perceived as this horrible experience, this man had reframed to fit his view. He didn’t see himself as a rapist. He convinced himself that something else happened. This is a great defense mechanism, no one wants to think they are a perpetrator, it’s hard to face. He wasn’t ready to face it. He was just a child too. He was insecure, and he probably felt that getting a girl drunk was the only way he could get affection. I felt sorry for that little boy he was. He was a victim too, a victim of his own insecurity and aggression.
I have a theory that this experience was part of what led to my breakdown and subsequent hospitalization. For one, it made me feel very powerful that I had this premonition and then I ended up actually encountering him and getting this chance at closure. Secondly, I felt like it must have left a void in my psyche. Here I had been carrying this around for so long, almost half my life. And now, in an instant it was gone. All of the anger and shame – poof. I was free. The sense of freedom overwhelmed me. The intense love and sense of oneness took over me.
Here is our conversation. I hope it sheds some light on trauma and forgiveness.
- Him: I wish you had told me, or that anyone had told me about this (your response to my posting). I can’t believe you have been in so much pain and I never even knew about it. we should probably talk.
Wow, I guess I’ve wished for this moment for some time but I’m not quite sure how to proceed. I appreciate you responding and I apologize for the public outcry but I spent a long time living in shame about that night and I don’t want to hide from it anymore. Reality is an interesting thing and perceptions change, but I always knew something wrong happened that night and I wasn’t comfortable calling it rape until recently. That is what happened. Rape doesn’t always look like what you think it does, and it is hard to face things that you’ve done, so I imagine this isn’t what you were expecting when you posted that on your Facebook page.
I was clearly too drunk to do anything to stop you that night and I remember saying no. I felt so betrayed and disgusting for years after that. I had PTSD, nightmares, body issues, intimacy issues. I got horribly sick following that night. It was traumatic and life altering. I should have confronted you then, but the shame and guilt made confrontation impossible for me. I just hid. I didn’t want to remember or deal with it.
I have dealt with this in so many ways over the years, but the past few weeks I felt a new level of closure. I had decided it was time to forgive you and move on. I felt sorry for you, and I wanted to thank you. Thank you for that experience because without it I never would have gotten into drugs, I never would have met my husband, I never would have gotten to be the strong person I am today. I wouldn’t have learned the importance of speaking up and standing up for myself. I wouldn’t be here right now. I wouldn’t be me.
But when I saw that yesterday I felt my heart pounding out of my chest in a way I have never felt before. That’s why I spoke out. I think I needed a response from you. I needed to stop hiding from it. What you did was wrong. You hurt me more than you can ever comprehend. I was innocent and trusting, and you took that from me.
Him: I appreciate your candor in removing that from the posting, that was very kind of you.That being said, I don’t want you to hide from anything that has caused you so much pain. As a sufferer of PTSD, and an abuse victim myself I am very familiar with the horror and confusion that comes with trauma. I also appreciate your comment about the gray areas of sexual abuse. I remember the night in question and I have a very different viewpoint of what occurred (I was very drunk, but still cognizant). I would be happy to discuss my viewpoint, if you think it would help. I am more concerned with you feeling safe and empowered while you process this, so let me know. I want you to know Shayna that I am very sorry that you have had to carry this for so long, and I am very dedicated to making sure that you receive closure on this. I am a very strong advocate for ending sexual abuse against women (more so now than ever) and I am not scared of confronting this. Differing viewpoint or not, I want you to come out of this feeling resolved, cared for, and empowered. I can’t change the past or the hurt you have experienced, but I can step up now and create a discourse around it without running away. Please keep this dialogue open, I want to understand your experience and help you process this. God I wish someone had fucking said something to me back then. I had no idea this was going on for you.
You can imagine this is a lot to process for me right now. I had just assumed I needed to find closure on my own so this is hard for me. I fully appreciate your attitude and openness. I’ve played the night over and over in my head many times and at the same time I have tried to block it out. Hearing your side of things would be…painful. I’m not sure what I want. I appreciate the gray area of things and that’s why I never said anything – like most victims! feeling guilty and ashamed of myself. I should have stood up more at the time, and after. I don’t know how I want to proceed now but I feel incredibly grateful for this opportunity for closure, I’ve needed this more than I wanted to admit. I’ve asked myself so many times what true closure would be and now I’m closer than ever. Thank you. I need to process this more. Feel free to respond and I will try to think about what it is I want or need from you at this point.
Him: Take your time I am absolutely here to support you, even if that means you never talking to me again. I will do whatever it takes, just let me know. I know this a very non-typical approach and may be off-putting, so just know I am absolutely serious in my intent.
Thank you. I can go for non-typical and that’s why I need to think about this. I asked for this moment, I brought it here and it’s not what I was expecting, but more than I was expecting. I think what I need now is an apology. I need you to admit I was too drunk – vomiting, in and out of consciousness. I should have screamed, or pushed, but I was weak – literally and figuratively. I used to wish I was stronger that night, but now I’m thankful I wasn’t. We need those traumas and experiences to become who we are meant to be. But, I still need an apology – just a simple apology for now
Him: I am very sorry Shayna. I am sorry for all of the pain you have endured over the years. I am sorry that I never knew/was never told anything about this or it would have been voiced long ago. My experience of that night was so drastically different and I am very shamed and sorrowful that I did not possess the insight back then that I have now to know that you were hurting. As a fellow abuse survivor I am very intimate with what is involved in the process of healing and I applaud you for your bravery and your willingness to dialogue with me in a concise, meaningful way. Your openness and compassion in this conversation speaks volumes towards your powerful conviction, character, and wisdom. This revelation has been, and will continue to be, something I will never forget for as long as I live, believe me. As a dedication to you and your suffering I absolutely promise that I will never run away from this horrible sorrow I now feel in my heart. I will work with it, face it, and allow it to transform me, just as it has transformed you. Thank you and I am so so sorry for my involvement in such a painful part of your life. Please let me know if there is anything more I can do to help facilitate your healing process.
Thank you again. I hope you’ve had an amazing week. It has been such a transformational period for me, and this has been such a beautiful and poetic experience. As part of my ongoing transformation I’ve decided to rid myself of things that don’t bring me pleasure, so I’m ditching Facebook. Ironic – considering this moment with you has probably been one of the best things it has given me. I wanted to let you know I’m quitting Facebook so you would have a chance to archive any of this communication if you’d like to reference it later.
I also wanted to give you my contact information – firstname.lastname@example.org you can always reach me there. I also wanted to let you know that you have my blessing to share this story and experience with others, in the spirit of love and growth. I wanted to also make sure that I had your blessing to share this beautiful apology and story with others – I’m not sure what form that will take in the future, but your words and this experience have touched me so deeply and I think other people would benefit from hearing such a beautiful story. I don’t intend to use your name or anything like that – but just as a story of forgiveness and love. I will cherish this for all my life. Please let me know your thoughts, I want to honor you and this experience
Him: Please by all means share this. I have been truly transformed by this experience as well! It is not often that you have to face yourself at the level that I did last week and I am proud of who I have become, and that I could be a part of your healing. I appreciate you not using my name for now, but do want to say that I have felt very moved to do something with this as well. I just want to do something to show people that forgiveness and understanding can be fostered anywhere, that we should not be afraid to confront our mistakes, and that we need to face ourselves and accept responsibility towards those we have hurt in order to be more full human beings. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help…I just want some good to come out of so much pain.
Is there someone you’ve been waiting for an apology from? Go. Seek it. Ask for the words you need to hear. They can change you forever.